6 Thrifty Ways to Thrive During Winter

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By the author of the FREE online course Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture

We have reached the mid-point of winter, and the days continue to get longer. I looked around my eco-cabin in all its thrifty glory. I thought I would share my best winter thriving preps and tips with all of you great Frugalites out there in the hopes of getting yours back!

Winter presents me with some challenges every year: How to stay warm? Keep safe on our highways? Prevent ice on my sloped driveway? How can I keep active and, therefore, keep my spirits up? What about the dry air caused by my woodstove? Finally, what’s a Frugalite to do when snowed in to prevent cabin fever?

Sand, Sand, Everywhere I Look

Tonight, here in Eastern Ontario, Canada, there is a winter storm watch. We may get up to a couple of feet of snow. Am I worried about my driveway being slippery? Not at all. I have plenty of sand right here to sprinkle wherever I need it.

Last fall, I saved numerous empty bags from my eco-cabin construction. They were heavy plastic, having held the limestone screenings I needed to build the foundation for my front and side steps. I got out my trusty shovel and filled several of them with sand. I am lucky in many ways to be situated on a lot of sand, although it can make my gardening more challenging. 

As a gift, I drove one over to a fellow Frugalite’s home. “Here’s some sand,” I said. He was absolutely delighted. I keep a couple in the house so that they are thawed when I need them. One of my favorite uses is to mix some of my sand with the ice-melting salt I bought on sale early in the winter. That is what I like to sprinkle on my driveway if it gets a bit icy. It never hurts to throw out my stove ashes, as well, when I need to empty my ash can. 

Windshield Washer Fluid

These days, the highways can be quite messy. There are a lot of ice-melting chemicals that are sprayed on them, especially the main one heading south. If I ever ran out of windshield washer fluid, I might be driving almost blind in no time! Late last fall, while out on a completely unrelated errand, I came across an amazing sale of windshield washer fluid, practically a gallon (one of our 4L jugs), for only $2.25. Of course, I made sure that it was good to -40 (both Celsius and Fahrenheit!!!) I didn’t buy one. I didn’t buy two. I bought five!

As I’m not driving as much as I used to in winter (thanks GOODNESS for that!…Don’t get me started on my story of the historic blizzard last Christmas Eve that I drove in the middle of the night…to milk the cows…and was rescued by a snow plow!). Anyhow, as I may not need five jugs, I’ll keep an eye on my consumption…and possibly gift one to my frugal friend in a month or so. 

My Frugal/Free Winter Humidifiers

Those of you who also run a wood stove in the winter know that there is one challenge: they do really dry out the air. I use my two humidifiers to help with that. One is a gorgeous solid cast iron kettle. I bought it at a local thrift shop for a song. I always keep it filled up, and it helps keep the air less drying. 

My other humidifier is free: my own wet clothing! I love to either wash it myself with my off-grid foot-powered washing machine or take a couple of big loads down to a nearby small city to the local Laundromat owned by my friend. Nothing makes the air quite so nice as all that drying laundry: all my socks are on my drying rack (bought used, of course), and my sheets hanging on various ladders and extra chairs. With a good fire going, they are dry in no time! Given how expensive the Laundromat is getting, I am happy not to put any quarters in those dryers!  Washing one standard load is now $3. It has gone up a lot lately. 

Modest Heating Means Major Savings

Yes, we all want to be cozy in winter. But how hot does our home really need to be? I believe that living more sustainably can mean giving up some comforts, and that also saves money. For this reason, I generally keep my home between 60 and 70 degrees in the winter, but it isn’t always 70. 

By building a passive solar eco-cabin, I have been able to capture the warmth of sun to help heat my home during the day, especially when it is sunny. Is it always hot? Nope. I wear woolen socks and shoes inside. I sometimes wear a hat. Am I saving a ton of money and also helping the planet at the same time? You betcha.  In this article, Daisy shares ways to stay warm in winter without turning up the heat.

Who Needs a Gym???

This evening, I felt an urge to exercise. (Okay, I had eaten a few cookies earlier in the day….a friend was visiting…I couldn’t help myself!) Did I head to the gym? Heck, no! I just went to my YouTube channel and clicked on my playlist of Low-Intensity Steady State fat-burning workouts with Dr. Jared. (YouTube is a great resource for SO many things!) After 30 minutes of bopping to my tunes along with him, I felt amazing. What I love about this workout is that it is also knee-friendly, so I do good by my heart without asking my 54-year-old knees to take a hit.

My other winter activities also help keep me fit. I shovel my own snow. Sometimes, my friendly neighbor will come over and help me with my snowblower. In return, I bring him and his wife over some baked goods. I carry my wood in from the woodpile. I prepare my own kindling, either by cutting up leftover construction wood or by splitting some of my lighter logs. 

Do I ever grumble about these duties? Well, OK, I used to. However, this past year, I realized more than ever the importance of a positive attitude on health. I now welcome these activities as part of my life choice: to live independently out in the country. I am thankful for each and every day that I can do these activities that help keep me strong. I want to live here as long as I am able. I know that the secret to doing this is to, well, keep doing it!

My Great Winter Hobby – Decluttering!

With the snowstorm coming, am I worried about being bored? Heck, no! My hobby during winter is going through my files, getting rid of paper (that can often be used to start my fires), and picking out things to sell or donate to the local church-run thrift shop. It is so satisfying to see how great the eco-cabin looks with less stuff. I get more and more excited about owning less and less. Hurray! I can’t wait to see what it will look like in spring, full of all my seedlings for our local community gardens.  

Thriving in Winter Need Not Break the Bank

I have found that, with some advanced planning, I can thrive in winter. Could you see yourself trying any of the thrifty winter thriving tips offered here? Do you have one you can share with us? How do you spend your time in the winter? What forms of exercise do you do? How do you stay cozy on a budget?

Please tell us in the comments section.

About Colette

Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, “Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture.” Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

Picture of Colette


Colette is passionate about sharing her knowledge of thrifty living and self-sufficiency. She has developed her skills in self-reliance living in the suburbs, the city, and more recently, on her own Half-Acre Homestead. Colette lived five years completely off-grid and without running water in an eight by 24 foot tiny home while designing and building her own 18 by 24-foot eco-cabin. Her website, Half Acre Homestead is attracting followers from around the world who want to become more self-sufficient.  Colette invites you to stop by the Homestead and check out all of the great resources including the practical How To Guides, A Tiny Home Resource Center and her organic gardening stories on her blog. She shares her wholistic model (body/mind/spirit) for achieving self-sufficiency in her Free Course, "Growing Self-Sufficiency: The Whole Picture." Stop by the Homestead today to register free of charge!

12 thoughts on “6 Thrifty Ways to Thrive During Winter”

  1. My arthritis always gets worse in cold weather. To help my hands I try to start the day (after I have breakfast and make my bed) by crocheting on whatever my current project is. To keep from letting my legs get stiff I set a timer so that I get up and move around which also helps me keep warm in my 68 degree winter home (78 in summer). I also do my baking early in the day to warm the kitchen after the cold night without making the furnace run and heat everywhere. I close off the bedroom that is primarily an office and storage for books and craft supplies. I wear wool socks (my niece knits them for me) and leather shoes, corduroy pants, a long sleeved cotton shirt, and a hoodie which I zip up until I start moving around enough to warm up. Very often my crochet project is a lap blanket (suitable for those in wheelchairs) that I donate to a nursing home and that helps me keep warm while I work on it. I keep hot tea in a thermal cup for warm sips.

    1. Hi Mary, Thanks for sharing in detail how you start your day, and especially how you use your creativity to work around physical challenges. It is so easy to get going on a project, sit down too long and then pay for it when you try to get up. By setting your timer, you are helping your body. Good for you! I often get curious comments when people see me wearing a woolen cap and heavy sweater on my online meetings. I take it as a positive: a way to share my ideas about living lightly on the earth…and my pocketbook! It sounds to me like we have matching winter outfits! Wishing you a very cozy and thrifty winter, Mary!

  2. I sleep with low or no fire as I’m under lots of warm blankets wearing flannel pjs and warm fluffy socks. By daylight I have a fire going and breakfast cooking. While I eat water is heating for more drip coffee or hot tea then clean up.
    My heater/cooking stove is used about 3/4 of the year. In hot weather I cook outside on an open fire in my homemade bbq. Summer into fall I harvest tree branches to dry in piles. The leaves go on the garden as mulch or in the compost pile. I cut all the wood I need with either my ax or bow saw. Some years I buy pellets. When I get my chipper repaired I’ll be chipping branches to put in the gravity fed pellet rocket stove. I cook and heat all my warm water there.
    During winter I dress in warm layers. Mostly courderoy or denim pants over fleece lined or thermal underwear and flannel shirts over cotton women’s undershirts. I have warm jackets, long thickly lined denim coats with gloves and hats in every coat or jacket pocket. I wear fleece house boots and leather work boots and thick socks outside. My favorite shoes are in fact fleece lined low boots.
    Baking and cooking are times to heat the home and cook at the same time. Sometimes bread and cookies are good excuses for some extra heat.
    I keep a warm fleecy throw on the arm of any place someone might sit and I use mine often.
    In fall when it’s canning time I often prepare my jars then process then as it’s getting dark in the pressure canners. It heats the home as it’s getting cool and the hot canners release heat for quite a while after they cook. Sometimes I don’t open them till morning. Just time the pressure stage then turn off the fire. I cook in summer and canning time on a propane stove. If not over an open fire outside.
    I’ve made warm quilted slippers for myself and winter guests. Boots can dry near the fire and our feet stay warm inside. This winter I’m planning to add rabbit fur liners for those who want the extra comfort they provide. (Fur socks). I even have a flannel lined rabbit fur muff on a neck cord to warm my hands in during chores when heavy gloves are in the way.
    I knit and crochet, so many evenings I save on wood and keep a smaller fire while working on warm projects.
    I drink more hot herbal or flower teas in cold weather. Hot mulled cider is good also. Sometimes I open jars of home canned applesauce and cook it down to apple butter keeping warm. I don’t always have much time for that in gardening and harvest times.
    Cold weather brings out the books. I always have a few saved for winter nights or days when I only go out to tend the animals and hurry back to sit by the fire. I read my Bible daily but history and others favorites are my favorite entertainment. Since discovering many of the fomentors of the American Revolution were really my ancestors I’ve been reading more biography’s. It’s interesting reading and I have an excuse not to get outside as much.
    I’m getting older, turning 77 in ten more days so I’m finding I want my home warmer than in past winters. That means a bit more wood on the fire and more layers of clothing and warmer boot socks. Washing dishes means warm hands for a bit….

    1. Hi Clerylady, Wishing you a very Happy Early Birthday! I very much enjoyed reading your post. I would love to have anything rabbit fur lined. I think that the muff you described on the cord would be amazing when outside doing chores.

      Thanks so much for sharing your own details of staying warm. Many Frugalites can learn a thing or two by reading how you manage your cooking chores and fire to advantage through the cold season. Wishing you a cozy and warm rest of your winter!

  3. It’s not easy to find ideas not covered in the excellent thoughts posted above, but here goes:

    In the US there are some power companies offering a billing discount during the winter months. Mine offers 50% but you have to know about it and apply for it. That’s well worthwhile. Another idea is to dress like an Eskimo in the winter time so you don’t have to pay so much to keep the house warm — which is easier if you live alone. Some to-dos are worth a small electric (or other) portable heater so you don’t have to heat the whole house instead of the small area where you need to temporarily be. If you try the Eskimo strategy you’ll want different gloves … some for keyboard work, eating, etc but heavier warmer ones for sleeping, doing anything outside, etc.

    In addition to the inside water faucet steady drip strategy when the weather forecast warns of a freeze coming … for many years I’ve used a mechanic’s trouble light (that uses a heat-exuding incandescent light bulb) inside a bag mounted over outside water faucets to keep them from freezing. In the US the utterly stupid Biden administration announced that as of August 1st, 2023 no more incandescent light bulbs can be sold in the US. LED lights don’t provide that necessary heat. I’m fortunate that I stockpiled plenty of incandescents many years ago for other reasons. But as a backup in case my incandescent trouble strategy has a bulb burnout during a hard winter freeze (or a surprise power outage), there is a non-powered gadget called a Freeze Miser (available from Amazon and probably elsewhere) that one screws onto an outside water faucet that only opens up for a steady drip when the temperature drops into the low 30s (Fahrenheit) and/or below. That is excellent insurance against a frozen and broken water pipe in case my heating incandescent bulb suddenly burns out or the power dies.

    Cheap and reliable is a virtue that has a justifiable place.


  4. Hi Lewis,

    Yes, I do agree that the comments so far on this article been highly informative. However, I do believe that you have risen to the occasion and found some gems to add to our warming Frugalite stew (of ideas!).

    Having survived a freezing pipe in a house I was once renting, I would agree that doing anything required to avoid that is worth doing. I like how you often share your own idea, along with a product that might help in the same way. Much appreciated! I wish you a warm and cozy remainder of your winter, with all pipes intact and dripping as required!!!

  5. The no-incandescent rule is pretty difficult for those of us who use lights for heating. I use mostly LEDs for the better brightness and power savings, but there are a few things incandescents are really good for, such as stringing old style Christmas lights on tender plants to provide just that bit of warmth they need to survive a cold night. Last winter we had a particularly nasty freeze and I had to resort to using chemical hand warmers under my plant cover, which probably would have worked had the excessively cold temperatures not persisted for so long. Therefore my Arizona garden lost several plants that normally are fine in this hardiness zone. It’s already happened again with an even longer freeze.

    Moral of the story here is, if you have incandescent lights you’d better keep them – even if its just stashed away just in case. In the meantime I’ve moved my ever-growing starfruit tree inside while deciding to regrow my pepper bushes next year.

    1. Hi Redbranch, Thanks so much for sharing how the incandescent bulbs can also help with winter plant protection. I was very sorry to hear of your losses in your garden over the past couple of years. I am sure that numerous Frugalites are scurrying to secure some stores of these helpful bulbs after reading yours and Lewis’s posts. I can’t imagine actually having a producing starfruit tree. Made me wish for a moment that I lived in warmer climes! Wishing you the best with keeping yourself and your plants warm for the remainder of the winter!!!

    2. Watcher in the Rye

      we don’t get ‘real’ cold here in Southern California for very long. But for tender plants I put one or more glass jar candles (about 1.25 each at ‘dollar’ stores) around the plant at night and then provide wind protection. These candles are about 8 inches tall and last more than 24 hours usually. Bonus you can refill them with a wick and more wax.

      1. Thanks so much, Watcher in the Rye. All tips for plant protection are much appreciated! Wishing you a warm and cozy rest of your winter. We have a warm spell right now and we might be close to your temperatures down there! Wishing you the best!

  6. Dang, one kiddo must have gotten her copy editor skills genetically (from me) – author, author, author in the voice of Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.
    Yeah, cold weather sucks. Cold being relative for those who think 30 is “cold”. It is here to stay and it has been 10+ years too many to say “but we don’t have equipment. We’re all likely to have hotter/wetter (or later) summer as well as colder/snowier/icier winters. Figure out how to deal with it is all I can say. Yeah, shoveling concrete snow sucks but we do it. While neither of us leaves the house for pure “entertainment” value, we do the necessities. Power (aka the grid) has been stable here – mostly due to A LOT of tree trimming plus karma keeping idiots from taking out yet-to-be-buried power poles.
    Always plenty to do inside if one is motivated.

    1. Hi Selena, Ha ha ha! You had me at “shovelling concrete snow”! Your comment really brings to life the strong spirit of those of us living in a heavy winter zone. There is a kind of gritting of the teeth and getting through it that happens. Recently, we had a thaw and some rain that was going to be quickly followed by a hard freeze. I gritted my teeth and got out to clear the car and any and all areas of the heavy wet snow that was soon to be solid like granite. We just do it. Like you, I don’t head out in this weather for anything other than necessities, and there’d better be several on my list to justify a trip out! Thanks for sharing your winter spirit with the Frugalite community. Wishing you a warm and cozy remainder of this one!

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