Extreme Frugality: Growing Tomatoes In A Bra And Other Interesting Frugal Ideas

by golbguru on May 18, 2007

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.

tomato in bra

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

pigeons frugalityThe 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

mayo frugalityMayonnaise 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

zipper frugalityYou 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

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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenn @ Frugal Upstate 05.19.07 at 4:16 am

Does it mean I’m too frugal if I don’t think some of those are too weird (ie the pencil to lubricate a stuck zipper, the teabags on the eyes, or at least trying to match a scratch with a crayon before spending big bucks refinishing?)

Also, on that baby diaper thing-they actually sell those granuals all by themselves at gardening centers just for that purpose-but I prefer vermiculite which is actually mica that is heated up and “exploded” like popcorn and then become super absorbant (not to be confused w/perilite which does the same sort of thing but looks like styrofoam). At least that is a natural product :)

Fun article. If you really want to see some unusual tips you should read the Tightwad Gazette series (3 books) by Amy D. Some of the suggestions in there are quite unusual (and some are great) but they all really get you thinking “outside the box”.

2 Success Warrior 05.19.07 at 8:33 am

“Wow! You sure have some big tomatoes in your bra,” would still just not sound quite right. =)

3 dimes 05.19.07 at 9:31 am

I think instead of a bra I’d just use an old rag, since you could probably fit more than two tomatoes in it. Any sort of hammocky thing would do.
They say use hairspray on ballpoint stains, and I wouldn’t want to risk wrecking the clothes with tomatoes and milk stains.
And yes, mayo works great as a moisturizer and a conditioner, but unless you want to smell like a BLT, use it only when you plan on removing it before going out in public.

4 ispf 05.20.07 at 8:05 am

1. LOL - your commentary and success warriors comment made me laugh out loud
2. Eeeww
3. I’ll take Jenn’s suggestion, instead
4. Eeeeeeeeeeewwwww
5. Eeeeeeeeeeewwwww
6. Hmmm… I didnt know that!
7. Mayo is supposed to be a good hair conditioner too (still, eeww)
8. Eeww
9 & 10. Hmm…OK

(This is why I keep coming back to your blog - you never cease to amuse/amaze me :)

5 3 Things About Money 05.20.07 at 12:54 pm

Okay, this is just freakin’ funny. I see a verdant garden filled with hot tomatoes in bras…snerk! Some of the other tips make a lot of sense. Thanks for the laugh!

6 Tom 05.20.07 at 4:49 pm

Don’t use oil (or wd40) for locks, it will make them stick eventually, when the oil collects enough dust to get “gunky”. Graphite is the way to go for locks.

7 Derek 05.20.07 at 5:04 pm

I can just imagine what might happen if I went to my girlfriend and asked if I can borrow one of her bras so I can grow tomatoes!

8 Stlmart 05.20.07 at 8:55 pm

With Gas prices going up, I am up for anything that save a buck !

9 jenna 05.21.07 at 8:31 am

these guys are certainly crazy!!

10 golbguru 05.21.07 at 12:52 pm

Brett: Lol! you are kidding right? :) ..or not?

This sounds funny in light of Dimes’ comment above:

And yes, mayo works great as a moisturizer and a conditioner, but unless you want to smell like a BLT, use it only when you plan on removing it before going out in public.

11 Vibeke 05.22.07 at 11:18 am

1. You could also make hammocs out of old pantyhose. Save the elastic and use to tie up the stems. Pantyhose hammocs also work to support melons (don’t laugh).

2. Very tasteless, but on the other hand …

3. Smart. Menstrual pads are filled with the same stuff.

4. Disgusting

5. Very smart and environmentally friendly. God bless them.

6. All the womans magazines will tell you the same thing.

7. You’ll have to be somewhat olfactory challenged to do that, but ok in private I guess.

8. Sounds like a reciepe for disaster - tomato stains never come out IME. Best bet is sewing a little something over the stain.

9. Makes sense to me.

10. You could also use rub the heel of a candle or a bar of soap on a stuck zipper. Works great.

12 Simon 06.01.07 at 8:24 am

Do you know how much bras cost these days?!

Tomatoes, about 17p each, bra £39

For those of you still wishing to pop by ann summers using the excuse “It’s only for gardening” Remember to avoid silk (moths might eat it).

13 halcyon 06.06.07 at 3:17 am

4) I am a art-conservator by trade and would like to mention that that saliva thing is true(!), every conservator I know (both in US&EU) uses it to clean stuff. Sounds weird but saliva is a fairly non-aggressive substance containing an enzyme called AMYLASE, which dissolve starch and act as a cleaning agent.

!!Every painting you ever saw in every museum(rembrandt, goya, picasso, you name it), All cleaned with spit!!, it is used to clean not just the not-so-valuable, but also the most valuable object on the face of the earth…. think about that the next time you see a mutli million dollar piece.


14 Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker 09.19.07 at 9:06 pm

I have actually heard of some of these. The bra and the diaper are funny.

15 caglar keskin 05.19.10 at 4:01 am

Tomatoes are one of the most common vegetables all over the world. They are quickly growing plants and are favorite among most amateur gardeners so as me.
I will start to grow tomatoes in my farm and now learning watever i can about them, thanks for information. I also
found another good site about tomatoes and so many other methods of agriculturing, i recommend you to take a look.


16 Julian 12.19.12 at 2:38 am

This is one crazy ideas, but then again now I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Great ideas, thanks for sharing.

Tomatoes in bras who would believe it.

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Sorry I forgot to ask who you have stopped updating this blog. I doesnt look like it has been updated since 2009. Why pay for hosting three years later?

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This is one crazy ideas, but then again now I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Great ideas, thanks for sharing.

Tomatoes in bras who would believe it.

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