Friday, June 8, 2012

Stretching the life of things, stretching a dollar

Yes, I do try to stretch my dollars.  However, I'm no fabulous frugalista as I'm also a sucker for the odd meal out and sometimes forget to bring lunch to work (so have to buy lunch).  But there are things I do to stretch the life out of things.

Vegetable stems and ends--I make stock with them.  Then I compost them.  If I cook meat with the bone in, I'll make stock from the bones.  I was able to get a good price on a huge container of dried mushrooms; when I reconstitute them for a dish, I save the water they were reconstituted in, as it's a delicious stock.  I freeze it in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into a marked bag.

Speaking of compost, if you have stinging nettles in your yard or garden, you can compost them.  Bryallen tells you how.  Though keep in mind that nettles are edible, like many weeds.  (And if you want to go out foraging, make sure you know what plants are safe to eat and what may be poisonous look-similar plants--a hospital trip isn't frugal, my friends.)

Bread ends--I run them in the food processor and use the bread crumbs in recipes (I store the crumbs in the freezer).

Laundry--I use about half to three quarters of the detergent that I'm "supposed" to.  My clothes come out very clean.  I also hang dry them, so they last longer.

Do you need a dutch oven?  Patty-Ann has a solution; use an old crockpot insert.

If you can sew, you can make a quilt completely for free--just save old clothing.

Pickle brine--I slice another cucumber and put it in the jar with the brine.  (Or I use whole pickling cucumbers if they fit into the jar that way.)  I've also read that you can use it to brine chicken, though I haven't tried that.

Olives--My friend Steve from World of Okonomy will occasionally splurge on the really fancy green olives.  Once he's done with them, he'll save the brine and fill the container up with the cheap green olives he gets from the dollar store.  He figured it was the brine that made the olives taste good (or awful) and apparently, he's right.  So he stretches the brine of the expensive olives, and makes it even better by adding rosemary, cloves and garlic.  Each week he adds different herb and spice mixtures (basil, dill, hot pepper, etc.) to the brine.  He swears these olives are the best he's ever had.

Scones--Steve also mentioned his love of scones but his difficulty in buying a package of them.  Like me, he's single and so a package would go stale before he could eat them all.  He realized he could freeze them, take out one the night before he'd like to have it and let it defrost (in a bag to keep any bugs away and to keep it from getting stale) and eat it in the morning.  I do this with bread and other baked goods when they go on sale.

Jeans--when they get torn or raggy, I cut them into shorts.  I'm going to try and make potholders or trivets out of the next raggy pair I have.

Cracked or chipped jars--these are useful as pen/pencil holders, or as containers for odds and ends like paperclips, coins, etc.

Soap pads--I cut them in half or quarters, and store the one I use in a small baggie in the freezer.  It doesn't rust as quickly, and the smaller amounts mean I stretch the life of them even further.  Patty-Ann does one better; she makes scrubbies from the mesh bag that holds oranges.

What do you do to stretch the life of the things you have?  How do you reuse the things you have?


  1. I gather up the soap slivers from the sinks around the house, microwave them in a glass measuring cup with water for a minute, then stir. Microwave and stir again, until soap is dissolved. This gets added to the liquid soap dispensers. It's a bit gloppy, so I use a funnel for pouring in.

    Cheap --by cheap I mean FREE --laundry soap --1) cheap hotel soap, grated on a fine hand grater, then mixed with what's left of the dollar store laundry soap. or

    2) cheap hotel shampoo, add to the washer as is, (I use this cheap hotel shampoo in the sink in a hotel when traveling -- do my socks and a tee-shirt, then hang dry over the tub overnight). or

    3) at the laundro-mat, we would check the garbage bins right near the washers for "empty" detergent bottles (we wouldn't dig through the garbage or anything, just if there was a bottle near the top, we'd grab it). These "empties" are not made to be completely emptied without rinsing them out. A lot of people toss them with enough detergent "trapped" under the lip of the spout to do one full load. Just hold the bottle under the incoming water in the wash tub and rinse a few times. Totally free detergent!

  2. I agree that you really don't need as much washing detergent as they say. Also, apparently if you do your dishes by hand (or even if not I guess), substituting half of the washing up liquid for white vinegar works amazingly to cut through the grease.

    I did NOT know that about olives. I'm absolutely going to try that as they can be so expensive but I lurrrrve them!! :D

    Other good, free things to eat straight from nature could be wild berries (strawberries and blackberries are common round here), hazelnuts and dandelion (you need VERY young leaves or they are gross!).

    I use up past-best vegetables in soups/stews too.

    Great post! (as always! :D)

  3. Fantastic article and great tips, guys! Thank you!

    Being a stinky runner, I find that there is a balance using just the *right* amount of laundry soap to get my clothes clean. It doesn't help that laundry soap strength changes depending on the manufacturer. I *always* rinse the liquid soap container, as you get about half a load's soap doing that.

    I've done the dandelion harvest for a couple of years now, but only because my lawn hasn't had pesticides on it. Gotta be careful about that.