Thrifty Gardening with Found Objects


“Gardening is increasingly becoming something you buy, rather than something you do,” writes Alys Fowler, author of the forthcoming The Thrifty Gardener: How to Create a Stylish Garden for Next to Nothing. “Yet there is nothing more satisfying than being able to say, ‘I made that.’”

In an article in The Guardian newspaper about her love of “scrap craft”—making useful things out of discarded items—in gardening, she offers a bevy of great ideas. Not only does the DIY ethic give a garden a certain funky style, it can also save you a pretty penny.

Her suggestions cover every element of thrifty gardening, such as:

  • Building your own pots
  • Making your own compost
  • Growing on your windowsills
  • Planting your pits
  • Cooking your weeds
  • Mixing your own pesticide
  • Creating your own fertilizer

She suggests using old floorboards to make compost bins, wooden wine boxes for growing greens, and chests of drawers for creating a container garden. Old plastic storage boxes can have all number of uses, and if you’re not pleased with their junky look, simply cover them with a discarded, trimmed-down bamboo blind.

All sorts of other containers can be pressed into service: old tin bathtubs, drawers from a has-been dresser, a hollowed-out tree stump. And other parts of the garden can be built out of found items as well. Fowler describes “the most beautiful path I know,” in a New York City community garden, made up of fragments of bricks found in the soil.

There are plenty of other ideas like these, to be found on blogs and gardening sites all around the Web. For example, use an old charcoal grill or even a hollowed-out book as a planter. Build a fishpond in a metal washtub or make a tool shed out of some old doors. Use Crocs shoes as mini-planters. Make garden stakes from paint stir sticks or grow herbs in hanging colanders. The possibilities are endless. And your garden will be better—and more affordable—for all of them.

What are your favorite DIY scrap craft garden projects? What’s the most creative garden project you’ve seen?


10 Tips for Thrifty Cleaning

Green Cleaning

Credit: iStock Photo

Before you realize it, cleaning supplies can eat up a surprisingly large chunk of your budget. All those specialized soaps, spritzes, and scrubs really add up. And that’s not taking into account the expense involved in cleaning such things as car upholstery or fine art.

How can you cut the costs of cleaning? The blogosphere is awash in tips, all of them vying to make your home cleaner for cheaper. Here are a handful of good ones to get you started.

1. Mix your own citrus-vinegar cleaner. It’s easy, super-cleansing, and smells good.



2. Transform a Swiffer Sweeper into a mop using a washcloth. Easy, cheap, effective.


3. Make your own laundry detergent. Spend just $20 to make enough to last a year or longer.

Credit: Lizmarieblog

4. Detail your own car, including the inside. Get that clean-car smell for a lot less.


5. Use vodka to remove stains from upholstery, including those made by ink, grass, and some types of food.


6. Whiten your linens using lemon in a pot on the stove. You can pretend you’re a housewife from days of yore, stirring your laundry over the fire.


7. Remove spots from wood floors with fine steel wool. You can combat stains from water, ink, pets, and other sources with a bit of judicious scrubbing.


8. Wipe your sink daily with water and white vinegar for continuous clean. If you do it while you brush your teeth, it will soon be second nature.


9. Clean the dust off paintings with a piece of white bread. Dab, don’t wipe, and make sure not to eat the bread afterwards.

10. Use cream of tartar to clean porcelain, aluminum pans, and other items. Mixed with water, vinegar, or peroxide it can be a top-notch cleaning substance.

What are your top thrifty cleaning tips? How much money do you save every month by using these alternative methods?

Shopping for Singles: Save time, Money, and Space

Shopping for singles isn’t as easy as it might seem. One significant problem is that suppliers often package grocery items in amounts suitable for families of three or more people, which can lead to food waste.

Planning your shopping trips ahead of time, as well as learning safe food storage techniques, can make grocery shopping for one less stressful and expensive.

Here are some tips for solo grocery shopping:

  • Use specialized cookbooks: There are several “meals for one” cookbooks on the market, including some ethnic cookbooks. Yes, you may need to buy a few new pieces of cookware, such as a small skillet or a tiny crockpot, but once you learn to cook for one, you’ll be less likely to rely on prepackaged meals or delivery food.


  • Create plans and lists: As you browse through your cookbooks, select a week’s worth of recipes and create a shopping list. Shopping lists not only keep you from forgetting things that you need at the store, but can also help prevent impulse buys of junk and convenience food.
  • Select your stores carefully: Some chains, such as Trader Joe’s, offer packaged foods in smaller quantities (1 or 2 servings). Independent grocery stores in trendy neighborhoods, where lots of singles live, might likewise offer foods packed in smaller quantities.
  • Shop the parameter: Dietitians have been telling us for years that it is best to shop the parameter of a store, where fresh, whole foods are. While this is good advice for everybody, shopping the parameter has another advantage: This is the area where you can buy unpackaged foods from the produce section, butcher shop, deli and/or fish market. Take or order as much as you need.


  • Think through bulk purchases: Buying large quantities of something can save you money, but only if you end up using all of it. If you do spot a good bulk quantity sale, consider first whether you have enough space to store your purchase. If you are buying perishable food, do you have the time and resources to re-package the food into reasonable amounts?
  • Learn safe food storage: To actually save money with bulk food purchases, you’ll need to repackage it for long-term storage, preferably soon after you bring it home. The federal government site, [] offers comprehensive information on safely storing food. Be sure to add food storage supplies, such as foil, plastic containers and freezer bags to your shopping list.


Do you shop for one person? What are your tips for thrifty shopping?

Thrifty Summer Birthday Party Ideas for Kids

Photo via Jamz196 on flickr

Photo via Jamz196 on flickr

Summer birthday parties for kids are all about vibrant colors, staying cool and having fun, fun, fun! All of that can be accomplished on a budget. You may even be able to skip the expensive party supply store.

Follow the links below for directions on DIY birthday projects you can handle! You’ll find ideas for chilly treats, creative centerpieces and endearing party favors that won’t cost much at all. Continue reading