I have been known to wash out Ziplocs and reuse any that weren't used for raw meat. I save large jars and plastic containers to re-purpose. I do stretch a whole chicken to 6-7 meals. I do hang laundry to dry to save on the utility bill. These are a just a few of things that most people would consider extreme frugality and would never consider doing.
I don't consider them extreme because they don't cause anyone harm. Yes, that is the way I feel about frugality. If I am willing to do it without turning my home into a "Hoarders" home, then it creates no harm. If frugality harms yourself or another person, then that is way too extreme and should never be done ( eating spoiled food comes to mind).
The Ziplocs are washed, dryed and put into an empty box to keep them neat. I only have one box at a time and I use them until they are no good anymore. I save at the most 10 jars or plastic containers to reuse. They are saved on a shelf in the garage. I reuse the jars for dry food storage and to always have an extra jar to dispose of used cooking oils. Cooking oils are not a good thing to pour down your drain. Plastic containers are reused for bulk pancake mixes, homemade chicken soup mix, etc. Doing these things also only take a couple of minutes.
Many of our grandparents and great grandparents who lived through the depression did a lot of things through necessity. Would we do those things today? Perhaps if we had another depression.
They kept and reused everything. They watered down soup many, many times to make many meals. This was out of necessity in order to eat. I don't think most of us would do that today.
My grandmother hoarded linens. She would use linens that were frayed but not use the new ones that she had. She had a huge bureau full of linens and new towels in our dining room. Some of them had been stored so long that when she went in the nursing home they had to be tossed. Tossed because they were so discolored that they couldn't be salvaged. She hoarded hats in hat boxes. When she was young, she most likely wore them whenever she went out. However, I don't remember her leaving the house much while I was growing up. They should have been tossed years before her home was sold.
I remember thinking about her hoarding those things but not food. She had those linens and hats but barely enough food in the house to feed us for a week. If she needed a canned item, she would never send you to the store to buy more than two cans. She loved her beer but she would never have you buy her more than two cans at a time. As the years have gone by, I have realized that the two can buying was probably more about not wanting to spend the money or not having the money. The beer I think, but I may be wrong, is because she drank two cans a day and didn't want Grandpa to know it.
Were these habits of Grandma's harmful to us? Of course not, unless she got drunk while raising us. But I never saw that as a kid.
However, there are things that people do today that are harmful in the name of extreme frugality. They will go without heat to save on a utility bill no matter how cold their homes get. Some of them end up dead because of it especially the elderly. I am going to die too soon without freezing to death. We keep our home at 70 to avoid this.
They will eat spoiled food from old cans as to not waste it. This in my estimation is playing Russian roulette with your health. Sure if a can is a couple months out of date, it is probably good but you have to do the smell test and if it looks weird or tastes off, pitch it. You do not want to make you and your family ill.
Other things I would never do is pee in a jar and empty it in the woods, wash my clothes while I am showering, separate 2 ply toilet paper into two rolls, use cloth toilet paper, take every medical test to make money, ask people in a restaurant for their leftover food on their plates, or dumpster dive for food. Some of these things were on "Extreme Cheapskates" and really did nothing but disgust me. To each their own but they are not something that I would do to save money.
I would not wash, dry and re-use paper towels. I would not take a shower at the gym to save on water at home. Unless you get that gym membership free, you are paying more than the money you would save on showers. Besides the fact that someone else has to pay for that water.
We actually had an employee where I worked who would steal full toilet paper rolls from the men's room to take home. He also would steal office supplies. This caused the boss to lock up the supplies and only allow a few people to use the key. Lunches would also disappear from the fridge at work. This is just totally immoral.
My mother, in her older years, used to take extra jams and jellies and sugar packets from restaurants where she ate. I loved my mom but this is just totally stealing. Those items are meant to be used at the restaurant not for stocking your pantry.
I have read or heard of the following in the name of extreme frugality over my many years. Some people reuse slightly dirty plates without washing them. Others wear the same clothes for weeks without washing them so that they save on utility bills including water. Some reuse dental floss. This is just not smart. Dental floss is cheap so you don't have to take a risk of introducing more bacteria into your mouth than is already there.
People will flush once a day to save on water. Gargle and spit the mouthwash back into the bottle. They will fill a dishpan with water and bleach and use it all week to wash dishes.
I knew someone who never bought sugar. She just borrowed a cup whenever she needed it. She would do the same with baking powder. Her neighbors were paying for groceries that she should have been paying for.
This blog post is not meant to be a tip post for you. It is to show you what I would never do in the name of frugality. Some of these things are downright harmful to your health and others are immoral. The rest are not the way most people want to live.
If it comes to saving a few pennies to do these things, I will spend that money. Anyone can live an extremely frugal life without doing weird or immoral things. So don't expect me to show you things like this in my money saving posts because they aren't what we do or would ever do.
What we do is live a frugal life that is a lot more luxurious than most of the world and be thankful for it. We are very lucky to live in the good old USA.