The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
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The New Frugality: It's a crock!- Part 1

Sandra Tsing Loh on the philosophy of frugality.

I was trolling Borders recently-- Or what’s LEFT of Borders, before they shut down all BOOKSTORES as we know them --

And good news, at least for MOST of us I think. . . frugality is in!

And it’s flagrant! It’s pride of non-ownership! It’s conspicuous non-consumption!
The new FRUGALS are almost ghoulishly cheerful. Consider the titles: The Cheapskate Next Door, America’s Cheapest Family, The Art & Science of Dumpster Diving, Possum Living, the Joy of Less, Frugillionaire!
They’re letting their frugal freak flag fly!

"Open your mind," intones The Scavenger’s Manifesto. "Open your mind--" Can’t you almost hear the drizzle of tablas? You can practically smell the Indian food, although in this case it would likely be DUMPSTER Indian food. Anyway: "Open your mind," it says. "Scavenging means learning to be flexible. Spontaneous, adventurous. . . Never wore a poncho before or listened to Turkish techno music?. . . Lose the squeamishness and learn."

And if you think a PONCHO is odd, consider the habits of Steven and Annette Economides--their real name—the heads of "America’s Cheapest Family." They grocery shop with the coordination of synchronized swimmers: He takes the OUTSIDE aisles, she takes the INSIDE aisles, and they do real-time price comparisons via walkie-talkie! They have to bat a home RUN because they grocery shop but ONCE a MONTH-- Otherwise they’d go broke with their household of five HOMESCHOOLED children-- It turns out truly FRUGAL families "ladder their produce" -- meaning in the first week you eat grapes and bananas, in the second, pears, lettuce and cucumbers, third and fourth, apples and oranges-- They NEVER buy less then 15 loaves of bread at a time, at bakery OUTLETS

-- And you NEVER buy lunchmeat deli sliced, only in things called. . . "chubs."
A recent vacation in Washington DC DID pose a cost-saving challenge-- Instead of a hotel, they figured they could stay in student dorms at a college left empty over the summer. Wearing seven matching outfits (so they could find each other easily), the Economideses realized the only must-have TRAVEL item that wouldn’t fit into their airplane luggage was, goshdarnit. . . the family crockpot! No problem, they simply began Day One in the capital trolling local thrift stores, scored a used crockpot for $5, filled it with cans of Spaghetti-O’s, and victory was theirs!

"What are their tips on Paris?" one wonders. Or what are MINE? We’ll get to my cheapskate tips next week.