Save like Nana Did. Stuff Nan just did not buy.

Most people are noticing their grocery basket of goods has increased in cost...  and it just keeps on going up!  As I waited at the check out at the supermarket the last time I shopped I noticed a couple of things.   The people ahead of me had left items behind because they had gone over the amount of money they had.  The magazines they have near the checkout all had subject titles like "Money Saving Mince" and "Hot tips: How to save electricity and dollars."    Almost every person and every article includes "in times like these."

This got me thinking about all the things Nana did not have or did not buy.   The priorities were that everyone was fed and clothes and linen were clean.... the basics.   We have been sort of seduced into a lot of seemingly small purchases that over time cost hundreds and thousands.  It is worth working out what an item costs per year.    Some things are tough calls.  Some people are prepared to make them and some are not...   but if the kids are going to school with no breakfast because of smoking, drinking or gambling at home you would think it might be time to reassess.   However,  I am thinking not too many who are reading my blog are in this category.   More we are feeding families with most of our bills rising.

We know already that Nana considered savings,  not wasting things, making them last, making them stretch...   but today we are going to talk about things she did not buy at all and was none the worse off for.

My list, which I hope you all will help me add to,  is not to upset anyone.   If you feel you cannot live without something I am not here to argue just to get us thinking.  Also... we have reached a point any of us may be asked for ideas on how to cook, budget, save or grow because I am seeing social media full of young Mums saying they are down to $20 for meals for the next week and asking for advice.   And mostly I am thrilled to see that people come in and ofter really good suggestions and being just lovely.   If there is a teaching opportunity then that is great,  just as when we have a learning opportunity. 

Ok...   Nana, Mum... me...   never buy:

Drier sheets.  

Fabric softener.

Bottled water.  

Pre made things like boiled eggs.  I didn't know this was even a thing until recently.

Boxed foods like macaroni cheese.   Something like that is so simple to make and have you read the side of the box?  Or pancake mix,  also the simplest thing in the world to make. 

900 different cleaning items.   Many are so toxic and expensive.   Vinegar, bi carb soda,  just keep basic and multi purpose things and save a fortune. 

Coffee pods.  Flavoured syrups.  

Fancy dusting cloths.    She just used rags she recycled from old clothing,  towels or whatever.

Designer dog clothes.  Designer dog food.  

Fancy pantry and fridge containers.    I have owned cars that cost less than some people spend on pantry containers.  Nan used jars,  things she washed up and recycled... later... coffee jars.  We get a brand of coffee called Moccona and the jars are just great.     And containers for left overs in the fridge.

Other jars I have collected from op shops (thrift stores) over the years.   Even when I was small Nan had giant jars with screw top lids which she would fill with little biscuits called Cockles and send them with us on holidays.   They had pink icing in the middle.   

Flylady says that housework done imperfectly still blesses your family.  Well, a non designer pantry still blesses your family also!   A pantry that will keep your family going is more important than an Instagram worthy one that doesn't actually contain any food!   I find tins (which I never pass up and you still get them free especially with Christmas sweets etc.) keep baked goods fresh.    Biscuits really do stay good as new longer in tins!  

Scent plug ins.  Most of them are actually toxic.   Car plug ins and scented fresheners...   (ewww) 

Bug/Mosquito plug ins... worse, I have seen people have sprays in their kitchen of bug killing chemicals and I just can't believe it.  

Air freshener.    Just have a clean house and open a window.    Trying to cover a stink with a perfume just creates a hideous  (yet unique) odour. 

Fancy shaving creams for your legs.  Soap is just fine.

Chicken/dog/animal treats.   In the supermarket there are little packs of treats that are around $5 or $6 but honestly the dogs are just as thrilled with a left over or one of the biscuits I give to the cows.   

Dog grooming.  I guess some people have breeds they need help with but I don't even think there were dog groomers when I was a kid.  We all had dogs all these years.  None have ever been to a salon.   Also none ever have had expensive vet pet food and many have lived well into their 20s.  

Soft drinks. 

Scented candles.   Many of these are toxic and also very expensive.  If you don't care about yourself take a look at the ingredients at least if you have kids or pets.

Coffees and Lattes on the way anywhere.   You had a drink before you left or you took one with you.    Even one a day would be $1800 a year here. 

Nan never had someone do her nails but they were always nice. 

Paper towel.  

Paper plates, cups, napkins.   In later years they appeared at parties.   So did soft drink.   But not a daily thing.

Pre packed snacks.  Just never happened.  

Pay TV.

Holiday clothing and pyjamas.   

Makeup wipes.

Disposable floor wipes and surface wipes.

Plastic wrap to cover food.  You put a lid on it or some kind of reusable cover.

Energy drinks.   My Dad would have been one of the hardest working men I ever knew,  hot outdoor work, long hours. He probably never heard of energy drinks.  

Deli meats.  These generally are very expensive and don't stay fresh very long.  Meat was always roasted and sliced, usually leftovers from a roast.  Otherwise some eggs were boiled.

Food in pouches or little containers like yoghurt.  

Takeaway food.  In the city I discovered this is really really expensive these days and would be mind-blowing for a big family. 

Gym gear.  I don't think workout gear is a bad thing (especially a sports bra if you have big boobs) but for actual working out.  I am seeing women in teeny tiny bike shorts or leggings and tops that have their middle hanging out...  and so nothing actually covers their bottom... neither front nor backside...  and well you can basically see what they had for breakfast.   None of this has anything to do with the gym.  The rule seems to be the less fabric the more expensive the item.  I am thankful I don't need therapy to erase these kind of images of my grandmother from my mind. 

Spray scents and deodorants.   Well,  I will upset someone here but I just cannot fathom putting chemicals under my arms, next to my breasts and lymphatic system, every day.  There are natural formulas you can use.  I just wash twice a day.  

Some modern inventions are worth it for sure.   We all have some we just love.  Mine are snap lock bags.   I do reuse or wash a lot of them.   But I love them.  And I won't say a word about anything you love and use.  But I do realise I don't need them.   I could do without!   Others like pads and toilet paper... well I am grateful for those! 

I know there are many specific cleaning items in the supermarket that I don't even understand.  Like lounge spray or carpet freshener.   I truly do not think adding scent to the carpet on top of everything else is making it cleaner.  

While I don't think Nans life was any less for not having PopTarts there might be some things she would have loved if she knew about them now.   But she would still be buying her meat, veggies, fruit, flour and pantry staples before all else.   She would still save up for it rather than just buy it.   Feeding the family would still come before designer sneakers!

Looking around at things I might not know about but are really crazy...  baby wipe warmers,  eye lashes for your car...    unless you have a pink mini minor then they are probably a good idea.  haha

There are lots of things that are little conveniences and treats but it is good to re assess now and then.   Savings like these are a good way to build your pantry and get ahead.  

I hope there are things both serious and funny on your list.   Getting back to basics is a good thing.   I am really loving things were you get a triple bonus...  ie you save money,  it is a healthy improvement and it is good for the earth.   So an example would be room freshener aerosols or soft drinks.   You really are killing a few birds with one stone which is good value!  

Have a very good new


  1. My Nan would say how long would have to work for per hour to buy that just to see if it’s worthwhile. She really was a frugal lady. Nan and Mum saved jars and one of my favourite thing to do as a child was to take out all the buttons out and sort them into groups of colours and count them to see which group had the most in them. Loved this game. Thank you this post is really good. Denise.

  2. Great post! My biggest nonsense purchase is bottled water. Here in the desert, especially in the summer, it is critical to drink a lot of water. When I have bottles, it is so easy for me to keep drinking. When I get nonbreakable, reusable bottles, I get irritated at having to wash them. Looks like I need to try again and find a method where I keep cold water in the fridge, and a supply of containers clean and ready to go. Thank you for the reminder. I also laughed at your comment on specialty cleaning supplies. I just moved and a girlfriend gave me a container of Clorox cleaning wipes. What? So I read the label and tried to figure out when and why I would ever use them. I returned them to her yesterday. I use a few things, glass cleaner, soap, bleach, cleanser….nothing fancy. And finally, your comment about mini Cooper eyelashes made my day. I have a mini but no eyelashes. Hilogene in Az

    1. The eyelashes are very cute on VW bugs, LOL.

      I don't buy most of the things on the list. I NEVER buy scented candles or coffee. I drink regular black tea and 1 bag makes 2 cups. I do use dryer sheets to cut down on static electricity, but I tear them into thirds and use 1/3 sheet. My latest modern invention is a robotic vacuum and I love it! I'm 77 and have arthritis and I can't push around a vacuum any more.

    2. MikeMax, we got a robotic vacuum a few years ago and it has been life changing. We are blessed with acres of hardwood floors and two dogs who shed. My robovac is mt favorite handmaiden.

    3. Debby in Kansas USA6 June 2023 at 12:35

      I just saw those car eyelashes for the first time last week. They were on a Fiat and absolutely tickled my fancy!! I admit that I would want them lol.

      I think we all probably have certain things that are worth it to us, for whatever reason, but I agree that it's unnecessary. Boneless skinless chicken is one of mine. I do not do well with raw meat and I'd sooner do without. However, hubs loves it so that's a good reason to me.

      Thanks for sharing! I love reading these.

    4. "Favorite handmaiden" is how I described it to a friend just a few days ago. Life changing, for sure! I will be honest and add that I do have a dog that requires grooming. I only do it every 3 months, though--I like the shaggy dog look. LOLOLOLOL

    5. For easy cleaning of drink bottles - fill and pop in the sink. Add a portion of a Milton sterilising tablet. Leave it while u do something else. Drain and let them air dry. Refill and use again. Or alternatively if metal bottles, when you boil the jug, make your cuppa, then fill the bottle with boiling water. Job done. Missy

  3. Dave and I were in charge of our Church Memorial Day BBQ last Monday and were told to submit receipts for reimbursement for the hamburgers, hot dogs and buns that we bought to provide for our congregation. My eyes bugged out when I saw the price of premade hamburg patties (on sale- 8 burgers for $8US - that’s almost $12.15 AU for just under 1K!). Instead I went to a free clearance Grocery clearance app on my phone and found ground beef (mince) reduced to $1.40/pound ($4.68AU/K). Got out my op shop patty press and made 108 burgers. Flash froze them on cookie sheets and then packed them in 12s into gallon ziplocs! Everyone raved about the burgers and we saved our church budget a nice amount of money just by DIYing them instead of buying convenience!
    We haven’t bought paper towels or Kleenex (facial tissue) for years because we use our fabric alternatives.
    Funny. The things we do as alternatives just seem to be our normal way of life here and we don’t think about it until someone looks shocked when they find out! 🥴 Saves a ton of money and we aren’t constantly running out of something!
    Gardenpat in Ohio

    1. Good job! Also I love the soft hankerchiefs you make they are just lovely. Massive savings! xxx

  4. Love this post! I'm a single-person household, retired, and on a fixed income (though there are savings and investments, but I'm still careful where and how much I spend). Over the last year, I've paid closer attention to grocery prices and made some sacrifices, too.

    Since I was buying milk (and it was going bad before I could finish it), I started making my own yogurt, rather than buying it ready made. I have fruit that is canned and/or frozen, so I can make it easily and on my own, without any preservatives. And the milk gets used up.

    I also refused to buy eggs once they got over $3/dozen. While the initial outlay was an investment, I started using flax seed in my baking, instead of eggs -- I Tbsp flax seed + 3 Tbsp water, let it sit for 5-10 minutes = one egg. While it won't replace over easy or scrambled eggs at breakfast, it is fine to use in baking. And that bag of flax seed (I bought the smallest I could find) will provide egg substitute for probably 10 dozen eggs, if not more.

    And, I'd encourage anyone with even a small patio or garden space to grow their favorite and most-used herbs. Dehydrate them and store in an air tight container or canning jar. I've not bought basil, oregano, parsley, or chives in more than 5 years -- and I'm limited to container gardening on my deck, 1 basil, 1 oregano, 2 parsley this year, 1 thyme added this year, and a pot of chives that comes back year-after-year. I harvest an ample amount for me, and often give basil and chives away, because I don't go thru it fast enough.

    Hope this helps someone!

    1. Thank you for very helpful ideas!!xxx

  5. I love this post! I agree with it all and I especially agree with the deodorant! We have used mineral salt crystals for 30 years. One will last a year or more. I have switched to making so many foods homemade that I used to just toss in the grocery cart over the last two years. Why did I ever buy croutons for my salads? They are so much better made from the leftover bread ends that get saved in the freezer for crouton making day. They are essentially free. I did get great deals on sale but even if I paid 50 cents it was too much. This dialing back on what we can afford has been good for us.

    I read an article yesterday about the high cost of convenience foods and that if you just look at the cost of basic ingredients around the perimeter of the store plus a few other items like oats and flour and sugar, rice, etc. that the cost of basic food has not gone up much in comparison to prepared foods. The reason is that labor costs so much now. So why not be your own labor and make it at home and let it be fresher and better for you and taste so much better.

    1. Thank you Lana. Croutons are just great, also breadcrumbs. No need to ever waste any bread. Another I like is garlic bread... because once buttered and re heated older rolls or baguettes are amazing again! xxx

  6. Dear Annabel,
    My list is almost identical to yours of no buys. In the grocery arena I only buy ingredients. I never buy brown sugar, confectioners sugar, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, herb and spice mixes, seasoning salts, salad dressing, pesto, sauces, bread, English muffins, cakes, make my own cake mixes, soups and the list goes on. We have one raised bed garden and many containers and grow vegetables and herbs in the summer, which is a great savings. I start garden seeds indoors and use the warmth of the top of the refrigerator to get them started and then they are put in sunny windows. No need for grow lights or warming pads. Both my Nanas and Mom were very frugal women and taught me so much. Cookie

    1. Hi Cookie, do you make your own ketchup? Would you share your recipe?

    2. Cookie what a great list. Also with GF and other diets making our own is safer and soo much cheaper. I am off to feel the top of my fridge! xxx

    3. I got the ketchup recipe on I also add a pinch or allspice to the recipe. It's a basic recipe, very inexpensive to make, uses pantry items, and you can tailor it to your own likes as far as spices go. It also can be frozen. Lasts a month in the fridge. Enjoy!! Cookie

    4. Thanks Cookie!

  7. I usually end up with a glut of lotions gifted to me at Christmas, I use them as "shaving" lotion and it works great. I'm getting a good shave and moisturizing my legs at the same time.

  8. Excellent post with tons of useful ideas, Annabel! I'm happy to say I do about 97% of them, but there are a few we just don't, and that's okay! Everyone has to decide what works for himself. There are many things we don't buy or do or participate in, and we've always lived below our means. We're retired, we have no debt and have a comfortable living. We are also content, and have many interests/hobbies that require little money. It really depends on what needs vs. wants you have, and what your priorities are. The book, "Your Money or Your Life" by Joe Dominguez made a big impression on us many years ago, too. We've tried to pass on what we've learned to our son, and happily, he and his wife are level-headed, prudent and hardworking 27 year olds that we don't have to worry about.

    1. Dear Jill, It is so good to hear of 27 years olds who are working and doing well. Good job. I have heard of that book but I dont think I have read it so I will check it

  9. What a sensible and amusing post. I agree with all of your thoughts on what not to buy. I am surprised how much bottled water I see being purchased. A huge amount of plastic waste for a small drink. I think folks should demand potable drinking water from the tap or use filters or boil water to achieve potable water. Water companies are drawing down aquifers, using tons of plastic, burning fuel to transport it and making big profits. Will we let our air become polluted to the point that we need to buy clean air? Another unhealthy big profit product is pet kibble. We are told that pets require a balanced nutrient kibble instead of real food; that's like saying baby formula is better than breast milk. No it's not. It's a marketing ploy and we need to do better. Thanks for sharing your common sense.

    1. I agree Rita. Clever marketing ploys! $$$ !xxx

  10. Great post Annabel. Regarding the carpet freshener - I make a home made version - dried rosemary (we have a huge bush in the yard) crumbled and mixed with bi-carb - sprinkle over carpet (and fabric lounges) & leave for half an hour, then vacuum. Works well, especially to remove doggy or damp smells. Kim from Illawarra

    1. Kim I use the same mix on mattresses after fever has been in the household. I currently have this mix on our mattress. Bluey had fever sweats all night and the bedding is damp. It is a lovely sunny day so the doona is airing on the line whilst all the bedding has been washed and is on the line. The house smells amazing as well

    2. Thank you Kim and Jane, I think carb soda is wonderful but I did not know about the dried rosemary. It would be germ killing and deodorising...

  11. Thank you for the post, Annabel!
    I was tempted to buy some large jars for my pantry. But a friend mentioned that she picked up old gallon-sized olive jars from a restaurant. So I showed up at the restaurant and asked. They told me when to pick up. I did this for several weeks until I had enough to stock my pantry. I spray painted the lids white and printed free labels from Jes at Strangers and Pilgrims. Voil`a! So glad it wasn't in the budget to buy the store -bought jars. God intervened. And it's much more satisfying to get into the pantry knowing that I only spent a little time!
    Love your savings, Hilogene, Pat, and Lori. 😊
    Blessings to you all,

    1. The jars would be beautiful and I LOVE Jess' labels! Leslie... if you were to get more jars and do this and fill them with cookies etc they would be wonderful presents! xxx

  12. I love this! It's so much fun to read and realise that nanna and Mum taught so well without me even realising it. I buy ingredients, because they give me options and I can make so much more with them for far less cost. I don't buy patterns, I learned to draft patterns in high school and my father helped me refine that skill. I still use basic patterns I drafted in Form 2 (and that's a long time ago). I don't buy fertiliser for the garden. I don't buy cake mixes, I MOO them and keep a stash ready to go in the pantry. Like you, I have a collection of tins - old biscuit tins, cake tins, chocolate tins, tea tins, that I use for cakes and biscuits. My favourite is just a dark pink square tin that my great aunty gave me with a fruit cake in it. I don't buy fancy coffee mixes, we MOO them. So many things we could by rather than MOO, that would hurt our budget, and we don't miss them at all. xxx

    1. Cath so many of your MOO (Make our own) recipes have become part of my life. Drafting patterns is a fantastic skill. I love tins so much! I made the coffee essence which is now a family fav! xxx

  13. Great post Annabel. Here's a list of things we dont purchase
    *Disposable wipes.
    *Purchased dried herbs and herb mixes
    *Matching pretty labelled pantry containers
    *Matching pretty labelled fridge storage
    *Laundry scent boosters
    *Fabric softeners
    *Supermarket laundry liquid or powders
    *Soap. I make our bar and liquid soap
    *Shampoo. There is some in the cupboard left from visitors
    *Multitude of different cleaners for different rooms and surfaces
    *Air fresheners (We use a diffuser with EO's when needed)
    *Fake nails. I play in the dirt too much, bar hating the idea of them
    *Supermarket pre made freezer meals
    The list could go on and on. These are things we dont see as necessary and dont spend money on.
    Same as a clothes dryer is not necessary here. We currently have our sons in the shed. It is hooked up. I have used it once in the 18 months that it has been here. We have so much sunshine that clothes end up dry and sanitized hanging on the line. They also smell amazing. However that is here. Elsewhere this may be a neccessity.
    It's up to each household to decide what is and isnt necessary. As the economic situation evolves. We may have to find other items we can live without purchasing.

    1. Great list Jane. It would be mind boggling what you save! xxx

  14. We don't buy anything from your list except deodorant.....the biggest things we don't buy would be bread & yoghurt. Make from basic ingredients. Also don't buy eggs but do buy chook food LOL. My pantry was mainly moccona jars but have expanded to larger op shop jars for bulk dry foods. Love being able to see visually what's in them :) Haven't been able to stop hubby from a take-away coffee 5x a week but he pays for that by collecting & selling metal scrap. At home he fills a stainless pod with ground coffee (vac packed) bought in bulk. I drink moccona with powdered milk, a little sugar & cold water. My outside-the-home coffee consists of a jam jar of dry mix and my tap-water bottle - fill a stainless coffee mug on-the go :)

    1. Felicity I do like that your husband collects and sells scrap metal! That is a good trade off! Making your own bread plus yoghurt is fantastic. I am amazed at the good jars I find in the thrift stores.... I got four more big ones this week. I like seeing the contents too. xxx

  15. Thanks for this excellent article Annabel. Glad to say I’m mostly on the same track as you and hope this is helpful for lots of people!

  16. What a great post Annabel, and certainly food for thought!

    Pre boiled eggs!! I’ve never heard of them or seen them, but why am I not surprised!

    I am certainly guilty of buying some of the items on your list, but if I was completely skint there is no way I would be buying them!

    I was trying to think of something I see on the shelves that people obviously must buy or it wouldn’t exist and that is wheelie bin liners!!! Really, who spends good money on that sort of thing 🤷‍♀️ The rubbish is already in a bag when it goes in the bin, so I’m at a loss to understand the need to double bag the rubbish, get a hose and broom and scrub the bin if it gets dirty! LOL

    From Cheryl

  17. What a great post Annabel, and how good to read this today is for me! I was blamed/ashamed by 2 richer/higher on status (by marriage not by education) from the workplace for the following:

    I don*t buy unnecessary things for us, rather I would buy food for the pantry, pay the bills and maybe save a bit for dark days. The reverse is I always have more work to do - for example I never buy mayonaisse but make it homemade with fresh eggs, or cut my own vegetables or eat my homemade jam.
    I do my nails at home, colour my hair and mend my clothes.
    My gym work out is walking home from work, walking my dogs and working in the garden and yard.
    I don*t have time to watch more TV, Netflix, HBO and I never know what is the new hit on movies or serials
    I collect every glass and every button I have in hand.
    I use few cleaning products and mostly rags not the new fancy floor cleanings or window cleaner machine!
    I use up every food morsel in different meals or for my many animals.
    I Never ever complain I ran out of something - I always change recipies, make a bread or use what I have
    I don*t know the name brand of pasta or cereals or dog food.
    I don*t like to buy clothes and make up. I*d rather be in a book store or a yarn store, Sorry I am not sorry.

    I don*t understand these kind of people, one can not argue with them as they are know it all and I just let them be. I do what I saw my Mum and my Granny do, and really I couldn*t keep up with these nonsense financially without going in debt - which is a no-no for me.

    I come here reading all the comments as, for me, is like talking with friends. And learning, too.

    So, a BIG Thank You, Annabel and all my friends. Laura_s_world from Romania

    1. Dear Laura, You re smart and wise. You consider the future and not just the present. Also your hair is stunning! It can be awful to have people look down on you and put up with their sarcasm but when this happens to me I think to myself "I am the daughter of the King of all Kings so good luck looking down on me." And I have had to tell myself that a few times, I have had people, even relatives (by marriage) snub me entirely. But we know our mission and we get on with it, with joy! With much love

    2. Thank you ❤️❤️❤️

  18. I enjoyed your post and it made me think. We purchase a lot of these products so I try to make them stretch, and like you said -- we focus on the essentials first before buying the splurge items.


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