The Importance of Taking Care of You, and My Latest Frugal Shop

I remember one time I took my kids out for ice cream, and someone tsked me for it, saying "Aren't you supposed to be frugal?" When I think about misconceptions regarding frugality, that is always the first story that comes to mind. Many assume that to be truly frugal, it means never spending money on anything that isn't absolutely necessary. But here's the thing- I don't believe in that kind of frugality. In fact, I am loathe to even call it frugality, because my definition of frugality is far different. It's living within your means, not spending more than necessarily on things (getting the best deals you can on them, if possible), and cutting back on things not important to you so that you have the money to spend on things that are.

There's a lot of discussion about wants vs needs when it comes to frugality, and where money should be spent, but I think its fallacious to ignore the fact that wants can be emotional needs, and we can't dismiss our mental health state, and how being in a good place mentally is not only very important, but also gives you the headspace to be more frugal, or make more money (or both).

A friend of mine recently bumped into me on the street and was saying that she feels guilty when she sees me because she is spending a lot more than I am on many things, and she had an expense that she was pushing off because it wasn't frugal, and because of that, was increasing the stress load in her life tremendously every single day. I reassured this friend that she didn't need to feel bad about spending the money, even a large amount of money, on something that would significantly affect her life for the positive- frugality is not stinginess, and there's no point in being frugal if you don't use the money you save to improve your quality of life. (That is a big part of my thought process behind why I'm spending money- frugally, but still spending money- on a vacation abroad next week that I feel is necessary for my mental health and to improve my qualify of life.)

For me, a big part of quality of life is being able to have nice, varied foods. Especially since I stick to a Paleo diet (most of the time anyhow), I like to vary up my diet with different fruits and vegetables, including some more special ones that give an extra flavor oomph, like mushrooms. To do this, I try to cut back on most produce, by foraging it, buying seconds or even getting them free from the market, so that I have room in my grocery budget for my splurges.

Last time I went to the market I got some great deals. Some people might look at my shopping trip, and at how much I spent, and would say "No, that's not a frugal shopping trip, its too expensive and on things that aren't necessary" but I don't buy that. Frugality is making your money work for you, and I spent on things that bring value and enjoyment to my life, while trying to not spend too much money on it.

The biggest expense in one go was my buying about 42 lbs of brown bananas for 39 cents a pound, for a total of $16. I love bananas and so do my kids, and brown bananas are the best to use for a variety of different healthy desserts. (The sweeter and browner they are, the less they need sweeteners if at all.) With bananas being out of season here, though, they are being sold for $1.30-$1.50 a pound, much above the upper price limit I set for myself for produce. Therefore, when I saw so many bananas being sold at a very good price, I bought all that the seller had, and peeled and froze them to use. These should last a while, and I look forward to smoothies and banana ice cream and banana bread and fritters, etc...

At my favorite stall at the market, the salesman Gideon, who knows I like a good deal, convinced me to take a bunch of packages of mushrooms (usually each one costs $2), a bunch of packages of organic hot peppers, a package of organic flat green beans, a few bunches of celery, pickling cucumbers, a 1 big bag of red potatoes, and a big bag of zucchinis and cucumbers for a total of $14.30.

In another stall I got 4.4 lbs of onions at 25 cents a pound, for a total of $1.14. A different place was selling apples for 32 cents a pound, so I got 3.5 lbs for $1.14. I bought more potatoes, 5.7 lbs for 32 cents a pound, for a grand total of  $1.85.

On top of that, I got a complete watermelon and a beautiful large cantaloupe, entirely free. (They each had a small bit that needed to be cut off, but the rest was perfect and delicious.)

At the market, for all my produce I paid $34.42. It's by far not the most frugal shop ever, but especially considering that just those mushrooms alone would have cost me $8, and how many bananas that was, I think it was a steal.

After that, I decided to check out a nearby scratch and dent store, hoping that I might find some good deals there.
I got very excited to see packages of gluten free cookies being sold very frugally. My kids really enjoy cookies, but I don't always have the time or energy to be whipping up batches of gluten free cookies. The issue is that locally gluten free ready made foods are generally either very expensive or taste bad (or often both). One package of gluten free cookies usually goes for about $5.75, but the store was selling them for 94 cents each. You can bet I stocked up- I bought 12 packages! They also had cans of coconut cream for $1.42, when locally cans cost about twice that. Lastly, they had canned pineapple, each can 70 cents. So I bought 4.

Total at the scratch and dent store? $17.14.
No, none of those things were necessary, but they improve my quality of life and I didn't spend too much on them, so it's a frugal win in my book.

My entire shop was $51.56, and in my opinion, worth every cent.

What is your opinion on frugal shopping? Do you try to get only the absolutely necessary things, spending as little as possible, or do you splurge on some things? If you splurge on some things, what are those, and how do you try to keep your splurges frugal?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I agree with your definition of frugality. Over time those early and sustained frugal decisions lead to future financial breathing space. Different people use that breathing space differently. We decided to savor our last bit of time with our 3 teenagers(2nd just entered college & 3rd is nearly there) and not stress over every dime. We can return to saving more money after the summer break but we can't get back the family time. On ice cream- I'll bet your kids LOVED the treat and it was memorable because it was a treat.

    1. I concur... over time, being frugal leads to having extra money. So, technically frugal people have earned the right to splurge because they can afford it. However, I'll admit that it's easy to "tsk" someone for not being as frugal as you or wasting money. Women are naturally competitive and we all want to be more [insert quality here] than the next lady.

      That being said, you get to a point where going out for ice cream is not a big deal. When you're frugal 95% of the time, a little or big splurge does not put a dent in the bank account like it would have at one time. Recently we bought a massage chair, and I have had the WORST time explaining it to our frugal friends! ;) Frugality is really a servant to your goals, not the end goal in and of itself (for most people).

  2. I love your definition of frugality! My drive to begin to pinch pennies came because I wanted to travel with my husband and son. We had zero dollars alotted to a vacation fund, & it was wearing us down. After doing a lot of research, I was able to cut our monthly grocery bill from $1100+ down to $500! That has enabled me to save enough for my husband and I to take a second-honeymoon to Mexico, & we hope to go back with our son in the winter. Instead of moping about our lack of funds, frugal living empowered me, & I will never look back! More of our money is going to things that we love, which enrich us as individuals and are providing us with lifelong memories.

  3. After reading the interview with your father, it's clear that you follow the same rules. Frugal whenever possible, but that's to make it possible for the necessary treat. No need to suffer. You aren't poor, just prioritize differently from many others to get the most bang meaning enjoyment out of your money.

  4. I agree too. Parents have the responsibility to provide the best, most diverse experiences for their children. Its good to experience some of the highest heights of society and some of the lows. With this our children can learn to strive for greatness while never forgetting how to live simply, yet fully anywhere.

  5. You made me smile! One of my most vivid memories is when my dad treated us to ice cream at the DQ each summer. Even now, 50+ years later, I remember him whenever a DQ billboard appears.... memories last longer than the food....

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