Frugal has surely to be an unusual favourite word, especially for someone who struggles to correctly pronounce the letter r. With its rather Dickensian hints of struggle, dearth and hunger, frugality is perhaps not the most popular of life goals. It does however have its own rewards, and not just financial ones. Sir David Attenborough would agree with me on this point.
Attempting a frugal living lifestyle helps me to engage more deeply with how I think and behave, and usually produces a happier result for my health, environment and bank balance. Frugality is undoubtedly a relative term but here are my current top tips for a frugal and happy life.
Reduce reuse recycle
When you get good at it, the reuse element of the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra can be great fun. When faced with potential rubbish I try to take a second look and work out what each item could be used for. It’s amazing how useful items can be if you give them a second or even third chance. In our house,
Cardboard becomes weed suppressant then compost
Chicken bones become stock then soup (see below)
Underpants become rags then plant ties
Old bread becomes breadcrumbs then pudding
Old floorboards become veg boxes then firewood
Veg scraps become worm food then compost
Plastic trays become plant trays then bird scarers
Soup it up
There are plenty of soup recipes out there but the best soups are often ones that use up whatever you have available. I boil up chicken carcasses or old veg for stock, chuck in left over fridge vegetables (including salad) and often include dried pulses, juice from tins and even gravy remnants. Soups in our house are a whole meal, and they all taste better on the second day. The secret to a good soup is to add something starchy (for example pasta water), and cook it long and slow.
My latest fashion prediction is that, with so many people worried about working-from-home heating bills, the sale of wool vests is about to sky rocket. They call them singlets in the Antipodes, possibly to get away from any old lady connotations. Thrifty Devon freelancers wear them as do New Zealand farmers and their sheep.
My outdoor adventure experiences have proven that natural fibres are great at keeping you warm, and work well under weather and exercise pressure. They are also the only thing that can warm me up at my desk.
I have three wool vests. All of them merino wool, two with significant darns, because they are at least five years old. They aren’t my most attractive garments but their cost-per-wear value must be enormous because I wear them almost all the time.
My other keeping warm whilst typing tips include hot water bottles, hot drinks and sheepskin slippers. All of which, you can utilise completely undetected during Zoom meetings (this is probably just as well).
The frugal definition
The word frugal comes from the Latin frugi (economical). Being frugal is a state in which one balances cost with quality and experience. There are of course less attractive synonyms for frugal. Parsimonious is one example. From the Latin parcere – be sparing, this one was also favoured by Seneca the Younger (see quote below) and popular with the followers of Stoicism.
‘With parsimony little is sufficient; without it nothing is sufficient; but frugality makes a poor man rich.’
I am part of an unofficial outdoor swimming group named ‘Zeno’s Swim Club’ (Zeno of Citium was the founder of stoicism). The club is so called because we swim free of cost, through the winter, in unappetising waters and weather more suited to fireside than seaside. The claim to this label suits my inner niggard (another great word) although in this instance it was perhaps chosen to refer to hardiness rather than stinginess over swimming pool fees.
Like most people I love a touch of luxury from time to time but I do recommend giving the frugal lifestyle a go. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. Especially if we all end up spending more time at home than usual this winter.