I was reading this book “Living Well on a Shoestring” the other day and came across some amusing penny-pinching tips. The almost-400 page book is full of smart and frugal things to do, but at times, some of the tips made me exclaim - What!? Here 10 frugal solutions from the book that I thought you folks would enjoy - all of them are ingenious, but some of them are ridiculous, and some are just…ewww. A couple of them seriously require a *feasible* alternative - they just wouldn’t cross the psychological barrier in many people.
1. Growing tomatoes in a bra
This is the first time I heard of anything like this…although, it seems to be well-known among folks who grow tomatoes (read this for example - look for the heading “Large tomatoes will require support”). Tomato plants don’t have a very strong stem and usually bend (sometimes break) under the weight of the growing tomatoes - especially due to the larger tomatoes. Generally, “stakes” are used to provide some support to the stem (see the image below) - so as to keep the tomatoes off the soil. The book goes a step further and suggests tying a used/worn-out bra between two stakes, in such a way that the cups supports large tomatoes. If that’s difficult to visualize, here is a quick schematic that I sketched in Powerpoint.
Now, imagine you are having an awesome BLT (bacon, lettuce, and tomato) sandwich and totally appreciating the juicy tomatoes - and then your host, very considerately, announces “Oh those?…those were grown in a bra“. I would love to see the expression on your face after that.
2. Getting your flowers from the dead
This comes under the heading “Even funerals have a bright side”. Flowers used in a funeral are usually dumped in the trash after the proceedings. It is illegal in most states for funeral homes and florists to resell or reuse these flowers (thankfully!). The book suggests that you get in touch with a funeral home and ask them if they can send the flowers to you instead of throwing them away. Now, I consider myself frugal as far as the conventional definition of “frugality” is concerned…but this thing goes beyond me.
3. Using diapers as water reservoirs for plants
This is again in the context of tomatoes (is tomato gardening so popular? - there are a lot of tips and tricks in the book about growing tomatoes). According to the book, you can reduce the frequency of watering tomato plants by placing the absorbent material from a disposable diaper underneath the soil, and then planting your tomato plant on the top. Whenever you water the the plant, some of the water will be absorbed by the soil and the rest will be absorbed by the diaper material. When the soil dries out, the roots can still suck up water from soaked diaper (scientifically, when the soil dries out, the soil itself sucks up the water from the diaper - which is analogous to how a candle wick draws up wax - by capillary action). This way you could probably get away with watering just a couple of times a week.
4. Cleaning a not-so-valuable painting with your spit
Don’t try this with valuable paintings - your saliva will devalue it (?). Here is what the book suggests:
“Moisten a swab in your mouth and use it to brush away the dirt from the paint (your saliva will work as a mild cleanser). Take a drink every so often to keep your mouth moist (in other words to generate more saliva!) ….and be careful not to put the used swab back in your mouth.”
The next time your hand extends to feel a nice painting in your friend’s home - think about this.
5. Selling pigeon droppings to raise funds
The book narrates an interesting story about a church in Hartford that made $30,000 by selling 1,500 pounds (these must be holy pigeons) of pigeon droppings as fertilizer. Apparently, pigeon droppings are rich in nitrogen and hence are valued as fertilizer. The church’s product was marketed under the name “Sign of the Dove” - after these names were rejected: “God’s Guano”, “Gifts from Above”, and “Heavenly Droppings”.
6. Using tea bags on your eyes.
Used tea bags that are still moist can be placed under your eyes to reduce puffiness. The bags need to be cool, so don’t try them right after finishing your tea. Also, if you are in a habit to squeeze them till you get the last drop of flavor is out (I have seen people do that), they won’t be of much use since they will lack the necessary moisture. Recommended usage: “Just put one bag over each eye and leave in place for 10 to 15 minutes.”
7. Using mayonnaise as moisturiser
Mayonnaise contains all the essential ingredients required to maintain a good skin - oil serves as a moisturizer, eggs to firm the skin, and vinegar to maintain pH (acidity) levels. So if you run out of your skin conditioner - just use the mayonnaise. Or better still, just visit your nearest McDonald’s and grab your day’s quota in those little paper cups - for free.
8. Using milk and tomatoes to remove stains
The authors just love tomatoes for some reason. Here is a tip to remove stain from the ink of a ballpoint pen using tomatoes:
“Saturate a ballpoint pen stain with milk, and rub it with the cut side of a tomato. Since milk and tomatoes can leave their own stains, soak the whole garment in a mixture of enzymatic laundry detergent and cold water, then launder as usual.”
9. Using crayons to hide furniture scratches
This remedy is for those nasty (but not too big) scratches that take away the varnish (or polish) and reveal the white-ish insides. Find a crayon - of generally matching color - and rub it in the scratch. Finish the job by buffing the area with a soft cloth. If you are not sure about the color, the book recommends that you start with a lighter color and gradually darken it till it looks good enough.
10. Using pencils to fix zippers
You can try to make a sticking zipper work smoothly by rubbing the tip of a graphite pencil on to the zipper’s teeth. Zip and unzip a couple of times so that the graphite spreads over the entire zipper and you will be ready to roll. This works because graphite posses lubricating properties. May be you could also use a drop or two of some vegetable oil (like I did for this lock) - btw, on that post, in the last comment Jennifer suggests rubbing the graphite portion of a pencil on the key as a solution.
Relevant reference page numbers in the book (just in case you want to look some stuff up): 117, 133, 136, 140, 147, 148, 228, 230, 289
Image sources: mayo - www.lunaticworks.com