Thursday, 4 April 2013

Seven Ways We Made Frugality a Way of Life or Yes, My Family is Weird

So nowadays everybody's all about making good use of our resources, caring for the environment, not wasting stuff, reducing one's carbon footprint, reduce, reuse, recycle, etc. They think this is a new concept. They haven't met my family. While our family is usually known as the 'crazy Christian family with five kids', most people don't know that we are also the Original Recycling Family.

This might be because we didn't have a lot of extra money growing up, or maybe it's because my dad is a Packrat. I don't know what else contributed to it., but this is my life:

1. A spatula is essential when you are transferring leftover food into a smaller dish after a meal. Not a drop of curry, not a grain of rice must be left behind. It's like the few grains of rice at the bottom of the dish are crying out "Don't throw me away! Eat me! Eat me! There are starving children in India!" Even the thought of throwing away excess food would make one shudder.

2. Food that smells a a little funny will be eaten by my dad, who has an iron stomach. It goes against the grain to throw away even possibly spoiled food. If we absolutely HAVE to (more than three people have pronounced it bad and made gagging noises), you can see the look of pain on my parents' faces as they empty it into the trash.

3. Random leftovers will be recycled as omelettes or cutlets. Yes, I've had some pretty strange omelets, including pork vindaloo omelets, salad omelets, cauliflower and bean omelets. Yum.

4. Stale bread is dried out and saved in a special dabba, and eventually ground to use as breadcrumbs. Imagine my shock when I found that some people BUY breadcrumbs!!!

5. Lights are switched off as soon as we leave a room. Lights are NEVER left on overnight. Even if you know you're returning to a room in five minutes, you still switch off the light. Night lights? Never heard of them.

6. Milk packets are washed, dried and stored, and later used to store portions of raw meat in the freezer. We don't throw away plastic bags unless they're greasy, torn or absolutely unusable.

7. As kids, one of the reasons my mum objected to us buying packets of chips (apart from not being able to afford it with our Rs 5 a week pocket money) was "All that plastic thrown away for just one potato?!!! I can make homemade potato chips without creating so much garbage!" (You notice the objection wasn't on health grounds.) Almost all our snacks were homemade. We still feel slightly guilty when we buy a bag of chips.

Of course it wasn't until I grew up, and spent time living away from home that I realized that these (and our zillion other little waste not-want not habits) are not a normal part every household. I'm pretty grateful though, because it means being environmentally-friendly takes that much less adjustment. It's already a mindset.

Did your family have any unusual (read: weird) frugal habits?


  1. Yes, yes and yes to everything above (except the chips, never thought of it that way)!!! In our family we reuse big plastic containers all the time!
    Avid blog reader, but the first time I've posted a comment ever! Keep posting, love your blog already!

  2. Thanks for honouring my blog with your first comment :-D And for inspiring me to keep posting.

  3. We don't turn lights on during the day, mostly because sunlight is usually enough and I'm fanatical about turning off lights if I'm not in that particular room.

    We don't necessarily save plastic containers for later use but we do recycle them and some of them we do save because it helps in portioning out meals.

    We also recycle and compost every possible thing. I grew up in California and it is almost physiologically impossible for me to throw away a can because recycling is so ingrained in my psyche.