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I’m searching for a word (a noun, ideally) that means someone who manages to make a little go a long way, or who manages to do a remarkable job given very little resources.

Specifically, I am envisioning someone who is teetering on poverty but can still put together a feast on short notice, or who can make a fancy dress out of rags, etc.

If the word exists, it may actually be a loanword to English from immigrant and diaspora communities, but if so I’m not aware of it.

Sample sentence:

Camille was on a fixed income, and a small one at that, but she was a ????, and with a keen eye for things no one else wanted and an ingenuity for making the most of very little, she sewed herself stunning dresses and once a month managed to throw a banquet for her friends and neighbors.

(Not a great sentence, but conveys the sense of the word I’d want.)

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A single-word-requests Sep 24 at 8:01

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    Are you looking for a noun, or an adjective? Could you provide a sample sentence where your word would fit? – Andrew Leach Sep 22 at 20:24
  • A noun, ideally. “Camille was on a fixed income, and a small one at that, but she was a ????, and with a keen eye for things no one else wanted and an ingenuity for making the most of very little, she sewed herself stunning dresses and once a month managed to throw a banquet for her friends and neighbors.” (Not a great sentence, but conveys the sense of the word I’d want.) – James Nostack Sep 22 at 22:40
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    Economizer is what I thought of also – Let's stop villifying Iran Sep 23 at 5:53
  • prudent (adj.) sounds close. – AMN Sep 23 at 5:57

frugal TFD adj.

  1. Practicing or marked by economy, as in the expenditure of money or the use of material resources.

As in:

Known for his frugality, he did a remarkable job given few resources.

Resourceful

American Heritage via thefreedictionary

Able to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations.

A person can still be resourceful even if they lack material resources.

  • Just beat me! UV. In the Oxford Dictionary "Having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties." – Weather Vane Sep 22 at 19:13
  • While contextually applicable in most cases I can think of, I find that the underlying definition of the word clashes with OP's intention. "Resourceful" means you have ample resources (which you can acquire on your own), which is not the same as the ability to do a lot with few resources. – Flater Sep 24 at 7:10
  • @Flater I disagree with your definition, Resourceful is not the same as Resource-full, To be resourceful means you're good at using what you have. The implication being that resources are at a premium and you're expending additional effort to use them to their best. The OP's context is just about perfect for this word in my opinion. – Ruadhan2300 Sep 24 at 11:02
  • @Ruadhan2300 Skills/intelligence/knowledge are considered the resource when you use "resourceful" to mean that someone's good at using what they have. "Resourceful" doesn't stress the frugality with which they use what they have, it stresses that they have many tricks up their sleeve to achieve what they intend to achieve. Like I said, it's contextually a correct word (and I still upvoted the answer), but the "resource" in "resourceful" does not particularly focus on frugality or efficiency, which is OP's main focus. – Flater Sep 24 at 11:11
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    I don't believe Frugality was the connotation intended in the example, that tends to be a behaviour formed around not doing things rather than resourceful behaviour which is more proactive and creative. My impression of the example was that it was more celebratory than that. Regardless, I suspect it's a semantic difference whether you're considering cleverness to be the resource or that you're simply making better use of the resources at hand. – Ruadhan2300 Sep 24 at 11:12

Somebody who makes a lot out of little is thrifty:

[Merriam-Webster]

1 : given to or marked by economy and good management

// if you are thrifty, you can find ways to decorate your room stylishly yet inexpensively

Penny pincher
(plural penny pinchers) (idiomatic)
One who spends little money; one who is very frugal or cautious with money.

Over the years, he developed a reputation as a penny pincher who wouldn't spend money for anything.

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    Can you blockquote your definition and link to the source you got it from? Answers that copy without attribution may be deleted. See the Help Center for more info on this. – Laurel Sep 23 at 4:40
  • @Joe I've edited your answer to provide a link to your source and add some formatting, but for future answers can you please add links and formatting yourself? There's a formatting menu above the answer box and it includes a Help button for extra formatting hints. Otherwise, good answer and welcome to the site! :-) – Chappo Sep 23 at 5:47
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    Penny pincher is rather negative in tone, like miser or a mean person, but the rest of the sentence suggests Camille is to be admired for saving money, and still manages to be generous (the opposite of penny pinching) – Brian Drummond Sep 23 at 14:42

I would just call that kind of person creative. Here's one of several definitions this word has that fits your description fairly well:

managed so as to get around legal or conventional limits

Example:

He is a very creative fellow. He can put together a great feast even with the most meager of resources.

Economical - giving good value or service in relation to the amount of money, time, or effort spent https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/frugal

Frugal - sparing or economical with regard to money or food. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/economical

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