Personal Finance

How To Live Frugally But Well

By David Krug David Krug is the CEO & President of Bankovia. He's a lifelong expat who has lived in the Philippines, Mexico, Thailand, and Colombia. When he's not reading about cryptocurrencies, he's researching the latest personal finance software. 6 minute read

The wisdom of our elders, both recent and distant, is invaluable. Most people nowadays don’t even live anything close to the way that these previous generations did. They had to be thrifty and ingenious to make it through their difficult conditions. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without was a motto they lived by.

Not everything is in our control, but we do have a say in how we react to the challenges life throws our way. This includes relearning the skills our forebears used to survive on their own and with less.

Money-Saving Strategies From the Past That Are Still Valid Today

  1. Utilize What You Have

During WWII, several staple items were rationed, meaning they could only be purchased with a government-issued voucher. Meat, cheese, sugar, coffee, tinned fish, and canned milk were some of the most sought-after items.

Now, if we have an idea for supper, we can quickly and easily rush out to the shop to acquire the necessary materials. However, if you end up spending money on impulsive purchases on such visits, they may add up quickly. Save time and money by being resourceful in the kitchen and learning to make healthy food swaps.

You may save time and money on groceries by using what you already have on hand instead of making a quick trip out.

  1. Reduce Food Waste

To add to the benefits of making do with what you have available, doing so can reduce your likelihood of wasting edible items. Instead of throwing away wilted vegetables or herbs that have lost their freshness, use them in a dish like soup or meatloaf. The best way to preserve leftover meat before it spoils is to freeze it. Even stale bread may be used to make breadcrumbs.

You may save a lot of money over time if you learn to make creative use of perishables and other food items that have passed their prime. Andrea Dekker, a professional organizer and efficiency expert, provides further suggestions for rescuing perishable food.

Roots, tops, ends, skins, and peelings are just some of the vegetable waste that may be used to produce delicious homemade stock for soups. Keep this waste in a freezer bag. Put the scraps (4 cups) into the 2 quarts of water and bring it to a boil. However, keep in mind that not all veggies produce a tasty stock.

  1. Look for Depression-Era Recipes.

Looking for the kinds of recipes people used to rely on when money and food were few is another approach to save costs. As an example, bean soup was a common family supper since it was filling and could be made with a broad range of ingredients. Beans and potatoes were staples since meat was so scarce.

Ingenious substitutes for common yet expensive items like milk, butter, and eggs were developed by many. Mama Wise, my great-grandmother, provided for her seven children and herself throughout the Great Depression in rural Missouri. In my family, many of her recipes have been handed down since they are both tasty and economical. Here are 1930s versions of two of her famous meals.

  1. Learn How to Forage

To make the most of what you have on hand at mealtime, learning the skill of urban foraging is a great option. Dandelion, plantain, sheep sorrel, chickweed, and wood sorrel are just a few of the many edible wild plants that abound in our natural environment and are both tasty and nutrient-rich. These “weeds” are abundant and widely available in both rural and urban settings.

Wild edibles were a lifesaver during the Great Depression, when grocery stores were empty and food was expensive. Many households were given a much-needed boost of vitamins and minerals thanks to this addition.

Advantages await those who invest time and effort into learning to recognize and prepare wild foods. The most significant benefit is the money you’ll save at the grocery store by eating these wild greens, berries, and veggies. Wandering around town and the countryside in search of flora is a great way to increase your activity level. In addition, foraging is a valuable survival skill that young people should acquire.

In order to avoid eating any dangerous plants while out on your foraging expedition, it is recommended that you have a handbook with you. The Regional Foraging Guides that may be found on Amazon have been very helpful to me. Each section of the United States (the Northeast, Midwest, Southeast, Mountain States, Pacific Northwest, and California, to name a few) gets its own book in this series. The images are top-notch, and the explanations are very clear.

  1. Produce Your Own Food

Americans were urged to plant “victory gardens” during World Wars I and II. The goal was to have people growing their own food so that there would be more fresh food to provide to the troops overseas. There was a rapid proliferation of victory gardens around the country in private backyards, community gardens, and vacant sites. Families were able to conserve food resources, contribute to the war effort, and increase their physical activity levels.

The concept of the victory garden may now be used to plant a backyard garden or decorate a deck or patio with potted plants. You and your neighbors might potentially start a garden. 

In addition to being a fun and rewarding family activity, growing your own food at home is the most cost-effective method to ensure that everyone in the family has access to healthy, nutritious produce.

  1. Make Your Own

One hundred years ago, many individuals created their own necessities because they had to. Most necessities are purchased these days. But the ability to make things instead of buying them is invaluable, especially in times of economic hardship. It is more cost-effective to make one’s own cleaning supplies, food, and beverages rather than buying them from the shop. They often benefit both your health and the planet.

  1. Reduce your reliance on electricity.

Historically, our forebears had a very light touch on the power grid. During the day, they didn’t use electricity, and at night, they lit their homes with oil lamps. On top of that, they lacked the convenience of plugging in electronic devices like televisions, e-readers, mobile phones, tablets, and computers.

These days, a lot of power is consumed. In 2018, the typical American household consumed 914 kWh monthly, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The cost of this type of power ranges from $95 to $150 a month (or more) on a national scale.

According to the EIA, the United States consumes 17% of the world’s energy despite making up less than 5% of the global population. Therefore, reducing our energy use is an environmentally responsible option that also benefits our wallets.

  1. Every day, concentrate on one main task.

If you’re familiar with “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, you know that when Laura was a child, her mother had a routine for every day of the week.

  • laundry on Monday
  • On Tuesday, iron
  • On Wednesday, repair
  • Thursday, churn
  • Friday’s cleaning
  • Saturday bake day
  • Take Sunday off.

A timetable like this is helpful since it gives you structure for completing both daily activities and larger projects.

Also, it helps save time and effort. For instance, if you use your Saturdays to prepare numerous freezer dinners for the week, you’ll find yourself in a routine. Rather than doing it five or six times throughout the following week, you may prepare ingredients all at once. In addition, a major cleanup is only necessary once instead of several times.

Bottom Line

It’s a common goal for many of us to find methods to slow down, cut costs, and simplify our lives. Some people feel they need to in order to make ends meet, while others do it in order to relax and spend more time with their loved ones.

The experiences of our ancestors in ages past can teach us valuable lessons that can improve our own lives now. They may improve your well-being and financial situation simultaneously.

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