50 Frugal Things You Can Make


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Over the years I’ve learned that there can be many different motivations for wanting to make your own things. Sometimes it’s to create a superior product, sometimes it’s to avoid allergies or to go green, sometimes it’s because you just can’t find what you need in the stores, and sometimes it’s to save money. I’ll admit that I’ve had different reasons at different times too, but I ALWAYS like it when I save money. In fact it’s the cheapskate part of me that usually drives me onward to keep trying new “make you own” recipes and ideas.

50 Frugal ideas to save money

But I was reminded recently that looking for ways to save money is sometimes an urgent necessity. We are living in times where there is so much job uncertainty for so many people because of the pandemic closures and the limited ability for businesses to be fully open. In just the last week I received an email from a reader saying they are currently really struggling, and then had a similar conversation with a family member who shared they are counting every penny as they wait and see if they will ever continue their small photography business that is currently not operating. My heart is heavy for everyone out there facing these tough times.

This also got me thinking that many of my previous recipes and ideas that are scattered all around my blog are simple ways to save money, whether it be food related, or for household chores, or resourceful ways to entertain the kids using things you may already have in the cupboard. During tough times many of these strategies can come in handy.

So I decided it might be timely and appropriate to gather a bunch of my past recipes together for easy browsing if you want to save some pennies. I tried to stick with things that use ordinary and familiar ingredients that are often in our cupboards already or that are reasonably priced items to purchase.

Here now, in no particular order, are 50 ideas for budget-friendly and resourceful things you can make when you want to pinch a few pennies. Some of these are my older posts so forgive me for the lack of quality photos and printable recipes on some of them. If I thought the idea was useful, I wanted to still include it.

No matter what your current situation is, I hope that looking through this list can help you discover a new money-saving idea or perhaps rekindle the energy for something you may have used in the past, and of course, help you save some cash too!

50 Frugal Ideas To Help You Pinch Pennies

1 – Oatmeal

I was never much of an oatmeal eater until I started using this recipe. Now I enjoy this frugal breakfast almost every single day. Eating oatmeal will almost always be cheaper than the boxed breakfast cereals.

2 – Newspaper Can Liners

If you have some newspaper laying around, you can fold it into these little bags to use for lining wastebaskets or for times when a small disposable bag is needed.

3 – Spaghetti Sauce

Turn a can of crushed tomatoes into a simple sauce for pasta with this easy recipe.

4 – Spray Cleaners

It only costs a few pennies to combine some vinegar and water, but you’ll be amazed at all things you can clean with it!  This post includes six homemade spray cleaners you can make to save money.

5 – Bean & Rice

Beans can make a great cheapskate meal. Although I published this recipe as a smaller version for 2 people, it’s super easy to use the full cans of beans and tomatoes in this mixture for a larger batch.

6 – Foaming Dish Soap or Hand Soap

I’ve used this method for many years to stretch a bottle of dish soap and make it last a much longer time.

7 – Taco Sauce

Start with a can of tomato sauce and add your own seasonings. At our house, we think this is better than the store bought!

8 – Pancake Mix

You can also try this smaller sized pancake mix recipe or this whole grain pancake mix recipe.

9 – Goo Gone

It’s easy to make your own goo gone by mixing baking soda and oil. I love to use this mixture to clean the label gunk off of glass jars that I recycle for other uses.

50 ways to save money

10 – Vegetable Seasoning

A tasty DIY spice blend that’s great for veggies on the grill.

11 – Soft Scrub

You can make your own inexpensive soft scrubs by just combining baking soda and dish soap. I also like to make this Murphy’s Oil Soap Soft Scrub.

12 – Sloppy Joes

Make your own homemade version of Manwich with ordinary ingredients like ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, and worcestershire.

13 – Play Sand

The common pantry ingredients of flour and vegetable oil are combined to make this homemade play sand mixture that’s a resourceful way to keep the kids busy.

14 – Rice

A bag of rice is always a cheapskate favorite. Here are three ways I jazz up plain white rice.

15 – Bean Burgers

If a pound of ground beef is feeling kind of pricey, try making burgers from black beans instead. Sometimes I substitute in my Montreal Steak Spice Blend to season this recipe instead of the garlic powder and onion powder.

16 – Dryer Softener Sheets

Soak some washcloths in fabric softener, let them dry, and then you’ve got penny-pinching dryer sheets that can be used over and over. 

17 Iced Tea

Tea bags are cheaper to buy than ready made bottles of  tea. Just steep three tea bags in 2 quarts of water and add some lemon juice and sugar for a frugal DIY version. This is another homemade recipe that I like better than the store-bought varieties.

18 – Pickles

A yummy way to turn cucumbers from the garden into frugal dill pickles.

50 ways to save money

19 – Breadcrumbs

If you have bread, you can make your own cheapskate breadcrumbs.

20 – Watercolors

Let the kids make their own watercolors using kitchen pantry ingredients.

21 – Laundry Soap

Save money on laundry with this liquid laundry soap made with Dawn dish soap. I like this powdered laundry detergent mix too.

22 – Taco Seasoning

I always think it’s cheaper to combine your own pantry spices rather than buy single use packets of pre-made seasoning blends.  For more ideas check out these 12 homemade spice blends.

23 – Cleaning Cloths

If you have some basic sewing skills, you can make homemade cleaning cloths that can be used over and over for several years. This can reduce the amount of money you spend on disposables like paper toweling.

24 – Tomato Soup from Tomato Paste

A resourceful way to turn a cheap can of tomato paste into a batch of tomato soup.

25 – Hot Chocolate Mix

If your family enjoys hot cocoa, it can save money to use a homemade recipe and make a larger batch.

26 – Pizza Sauce

Start with a can of tomato sauce and a can of tomato paste, add your spices, and you’ve made enough sauce for a couple of homemade pizzas.

27 – Taco Soup

A frugal meal you can make from canned goods in your pantry

Penny pinching ideas using homemade recipes

28 – Daily Shower Spray

One of my favorite homemade cleaning mixtures that saves me money and saves me time cleaning my shower.

29 – Bisquick

A handy DIY mix to keep around if you like making baked goods.

30 – Play Dough

This recipes makes a a nice size ball of play dough using kitchen ingredients, plus you can use old broken crayons to tint your play dough too.

31 – BBQ Sauce

This is my go-to recipe for a sauce for meatballs in the crockpot.  I skip those expensive bottles of sauce and just use a base of ketchup and add my own spices.

32 – Croutons

Make your own from a couple slices of bread.

33 – Chocolate Cake

Make this chocolate cake from scratch – no cake mix needed.

34 – Whipped Cream

It’s simple to make your own frugal whipped cream, and you can also make this stabilized whipped cream version as a frosting for your homemade chocolate cake.

35 – Ice Packs

The corn syrup method is my favorite for making a homemade ice pack, but it can also be done as simply as just putting some salt and water in a ziploc bag.

36 – Salsa

This is a way to cheat a little bit and make your salsa from a budget-friendly can of diced tomatoes.

37 – 3D Glasses

Pick up some inexpensive safety goggles from the dollar store, color them red and blue with sharpie markers, and you’ve got some cheap entertainment for the kids to use for watching 3D videos on YouTube.

38 – Veggie Chili

A warm and satisfying meal you can make in the crockpot without spending money on meat.

39 – Brown Bread

My slightly updated version of my grandmother’s recipe from back-in-the-day when everybody was frugal.

40 – Cinnamon Sink Scrub

All you need is some baking soda, salt, and ground cinnamon to make this cheapskate homemade cleaner.

41 – Stain Remover

A simple combo of Dawn dish soap and peroxide that has saved the day for me on several occasions. It might help you salvage a favorite piece of clothing too. You can also try this strategy for oily stains that have already gone through the dryer.

42 – Tuna Chowder or Corn Chowder

The tuna chowder uses a money-saving can of tuna fish to make a tasty soup. The corn chowder is my way of saving money and making my favorite Panera Bread restaurant soup at home.

43 – Glycerin Moisturizing Spray

Save money on expensive lotions and try making this very effective moisturizing spray instead by simply combining glycerin and distilled water. I use this spray all the time! Sometimes I also like to make a rosewater version, and sometimes I make an after-sun version too.

44 – Microwave Popcorn

Make your own little packets for the microwave using brown paper bags and popcorn kernels.

45 – Magic Erasers

This isn’t really a recipe, but it’s my cheapskate way of getting lots of magic erasers for a low price!

46 – Swiffer Covers

You don’t have to spend lots of money on those disposable covers for swiffers. Try one of these five reusable DIY versions instead.

47 – Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

A simple homemade cookie that’s truly yummy.

48 – Frozen Garlic Toast

Buy a loaf of the more thickly sliced Texas Toast bread, and make your own spread of margarine, parmesan, garlic powder, and parsley to spread on the slices and then freeze. You can make these for almost half the cost of the boxes of pre-made frozen texas toast.

49 – Fresher Lettuce

This is the trick I use to prolong the life of my greens so that I can truly get my money’s worth and not have to throw too much away that’s gone bad before I can use it up.

50 – Brown Sugar Body Scrub

I love body scrubs and I love that I can make them with things in my kitchen cupboard.  A great way to pamper yourself and still be frugal too.

More Frugal Reading:

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  1. Love your tip about making foaming dish soap! That is genius! Thank you so much for sharing. I will definitely be trying out many of these ideas.

  2. #24 Tweak … Tomato paste diluted with water is the exact same product as bottled tomato juice but at significantly less per ounce/gallon price.