What do you think when you hear the word "frugal"? For many people, it conjures up visions of hard work: growing vegetables, making bread, patching clothes, servicing the car, building your own home etc. After all, isn't that the way frugality is portrayed in the media?
It makes good photo opportunities, but there is more to frugality (and less effort involved) than that. The Frugal Zealot, Amy Dacyczyn, split frugality into two camps: active and passive. The things I listed in the first paragraph are all examples of active frugality. Passive frugality is about not doing things: not shopping, or not upgrading your mobile phone just because a new model is on the market. I'd like to add a third category (although I'm struggling to come up with a name): semi-passive frugality. (See what I mean? Still struggling.)
Most of the time, being frugal doesn't take any more effort than not being frugal, but it does take more planning. And that is why I call it semi-passive frugality: apply a bit of forethought now and save money in the long run. For example: imagine you are tired and late home from work. You're hungry and "Want dinner now!". Doesn't it seem so much easier to order a take-away than cook a meal from scratch? Now, imagine you had planned for this scenario and, last time you cooked a chilli you made a double batch and froze half. Instead of spending £15 on a takeaway (and having to wait 45 minutes for it to be delivered), dinner is waiting the freezer and just needs zapping in the microwave. That is semi-passive frugality.
It takes very little effort to cook a triple batch of dried beans / frying up 3 or 4 extra onions when you cook a curry and freezing them as base / preparing a double quantity of shepherd's pie/lasagne/meatloaf/nut roast, having one now and freezing the second for later on. But you have to plan for these activities so that you can take advantage of the opportunity when it arises.
Tonight, I prepared a double batch of Parsnip & Cashew Nut Roast. It took 2 minutes to peel the extra 2 parsnips and 3 seconds to select a larger onion. In a month's time, when I'm struggling to come up with dinner, I'll have it in the freezer waiting to fall back on. No more Chinese takeaway on speed-dial for me.