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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Running low? It may just be a good thing

Earlier this week, I was reminded that sometimes it's a good thing to run low on supplies of a consumable. We were close to out of laundry detergent, and I was reluctant to jump into the car to go to the store just for more detergent.

Good things can come from running short.

it serves as a reminder that supplies are finite, and not to be wasteful

I've noticed that when we first open a new box of detergent, bottle of ketchup, or package of tissues, we all use that item in luxurious quantities. We let the detergent overfill the measuring cup. We grab a couple of tissues at a time. And we squeeze that ketchup bottle like there's no tomorrow. We need a reminder every now and then that these items can and do run out.

it forces us to use up all other supplies of the same substance

Sometimes there's a container that's almost empty, but not quite -- the salad dressing bottle with an ounce left at the bottom (and sometimes there are several almost empty bottles of dressing), the almost empty shampoo bottle, neglected for a brand new, easier-to-squeeze-out bottle, or, the pickle jar with 2 lonely pickles slices at the bottom, shoved to the back of the fridge. 

So if we're almost out of all salad dressing, all shampoo, or all pickles, running low will force our hand to rinse containers clean, and use up every last bit.

it slows our consumption temporarily

With the laundry detergent, I knew I had either enough for the regular amount for 2 loads of wash, or I could really stretch it and get 4 or 5 loads done. While I wouldn't want to do all my laundry with this little detergent, it was good enough for us this one time. 

I find that when I'm about out of sheets of scratch paper, I make sure I use every last inch on the page, until I can obtain more. And when almost out of ground coffee, I'll make the next couple of pots with just a tad less than usual.

it makes us think outside the box to find something that will stand in

Creativity is at its best when we don't have what we think we need. 

Not only did I use less detergent per load this weekend, but I brainstormed how best to get the wash clean, under the circumstances. I loaded the washer, added the small amount of detergent. Let the washer run for a couple of minutes, then shut it off, and allowed the clothing to soak for a couple of hours in the barely soapy water, before restarting the machine. This gave the little detergent that was there a chance to fully dissolve, and penetrate the fabric, hopefully getting the clothes as clean as if using a larger quantity of detergent.

If I'm almost out of ketchup, I may try to stretch the ketchup that's remaining, with some tomato paste combined with water, a bit of vinegar and some honey.

If I'm almost out of wheat flour and I'm baking some cookies or muffins, then I might run some oats through the coffee grinder or blender and make oat flour to mix with my remaining wheat flour for baking.

Frugal folks are some of the most resourceful and creative people around. They find ways to do things in completely unorthodox fashion. Some of them have never even been inside the box. 

While running low on laundry detergent was good exercise for my frugal muscles, I did stop in at Dollar Tree to pick up 2 more boxes on Monday. And laundry will proceed as normal this next weekend.


  1. I have a frugal, 'use it up' story to share!

    I've always heard that maybe the single, biggest way to save on groceries and household products is to stop wasting and use that 'last little bit' of everything. My mom always used that last little bit of everything.

    I've always had a frugal mindset and watched spending. I was even careful with not wasting food to a point. However, I was not patient enough to be like my mom and use that last little bit out of everything.

    Recently, I've felt challenged to save more though. I've been trying to make everything last longer and truly waste nothing.

    Enter my funny 'last little bit' story:

    I use the lip gloss that is in the little plastic squeeze tubes with the applicator the Vaseline brand lip balm comes in. Always before, I would use my lip gloss until I could no longer squeeze anymore from the tube and then throw it away. Of course, there was a 'little' left in the tube but I certainly did not have the patience to deal with it. On to the next tube I would go.

    In early August, I noticed that both of my tubes of lip gloss were almost 'empty'. I had +UP rewards to use at Rite Aid and combined with a good sale and coupons, I was able to get two new tubes of lip gloss for pennies. I could have been happy with my savings and stopped there but this time I challenged myself to go farther.

    I put the new tubes of lip gloss in my purse to use when I was on the go. The two old almost 'empty' tubes I put in my desk drawer at work. I thought I might take a couple of days and finish using that 'last little bit'. I started by taking scissors and cutting the end of one of the tubes off. Then I could put my finger inside the tube and collect some of the lip gloss to apply to my lips. As I would clean one area of the inside of the tube, I would cut a little more off and so on until I reached the portion of the tube with the applicator. Then I placed my pinky inside the applicator to truly get the last little bit of lip gloss. Finally, my first tube of lip glass was really empty. The mind took my one month to use up that 'last little bit' of lip gloss. Then I started on the last 'empty' tube of lip gloss and once again, it's taken me a month. I'm down to the applicator in that one and probably have 2 more uses before it's really empty.

    So, for 2 months I've used lip gloss out of 'empty' tubes that previously I would have just tossed in the trash. My eyes have been opened to how wasteful I have been when I thought I was being frugal.

    My mom was always this way because she was raised by grandparents that lived through the Great Depression. I really don't think anything ever went to waste in their home.

    Now, I'm on to this and determined to see even more savings. Just like you Lili, I rinse out that last little bit of shampoo, conditioner or liquid soap and use it all. Even my dishwashing and laundry liquid bottles are rinsed out for a couple of more uses. I am now cutting lotion tubes and facial cleanser tubes open and using every bit of the product.

    Sure, my kids think I've really lost it now! Lol. They already chuckle at me (good heartedly, of course) at my couponing and stockpiling and shopping for the best bargain. Now, they have something new to chuckle about. Oh, well. Maybe one day they will surprise themselves by doing some of the same things. :)


    1. Hi Angie,
      Wow! 2 months! That is both amazing and inspiring! I am always amazed at how many days I can get out of the toothpaste tube, even when I think it's empty, by cutting it open and scraping it out.

      On funny stories and getting every last bit out, years ago I was in the laundromat loading my washer, and the gal next to me emptied her liquid detergent into her washer then tossed the bottle into the trash. I said "are you going to throw that out? Can I have it?" she said sure. So I grabbed it, held it under the running water, filled and poured into my washer. I did this a couple of times and the washer was very, very sudsy. The look on her face was priceless. She couldn't believe how much was still in the bottle. She said, "that's the last time I just toss a bottle out without rinsing it first."

      Those liquid detergent bottles are deceiving. They have that inside edge where the pour spout connects to the jug, that catches a lot of detergent. And unless you actually rinse the bottle out, you can't get that detergent out.

      Thanks for your story!

  2. I try to use everything to the last drop also and it is amazing how much is left when a container is "empty". However, I am not as willing to go as far as you do. If we are almost out of ketchup, we do without. I don't make more. However, I think we've already established that you like being in the kitchen more than I do.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think a lot of containers are designed poorly, for getting every last drop out, unless you rinse or cut open. It is amazing how much can still be trapped inside!

      (And you're right, I do like the kitchen. It's the place I'm comfortable.)

  3. I was thinking about this very thing this morning when I was using a rubber spatula to scrape the last bit out of a jar. (gotta love rubber spatulas)

    I find that I will often take the short cut unless we are running low on something or don't have it on hand. I do BBQ sauce like you do ketchup == let me get low and I'll make my own. I don't have a good excuse for not doing that all the time. It is just a convenience

    I'm always amazed when I think about the resourcefulness of generations before us. Nothing was wasted.

    1. Hi Shara,
      I just love rubber spatulas! When I think we're totally out of peanut butter or mayo for a sandwich, a good spatula will get just enough out of the jar!

  4. I have plenty of stories of how my family cut bottles open to use that last little bit and how they stretched their food to use it up. But I won't bore you with those as I see others have done an excellent job highlighting the savings from doing so.

    My eye-opening moment came when Sam's Club first opened here. I had two growing teenage boys and plenty of their friends around. I thought I could save more by buying in bulk, and I actually did at the register. Unfortunately, I ended up spending twice as much that month as previously when all said and done. The reason was the boys, even though I told them this was a months worth of food, saw big packages and a fuller than normal pantry/fridge and ate the food twice as fast as when I shopped twice a month.

    The more that was in the house, the more they and their friends ate. I never shopped at Sam's Club again it was just too expensive for me.

    1. Hi Lois,
      my husband and I experienced something similar to what you did after shopping at Sam's. We were newly married and I thought I'd start saving on groceries by stocking up when things went on sale. So I stocked up on chips, soda, cookies, and cereal. Well, we plowed through those foods in no time. It only took about a month to realize that stocking up will only work in our household if the items require someone to actually do some cooking, like flour, eggs, milk, rice, etc., and not with snack-y foods.

  5. Lili, you are the recipient of the Winnie the Pooh cross stitch I offered last week. Let me know where to sent them. You can send me the details at

    I look forward to seeing how they come out in your quilt.

    1. Oooh, thank you, Lois! I'm looking forward to seeing them in person. I'll email you in a bit.

  6. I'm becoming much better at using up and thinking outside the box, thanks to blogging and reading thrifty blogs! But I think I need to add a rubber spatula to my frugal toolkit.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      I think keeping a blog and reading others' blogs has made me more mindful, as well. I've learned a lot from others and feel inspired to try new things (the "if they can do it, so can I" mentality).


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