31 Ways to Make Do and Live Frugally | During the month of May, I Challenged you all to implement some tips into your lives and to Make Do and Live Frugally.
When I think about making do, I think about my grandparents living through the Great Depression. Living without excess but still living life fully and never going without.
I think about their massive garden, their ability repurpose things that would otherwise be trash, and their non-desires to accumulate.
Grandma taught me how to cook and Grandpa taught me how to grow any fruit or vegetable you could imagine.
Grandma never started her day without her apron and Grandpa felt incline to trim grass by hand rather than purchase a grass trimmer.
They used pie pans to scare away birds from the garden and hand carved wooden bowls for the best homemade slaw you’d ever eaten.
My memory is filled with so many memories of them I could tell you all stories forever. I loved them so very much.
This challenge was about them and how they inspired me to live with purpose and how to Make Do and Live Frugally.
31 Ways to Make Do and Live Frugally
1. Refuse What you Don’t Need
Curbing unnecessary spending might be the most important step of zero waste and sustainable living. Over-consumption has gotten us to where we are. Consuming with no regard to the impact it’s creating has created unfixable, environmental damage.
And it’s difficult when society continues to obsess over wealth and money.
It’s best we save and use our money for things we need and yes occasionally treating ourselves with purpose is perfectly fine. Impulse shopping can get us in trouble, though.
2. Use Up what You have
Whether it’s make up, toiletries, cleaning products, packages of plastic wrap, or whatever, use it up before buying something new or replacing it with an “eco-swap”.
I feel like we have a problem with getting bored with the products we buy. We use it for a while, think there is something better/shinier out there, and buy something new before we’ve used all of what we had already purchased in the first place.
When we use up the things we purchase, nothing goes to waste. We save money, and reduce the amount of waste that enters landfills by lessening the amount of products we buy.
Some tips to help use up all of your products:
- If you use tubed toothpaste, cut open the package once it’s empty to get the remaining bits.
- Add a little water to the empty shampoo bottles to get the excess clinging to the sides.
- Cut open lotion bottles and scrape the excess into a jar
3. Eat Your Pantry
When you meal plan, take inventory of what you have on hand. I find it more efficient to write everything down and organize it by category.
Related: Stocking a Zero Waste Pantry
This will help you put together meals based on what you have thus preventing unnecessary food waste, and will decrease your overall grocery bill by a substantial amount.
If you need a little inspiration, apps like SuperCook take all of the available ingredients in your kitchen and match them to recipes on the internet’s most popular cooking websites.
Making Do and Living Frugally can also be about coming together as a community. We already have everything we need out there before creating the demand for more, new products.
Ask friends, family, or neighbors to borrow what you need. If you have a sewing project, borrow a sewing machine. If you need a drill for a quick DIY, borrow it. Need a tent for a camping trip? You get the idea.
I love the idea of borrowing between our communities. In return, send a plate of cookies back to whom you borrowed it from, make sure the item was is the same condition if not better, or even pay them a rental fee.
I borrow tools all of the time because I’d just rather not pay money for something I’ll use a few times a year. I give my neighbor a 12 pack of beer as payment and the world is a happy place.
5. Learn Substitutions
Have you ever ran out of an ingredient and ran to the store for 1 thing? Making do and Living Frugally can be easily accomplished by understanding how and what items in your home can serve the purpose of another ingredient.
6. Skip the Trendy Swaps
Use what you already have to reduce the waste. Make Do and Live Frugally by not succumbing to the temptation fo buying all of the fancy gadgetry that is marketed to you on social media.
Look around your home, I can bet you have many things in your possession now that will help you avoid disposables.
You have food containers, cloth rags, cutlery, and jars. There is no need to buy a bunch of trendy items and contribute to more consumption.
Even when it comes to reusable bags, you can easily make one from an old shirt.
7. Utilize Cloth Rather Disposable Paper Products
Utilizing cloth around the home can eliminate disposable paper waste. This was the first thing I learned from my great grandmother in terms of making do and living frugally.
There was no need to go out and buy rolls of paper towels, paper napkins, kleenex, and even toilet paper – gasp.
Use some old cloth scraps, towels, ripped up shirts, or even old sheets. Keep them in the same places that you’d normally keep the throwaways. You’ll never want to go back!
8. If it works, keep using it
Whether it’s electronics, appliances, or even a vehicle – there’s no need to replace something with a newer item for the sake of it being old.
Despite what manufacturers and marketing lead us to believe, many items in our lives are perfectly usable for many years after they tell us to replace and upgrade. It’s all a ploy to keep us buying more.
9. free fun
This may seem like a strange tip but I really believe that we spend a lot on entertainment as well as purchase additional items to curb boredom when there are plenty of things we can do for free.
- Take a hike
- Or go for a park stroll
- Play catch or frisbee
- Bust out a board game
- Utilize items from your recycling bin to create
- Create cardboard box forts
- Have a movie night with popcorn
- Have a themed dinner
- Go on a picnic
Get creative with what you have available to you for a good time. You don’t always have to buy something or spend money. Making Do and Living Frugally doesn’t mean going without.
10. regrow food scraps
There are many items you can regrow from produce you’ve already purchased and maybe even other items in your pantry.
Green onions always come to mind when regrowing food because it’s just so easy. You can easily get 2-3 more cuttings from them just by sticking them into water after use.
Carrot tops, celery, and lettuce can also be regrown from scraps – oh and potatoes!
11. cook at home
Making more meals at home has many benefits. Especially in our fast food obsessed society where ⅓ of the American diet consists of fast food.
Yes, there are many variables to consider like income and access but for the able bodied person, we should strive to cook as much as we can at home.
Not only is it healthier of course, but cooking at home reduces waste and saves an exorbitant amount of money.
Making meals at home also ensures that the food you’ve already spent money on gets eaten and doesn’t go to waste. And remember, never make cooking one person’s responsibility – try to do it as a family.
12. extend the life of your clothing
Extending the life of our clothing will help keep us from needing to purchase new articles more often.
Here are some ways you can do this:
- Line dry your clothing more often
- Wash on cold water
- Wash less often
- Treat stains immediately
- Wear an apron
- Fold and store them appropriately
- Hand wash delicates
Repairing our worn out and broken items is an essential part of making do.
Just because those socks have one teeny hole them doesn’t mean they need to be thrown out or degraded into a rag.
If you have a little extra time right now it’s a perfect opportunity to heighten your skills on fixing and to make it fun, incorporate that learning into your homeschooling routine.
I haven’t had my sewing machine out in months and it wasn’t until this pandemic, that I got that bad girl out to repair a few articles of clothing that had been sitting in my closet forever. It felt SO good to complete that task. I mean really good.
14. ride your bike or use public transportation
My rule is, if I need to go anywhere that is 2 miles or fewer, I will definitely bike or walk. Even during these times, getting outside to ride or walk is a great way to improve your mental health.
And if you have reliable and efficient public transportation, take advantage. Of course, remember to only go out if you truly need to in order to stay healthy.
15. cleaning products with what you already have
I have been cleaning my home naturally for years. I keep a very minimal arsenal of cleaning products that are as follows:
- Baking soda
That’s it. No frills. Nothing harmful. Nothing that’s going to put me or my family at risk.
Related: Zero Waste Cleaning
16. utilize library resources
Unlike Leslie Knope, I love public libraries.
They offer so many resources that are not only beneficial to their communities, but provide knowledge and access to the people.
Aside from books, libraries also have movies, music, board games, video games, and E-books. This makes saving money in these departments pretty easy.
Libraries also offer: reading classes, storytimes for kids, homework help, computers/internet, and so much more.
What’s even better, is that we have an army of skilled librarians helping us navigate the mountains of data.
17. learn a new skill
We live in a time where we have literally every bit of knowledge right at our fingertips. Learning is easier than it’s ever been.
There are many skills that I think we’ve lost throughout the years that can be very valuable in making ourselves more resourceful and self sufficient.
Pick up sewing or darning to easily mend items around the house. Learn woodworking or even learn more about computers and technology.
18. stop buying unitaskers
Isn’t marketing/consumerism annoying? There is a product for just about everything. Things that you can buy that you never knew you didn’t need.
Unitaskers are the base of my existence. They are non-essential items in our homes that serve only 1 purpose and are usually found in the kitchen.
Such things as banana slicers, pizza scissors, strawberry cutters, yolk separators, you know what I’m talking about. Go into any kitchen gadget store and be smacked in the face with a bunch of useless junk.
So much of that nonsense is completely unnecessary and just takes up space, costs an exorbitant amount of money, uses valuable resources, and inevitably ends up in the trash at the end of its life.
19. unfollow accounts that encourage you to buy things you don’t need
Social media does a pretty good job at convincing us to buy things. With more shopping being done online, it’s easier than ever to impulse buy.
Of course, there’s a bigger problem here. Social media can have negative effects on our mental health and with May being Mental Health Awareness month, I feel this is an extremely important topic.
We have tendencies to shop emotionally. We yearn to satisfy our internal feelings by what we see from someone’s outward image. That makes us very vulnerable.
Envy and vanity can also make it very difficult to avoid making unnecessary purchases.
Truth is, we would all be much happier if we cut out the noise. Unfollow influencers that make us feel inadequate or do nothing but try to convince us to purchase this or that.
Follow accounts that inspire you, make you feel empowered, and make you feel unencumbered.
20. keep it within your means
This might be one of the most important Make Do tips.
There’s absolutely no sense in getting oneself into debt to live outside your means. Keeping up with the Jones’ is a very dangerous thing.
Fear of missing out may contribute to our desires to live lavishly as well but thing is, there are so many more ways to live life to fullest and not do without.
Keep a healthy budget. Try to save more than 5% of your income if you can. Look for ways to enjoy yourself that fall within your financial means.
- If you can’t afford a car, use public transportation.
- If you can’t afford to go out to eat, cook at home.
- If you can’t afford a lavish European vacation, go camping. (This was what we did growing up because we couldn’t afford such things)
- Rather than go to the movies, have a fun movie night at home with snacks.
The luxuries of life don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. It’s all our mindset.
21. sell or regift
One person’s trash could be another person’s treasure.
Related: How To Make Money Off Clutter
Our homes could be potential gold mines for valuable items sitting around taking up space. I know it’s sometimes hard to let go of things but if it truly isn’t getting used or enjoyed, I think it would be much better for it to go to someone who could get use from it.
It’s also much easier to declutter and send to the thrift store, but what if you could make some extra money from your stuff? It’s a good make do way to get a little bit of extra money.
22. save seeds
Not all seeds are the same. To be clear, not all seeds from produce from the grocery store will grow to bear fruit. They are engineered not to. They are hybridized.
If you plan on saving produce seeds to replant make sure you are purchasing fruit and veg that are heirloom. Honestly, it’s best to buy seeds or get them from a seed library rather than expect to get a healthy garden from grocery store produce.
Firstly, buy Open Pollinated Seeds. This type will likely ensure that you will be able to get fruit, save seeds, regrow, and have fruit with the same characteristics as the parent. Once you get a healthy established first crop, you can then start saving seeds for future growing seasons.
Start with easy plants like lettuce or beans to get started and then store the seeds in a dry, cool, dark place.
23. use up food scraps
We are told to never waste anything – especially when it comes to food. Make sure you compost all of your produce scraps, right?
Related: 16 Ways to Use Produce Scraps
But what if we could take it a step further and use more of our produce scraps before it makes its way into the compost bin? Why do we not use every part of the plant?
Shouldn’t we be practicing a “Root-to-Leaf” philosophy? By using more of the produce we already buy, we also save money!
24. reinvent your closet
We continually try to buy the life we want or we want to buy a feeling.
I think this occurs a lot with our clothing purchases. Buying things that are in-style for 3 weeks to “fit” in.
In fact, you probably have a closet already bursting with perfectly fine clothing but that feeling of “I have nothing to wear” continually sets in.
Instead of buying new clothing for the sake of buying new clothing – try reinventing what you already have.
Scour Pinterest for inspo, rotate out clothing so things always feel fresh, keep a log of what you have with images – I believe there are even apps out there that will give you outfit ideas based on what you have – or even just let your creative spirit fly.
I even think altering what you have into something new would be a fun way to reinvent your clothing.
25. stop buying new containers and jars
We get a lot of containers just by means of buying groceries – so, put them to use!
Reuse a spray bottle for homemade cleaners. Reuse take out containers to gift baked goods. Reuse tin cans to plant flowers or grow herbs.
Reuse food jars for leftovers, dry food storage, organization, a water glass, a vase… Seriously the possibilities are endless.
I’m one of those jar hoarders who keeps a stash in the pantry. I probably have some type of pasta sauce jar in every room of my home doing some kind of upcycled job.
There’s no need to keep buying jars and containers when we already have them. Make do with what you have and get creative.
26. keep and own items that serve multiple purposes
I dislike clutter but I love having a home that isn’t “sterile”. Do you know what I mean? I’m just not a fan of the all white, nothingness that most minimalism presents itself as.
Minimalism isn’t even defined as having nothing and painting your home white, that’s just what became the trend. However, I do feel minimalism is a key part of Making Do and Living Frugally.
Minimalism is more about having that perfect balance of things. The amount of stuff should never exceed what brings you joy and what consumes your time. It’s about eliminating the excess and that looks differently for everyone.
With that being said, I think making do and minimalism go hand in hand because it’s all about avoiding bringing things into your home and life that serve no purpose.
I feel that it’s important that when we do fill our home with items that they mean something and/or serve multiple purposes.
Some examples are:
There are so many amazing things growing in our backyards that are completely edible.
My great grandparents would always find something growing in the woods and turn it into something tasty. Gooseberry pie anyone?
They did this because they grew up in a time where they had to stretch the food they had and when they could utilize food that was completely free and growing plentiful around them, they took advantage.
Summers were full of blackberry pies and jams, in the fall we collected walnuts and hazelnuts, and in the spring we picked mushrooms and ramps. It was something I looked forward to.
I’m excited to share more recipes on my blog with food you can find in your backyard. Lilac sugar? Elderflower soda? Dandelion green salad?
Please use caution when foraging for food. Become educated on what is edible and make sure you know what you are eating. And avoid foraging in cities.
28. start a garden
Growing your own food is the most self sufficient thing you can do to save money, cut out waste, control where your food comes from and overall improve your mental health.
If you have property, great! You can put in a fantastic garden and produce quite a bit of food.
For those of us who don’t, we still have options. If you have a patio or deck, start a patio garden. Tomatoes, strawberries, lettuces, potatoes, and herbs do well in containers.
If you’re even more limited, keep herbs in your home, regrow kitchen scraps, or even try growing micro-greens.
29. find new uses for things
If you think you need to buy something in order to complete a task, don’t. You probably already have something in your home that will do the job.
We tend to be drawn to situations that tempt us to buy something, thinking that our lives would be better if we just had this or that. Truth is, we all probably have an adequate number of things that can get nearly every task completed we could imagine.
For instance, when I started making my own nut milks, I thought I needed to buy a nut milk bag because everyone told me to buy one. Well, I already had about 10 things that would do the job without buying another unnecessary thing.
I had cloth produce bags, tea towels, and even my french press that would do the job.
We have to take the blinders off and see that most things that are marketed to us, are just completely unnecessary.
30. upcycle before tossing
Make Do and Live Frugally by Upcycling. Nearly everything can be repurposed or upcycled into something else. And truly, we should be trying to find ways to get more life out of every single thing that comes into our possession before we immediately throw it out.
Even something as simple as dryer lint can be upcycled into a fire starter.
Old ratty clothing can be used for sewing projects, stuffing, or cleaning rags.
An old worn out hose can be turned into an irrigation system or sprinkler.
About any container can be turned into storage or a plant pot.
31. multiple wears before washing
There’s no need to throw clothing into the wash after one wear unless it’s truly dirty.
These days I probably wear the same shirt and yoga pants 4-5 times before washing. But seriously, who am I trying to impress? And still, no one really cares what you are wearing anyway.
Washing our clothing less, extends its life and saves us in quite a bit of water and electricity savings. And as a bonus, it prevents more microfiber from entering the water system.
Given how long this post is, you can see there are many ways to Make Do and Live Frugally. There’s also no one size fits all approach to this lifestyle. Just conform these ideas and tips to fit your routine and needs.
How do you Make Do and Live Frugally?