Frugality: What Does it Mean to You?

I’ve been thinking a lot about frugal living, as I do frequently in my attempt to find better ways to save money. The grocery bill is the area of the budget most easy to control. Buying in bulk, stockpiling, cooking from scratch and shopping sales are fairly easy ways to save cash. These money-saving strategies weigh on my conscience because they are in conflict with my desire to buy locally and eat wholesome food. The word frugal means “characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources” according to my Webster’s dictionary. It is from the Latin word frugalis which means “worthy/honest/deserving;  thrifty/frugal/simple; temperate/sober; of vegetables” according to the JM Latin-English dictionary.

Reflecting upon these definitions, I find that I can justify the greater expense of things such as locally produced milk by applying the English and Latin definitions of “frugal” and expanding the scope of the application. Milk from the small, local dairy will cost me more money, but I cannot think of a family more “worthy, honest or deserving” than the farm family that produces, bottles and sells this milk. Their milk is “simple”. It is not homogenized and comes in glass bottles that are returned to be refilled rather than going through a recycling process. The $2 deposit insures that the bottles do not end up in the landfill or recycling bin. My family has some concerns about the impact of plastic packaging on health and milk in glass bottles seems “safer” to us. Because the milk is local, there is less fossil fuel consumption in getting the product to market than there is with the milk coming from a more distant Spartan warehouse. There is also less pollution from truck exhaust. By spending more money on local milk we are preserving our health, reducing the fuel consumption and emissions, contributing to the support of our neighbor and keeping our money in our local economy. As an added bonus, we think Cream Cup Dairy milk tastes better.
We eat a lot of organic yogurt because the few ingredients it is made from are familiar ones that we can pronounce. It is quite expensive. I think I can offset the extra milk expense by making yogurt from this milk. As an additional benefit, it can be made and stored in glass containers.
Many people around us are suffering the economic woes of unemployment or underemployment, and there is no room in their budgets for expensive food. What does “frugality” mean to you?

Swagbucks! WOW!

Search & Win

I’d seen references to Swagbucks on Internet forums for sometime but never checked the program out. About the middle of November, I decided to give it a try and was surprised at how fast the points added up. By adding their search bar, doing a few surveys and participating in one special offer I’ve earned a $5 Amazon credit and enough points to cash in for either 3 more $5 Amazon credits or $10 in PayPal cash. There is also merchandise that can be purchased with Swag dollars, like Kindle books, and gift cards.
I’ve only scraped the surface of the many ways to earn Swagbucks. By taking advantage of one special offer, I garnered 400+ points and saved $300/year on a product that most people need (more about that in another post). There is a Trade-In program where old cellphones, mp3 players, books and video games can be sent in for points. Bucks can be earned by watching Swagbucks TV. A great way to save money and earn points at the same time is offered through their Coupon program.
One of my resolutions for 2011 is to take advantage of all that Swagbucks has to offer.

Food Budget/Scratch Cooking

So many areas of our budget are fixed with no wiggle room. Food cost, however, is one area in a budget that is flexible. We raise much of our own meat and herbs, and try to do better with growing vegetables. My lack of discipline causes most of our garden failures. There are so many, much more interesting, things going on, like puppies, lambs, chicks and piglets that I neglect my garden duties. Therefore, we end up purchasing many of our vegetables. We live in a very rural area with no Costco or Aldis, and shop at one of the 3 grocery stores in our county. We buy baking supplies and oatmeal from a bulk store and that saves quite a bit. I have managed to get the food cost down to $100/week for 4 adults and that includes the cost of hay and feed for the animals that supply our table.
I love raising food, but really don’t like to cook and it doesn’t come naturally. Scratch cooking was intimidating and quite an ordeal when I first tried it. Practice does indeed make perfect, and while cooking has not become a passion, it is no longer a dreaded task.

Free Animal Bedding

We try to economize in every area, no matter how incidental. There are times when we go through a lot of bedding, especially when raising chicks. We get bags of shredded paper free from our local hospital. I’m sure there are other institutions that shred paper and would love to have someone pick it up. Those bags take up a lot of room in the dumpster. The hospital personnel would rather see the paper put … Continue reading

Farm Dog Chore: Trail Blazing

Chore time is hard to face when Mother Nature dumps a new load of snow and the North Wind closes all your paths with drifts. There’s an easier way, than shoveling, to make a path to the barn. Leave the shovel behind and grab a Frisbee and your dog. A decent throwing arm is an asset for the next step.

Throw the Frisbee in the direction you wish to head and watch your dog delightedly plow through the snow to fetch it. He has now opened a path for you to follow. Continue in this manner until you reach your destination.
Our dogs know a send command and move off in the direction I point. Where one dog goes, the others follow. Following after three dogs is a piece of cake compared to plowing through on my own. Each time they move off and return, the path becomes more packed and easier to navigate.