I was reading a frugality post on the internet the other day, and the author ended with a rallying cry of “Now, go start washing your baggies!”, which made me cringe. Show me someone who doesn’t wash out their Ziploc baggies and I will show you someone who does not live in Europe. (Ziploc baggies are hard to come by here, and really, earth-shatteringly expensive). My reaction did get me thinking though, and I started to catalog all of the frugal things I am obligated to do because I live in Europe. Please don’t get me wrong, I would do them happily anyway, but I am trying to tease out the underlying lifestyle assumptions. Below are just a few…
1.) I wash out baggies (see above), but also any other kind of temporary food container. Tupperware, Gladware, and the like are all US inventions, and they are either expensive or non-existent here. This actually extends to jars, food tins, and other handy storage things.
2.) I walk and take public transport, largely because I don’t have a valid driver’s license in Europe and getting one is expensive. Truth be told though, I’m not a very big fan of driving anyway, and I enjoy the exercise I get from not having a car.
3.) I take care of things like clothes and Pyrex. I am a mending, scrubbing, sole-repairing fool, all because things like clothes, shoes, and Pyrex are expensive here. We go back to the States about once a year, so I save up my spending sprees for then. If I broke a Pyrex dish here, it would take about a lot of weight space in my luggage trying to lug the replacement back. It’s just easier for me to just be extra careful (and mend clothes and shoes like crazy).
4.) I practice economical food storage. Our fridge is small, and so is the rest of our kitchen, so I rarely store things like fruit or potatoes in the fridge. In fact, I’ve discovered that a good many things do not need to go into the fridge, unless you aren’t going to use them within four or five days. Most fruit will live outside of the fridge for about a week, except berries, and many vegetables will too (not leafy stuff though). Anything dry can go into a spare (hah!) cupboard or closet, or the cellar of our 150 year old building.
5.) I buy local food, because most other stuff is a bit more expensive. Trying to get ahold of an avocado here in Prague requires a loan from the bank, so I steer away from those kinds of things unless we are desperately craving something.
6.) Meat is also more expensive here, so we tend to eat more vegetarian meals.
7.) Gas, electricity and water are also at much higher rates, so we conserve as much as possible, especially in cooking and heating water. Oh, and a tumble dryer is completely out of the question. Even if we had one, we wouldn’t be able to afford to run it.
These are just a few of the many ways our lives here in Europe are more economically and resource conservative than when we live in the States, and we don’t even think about it. We just do it, because that is what is done.