It's hard to believe it's been 3 years since my last post. I never anticipated that I would write again due to changes in my health. But, the recent Coronavirus pandemic has moved frugality to a necessity in our household. So, as I have been brushing off some of my old skills of frugality, I have also been thinking of you and wondering how you are doing in providing for your household when many shelves are bare in the stores? (Please let me know below in the comments).
My husband and I have lived through several lean times over 36 years of marriage. The leanest season was when he became disabled about 10 years ago. He filed for disability but we had no guarantee he would be approved. So, for 1 1/2 years we waited and prayed. After two denial letters he was finally approved.
I learned many lessons during that time which have served me well in the recent years. By far, the spiritual lessons were the most valuable. When fear would try to choke out my peace, I would remind myself of the faithfulness of God to the children of Israel in the desert. And then I would set my thoughts on the present moment and thank God for what He had provided TODAY. Learning how to live in the present moment is a great practice to calm our fears along with recalling the faithfulness of God in past trials.
So then, do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Today has enough trouble of its own.
We are living to see that our prosperity is not dependent on the president in office, how hard we work, the stock market or even the position we hold in our current job. Now we are given the opportunity to trust God and not trust in man or ourselves.
There is a lot of suffering that has been connected with this virus. A lot of fear, loss of jobs, loneliness, uncertainties and the loss of loved ones. We have little control over some of these things. But, we do have a measure of control over the atmosphere in our homes. I was thinking about the value of 'making a home' during hard times and the value of a homemaker. We are given the privilege of bringing comfort to our families while everything outside may be raging outside. A favorite meal and special dessert go a long way in bringing some joy to a family's heart. Clean sheets and a tidy bedroom are by far one of my favorite comforts of home. Soft, encouraging words. Singing hymns. Praying for each other. Purposefully looking for ways to serve those we love within our walls. A favorite television show to watch together. And my favorite, the Word of God being read each day to instruct, comfort, and encourage us.
It may be tempting to spend all our time watching the news or searching the internet for the current death toll. But, what a waste of our days this would be. Instead, God has work for us to do today. We have a family to care for, neighbors to serve through prayer and sharing resources if needed and most importantly sharing peace with God which is found through faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. We may never live through another time like this the remainder of our days. Let's not waste it.
One day (if God gives us life and breath) we will tell the story of God's faithfulness through the 2020 pandemic.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. Proverbs 31:141. Use less mayo and mustard on sandwiches. Apply this with most things. I'm using less toothpaste for each brushing, less shampoo, less dish soaps,etc. I get just as clean and end up stretching what I already have.
Here are some things I am doing to stretch what we have and make things last longer.
2. Use beans to replace one protein source at a meal. The meat isles were looking pretty bare the last time I was in a grocery store over three weeks ago. There were very little canned beans but I did find some dry beans in the bag. I had started buying beans in bulk before this crisis because they are less expensive. I would cook them in my Instant Pot and then freeze in half cup portions. Lentils did not cook well in the Instant Pot but garbanzos did great and held their shape. I made a large batch and froze them in 1/2 cup portions.
3. Toilet Paper. Due to health reasons, my husband and I would have a very difficult time standing in line for 1-2 hours to buy toilet paper. My girls and their husbands and my nephew and niece have been shopping for us. I do not want to ask them to stand in lines for us because they have their own families to provide for (we are only allowed 1 package of toilet paper per store visit). So, I have come up with a method that is stretching what we have on hand.
If you are out of TP or want to make yours last longer then you can try these ideas.
Use a hand held bidet or find plastic squirt bottles (think YELLOW MUSTARD plastic squeeze bottles or something similar. A plastic bottle with a bulb type bottom is preferred but others will work) instead of toilet paper. Fill them with water and store close to the toilet for the big jobs. There is a learning curve here. You may need to refill it 3 or 4 times to get clean.
Cut up old T shirts and put in a small, pretty box with a lid near the toilet.
Those of you who are old like me will remember how we handled cloth diapers when our children were young. Do the same thing with the big job cloths. I keep a bucket with water and bleach in the garage for soiled cloth. For small jobs you can just put the cloths in a plastic bag and hang on the shower faucet until you wash. Transfer to another bag daily that you put in the garage until you have a load to wash.
* Now, don't get grossed out at this because over 75% of the world does not use T.P. We have been spoiled in the US. By using these methods I have been able to make one roll stretch for 5 days in our 2 person household.
4. Use perishables first. Examples would be fresh bread, fruit, veggies... anything that would perish. Next, use the freezer items and lastly use your canned goods.
5. Save leftover coffee for the next day. Use in some cakes.
6. VEGETABLES: I thought we were over our gardening days (except for a few plants) but this crisis has put vegetable gardening back to the front of our thinking. Seeds are sprouting of kale, melons, Okra, 2 kinds of squashes. Hope to buy more seeds for carrots, spinach and lettuce. There is no way to know how long this virus will last. President Trump initially said he expected it to 'wash through' by July or August. A garden is a good idea to plant now.
7. NAPKINS: Another item that is hard to find. I found some material in my fabric stash to make cloth napkins. You can use kitchen wash cloths, too. You can also use wash clothes or cloth napkins instead of Kleenex and paper towels (set aside for this specific use).
8. KOTEX: I made cloth pads when my husband became disabled nearly 10 years ago. This is another item that is very difficult to find on the shelves right now. You can find patterns online or even make your own. I used old towels for the inside to provide an absorbent lining. I did not sew on snaps but just use a safety pin to secure it in place.
9. MEAT: Use smaller amounts of meat in your recipes. You can cut your meat in a recipe in half or three quarters in most casserole recipes without noticing a difference. Be creative and look for new recipes from other cultures that use meat as a garnish rather than the main star. Replace the meat with more vegetables or starches you may have on hand if it's not a casserole... think stir fry. Go meatless every other night by making a pot of beans.
We can't eat too many beans for blood sugar reasons but this was a favorite recipe I used to make all the time when the children were young. Laine used to have a frugal website. I learned so much from her.
3 cups of pinto beans (cleaned and washed)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 an onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. oil (sometimes I used to use bacon fat)
Water to cover about 2 inches above beans in a big pot
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cover for 1 1/2 - 2 hours. After the beans are tender and cooked, add 1 1/2 Tbsp. of salt. (This is the secret to beans that are not tough. The salt is added at the end of the cooking process). My note: I would mash about 1/4 of the beans to make it's own 'gravy'. These freeze beautifully to use in other recipes or eat alone with a batch of cornbread. Top with shredded cheese and tortillas on the side.
10. BREAD: I rarely eat bread but my husband and mother still do. Thankfully I still have 3 bread machines so my daughter picked up some bread flour and yeast and I will be making some homemade bread when our bread runs out. When my children were living at home I used to make a lot of homemade bread and pizza dough to stretch our budget.
This is Laine's bread recipe. I've used this recipe for years.
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. oil
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour or white flour
2 cups bread flour (or skip the whole wheat and use 3 cups of bread flour)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast.
I put this in my bread machine in the order given. Place on DOUGH CYCLE. Once the dough cycle is finished, place in a greased bread pan. Let rise about 30 minutes in a warm oven. Turn oven to 375 degrees and bake for 30 minutes or until the top is brown.
Quote from Laine, "It's not the money that comes in but the money that goes out that counts."
|Use water pitchers instead of bottled water
11. CLEANERS: I am running low on Ajax to clean my sinks and my toilet. We have gone over our monthly budget in preparation for this virus so I am trying not to spend anything else until our next paycheck. I checked my cleaning supplies and found a large box of baking soda that I used for homemade laundry soap (which I no longer make). I was happy to find a replacement to swish in my toilets.
12. Double and triple batches of food and then freeze in meal portions. This helps prevent the temptation to pick up fast food.
13. Hand wipes: There are many tutorials on YouTube. I'll share just one.
14. Dairy: Add water to stretch your milk. Make your own yogurt. Use jam in place of butter.
15. Make your own face mask. Tons of tutorials on YouTube. Here is a no sew one.
16. What else can you stretch by adding water? Liquid hand soap, liquid dish soap, floor cleaner? I've been using a tablespoon of floor cleaner in a squirt bottle for years. It works just as well as if I used the recommended amount. Same thing goes for laundry detergent.
17. Save vegetables peels and ends in a bag in the freezer and extra liquid from canned vegetables. Chicken or beef bones. When you have a full bag then make broth soup. Save leftover juices from chicken and beef to add to broth for flavor. I make a lot of soups when we are trying to save money. Homemade broth reduces the cost even more. One piece of meat added to canned and fresh veggies will feed a family for several days if not longer, depending on if you add homemade bread of rolls or rice or noodles to the soup.
18. I use the envelope method in my budget planning. There are many small areas where I save monthly for a possible upcoming bill. For instance, I set aside a certain amount of money a month to build the veterinary bill. I also have a household savings (different from our monthly savings for big items) where I save for household needs like a new throw rug or new sheets. During this crisis I have chosen to use this money to stock up on commonly used items instead. This way my girls don't have to shop as much for us because I am buying extra's for the upcoming month.
19. I have been trying new recipes since I have more time at home. I try to make as much as I can from scratch. My list will look different than yours since I have food intolerances. But, here are some ideas to cook from scratch that might work for your family: spaghetti sauce, hummus, Sloppy Joes, Ranch dressing, any kind of soup you buy can be made homemade and is healthier and less expensive, salsa, granola instead of boxed cereal, bread crumbs from the end pieces of bread (freeze until you have enough to make one batch), hamburger buns, homemade tortillas... these are just a few ideas.
20. Buy blocked cheese and grate it yourself. It's usually less expensive this way. Freeze in baggies in 1 cup portions for recipes.
21. LAUNDRY DETERGENT: I used to make my own detergent for years but I stopped because it wasn't getting our clothes clean smelling. I think it was the well water we were using at the time. But, I am prepared to go back to using that recipe if I run out of detergent. There are tons of recipes online. Here is one I used to use from the Duggars:
Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap
- 4 cups hot tap water
- 1 Fels-Naptha soap bar (grated)
- 1 cup Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
- 1/2 cup Borax
- You can add 10 drops of essential oils but it's optional
Directions:Grate bar of soap and add to saucepan with water. Stir continually over medium-low heat until soap dissolves and is melted. Fill a 5 gallon bucket half full of hot tap water. Add melted soap, washing soda, and Borax. Stir well until all powder is dissolved. Fill bucket to top with more hot water. Stir, cover, and let sit overnight to thicken. Stir and fill a used, clean, laundry soap dispenser half full with soap and then fill rest of the way with water.
I have never stopped making my own laundry stain remover because it works better than what I have found in the store and it's simple to make. I always have the ingredients on hand.
2/3 c. Dawn detergent
2/3 c. ammonia
6 Tbsp. baking soda
2 cups warm water
I mix it together in a quart canning jar and leave it on the shelf above my washing machine with an old toothbrush in it to scrub the stain. I don't leave it on the stain overnight.
22. I think all barber shops are shut down. I did a blog post years ago on how to cut a boy/man's hair. Here is a link to it. Cutting my husband and boy's hair saved me so much money.
23. Use water to stretch make up items. Add water to your foundation. Wash your face first with a washrag and THEN add moisturizer, using half as much. Put foundation on while your face is still moist. Or better yet, don't wear make up as often while you are home. Mascara can be also used to line your eyes with a small eyeliner brush. Depending on the color of the mascara you might be able to use it for eyebrows. Lipstick can be used as blush.
24. Lower electric output in your home. If you have 4 light bulbs in a ceiling fan, then unscrew 3 of them. Hand wash dishes or let air dry if using dishwasher. Turn your water heater down to 120 degrees. Turn off heat during the day and turn down lower than normal at night/or off. Open drapes to let the sun shine in and avoid using lights during the day. We rarely turn on the lights during the day.
25. Save plastic bags to use instead of freezer and sandwich bags. For instance: empty plastic liners from cereal boxes, bread bags, vegetable plastic bags given in the produce section, reuse sandwich and freezer bags by washing them and drying them. Just don't use ones previous used for meat or dairy products or eggs.
26. Wash your own car.
27. Bathe in much less water (2 or 3 inches) or time your showers for 3-5 minutes.
28. If you just need fruit and veggies between shopping trips, then try your local fruit stands. Ours are in the country and are outside under tarps so it's hopefully safer concerning the virus.
29. Make all your bread items: Hamburger buns, hot dog buns, tortillas, naan bread, muffins and sandwich bread.
30. Use substitutes if you run out of an item. Eggs can be replaced with gelatin eggs, oil can be replaced in baking items with applesauce. Here is a substitute list that may be helpful.
Last but certainly not least... GIVE what you can to help others. Use the methods above to stretch what YOU use so you will have extra to give to others.
Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. Luke 6:38 ESV
Here are just a few ideas to serve your family and others in the coming weeks. What a 'once in a lifetime' opportunity for many to be home with the family without all the interruptions that this busy world throws at us. I would love to hear if you have any ideas to add to this list.
~ Read bible stories as a family (especially stories of faith in the face of danger like Daniel in the lion's den, Esther, The Passover story in Exodus, and so many more)
~ Pick a character trait of Jesus to study as a family.
~ The Bible Project has a lot of great YouTube videos on tons of topics that your whole family will enjoy. They also have special ones just for children.
~ Quiz each other on bible facts at the dinner table. You can find questions on the internet.
~ Memorize a passage of Scripture together that relates to this trial (verses on topics such as peace, trusting God, do not worry,etc.)
~ Listen to the audio bible together at your meals,
~ Send cards and scripture notes to members of your church family.
~ Encourage your children to call their grandparents and check on them.
~ Shop for your parents, grandparents and chronically ill so that the most vulnerable do not have to leave the house.
~ Begin praying together for those in authority over us as a nation. Pray for our spiritual leaders.
~ Call family, friends and neighbors for their prayer requests. Pray for them at the dinner table as a family.
~ Our church has a directory so our pastor has asked us to call 3 people before and after our picture in the directory. This is a creative way to stay in touch with church family.
~ Call and check on the elderly and disabled in your church. If you can't meet their needs then find someone who can.
- Call neighbors weekly to see if they have everything they need. Ask how you can pray for their family.
She is unafraid of winter's effect on her household,
because all of them are warmly clothed.
It was lovely chatting with you again after all these years. I would love to hear from you. How are you providing for your household during this pandemic? How are you doing with the Shelter in Place?
Blessed to be home!