Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Time to tighten the belts!

With the economy being what it is, and what looks like rough times ahead of us, it's a good idea to start learning the art of being "frugal". However, if you were lucky enough to have had parents like mine, no lessons are needed! All that is needed are refresher courses! In some cases, minimal frugality has become a way of life, woven into the very essence of us, childhood experiences that devloped into adult behaviors. When I was a young child, (yesterday) my mother and father struggled to "make ends meet". My father was a milkman and worked long hard hours, and my mother worked at home. (She was a house wife, mother, bookkeeper, seamstress, chef, well... you get the picture). I can't say we weren't below the poverty level, but we were sure close. I saw my mother, skrimp, save, recycle, stretch, pinch, substitute, do without, for most of my childhood. I don't think I ever saw her throw ANYTHING out! There were drawers full of used aluminum foil that had been washed and folded to use again. There were butter tubs that were used for anything from cereal bowls to leftover containers to small hardware organizers. There was a drawer for plastic lids, of every imaginable size; empty coffee cans under the sink, out in the garage, down in the basement. Everything was used until it just couldn't be used anymore. Every scrap of cloth was saved, washed, sewn into some sort of quilt, curtain, sofa cover; clothes that had rips and tears were patched, socks with holes were darned. We were able to buy new clothes for school occasionally, but hand-me-downs from older cousins were the norm. My mother used to "stretch the milk" (yes, even the milkman's family had to pay for milk!) by adding Carnation Instant Non-Fat Dry Milk to each gallon that we drank. I used to love the little milk cartons we would get at school with our lunch because it was REAL WHOLE MILK! I have to give my mother credit, she always came up with something for us to eat; even making it seem like we were getting a treat when we occasionlly found the butter and jelly sandwiches in our lunch bag! She would cook a ham, chicken or roast beef on Sunday and then make the leftovers last for days. Hotdogs and beans were served on Saturday's and many times we "fished" for our dinner, when my father had time; weather and tides permitting. Trips to town were consolidated, even before the gas crisis of the 70's. Christmas must have been so stressful for them! My father's hand made wooden doll chair, door stop, and numerous other wooden carvings come to mind when I think of how they managed to make our holidays special. It must of killed them to watch my brother and I pour over the Sears Christmas Wish Book, knowing that they wouldn't be able to give us what we had written on our Santa lists. We were such selfish little children! Later, when my father became ill and unable to work, the money that my mother had managed to save, kept them from total despair.
So, as I sit here clipping coupons and doing my best to follow in some incredible footsteps, I can be thankful that I am in a much better position than my mother and father were all those years ago. I am thankful that I have the knowledge of how to be frugal; although I do not possess the many talents that my mother has, to do what she did. I can't make couch covers, or quilts, but I can stretch a dollar and I do possess the willpower to live within my means. And I also have a drawer of lids, and a few folded up pieces of aluminum foil tucked away.
Thanks Mom.


  1. It's interesting how these things work. My father, a child of the Depression, instilled frugality in my little mind with his scary-horrible tales of life in Detroit during the 30s. Those stories, as well as his habits, made a lasting impression on me.

    We sometimes do our children a disservice by providing them with the comforts and benefits "we never had," or so the story goes. I don't have an issue with comfort... but the lessons about how one views "comfort," how one achieves "comfort," and most importantly... "comfort" ain't the be-all, end-all... should most definitely be passed from generation to generation. You were fortunate to have the parents you had, Alison.

    My $0.02.

  2. And another rat pack is exposed...
    Nice to know there is another word for it.
    Baby food jars make great nail holders. Coffee cans were great for pouring off hot grease(these new plastic cans just melt)I wash ziploc bags to reuse. Leftover stale bread into bread crumbs, cornbread into dressing/stuffing, mashed potatoes into potato soup.
    etc, etc..
    I do believe that our knowledge will indeed help us in really tough times. Cause we ain't seen nothing yet!

  3. Grate post. Happy Thanksgiving,Rick

  4. Wonderful post... I harvest the yarn out of thrift store sweaters.. to reknit! Just to name one of many ways I recycle and save...

    We're being green!!! we're the in crowd now right?

  5. Buck - due to inflation your .02 is worth at least .15! Thanks... I am VERY grateful for my upbringing. You're right though, I'm pretty sure my daughter belongs to the "entitled" generation... at least to some degree. She never had to eat leftovers more than once and there wasn't anyone around to get hand-me-downs from!
    Ky- I confess... I have a coffee can under my sink for the grease too! Leftover mashed potatoes make great potatoe pancakes!
    Rick- thanks! and hope you had a good turkey day!
    Dispatcher- Finally! A member of the "in-crowd"! My mother does the recycled yarn thing also!