I created a Debian 9 (Stretch) frugal (liveCD type style) by downloading the standard (console only) Debian Jessie liveCD and then updated that to the most recent updates, before changing the repository (/etc/apt/sources.list) over to stretch and then upgrade/dist-upgrade to that. In effect producing a Debian Stretch liveCD.
I then installed xorg and LXDE and booted that. Subsequently I've made loads of tweaks and added other programs (Libre, firefox-esr, skype ...etc) and its working really well
For my setup I have a single ext3 partition that I installed grub4dos to (bootloader) that has two menu entries, one which is my more usual boot (as though a liveCD, but where everything is stored on the HDD) where changes aren't preserved between reboots, the other boots more like a full install, where all changes are preserved (read/write), that generally I only use to apply updates. i.e. as I extract all of /live/filesystem.squashfs to the / partition, which is also the save (persistence) partition, that can also be booted as though a cut down full install.
I do use a script that can enable changes recorded in memory during a liveCD type boot to be flushed to disk, so the livecd type (frugal) boot changes that are normally lost at shutdown can be made persistent/saved (handy for small updates rather than having to reboot into full boot type mode).
I like LXDE for my desktop and I move the taskbar to the top of the screen and add my more regular programs as icons within that panel. Simple, but functional. The order of those icons currently as per the attached image ... main menu, pcmanfm file manager, flush2disk (save liveCD type boot changes to disk), terminal, leafpad text editor, masterpdfeditor4 (PDF editor), Libre writer, libre calc (spreadsheet), galculator, mtpaint, htop, skype and firefox-esr. Over to the right I also have the shutdown menu launcher button, date/time indicator, osmo (calendar/diary), net (wicd), clipboard, sound (activates pavucontrol) and activity (CPU) monitor.
I've stuck with aufs, despite stretch being overlay based, as my save changes to disk script is aufs specific. The first partition (sda1) that is all loaded into is allocated 15GB and that's more than enough (only around 5GB of that is used which also includes around 1GB of document folder contents).
A bit like puppy linux frugal boot, that I tend to boot/use the most, where you boot the exact same image each and every time. But where changes can be made persistent, so its easy to update the factory fresh image that is being booted each time to the latest Debian updated version. That does entail having to store documents etc. elsewhere (in a dedicated read/write persistent folder or other partitions). Comforting to know that each time you boot it is pristine.
All running on a now somewhat dated 4 core 2GB 64 bit PC with dated nvidia card that outputs to a 32 inch TV. (Hand me down's (or should that be up's i.e. younger to older generation transfer of kit they no longer need)). But more than adequate for my needs.