My Favorite Guides to Frugal Living Are Not Guides to Frugal Living
There are plenty of worthy books on living cheaply . I must confess that I have not read a single one of them. I glean all the advice saving money that I need from a few volumes that are not technically frugal how-to guides. What I like about these books is that they are works that most people can relate to, even if they don't see themselves as hard-care frugalists. Therefore, they're good "gateways" for people who are interested in cutting back but don't want to see themselves as full-on misers. Know people who are afraid of the frugal lifestyle? You might want to get them one of these books for Christmas (Psst: Since they're all back catalog titles, they're widely available in resale.)
- Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron
This guide to making your own pureed vegetables and home-fortified porridge for infants comes with much, much more. It's like a resourceful hippie housewife's life's work, with an index. There are recipes in here for homemade bubble solution, yogurt, fruit leather (ok that one bombed in my kitchen), advice for easy homespun birthday parties and just about every piece of timeless advice you could want for frugal parenting.
Most parents, I suspect, use Yaron's book for everything but the one thing she's proudest of -- that homemade porridge. Too labor intensive, too yucky to anyone but a clueless 6-month-old, in my experience.
- Jane Brody's Good Food Book : Living the High-Carbohydrate Way
When I first picked up this book in the early 1990s, when it could not have been more out of style. Now that the Atkins obsession has run its course and people are not only more price sensitive than ever but becoming increasingly aware of the environmental and cruelty cost of eating meat, I hope this book makes a comeback. I'm not a vegetarian and this isn't a vegetarian book. It is, however, a great resource for using less meat -- it has lots of recipes packed with healthy grains and vegetables that use meat more as a flavor than a mainstay. And there are also lots of vegetarian and egg recipes.
- Miserly Moms: Living on One Income in a Two-Income Economy by Jonni McCoy
I picked this paperback up at a local parenting center's library, and it had a big influence on me and my eventual decision to stay home with my children. While it's close to being a frugal living guide, it's really targeted more at the parenting audience. It introduced me to the concept of aggressive grocery shopping, something I never would have read up on had the information not come in a parenting-related package.
- The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Whaaa? A children's fictionalized autobiography? Well, I have gotten lots of frugal ideas from the Ingalls family. OK, many of them are not practical in our time since we have a different economy and diferent scarcities than they did. For example, Ma and Laura would tear their worn sheets down the middle, turn the edges toward the outside and sew them back together to get more use out of the cloth. Nowadays, manufactured cloth is cheap and sewing skill and time are dear, so most people wouldn't bother.
And yet. I guess what I get from reading and rereading the Little House Series is encouragement toward frugal, simple living in the form of reminders of how luxurious my life truly is, even if I give up a few little niceties. I especially love reading about the Ingalls' Christmas mornings, and how excited and grateful little girls could be over a couple sticks of candy and some hand-knit mittens. Puts into pretty stark contrast the expectations of the modern American child, and provides me with plenty of incentive to keep our own holidays simple and joyful while my kids are still young enough to follow my lead.
- Substituting Ingredients : An A to Z Kitchen Reference by Becky Sue Epstein and Hilary Dole Klein
This little book has saved me tons of money, as saved tons of meals to boot. With this handbook, I don't have to go buy heavy cream if I already have evaporated milk, and to top it off I also know that one large marshmallow equals 6 miniatures. I'm sure there are places to look this stuff up online, but I have never had as good results Googling for substitute ingredients as I get by picking up this book.