Home is Where the Frugality Is

home is where the frugality isOne of the best ways I know of to save money is, of course, not to spend it in the first place. And for me, the best way to do that is to stay home. It’s easier to stay home if you keep your pantry stocked with the basics- those things that send you running to the store when you run out. Sometimes, it’s actually more frugal to use a more expensive substitute than to run to the store- and not just because of the gas you save (assuming you would need to drive instead of walk to the store).

The more simple your tastes, the fewer things there are to run out of. Drink water. If you are not used to this start with water with a bit of lemon or lime juice and/0r peel. Then gradually reduce it until you can drink straight water. It’s healthier for you, too.

Learn some basic substitutions so that you can make do without a special trip to the store. Instead of running to the store, run to the computer to look up substitutions. HEre are some I’ve used:

Brown sugar: put a Tablespoon of molasses in a cup of white sugar and mix well

Dish soap: A dab of laundry soap or even shampoo will work when you are out of soap for handwashing dishes.

Bar soap- a dab of shampoo on a wash cloth will still get you clean.

Window cleaner: Vinegar; ammonia; or the windshield cleaner you use to refill your car (this is sometimes cheaper than the purchased kind anyway)

Scouring powder: baking soda and salt

Eggs: For pancakes you can substitute cottage cheese, which is only more frugal if it saves you that trip to the store and you needed to use up the cottage cheese. But it actually tastes pretty good.

Here are some other egg substitutions- they will all change the texture of baked goods a bit, but they work:
1 tsp cornstarch plus 1/4 cup water, combine first (this is for one egg)
or just use 2 Tablespoons cornstarch right into the dry ingredients of the recipe for each egg.
2 tablespoons arrowroot flour, same as above
in cake recipes you can mash up one banana for each egg, but this will change the flavor.

WE use this flax seed substitute for the eggs:

Grind about 2 Tablespoons of flax seed (your coffee mill will work, and you can try your blender. You should have about 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed. Whisk this into 3/4 cups of cold water and continue whisking while you bring the mixture to a boil and boil it for three minutes longer.

It keeps in the fridge for about two weeks if you want to make it up for a different recipe. Flaxseed egg substitute binds like eggs, but it won’t, of course, add the lightness that real eggs would. That doesn’t matter for a poundcake- a poundcake is supposed to be dense, heavy, rich, and sweet. But I wouldn’t try to make a light white cake with this.

Sour Cream or Butter for a baking recipe: These will also change the flavor a bit, so it depends on what you are making- an equivilent amount of apple sauce, canned pumpkin, or cooked, mashed pumpkin/acorn squash/sweet potato- depends on what you have in your hand.=)

Or this, which also works on baked potatoes- Makes 1 cup
1 cup of tofu, drained
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or other)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. white rice vinegar (or apple cider, though it will have a stronger taste)

Put all ingredients except the oil in your blender. When this mixture is smooth, gradually add the olive oil for the creamy texture.

You can use this in baking or as a topping. Of course, not everybody has tofu ‘on hand.’ We usually do.=)

Pancake syrup:

You could top the pancakes with fruit on hand, corn syrup, thinned honey (here the idea is simply to stay at home) or you could make this very frugal version, which for years was the only syrup we used:

1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (or more packed if you want sweeter)

3 cups water

5 teaspoons cornstarch

Cook in a saucepan until slightly thickened- use a whisk to break up cornstarch if needed.


1 teaspoon maple flavoring for best pancake syrup flavor. But I’ve used vanilla, because I always have this on hand. I’ve used orange extract and cinnamon because I usually have those on hand and we love those combinations.

The above recipe is the cheapest version I know. You can also do this one:

1 3/4cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

boil, cover, and cook one minute. Cool slightly

add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

Both these receipts are from The More With Less Cookbook– as is this other syrup:

Combine in saucepan:
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups water
bring to boil, stirring constantyly
2 cups fruit- if the fruit is canned, reduce the sugar and use the canned juice to replace the water. Frozen fruit also works.
Simmer until fruit is done, remove from heat and add
2 Tablespooons lemon juice

Serve hot over pancakes, waffles, or French toast

We also sometimes make our own salad dressings in a pinch- some recipes are posted here.

And it pays off to be a bit daring sometimes. This Basil Walnut dressing is wonderful as a salad dressing, but it’s even better as a toasted bagel spread- and Our Jenny-Any-Dots made a substitution I never would have dreamed of trying- we were out of walnuts, so she used almonds instead. Had she asked me, I would have told her not to bother, but she didn’t ask and I did not know until later. Later we made it with walnuts, and we actually vastly prefer it with almonds- so it’s a ‘basil-almond’ dressing and bagel topping.

Those of some of our stand by substitutions- here are some suggestions from others:


6 Responses to “Home is Where the Frugality Is”

Mama Squirrel Said:

Thanks for all the reminders, dear DHM!

I have found that having a box of commercial egg substitute on the shelf is also a good way to keep from needing to run to the store. Not as cheap as some other methods, but still slightly cheaper than fresh eggs (where I live, anyway).

I’ve also substituted a cupful of tofu when making pancakes or waffles–basically the same as using cottage cheese.

I’ve found that gluten-free websites, allergy-cooking websites, and vegan websites often have very creative ideas for substitutes. When we make our Sloppy Joe recipe that originally called for a can of tomato soup, we now use a can of tomato paste topped up with enough milk to make a cupful–and adjust the seasonings a bit. (It’s a good substitute if you have the tomato paste and not the soup.) I tried making tomato-paste-plus-milk tomato soup from the Tightwad Gazette and didn’t like it much; but mixed in recipes it seems to work.

I often substitute one form of tomatoes or other tomato products for another, depending on what I have or what needs to be used up. Our chili might be made with all canned tomatoes, all fresh, or a combination.

You also learn substitutions when you have picky eaters or there are other things you know you just can’t serve. I have a cucumber-hater who will eat zucchini, so we have zucchini in the salad instead.

Uncommonadvice Offered a good idea:

Great advice. How about putting vinegar in the tomato ketchup bottle so we can get the last of it out?

imagine offered:

I have always loved these type of things, even more so now that our grocery store in our small town has closed. Not to mention the price of gas.

One of our favorites is a real money saver. Mix ketchup with worcestershire (sp?) sauce. I do not measure, so it is just to taste, it makes a great steak sauce so comparable to A-1 that most people do not taste the difference!

DianeScraps Shared:

Not a food thing but conditioner is great for shaving and also works for handwashing clothing items


How about you?

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