Utne Blogs > Mind and Body

Actually Interesting Ideas for Thrifty Living

 by Julie Hanus


Tags: spirituality, mindful living, thrift, living on less, recession, BackHome, Mother Earth News,

Lately, it seems like every publication in Utne Reader’s library that isn’t busy analyzing who’s to blame for this economic crunch is offering up tips and tricks for living on less—and with good cause. No time like the present for expending some mental energy on how we all might live more thriftily and lightly on the earth.

Which is what makes far too many of the thrifty-livin’ articles so, well, disappointing. I swear I’m going to jam a recycling bin over my head if I read one more cheerful checklist urging me to grow my own food. Um, yes. Gardens are great. More gardens = even greater. But is that the best (see: only) idea we have?

Back Home's 100th issueI’m not losing hope. The latest issue of BackHome—their 100th, as a matter of fact—just arrived, and brought with it “50 Ways to Live on Less,” a great article chock full of not-everybody-else’s ideas. The piece isn’t available online, so here’s a handful of suggestions that got my feathers fluffed:

#6 Think of your three favorite ways to cook beans and do those every week. Aside from the roadkill mentioned above, it’s hard to find a cheaper source of protein (and beans are more appetizing, too). Try beans in soups, salads, burgers, or in anything but ice cream.

#11 Use clear containers for food storage, so you can identify and eat food before it goes bad.

#41 Don’t be afraid to barter with anyone for goods or services. This includes doctors and lawyers.

#50 Write down your life goals, then write down your monthly expenses. Figure which expenses aren’t meeting your life goals, and cut out those expenses.

While we’re on the subject of not-boring advice, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention our sister publication Mother Earth News, a font of information when it comes to efficient, smart, do-it-yourself living. Plus, you can ask its knowledgeable editors questions, too. Really. And if anyone out there has seen unconventional stories or has unusual ideas for scaling back and living smart—I’d love to see some links.

UPDATE (5/6/2009): Oh ho! As it turns out, Craig Idlebrook, the author of BackHome’s “50 Ways to Live on Less,” wrote an even more expansive article in 2007 for Utne’s sister publication Mother Earth News“Live on Less and Love It!” offers up 75 inspiring, unconventional ideas for a happy, thrifty life—and you can read them all online. Thanks to Mother Earth News managing editor John Rockhold for the tip.

Sources: BackHome, Mother Earth News