Extremely Frugal Mom Shares Her Secrets on Gluten-Free Cooking and More


Penny from Penniless Parenting
I'm chatting with Penny from the popular blog Penniless Parenting, where she describes herself as a "frugalista extraordinaire!"

Q - Penny, I'm constantly impressed by the depth of homemaking information you share with your readers at Penniless Parenting.  I've been following for some time now and have a long list of your shared recipes I still want to try.  It seems like the kitchen is the heart of your home and where the bulk of your frugal ideas take shape.  How important to your frugal lifestyle is cooking from scratch?

A - Cooking from scratch is probably one of the main things I actively do to save money. The rest of the things people buy? We just do without, in many cases, and it's a passive frugality. But we all need to eat, and that's where often even the most frugal people end up being very wasteful, because once they start spending on food, they don't know how to stop. I also really enjoy cooking, and on top of that, I enjoy eating nice foods, so cooking from scratch allows me to make nice foods and feel pampered without needing to spend a lot of money, which motivates me more than if I just felt a whole lot of "lack" in my life.

Q - You share examples of frugal, gluten-free eating, as well.  Could someone with less time to spend in the kitchen still eat frugal and gluten-free?

A - Gluten-free is more expensive than regular eating, that's for sure, and making certain gluten-free stuff can be quite time consuming. If someone is gluten-free and pressed for time, the frugal tips I'd suggest for them would be to bulk buy (saves money!) and to make lots of rice and bean meals. Beans do take time to cook, but making them in a crock pot allows them to cook while you're gone, so you don't need to be spending so much time actually cooking. Skip the homemade noodles, etc... when gluten-free and pressed for time- it takes a lot of work, but skip the noodles as well. In many cases, I've noticed that gluten-free ready made products are more expensive than chicken...

Q - How do you stay so frugal without extreme couponing?

A - Bulk buying, making do, doing without, and dumpster diving. I actually have never used a coupon in my life, so I don't even know what it really means to extreme coupon. There is much more to frugality than just couponing.


Q - You admit that some of your ideas might work for others while some might not. For instance when you shared about "family cloth" instead of toilet paper for the bathroom, you got a quite a mixed response from readers!  You've also written candidly about accepting free surplus food and being resourceful with it.  To what extent do attitudes either prevent or help families be able to live frugally?

A - Attitude is everything. The second people think that certain things are "beneath them", the second people think that "they deserve the best", they're basically nailing the lids in their financial coffins. It's only when people realize that they can do without the things they'd expected to have beforehand that they can actually change their finances. And no, that doesn't mean everyone needs to use family cloth or rescue food, but they can't just keep on living their lives as if they're rich when they're not, and expect to be financially ok.

Q - Do you ever feel like your children might be "missing out" because they aren't exposed to as many trips to the store or necessarily have the latest, most popular toys?  What do you think they're learning from the family lifestyle?

A - No, I don't think they're missing out, because a) we live in a community where they're not that much outside the norm and b) we make it our goal to give our kids as good of a life as we can, even without the money. For example, today my kids just had a rockin' awesome time- on the spur of the moment, we decided to have a BBQ on a bonfire- the kids collected the wood, helped build the fire, danced around the fire, collected more wood, all with their friends who joined us for the BBQ... And it didn't really cost us anything other than the cost of supper. It's called making memories even without those trips to Disney. And at the same time, we actually do try to buy them special, nice gifts, so they actually do feel like they have nice things.

Q - You say that you use the pseudonym Penny and choose to keep your family's identity private.  Do you see a time, perhaps when the kids are older, that you'll be able to share more openly about your family and where you live?

A - No, probably not. The reason I'm private about my location and other details about my family isn't just for my kids, but also because I'm afraid people would view me differently if they knew more details about my life, and I'd like to focus on the similarities between me and other people, instead of letting the differences divide us, which is what I would fear would happen if I became public with the information that I currently keep private.

Q - You happen to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom.  What one essential tip do you hope all parents take away from Penniless Parenting even if they're not a sahm?

A - Be content with what you have. Don't look over your shoulder to see what other people have - evaluate honestly whether you actually need something or can make do without it, and then act on it. And forgo the things that don't matter to you and spend the money instead on areas that matter to you.

Thanks to Penny for sharing so much with readers here.  Be sure to check out more of her frugal tips and recipes at Penniless Parenting.

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