I grew up in Nova Scotia, and even though my parents were early baby boomers, born in 1945, they lived like it was 1930. My grandparents and great aunt had suffered and found no reason to change their frugal behaviour once the economy had turned around. As a little girl, I was baffled that my grandmother used each tea bag twice, and now I am so very glad for all of the lessons I was given. Frugality is also the same type of behaviour that reduces greenhouse gasses – reducing, reusing and recycling – so I have been doing a few of these things for years. Now, not knowing if the sugar supply could dry up or toilet paper is a past luxury, I’m wracking my brain to remember how my grandmother lived. Every day was about saving and making a little go a long way.

Protein Can Go Further

In North America we are used to eating way more protein in a meal than many other countries. Right now my family is channeling Asian cuisine – a bit of chicken is served in a stir-fry with tons of veggies and rice or noodles. Switching a few meals per week to plant protein is smart. We are also adding more beans, peppers and tomatoes to chili to lighten the ratio of meat to veggies.

Making Bone Broth

We’ve always made rich stock out of leftover bones. This is a great way to add nutrition to meals. We use the stock for soups, risotto, sauces and instead of water when making rice. Here are some guidelines for how to do it, but generally throw carrot, onion, garlic and celery in a pot of boiling water with whatever bones you have. Add anything from the fridge that’s wilting, broccoli stems, asparagus ends – whatever you have.

Do it From Scratch

Pasta, bread, crackers, granola bars…. they are all things that don’t need to be purchased in a store. If you stock up on basics, like flour, sugar and yeast you can create a myriad of deliciousness.

Plant a Garden

Right now the plan is to use the space we have to experiment with vertical gardening. Every vegetable or fruit you can grow is one less expense at the grocery store. Potatoes sprouting? Cut off the sprout and a few inches of potato and throw it in some dirt. I also love this article from Food Hacks about 10 veggies and herbs you can buy once and will regrow forever. If you buy organic, you can keep seeds from peppers and other veggies to plant without having to purchase new ones. Many GMO foods are engineered so the seeds are inert and won’t produce a plant, forcing farmers to re-buy seeds each year.


Raw food scraps, pet hair, dryer lint and shredded paper can all combine to be the best fertilizer around. Even in a tiny space you can do a worm compost (vermiculture), and there are several options for rotating bins, piles surrounded with wood or plastic vessels. A neighbour once used discarded wood pallets and constucted a few amazing bins!

Think Before you Toss

That old t-shirt? Why not cut it up into a rag for cleaning the bathroom? Baby clothes? Can you make a quilt (or teach the kids how to sew?) You may not be into re-using teabags like my grandmother did – but if things were to get worse, a diluted cup of tea may be better than none at all. She saved bread bags to use in place of sandwich ones. She collected elastic bands dropped off with the daily mail. Broken pottery? Drainage for planters or a new tabletop. Ill-fitting clothes? Alter or re-make. Treat items as if you may not be able to afford another, and get super creative about how you could repurpose things.

Use it Again

That tinfoil you just took off the brownies? Fold that baby up and use it again. Didn’t eat the pizza crust? Cut it up and make croutons. Old mashed potatoes become hash browns. A coffee tin becomes a perfect bread-baking pan.

Turn off the Lights

This is just smart. It saves energy, helps the planet and saves money.

This is a hard time. It will get harder. Let’s remember that we are in this together – share your own ideas below and I will add them. Help neighbours and reach out if you are feeling overwhelmed. We’re a community and that is the most important thing in the world.

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