10 Must-Have Items in a Frugal Household

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Developing frugal habits and skills does not happen overnight. Over three years ago, my family embarked on our journey out of debt. Our entire lifestyle began to change, and continues to evolve today as we learn new ways to simplify.

One major change in our household over the years has been the contents of our cupboards. They are now stocked with certain products I just can’t live without! These essentials all have multiple uses which ultimately save money and simplify our home.

If you are just beginning your frugal journey, consider stocking your home with these Top Ten Must-Haves:

1. Baking Soda

Perhaps the most versatile item on my list, you will want to have plenty of baking soda on hand at all times. Use it on everything from cleaning supplies to personal hygiene, baking soda works better than many commercial products.

2. White Distilled Vinegar

From cooking and cleaning with vinegar, to gardening and home remedies, white distilled vinegar is one of the most versatile—and economical—products you can have on hand. Windows and mirrors shine with just a bit of vinegar and water in a spray bottle!

3. Borax

Also known as sodium borate, borax is an a naturally occurring substance and an eco-friendly solution for many things around the house. Most commonly used as a cleaning agent, the uses extend beyond that to pest control, laundry and more.

4. Washing Soda

Another common ingredient in homemade cleaners, washing soda is a timeless staple. You can find it at many retailers with laundry or pool supplies.

5. Epsom Salts

Another item I always have on hand, epsom salts have a multitude of wonderful uses. Add some to a bath, magnesium sulfate draws toxins from the body, sedates the nervous system, reduces swelling, relaxes muscles, is a natural exfoliator, and much more. Epsom salts can also be used as garden fertilizer and as a laxative.

6. Essential Oils

One of my favorites, essential oils are more potent and of course, greener than any commercial air freshener. I add a few drops to baths, homemade cleaners and beauty products, or on a cotton ball in an inconspicuous spot for a fresh scent. While not a small upfront investment, the cost of quality essential oils is well worth it for long term use.

7. Coconut Oil

This one is a recent addition to our home, as I learned more about the amazing health benefits and uses for pure coconut oil. Baking and cooking with this delightful oil enhances flavor and adds a healthy plant-based fat to your meals. Try a dab on dry skin, eczema, paper cuts, dandruff, and even your hair! It has replaced many commercial products in our home.

8. Castile Soap

Castile soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s) is another frugal way to eliminate the need for chemical cleaning products. It is extremely versatile and can be used on everything from the laundry to pets. A gallon container of liquid castile soap can easily last six months and its uses are many including: shampoo, hand soap, household cleaning, and even brushing your teeth!

9. Garlic

You may be surprised to see garlic on this list. Fresh garlic enhances the most simple meal and infuses your kitchen with a mouth-watering aroma. Add a clove to your favorite pasta sauce or soup for an extra kick. Raw garlic also has many health properties and is essential as a home health remedy.

10. Steam Mop

I received a Shark steam mop last year as a Mother’s Day Gift from my husband {swoon} and I am not exaggerating when I tell you it has changed my life! The initial investment was a tad steep, but I believe it was worth every penny for our home with plenty of tile and wood flooring. It completely eliminates the need for disposable pads, new mop heads, and most importantly, chemicals. The steam mop cleans with pure water, nothing more. And it works!

As you can see, a frugal household does not require much. I’ll be sharing more specific uses for these products in upcoming blog posts.

Do you have other frugal favorites? What items would you add to my list?

Linked to: Top 10 Tuesday


  1. Melinda says

    My Bosch mixer. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I’ve saved over the last 18 years by making almost all of our bread, buns, pizza dough, and breadsticks. Not to mention the millions of cakes, cookies, and muffins!
    Melinda´s last blog post ..Crock Pot Teriyaki Chicken

  2. Deborah says

    I love my Shark, also! It’s great, especially if you have kids and you don’t want to use all the chemicals to clean your floors.

  3. says

    great post title-what mom won’t click on that! :) we use 6/10 of your items and will have to incorporate the others soon…

    what would i add? hmmm….your list is pretty complete…maybe freezer bags/pyrex dishes? i love making a large dinner and freezing half for another week. I also keep a bag in the freezer that add over-ripe fruit to if i think they will go bad before we eat them…then i use a handful of frozen fruit for smoothies on the weekend. i think about doing the same for veggies to make stock.
    kristen ~ pajama mama´s last blog post ..Healthy Kids Meals

      • Kim says

        I re-seal everything from chip bags to ceral and candy bags! Anything that you want to keep fresh. They last for months (we don’t eat a lot of chips and candy at our house). I can’t live with out my Food Saver!!!

  4. says

    I would have to say I too would add the freezer bags. Anytime I have something like the greens of leeks of broccoli stalks they get thrown into the freezer bag I keep in the freezer to be added to the chicken bones when I make stock. I very rarely am out of stock and have to buy it for anything. I also use plastic wrap and aluminum foil (using the method that my cake decorator gave me that made my wedding cake taste like it had just been made a year later) to wrap up parts of cakes and treats. With just us two, a whole cake would be a ridiculous amount to try and consume. I usually cut it in half (for our yogurt spice cake) and then cut the halves in half and wrap quarters individually, leaving either a quarter or a half for us to share over that week with tea. That way I always have a quick dessert on hand.

    I do have a question about the steam mop, though. Do you need a bunch of extra cloths for it? I’m seriously thinking of getting one since 75% of our home is hardwood or tile, but want to make sure I have enough on hand and don’t have to order more. How do the cloths hold up to cleaning?

    • jennifer says

      @Kalee,I have washed my Shark mopheads numerous times in the washing machine. As long as you don’t dry in the dryer, they keep going.

      They do recommend separate ones for bathroom and kitchen. I think mine came with 2. I ordered some on Amazon to have a few extra-5 pads for around $11, which is much cheaper than 2 for $20 at Wal-Mart

  5. says

    I don’t have garlic or Epsom salts…but I have everything else. I started making homemade cleaning supplies at home, because it’s cheaper AND it doesn’t make my skin itch!!! I”m curious about the exfoliator with Epsom salts. How do you use it as an exfoliator? I”d like to try that, too!!! This is a great post ;) :) Thank you, thank you :) :) I do have some questions for you, but I”ll email you privately about those once I get my list together ;) :) Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  6. Jamie says

    Great list! I am going to try Dr Bronners when I am out of my Mrs Meyers (I love Mrs Meyers so I asked for a bunch for Christmas!) I also don’t have epsom salts or a shark mop. I am going to try coconut oil soon. I just bought some to use with our essential oils. We just started using essential oils a few months ago and we love them!!! We get ours through Doterra and they are fantastic!
    Jamie´s last blog post ..Tortellini Soup

  7. says

    Great list! I’m using most of these things too. I’ve been especially impressed by how well a vinegar/water mixture has cleaned my home. I’ve been using my homemade laundry soap made with washing soda and borax too and have been very happy with it. Plus it’s super frugal !!

  8. Anne says

    Hydrogen Peroxide! I can’t believe how many uses there are for this incredibly inexpensive item I ALWAYS have in my home. I use it of course to clean any cuts or abrasions, in a spray bottle to clean carpet stains (food, cat barf..ew) and other surfaces, but I have recently found that H2o2 (the chemical name!) is amazing at stopping the common cold.

    Whenever I feel like I might be getting sick, I just pour about 2 or three drops in each ear and let it sit for about 10 minutes. I repeat it every 4 hours for a day or two and it works! I haven’t been sick in a year!
    Anne´s last blog post ..Confusion

    • Alyssa Francis says

      @Anne, Oh I absolutely agree! It was tough to narrow down the list to just 10, but H202 is a must in our home, too. I buy the big bottles at Walgreens. It’s a great alternative to bleach in the laundry room!

  9. says

    We got a steam-mop and love it. It’s changed our lives too. (Funny – but true)
    Our teenage boys use it often and the house feels so much cleaner. Glad to see it on the ‘must have’ list. Great post.

  10. says

    Looking at you list I always have those in my house too. Only not usually in my kitchen. Those are things that I always use for science experiments!

    Have a great day. I am following now with Google Reader.

  11. Melissa@SimplyMel says

    I love this list and have seen ones like this before. I so want to use these things. Especially the cleaning products. I find myself buying all of this and then it sits and I don’t use it for cleaning! I’ve tried vinegar and water once and I didn’t feel like it cleaned very well. I’d love to see a post of examples on how exactly you use these things and how much etc. My tub is AWFUL to clean and I find that strong cleaners are the only thing that make it slightly easier and doesn’t require a lot of scrubbing on my part.
    Same with the essential oils! I find them expensive and then they just sit around since I”m not quite sure what to do with them or how much to use.
    I do have the Shark and I love it.

    • Jennifer Lipinski says

      @Melissa@SimplyMel, Hey my name is Jennifer and I agree with you’ if you hold the pocket mop on the hard Water stains for a min they come right off; have your kids help you and push the buttons and clean with you… It makes them want to help and keeps your house clean too… We got my daughter a vaccume of her own that really cleans and she loves it (15 dollars) it is a dirt devil dynamite and it has no attachments but it does work for kids and teaches them house to help you and how to keep clean themselves…

  12. says

    Thanks for linking up! This list is perfect–I’ve been trying to go this way for cleaning supplies. Where do you get essential oils? I’m always got my eye open for them…but don’t even know where to look! The grocery store? Health food?

  13. Jennifer Lipinski says

    I agree that the shark steam mop is amazing but the steam pocket is the best investment you can make.. The new on it is like 80 bucks to start but it is so worth it… all of my friends and neigbours want to use it too… we all share… it even makes cleaning fun for babies (almost 2) and she loves to play with the button and help mommy… it makes cleaning easy and fun….

  14. says

    Loved reading this list, I have almost everything on the list. I’ve been thinking about investing in steam mop, so this is encouraging.

    A staple that I’ve recently learned is Baby Oil. A giant bottle of it helps removes eye makeup, and lasts forever, compared to the “make up brands”.

      • Tami says

        @just fyi,

        Wow, thanks for mentioning that. I decided to do a search on what you had written, as I hadn’t heard of that before. (I don’t use baby oil to begin with, but was curious anyways.) I was horrified and sad to read some of the very devastating effects “baby” oil can possibly have, as well as being a known group 1 carcinogen. I suggest anyone reading this to also do a quick search on it, too.

        Not trying to be an alarmist, but I guess I wasn’t expecting to read what I did. :( Thanks for the heads up!

  15. Bethany says

    Personally I think if I had to choose one thing it would have to be my Kitchenaid stand mixer. Also something that’s kind of a pricey investment although I got mine used on craigslist for a fraction of the price. I love it though and it makes breadbaking and pretty much making anything a piece of cake.

    And as a secondary I’d say a steady supply of canning jars. I use them not just for canning but I store tons of things in them, and this way I can buy stuff in bulk and not have to worry about it going off. I even save cooking drippings in them for flavoring other dishes or giving to the chickens.
    Bethany´s last blog post ..Foodsaver Reviews – The Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer V2840

  16. Crystal says

    I would add Silicone baking mats. I use them all the time. They require a little clean up, especially with greasy foods. I think they are worth it though. Parchment paper is expensive! I also use a Misto can to spray canola oil/olive oil with. It’s environmentally friendly and I can purchase canola oil in bulk and just pour it into the can.

  17. Angie says

    Hello, I have a question/comment about your list…….vinegar – I hate the smell of vinegar! it so gags me, any suggestions?

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