What is being frugal? We explore different concepts at PumpjackPiddlewick

The concept of being frugal has been on my mind a lot lately. Not just because of the need myself to be frugal as the cost of living has increased, but more so seeing the inventiveness of others is inspiring. Sometimes even jaw droppingly so.

There is a saying necessity is the mother of invention, and I think wishing to be frugal opens up windows onto so many cool ideas.

Small is Beautiful

I’m someone who has had a long time interest in downsizing, tiny house or small space living and general make do, use it up, re-purpose style of living. Consequently, It is interesting to see the growth these areas have seen an interest in the past few years.

Originally I had seen a growth of interest in tiny house living simply as an off-set to the cost of housing being out of reach of so many young potential house buyers. Now, I am seeing a switch of mindset to staying within ones means or even below. And choosing to live in a smaller space definitely helps with this option. It’s also no longer about the first time buyers, but all ages and incomes.

Living on Less

A number of years ago I wrote about living on 50 (insert currency here) a week. This was not an uncommon number at that time, though of course there were lower extremes. Now, it is becoming more prevalent to see 1 dollar meals, or living on 25 a week. Or even less. And usually, maybe surprising to many people, linked with being as healthy as possible.

This latter concept is actually really doable, though it may be a revelation for some. I have long eaten extremely healthy on very little. There is a general conception that processed or junk food is actually cheaper than healthy eating. This is absolutely not the case. However, as with processed or pre-made foods, there is variations in costs. In example, asparagus costs more than broccoli, even and especially out of season. So Asparagus may not be in budget if your budget is low. (And why I now grow my own.) So eating healthy yet inexpensively is about determining the best value.

What healthy eating does cost more of though is time. Time and some planning. Often the lower the budget, the more planning is required. In offset, there is also a direct correlation, the lower the budget, the less food wastage. No surprises really, as if your budget is very low you can’t afford to waste.


Being frugal or, if you like, a desire to not be wasteful can often be the mother of invention. I never would have discovered broccoli stem pesto if it hadn’t been for not wishing to waste that part. Learning how to forage and grow my own food have subsequently become real passions. Not to mention food tastes better when grown yourself, even if space is limited to containers.

I still eat meat too, but now I look well beyond the ubiquitous chicken breasts or steak. Slow cooked meats (whether in a slow cooker or Dutch oven) are super tasty, sometimes even more so than their fast cooked counterparts. And they are cheaper, much cheaper. I cook in large batches, thus saving on electricity, and freeze portions for those times when I don’t feel like cooking. My own ready meals at the ready.

So although it is saddening to know people may be struggling with finances, I am hopeful that the act of being frugal will give a measure of hope to some, independence to others, maybe some inspiration or simply a sense of well being for a few.

Tonight’s frugal dinner

I thought I would share my ‘cheapest’ recipe here. It’s my sardine pasta. (A good one to know if you have a pesky tin of sardines sitting there in the back of your cupboard needing using up – which is how I discovered this recipe.)

It’s tasty, healthy and has a myriad of variations should the necessity of invention require. It’s also a good recipe for using odd things up. This is a quick stove top recipe, taking about 15 minutes. Serves 2 – so scale accordingly.


Tin of sardines – flavoured or not. Can substitute tinned tuna, fresh fish, or even no fish at all for a veggie option.

4 oz / ½ cup / 100 ml (give or take) Tomato sauce – homemade, tinned, leftover spaghetti sauce, tin of tomatoes, whatever is to hand.

Veg – chopped up. I tend to go for, onion, broccoli and bell pepper, but honestly you can use anything.

Capers and/or lemon juice – optional

dill, fennel or cumin seeds (or ground spice) – optional

salt and pepper

For the pasta – I spiralise a courgette (zucchini). This is a tool that turns veg into noodle shapes, like spaghetti. You could use ordinary wheat based pasta if you like. Simply cook pasta separately and add at the end. Rice, quinoa or lentils could also be used. Again a good opportunity to use up any leftovers.

To Make: You will need a deep frying pan, preferably with a lid.

In a deep frying pan on the stove, on medium heat, put about a tablespoon of oil. If using dill, fennel or cumin seeds/spice add these first to release their aroma and flavourings. Give it a stir. Let sizzle for about 30 seconds.

Add in your chopped veg, in order of the longer to cook veg first. Let cook for about 2 minutes before adding next veg. So for me it would be onion, then broccoli, then bell peppers. (Add a little more oil if needed so veg does not burn.) Stir in between each adding, mixing together.

Once all the veg is in, add tin of sardines. Roughly chop up the sardines in the pan. Add tomato sauce. Stir through. Add a teaspoon of capers (or maybe some olives) and a squirt or ¼ teaspoon of lemon juice. Both are optional and can easily be left out. Season with a pinch/teaspoon of sale and pepper.

Lower heat and cover the pan. Let simmer for 5 minutes. If your tomato sauce is on the thick side you can add a little water to thin so it does not burn. I sometimes add some left over coffee or tea (which I save in the fridge) instead of water for some extra flavouring. (Coffee in tomato sauce does amazing things. Truly.)

Add your spiralised raw noodles, or cooked wheat noodles, on top of the mixture. Cover again for 2 more minutes. And serve.

Want more?

If you are struggling to find affordable recipes, my go to is to type in ‘budget meals’ in YouTube. You can also insert a budget amount if you like. Such as ‘Budget meals for 25 a week‘. You will be inundated with choices, I promise. And truly some of the recipes are inspiring.

And if you are being frugal, but need to buy a gift for someone, I recommend vintage or antique items over new. Why? Multiple reasons. The craftsmanship (my passion) is going to be so much better. After all it has stood the test of time, hasn’t it? And especially it will be Unique, too. The older something gets the more one of a kind it will become. No worries about someone else giving the same gift.

Price. Generally I have found vintage, or simply second-hand, to be cheaper than the main stream. I’m not talking cheap nasty tat here, but truly wonderful, special and especially quality gifts.

And vintage and antique items are great particularly for those hard to buy for people. I find today’s chain shops offer the same ol’ same ol’. Whilst if I browse an antique shop (any excuse) or look at Etsy online (my go to) I know I am going to find something I would never have thought of before. (Often I actually use the search ‘hard to buy for’.)

Here’s a taste from My Shop, where of course we would love you to shop. But we would also prefer to see people shopping more sustainably (more frugally) at any antique or vintage shop.

(Simply click on a link to see more.)


If you would like to be more involved with or support us, visit our Nourishing Pumpjack & Piddlewick page.


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