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20 Ways My Grandma Saved Money | Not Quite Amish

20 Ways My Grandma Saved Money

My Grandma grew up in the Great Depression. In fact, one year of her life was sustained on a diet of only potatoes. She is a woman who knew how to be thrifty.


Here are twenty ways to save money. I learned all of these from my grandma!

1. She used a rubber spatula to clean every ounce of food from a bowl.
2. She put a plastic garbage sack in the garbage can. Inside of that she placed a brown paper sack from the grocery store, so she could throw away the free sack and not have to replace the plastic one.
3. Grandma never threw leftovers away. We always laughed when we would clear the table, and she put everything in a smaller container and into the fridge. This food was diligently eaten to the last bite, never thrown out.
4. Grandma carried a coin purse and used her change to make purchases.
5. On pizza night she opened a can of soda and split it between two glasses with ice.
6. She went to the newspaper office to get odds and ends of paper scraps to use for note-taking.
7. She added a little water to shampoo to make it go farther, and she never used the recommended amount of dishwasher or laundry detergent.
8. She sewed most of her own clothes, and she never threw a screw of fabric away. Scraps were used to make quilts.
9. She asked the produce man at the grocery store for old produce that was still edible.
10. She made soup out of leftover meat and vegetables.
11. She used an old potato chip bucket for a garbage can for decades.
12. She stored toys in a cardboard box, not expensive Rubbermaid.
13. She washed her car by hand at her house.
14. She saved baby food jars. She made homemade soup, blended it, and poured it into those jars for freezing. (A nutritious baby food for her granddaughter.)
15. She saved worn-out socks and cut off the tops to use for cuffs on jacket sleeves or pajama bottoms.
16. She collected aluminum cans out of the trash. The money from recycled cans was tucked away in an envelope. She also went dumpster diving for anything she could salvage to sell at her garage sales.
17. She rolled the toothpaste flat, completely flat, to get the last bit out.
18. She reused paper towels if they were only wet, rinsed plastic wrap and plastic bags to reuse, and if the piece of foil was still good, it also got reused.
19. She saved cotton out of pill bottles to use in place of cotton balls.
20. She saved every piece of money she ever found, including pennies. Upon her death, this money was divided among her four children.

I must say this about grandma—she was the queen of thrift, but she was also one of the most generous people I have ever known. Her thrift never turned into stinginess, and I always left her house overly full and usually with a new dress hanging in the back seat of our car. Grandma lived a bit Amish—a simple life without extravagance, but knowing how to help and share generously with others.

Do you think it’s possibly for us to be extremely thrifty and generous at the same time?

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Christy Fitzwater (22 Posts)

Christy is a writer and pastor’s wife in Kalispell, Montana.  She is also the mother of a daughter in college and a son in high school.  Read her personal blog at christyfitzwater.com.


  1. love this and will facebook..for all to read, and me to remember!

  2. I love this, Christy. It makes me realize how wasteful I am at times. I’m working to do better!

  3. Melissa I. says:

    Enjoyed reading this. As a family that is employed by the Dept. of Defense, we are facing 20% cuts to my husbands pay check (I’m a Stay at Home Mom). We’ve been discussing ways to become more frugal with our dollars and in talking with friends who are also facing the wage loss we have likened the pending changes to “Depression ” living.

    • Oh wow, Melissa. That is so hard!! I just lost my job, so we’re trying to live on my husband’s salary so I can be a stay-at-home wife. I totally understand the shock it is to the family lifestyle! Well, it does help when so many people are in the same boat -then you don’t feel guilty for saying you can’t afford to do something. Praying God provides everything you need to live on!

  4. Growing up,a meal made up of various left-overs was called “Must-Go”.

  5. I grew up doing some of those things out of need….and I think there is something we can learn from those that went through the Depression.

  6. My Grandma was the same way. She saved every sour cream container when she could no longer keep a cow and make her own. She had a cupboard full of them. Smart ladies.

  7. Interesting rinsing stuff and washing your own car only saves you. Ones if you don’t pay for water like if you have a well. My mom reused tea bags, we lined our school books in the comics, saved wrapping paper and bows ( carefully unwrapped gifts and never used the peel and stick on the bows always taped them on making a tape loop), used coffee grinds for the azaleas, reused grocery bags as small trash can loners, grew and canned our own veggies, and buying remnant material for making clothes.

  8. Im interested in knowing why you think the show Breaking Amish is so sad?. I grew up Mennonite and was really perplexed after watching only one episode.I think they were better off staying Amish than living the life they were being brought into.

  9. Did she save the pill bottles themselves? I use them for all kinds of things.

  10. My granny does a lot of the same things your grandmother does – it’s the original eco-conscience, green, recycling generation! Don’t ya’ think? Loved reading and relating!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing. Reminds me of many things my own grandmother does. She and my grandfather would save aluminum cans and the money went to buy her 4 grandchildren shoes every year before school started. I absolutely believe you can be thrifty and generous. I know God blesses those who bless others, in the big and small ways. These are great tips for us to remember. I will be leaving my job to become a stay at home mom and begin homeschooling my daughter this fall. It will definitely be a shock to our family, but we are starting to make wise choices now and adjust our lives as we go along. Thanks for sharing these tips.

  12. I do most of these things myself, but I make my own laundry det for very cheap. I have asked local grocers in produce for extras for my chickens and ducks, however they are no longer allowed to give out this food, it goes into a dumpster instead!!!I do buy discounted food tho. Most people today waste much more than they realize.

  13. My favorite story from my farm raised ND raised grandmother was that she had ONE maternity outfit for ALL three of her pregnancies. Imagine that in today’s time! She also was very similar to your “grandma” in the story…living through the depression and low income changes one’s habits for sure.

  14. I loved reading about your Grandmother! Thank you so much for sharing her with us. I am very frugal and a stay at home mom also. My Mother In Law grew up very poor and to this say she too practices frugality. She loves it when I share my frugal ideas and things that I make with her. Being frugal must be natural to me because I grew up middle class but for some reason I now I cringe when I see wasteful things. LOL

  15. I have a lot of your grandma in me 🙂 I KNEW there was a way that I could use old socks (and that there was a reason that I had been saving them) — brilliant. Cuffs for my daughter’s pajamas they will be! I cut my toothpaste tubes open and scrape out the remains. I remember being laughed at by my high school friends for that. And that leftover food … all of it goes in the fridge to be eaten later. It never even occurred to me that some people might find that funny. My husband doesn’t eat it though, so I guess he is of the same stock as those who find it funny. Maybe he just never told me.

  16. Your Grandmother sounds like she was an amazing woman. You are so blessed to have had her in your life. What a wonderful example to follow. =)

  17. My Amish grandmother was the same. NOTHING was wasted. My mother grew up during the Great Depression and those thrifty habits were carried over into the 50’s and 60’s. I remember, with fondness, my grandmother’s clothes line. Her clothes always smelled SO GOOD! And, she didn’t have a garbage disposal. Whatever went into the pail went out to the compost pile. She and my grandfather had amazing vegetable gardens, which so far, I haven’t been able to duplicate!

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