My Grandma's Extreme Frugal Living Tips

by Lizzy

I’m going to share some of my grandma's money-saving habits. She was a single mother of four during the Second World War. She was very poor and hard-working, raising her children on her own during such hard times. She had lots of different techniques for saving that we can learn from and use today.

I was lucky to spend time with her during my childhood and learn from her habits. She taught me so much about being frugal and being careful with money. Her habits revolved around waste prevention, reuse, and being resourceful.

Jam tarts

My grandma did a lot of baking, and she was very careful to use every ingredient wisely. She would always save the paper from the butter and use it to butter the baking trays.

When making jam tarts she’d use three quarter teaspoons of jam and push it into the bottom of each pastry. They were never overfilled. The conserves were such a sweet treat, she didn’t want to waste them.

Her meals were a lot smaller than we have today. An evening meal, for example, would be something like half a can of soup with a slice of cheese on toast.

Canned fruit and evaporated milk were treats for desserts. I still have my grandmother’s can opener which has lasted for decades.


She used a lot of canned foods like canned fish. She’d use canned sardines to make fish cakes or fish pie. She also had cans of salmon for special occasions.

In 1939 the UK government advised to store food that will keep. They suggested things like canned meat and fish, flour, sugar, milk, tea, cocoa, and biscuits.

If I add bacon and butter to that list, those items remained my grandmother's staples even in the 70’s and 80’s.

Making dough

My grandmother loved white bread. Sometimes she would buy it and sometimes she would bake it. During the war, the national bread was all there was. In that bread, 90% of the wheat husk was used to avoid waste.

That meant the bread was grainy and tough. That’s why she preferred the white bread that didn’t remind her of those difficult times.

Whisking eggs

In 1942 the average person had 29 eggs per year. For this reason, my grandmother really valued eggs. It was almost like the egg was a luxury product.

She’d stretch each egg as far as it would go with baking by whisking in milk. When browning pastries she’d use a little milk on top instead of wasting an egg.

Cheese was also carefully used. She could make one small block of cheddar cheese last two or three weeks. If mold grew on the cheese she would just cut it off and use the rest of the cheese.

The outer leaves of cabbage which we now discard, were used in soups. Radish tops wouldn’t get thrown away. She’d throw those in the soup as well.


In the house and around the house, everything was reused and never wasted. Clothes were repaired and new clothes were made out of old clothes. My grandma taught me how to sew, and it is such a valuable skill.

My grandmother never threw out buttons. She saved them in a tin for reuse. I used to love playing with the buttons in the button tin.


My grandmother and then my mother used to knit blankets. They would knit square patches and then sew them together to make beautiful quilt-like designs. I still use these blankets today.

Woman hoovering

We were not allowed to wear shoes in the house. Only slippers. This was to protect the longevity of the carpets. My grandmother had a carpet sweeper which was a manual sweeper.

It wasn’t until the 90s that she purchased a second-hand vacuum cleaner, but she still used the manual sweeper so the carpet would last longer.

Toilet tissue

When I was very little my grandmother still had the Izal toilet roll which was shiny, hard, and almost felt like greaseproof paper. I used to complain about it to her and she’d tell me I should be grateful I don’t have to use newspapers like she had to in the old days. Eventually, she started buying tissue paper.

Frugal living tips

My grandma used to say that the kitchen was where she won her personal war. With the resourcefulness and fortitude she used to raise four kids on her own, she certainly did win that war. She brought forward all the lessons and wisdom from those days well into my lifetime.

Did you learn frugality lessons from your grandparents? Leave me a comment and share their wisdom.

Next, learn How I Plan a Frugal Weekly Menu to Save Money and Stay Healthy.

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2 of 7 comments
  • Bonnie Bonnie 6 days ago
    We only got new shoes once a year. Who put into law that at the beginning of a school year you had to have new clothes? I was one of 4 girls. Thankfully, my Mom sewed a lot of clothes for us kids. We shared a bicycle. Mom made "ice cream" sometimes from snow ( dug down about 6 inches) and flavored with her baked chocolate syrup. I also remembering sweeping carpets with a broom. How spoiled most are now days. That's to name a few things.
  • Chris Chris 4 days ago
    Thank you for your tips- Your granny must have been a similar age to mine. In UK, my grandma used to save orange peels and dry them on her Rayburn (similar to an AGA cooker) as firefighters. The natural oils in the skins worked. (I still do this and use many of your tips - normal in our family too 😊👍) xx