Top Ten: Frugality is the new black.

Being the children of Asian immigrant parents, my brothers and I often poked fun at the extreme limits of frugality that our family went to growing up. However, I’ll readily admit that it was partly due to absorbing this trait that I was able to live comfortably (if not extravagantly) through a childhood spent in the last recession, nearly a decade of university apartment life, and now this latest economic downturn. There’s limits to what you want to try to make with gum and duct tape, of course, but there are other simple things that we do around the house that I never gave a second thought to until I noticed the boy giving me quizzical looks. Yet it’s those little things that often add up to the point where we can afford to splurge on a nice restaurant dinner or night out. I could make some comments about conspicuous consumption in the West, but let’s get on it with. I went around the apartment this weekend and took some snapshots of the things that popped out at me.

Top Ten Frugal Moments in Our House, behind the cut.

1. cheap01

Doubling recipes, buying in bulk, and freezing everything for later use. Making bigger portions saves energy and time, and getting stuff in bigger packages is just cheaper.

2. cheap02

Yep, even the cat subscribes to this theory. Large format canned cat food is cool.

3. cheap03

I was horrified to learn how much the boy spent buying bottled water, which is about the price of gas. Except that, y’know, people drink a LOT more water. We live in an area where it’s not recommended that you drink from the tap unless you really like your water crunchy, so filtration is very necessary. Enter the Brita pitcher, mainstay of many a college dorm room.

4. cheap04

Here’s something that’s always seemed a no-brainer to me — so you know how there’s always that display of expensive name brand spices in small glass containers at the supermarket? And then, about two feet away, there’s a smaller section of “ethnic” spices in plastic bags, usually for a fraction of the price? Ever notice how 3/4 of them are the exact same spices? The above is an example: On the right, you see the name brand glass container and on the left is a recycled jam jar that I filled with the cheaper bay leaves I got in plastic. Notice how much smaller the container on the right is. They were charging over $3 for that (well, imagine that the label says “bay leaves” and not onion…) and it contained about half the amount of leaves as my jam jar. I got the stuff on the left for under a dollar.

5. cheap05

Here’s one that always makes me think of my makeup artist friend, N, because I saw her doing the exact same thing a few times. And who can blame her — you know how many expensive cosmetics come in those ridiculous plastic tubes where you’ll never be able to squeeze out the last bit? It’s a shame to throw them out, though — there’s usually several more applications left hiding in there. Forget about trying to squeeze it out, just cut the end off of the darn tube and scoop it out with a brush or q-tip as needed. Do remember to keep it in a plastic bag to keep it from getting contaminated or dried out, however.


A before and after. I can’t be the only one that has amassed huge amounts of condiments packets from various take-out meals. I never apply soy sauce directly to a food, so all those packets were sort of lost on me. However, I definitely DO use soy sauce while cooking. After clearing out the drawers, I found at least 30 packets hiding amongst the utensils. Squirting them all into a handy container yielded a decent bottle of quality soy sauce for cooking. Go figure. I’ve also done the same thing to Pizza Hut crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese, by the way 😉

7. cheap07

As a side note to some of the previous notes above, yes, I do keep all my glass bottles and jars. And have never failed to find a use for any of them.

8. cheap08

Along the same lines as saving useful glass jars, I also save pretty cardboard boxes. Such as the one above which has been converted into an oven-top spice rack. In a former life, it was the gift box for a Chinese scroll. With a bit of pruning using my cardboard shears, it’s now a sturdy, adjustable home for all my cooking needs.


My roommate Laura introduced me to this back at UCLA. I thought it was some sort of thing where you had to buy stuff to get points at first, but they’re true to their word. You’ll get points for buying from their associates, of course, but you also get them just for getting mail from them. I just let the “bonusmails” accumulate for a week then click through them quickly in one sitting. Just doing that collects enough points after a few months for a $15 giftcard to various stores. Not bad for something that doesn’t demand much time and encourages me to keep my email box clean.

10. Sweet Free Stuff and Shop4Freebies

Fairly self-explanatory. Who doesn’t like getting free stuff in the mail? 😀


  1. Pingback: Topics about Go-greener » Blog Archive » Top Ten: Frugality is the new black.

    • Hmm. I have no idea who Aluisio da Rosa Borges is, but really don’t think that’s who I am. I have a sneaking suspicious this might be spammy…

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