They say that "necessity is the mother of invention." Well, I guess that frugality fits somewhere in that family tree too. For many years our little family only had one car. And, since my husband worked odd hours, that put me at home without transportation most of the time. I learned a lot about being creative and "getting by" during those years. I still apply many of those lessons today, especially in the kitchen.
During that time of pinching pennies (which I still do), I learned to bake bread and make just about everything possible from scratch. I also learned that recipes are not sacred. It is perfectly fine to experiment and substitute. Don't have enough cans of tomatoes for a crockpot of chili on a snowy day? Pour in that jar of salsa from the fridge instead. Out of cinnamon or brown sugar? Don't have cayenne or basil? Look in the cabinets for something comparable. Use white sugar or pancake syrup instead of brown sugar. Try cloves, or chili powder, or oregano instead of a similar spice. I've often interchanged vegetable oil, shortening, and butter. And, have you ever started making pancakes, only to find an empty milk jug? Instead of jumping into the car, open the refrigerator. Did you know that yogurt makes fluffy pancakes? I've even used sour cream thinned with a little water. Maybe not my first choice, but it worked.
These kinds of "necessary substitutions" can also be a great way to use up things that are about ready to expire. This is how I discovered that yogurt (yep, that yogurt again) works great in biscuits. I used the same (almost) past-due carton to make pancakes and smoothies that week. Apples that are getting soft become applesauce for lunch or get added (with some cinnamon) to a muffin recipe. And the opened jar of spaghetti sauce from two weeks ago? Why not use it on a homemade pizza?
Now, I no longer have to make substitutions and get creative. I could easily grab my keys, hop into the car, and take my wallet to the nearest store. But this principle is more about a frugal mindset than transportation. It's about daring to be creative. It's about thinking outside the box. And personally, instead of spending more money at the store, I'd rather take my wallet to my bank!
Want more ideas to get your frugal brain turning? Then head over to Life a Mom for Frugal Friday.
Photo credit: tobyjbull