Ten Tools of the (Frugal) Trade

As we head into 2022 proper, it is time to review our annual tools of the frugal trade, the inexpensive yet indispensable tools that help us to save money each and every day.

  1. Slow cooker. This is the number one essential frugal tool for me. Not only can you buy one at the local garage sale, charity or thrift shop for a couple of dollars, but they usually last for years. I use mine at least three to five times a week for meals and more. You can set up dried beans in water and spices and let them go all day and end up with cooked beans or legumes for pennies versus what the canned variety cost. I do this all the time and this way, I am able to keep cooked, frozen beans in my freezer at the ready. At least twice a week I take a cheap tough cut of meat and turn it into a delicious meal by adding spices, sauce, vegetables, etc., and letting it go all day. I’ve been known to whip something up the night before while preparing dinner, stick everything in a slow cooker liner and place it all in the fridge. Next morning, I pop the entire meal in the slow cooker and that way I do not even have to cook that day. That’s a two for one for sure. You just cannot go wrong with a slow cooker, the flexibility and ease of use is endless.
  2. Big Freezer: True it costs to buy one initially but the savings over time are significant. I keep mine stocked with everything from homemade pasta sauces, frozen cooked beans and legumes and the meat and proteins my partner buys on sale. I stock homemade jams and breads, broths, nuts, easily spoiled grains and my special “no cooking today” meals which include meatloaf, lasagna, stuff shells and more. For those days I just cannot get to the kitchen, I simply pull one of those ready-made meals from the freezer saving us the money and risk of buying expensive take out. I also keep containers of homemade chili and Pork Verde in the freezer for quick, defrost lunches for my partner. These are two of my partners favorites which I make in large batches the slow cooker on weekends, cool to room temperature and then freeze. This makes my freezer a worthy investment that saves me hundreds of dollars every year.
  3. Insta-pot. Oh, I know this one is trendy for some of you but honestly, it makes such short work of cooking artichokes, beets, tough cuts of meat and more. It also subs in as a secondary slow cooker when I am in need and can cook beans in minutes, not hours at need. If I want hummus and do not have cooked chickpeas, the Insta-pot can cook them in no time. This means I not only keep cooked lentils and beans in my freezer but plenty of dried beans and legumes as well. I can therefore take advantage of bulk buying with no worry about the hassle of cooking them over long periods of time unless I choose to do so. It is one of the few minor appliances that is relatively new to the market that I embrace.
  4. French press coffee pot: Mine is metal and extremely sturdy as a result. It saves me a lot of money on costly pod coffee and washes easily in the dishwasher. Plus, I can buy large bags of cheaper coffee because it extracts every ounce of flavor from the coffee I buy.
  5. Year-Round Herb Garden: Herbs, as I have harped on in the past, can be pricy. Why in the world pay $4 for a tiny fistful of sage when you can plant a dollar’s worth and harvest year-round? My herb garden lasts and lasts and only need pruning back in the summer when some herbs explode with growth like chives and mint. The best part is that herbs require very little maintenance and care.
  6. Well Stocked Sewing Kit. Sounds odd but having a complete little sewing kit saves me a lot of hassle and money. Repairing tears and tending to minor clothing repairs means I save money on clothes in the long run. I will never make it to Project Runway, not by a long shot, but I can mend a hem and patch a hole with the best of them.
  7. The Dollar Store. It is not something I can hold in my hand, but it is a frugal tool nonetheless. Whenever I need something, absolutely need something that I do not have, I first think dollar store, can I get it at the dollar store? Most of the time, I find that I can get what I need be it bags for presents, supplies for my sewing kit, even some canned goods…I can usually spend far less at the dollar store and still get what I need.
  8. A Really Warm Home Coverup. My partner gifted me this toasty warm oversized warm robe-type garment for Christmas (officially christened, “The Snoodle”; a combination of the words snuggle and canoodle) and ever since I have been wearing it a lot, I realize that I have also been telling him to turn the heat down, thus saving us money on the monthly power bill. An oversized sweater would do the same thing and for us who abhor being cold, a simple cover up and toasty warm socks can save a whole lot of money in the long run.
  9. Auto Savings Plan. All my savings are automatic. I do not have to manually make myself save at all. I don’t see it, touch it or use it. My savings tool keeps me frugal and on target.
  10. Patience. Perhaps the most effective of all in my frugal toolbox, I use patience for saving money and staying frugal. I still do not need a new phone even though the old one is admittedly getting pretty beat up. It took me fully five years to replace my old computer and I only did so when my old one was gasping its last virtual breath. I have patience because my mind set is that if it works, I do not replace it save for great need.

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