My mother loved a good sale. Chicken and ground round at a bargain at the A&P? Fill the freezer! Socks and underwear on sale at Sears? Stock up! Everything from Maxwell House Coffee to Viva paper towels, from Gleem tooth paste to Castile Shampoo was stocked in a storage room in our basement. The commercial 40 cu. ft. freezer was always full. My friends often laughed and said we had our own store in the basement. Personally, I thought my dear mother was eccentric and maybe even a bit nutty.
My father, had his own ways to economize. “You’re cold?” he’d say. “Put on a sweater.” Air conditioning? Not a chance in our house. “Shut the door, you’re letting the heat out!’ “Turn off the lights!” Paper? You’d better use both sides! Scraps went into a drawer for grocery lists and little notes. If I wanted money for spending, I had to earn it. Paper plates were exceedingly rare, even on picnics. Disposable anything was a novelty in our home. You need to go somewhere? Walk. No need to waste gas.
Together, my parents saved and reused rubber bands, string, and paper clips. Pencils were used till they were too small to hold comfortably. Old sheets and towels became rags for cleaning and polishing. Shoes were repaired, not replaced, as long as they still fit. On and on it went.
I still remember feeling slightly embarrassed by their frugal ways. At the time, I thought they were just cheap. Now, I understand and have grown to respect and admire their ingenuity and determination. The older I get and the worse this economy gets, the more I appreciate the lessons they taught me. Of course, I didn’t always live those lessons. I’ve wasted my share of just about everything imaginable. But here I am now sitting at my desk wearing a cozy sweater. For dinner, I plan to turn leftover pasta con pesto into a delicious frittata. I have a little stack of paper “scraps” sitting in my desk for lists and little notes. Next to that are small jars I scraped out well, washed and carefully removed the labels from. They’re filled with rubber bands, string, and paper clips. Old towels serve as rags in my kitchen in place of paper towels. My freezer is full of homemade pies and baked goods I made last summer and fall, as well as meats and other items all purchased on sale, of course.
I’ll bet my grandson thinks I’m a bit nutty. Just the thought makes me smile. I only hope he is watching and learning and that he will be wiser than I. I hope his entire generation will grow up to be thrifty and not be as wasteful as my generation was. We have taken far too long to learn the lessons of the Great Depression; perhaps his generation will do better.