Quarantine life has been really hard on a lot of people. And understandably so! Most of us are used to coming and going as we please and having access to all the food and household supplies we need.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Add in working at home, schooling at home, and working while schooling at home, and suddenly nothing is normal.
While we didn’t specifically prepare to shelter-in-place for a pandemic, some of our ingrained frugal habits made the adjustment to quarantine life a little easier for us than for many people.
I want to share with you the frugal practices from our pre-pandemic life that made our quarantine life easier than it would otherwise be.
While we’re all looking forward to life going back to normal, the truth is, this pandemic is not the only major disruption we’ll experience. Chances are good that something else will cause serious life upheaval in the future, whether it’s a natural disaster, financial crisis, or another pandemic (or a resurgence of this one).
5 Frugal Habits to Master Now
Whether you’re reading this while still staying home or after your world has re-opened, these frugal habits can pay big dividends.
If you really want to up your frugal game, join the Frugal Fresh Start Challenge. For the next 28 days we’ll help you get your budget under control so you can reach your financial goals! You’ll get the free workbook sent to you when you sign up!
1. Cooking from Scratch
You don’t need to be a gourmet chef to make and enjoy a home-cooked meal. If you’re new to cooking from scratch, start with simple recipes. Start with the meals you like to eat and learn how to make them for yourself. Learning to cook can be one of the most impactful frugal changes you can make.
As you get more confident, choose other staples you can make at home. While making staples at home can save you money (compare the cost of homemade versus store-bought bread), it does take time. You don’t have to commit to always making these staples from scratch, but knowing how to make them can really come in handy.
While we were working to pay off six figures of student loan debt, I made all of our bread (which ends up being a lot with a big family). I took a break from making bread at home for a few of years, but got back into it during the pandemic. I’ve also added some new kitchen skills during the pandemic, like making tortillas and homemade cheese from powdered milk.
2. Not Wasting Food
It’s never cool to waste food, but when money and resources are scarce, you definitely don’t want to be throwing out food. Get in the habit of eating everything you buy and cook before it goes bad, including fresh produce and leftovers.
When it comes to not wasting fresh produce, I have some specific strategies that will help you.
We typically do one big grocery shopping trip each month, so it’s important for us to be able to make our produce last without wasting it.
I love leftovers. I also make more than we’ll eat just so we’ll have leftovers! I love getting a break from fixing dinner a couple of nights a week! Plus, my kids love days when we have a “leftover buffet” and they can choose their favorites from the last several meals.
Make not wasting food a habit! You save so much money by just not throwing food away!
3. Regularly Stocking Up and Buying in Bulk
With a big family, we buy most things in bulk. It’s almost always cheaper to buy in bulk than buying in small quantities. And even when the containers themselves aren’t bigger, I still tend to purchase in large quantities.
We do our regular grocery shopping for a month at a time. That sometimes gets me funny looks and questions from the cashiers.
“Wow! This is a lot of sugar! You guys must go through a lot of Kool-Aid!” (Ha! I don’t even think my kids know what that is!)
“I’m sorry, but I just have to ask what you’re going to do with all of this bread.” (Make a million sandwiches, of course!)
The goal is to stock up on things when the price for the item is low, and buy enough so you won’t have to buy it again until it is on sale again. This way you never have to pay full price for things. It also means you don’t have to buy everything every month. If you’ve seen my grocery shopping hauls, you’ve seen this principle in practice.
My last monthly grocery shopping trip was at the beginning of March, before we started our Quarantine Food Storage Challenge. With all the panic buying and hoarding going on now, I’m sure I would get disapproving looks if I went to the store and bought like a normal-for-us grocery trip. For us, stocking up is just what we do, it’s the only practical way to feed our family of 8 without running out to the store all the time.
4. Stocking Personal Care Supplies
We don’t just stock up on food. We try to stay stocked on other household supplies we’ll continue to need.
I typically have 3 to 6 kids in tow when I’m shopping. I don’t want to go up and down every aisle to get one of every household product each month. Instead, when we start to run low on deodorant (or if I find a great deal), I stock up with enough to last several months. I don’t buy toilet paper every month. When I buy it, I buy several large packages. It has been over two months since I bought toilet paper and it will be another couple months before I’ll need to get any.
Shopping ahead like this gives me wiggle room because I buy before we absolutely need something. I have the flexiblity to forget a couple of times or wait for a good price. This not only saves me sanity, it saves money because I’m not making extra trips to the store which inevitably include impulse buys.
I know my prices too, so I can tell when a deal on Amazon is as good or better than what I can get in the store. The toothpaste we get for the kids, for example, is always cheaper on Amazon. The toothpaste the grownups use is cheaper at the store.
5. Ditching Disposables
What were the first convenience items to disappear from stores after masks, disinfecting wipes, and hand sanitizer? Toilet paper and other disposable items like paper towels, paper plates, diapers, and more.
I’m not suggesting giving up toilet paper. Some of my friends have moved to bidets, but I’m still in the TP camp.
But we’ve ditched most other disposables.
We have used cloth diapers with the past three and a half kids (we started when our third was 9 months old). We use a disposable at night, but could give that up if we needed to.
We always use real plates, bowls, and silverware (except when we have large parties) so we aren’t in the habit of regularly purchasing paper goods.
We use dishcloths and kitchen towels to clean up spills instead of paper towels.
Ditching disposables has kept us from throwing away money for years. Not having to rely on disposables during quarantine meant we didn’t feel like we were going without and didn’t have to stress about running to the store.
Frugal Habits For The Win!
Frugalizing your life really can make you more resilient in potential emergency situations. You won’t feel the effect of hard times so keenly and in the mean time you’ll save money and resources.
If you want to up your frugal game, join the Frugal Fresh Start Challenge. For the next 28 days we’ll help you get your budget under control so you can reach your financial goals! You’ll get the free workbook sent to you when you sign up!
- What frugal habits do you have that came in handy during the pandemic?
- What new frugal habits are you planning to keep or working to cultivate?