Monday, November 7, 2011

7 November 1957 “A Frugal State of Mind: Prepare for Harder Times so They Won’t Surprise You”

After my last post comparing our current economy’s direction towards similarities with the Great Depression of the 1930’s, I though I’d follow up with some happier talk. There may be little we can do at present to change the world (though every little bit of knowledge followed by smarter action leads to a greater change world wide) we can still become use to frugality in our daily life.

I thought of this the other day when I had a friend over. We were chatting in my kitchen and she laughed and said I reminded her of her Grandmother.

“Why?” I asked, “Because of my clothes?”

“No,” said she, because of that. And she pointed at my dish drain rack which was currently drying three upside down zip-lock bags and a drying paper towel. She said her Grandmother was always doing things like that.

I had to laugh, because for me it happened organically. In many of my Vintage choices since my project began back in 1955 (2009) they were decisive moves to “try out” and old fashion way. To put on and get used to the actions or clothes of that era. What I have found interesting now, is, that after walking in those shoes as best as one can living in the modern world, I have found myself coming to similar choices just by the nature of my way of life.

 iceboxstoarge To me, I never buy things like zip lock bags, as my waxed paper works for me to wrap hubbies sandwiches (when he has those for lunch) or my washable glass covered Pyrex dishes serve as ice box (refrigerator) storage. Today I thought of this because we recently had a group of us together and ordered take out Chinese food. We rarely get take out so after it was all done, I saved up all the plastic lidded containers as they are very good storage.

The idea that we have easy to buy and toss storage would never have occurred to me odd in my old life. But, my doppelganger 50’s personality sees too much waste. A zip lock bag that simply held dry or veg matter is easily enough washed out with warm soapy water, rinsed in cool and let dry. It can be used again and again. When it finally gives out, then it can get tossed. A paper towel, which I don’t use to clean normally, is easily enough rung out and let dry for a second go around or a quick hand wipe while cooking.

The amount of garbage we create since my project has easily been reduced to more than half. This less garbage also means less money, because if you are throwing it away, then you are tossing away your hard earned money as well.

This really got me thinking about how we humans, creatures of habit surely, can change. We don’t have to have a drastic change as I put myself and hubby through for our experiment. It can be little things like re-using zip lock bags, buying a few ingredients to make the things you normally buy, such as tortilla ( so simple to make) or bread. HERE is a post I did with tortilla and Bread recipes.

Even the way we live with heat is greatly changed. We once though nothing of just turning on the heat, setting it to what felt good and heating an entire house or apartment. Now, though we have an auxiliary heat of propane in our fireplace and wall unit heater, we even have reduced that. We originally added propane heat as a means to not have to use the electric heat which was expensive. We simply heated the area we were and left the other rooms cold. Now, with oil and propane prices rising, what was once a cheaper choice is now forcing us to look even closer at how we live. We now have two little plug in heaters that are quite economical. We can move them about. We do not heat rooms we are not in and mainly don’t use the larger rooms as time gets cold. Hubby and I each have our own little offices. My little sitting room/office is off my kitchen and dining room and is command central to me. Luckily, though I might have once thought it a hindrance, the room is Very tiny only about 9 x 9. But, with clever planning, I have a sofa and old trunk as a coffee table, my computer on a smaller but efficient desk and one wall of shelves that hold my books, magazines, decorative items to please the eye and my files for running our home and budgets. This room is closed off with a door and can be heated up in a jiffy with our little plug in and I simply turn it off and keep the door shut. It would be so much more to heat the whole house.

I have even come to enjoy that brisk cool feeling of the rest of the house. In many ways I think of our Victorian or even Colonial ancestors and what they felt was ‘normal’ for inside temperatures.

So, though electric heat can be expensive, if one uses a unit that plugs in (There are even darling little ones that look like real fireplaces) and only heat the room you are in, then you save. And, as a family, if you heat a shared room that mum and dad and kids can all share, you not only save, but you have more together time and chances to share with one another. There are myriad of reasons why we once were more a community based culture and one of those was the simple need to share resources and heat. Bodies in one room shared can increase the heat and have a better chance of enjoying their time there than a house of separate rooms holding one person and big areas empty in between heated for no one. Another place money can slip out the window.

grinder I know I have talked about leftovers before and once you cook more for yourself and family, you will be happy for the leftover. A frugal homemaker’s best friend can be the meat grinder. These are still made today and are fairly inexpensive. I have a version in the Corner Store HERE.  You can get simply hand crank versions that use no electricity and are easy to use. Leftover meats stored in the ice box (fridge) even ground together, poultry, beef, are easily converted to a meat pie for dinner and leftovers again for lunch. A simple attachment even allows you to make your own sausage with leftover meats, add some apples and spices or even the bottom of that jam jar you might just toss away. Give it a good scoop and add that and you will be amazed how wonderful leftovers can taste.

You recently saw a spooky cake a friend made for our Halloween party. As she was leaving she said, “Oh it wasn’t that good, you can just toss it out” and I was shocked. “No way, is that going in the trash” I said.

I divvied up a few pieces into slices into a container to save for hubby’s lunches as is. Then I cut up the remainder and put in a buttered crockery deep baking dish. whipped some eggs and milk some sugar and cinnamon and simply poured it over the old cake. Cover that and bake for 40 minutes on 350F then another 10-15 uncovered and you have wonderful bread pudding. The rest of the fondant covering and the crumbs went out to the chicken yard and they loved it. They of course will convert it to eggs for us to enjoy. Waste not Want not is truly an adage I have come to live by.

Even the use of the car can be altered. I am able to live now with one car as I work at home. So, I plan my marketing and errands in such a way that I try to do them all in one day and as local as possible to save on gas and wear and tear on the car. The old me would have felt ‘trapped’, “What do you mean I can’t just hop in my car and drive off somewhere to a shop or lunch with friends”. Well, now I prefer to walk or bike, don’t have to stress about traffic as much and we use easily half the gas. Unfortunately, as gas has risen since 1955 (2009) for us, we are spending close to what we did with two cars. So there was an example of preparedness that paid off. Had we stayed with two cars, insurance, gas and upkeep it would have been a greater burden when gas prices rose, as well as repair costs just to general inflation.

Learning to do with less or to live frugally does not have to seem like a prison sentence and in many ways is the reverse and quite freeing. And with the outlook of our future seeming more bleak than bright, it is better to get on board right away with a few things here and there. When one really just tries to think of it like this: Every trip to the garbage can, stop, think of what you are tossing and why? Did you need it? Could you still use it again? Was it a waste because you didn’t have the time or make the time to use it? Try to change that behavior or action so next week that same trip to the Garbage doesn’t happen again. It sounds simply and silly but it makes you think. And really, thinking and considering is a lost art in the modern world.

The sounds and constant noise and distraction of the modern world makes for an easy place to simply live without thinking. It is easy to grab that credit card and go or just use and toss away, why not? Its so easy and there are so many distractions. We can, however, very happily live in the modern world with cell phones and i-pads and i-pods and computers AND still be thoughtful of our use and waste on a day to day basis. Even simple things like what we spend as a nation on coffee and muffins. Coffee, though going up in price at the store, is still MUCH cheaper to make at home and take with you as is making your own ‘treats’. So, still sit on that park bench or relax with friends outside at a cafe, but let them pay $10 for a cup of coffee and muffin, you slip your little thermos out and your waxed paper wrapped treat and enjoy their company while still keeping your money. They may laugh at you or you even become the ‘quaint little old lady’ of the group, but you still enjoy the experience and have your pin money to spare.

I know these may seem like simple or silly ideas, but I thought it would be fun to start a dialogue about easy ways to simplify ones life to both save money and to make it easier. I love learning from one another and I honestly KNOW that one CAN change bad behaviors. If we want a new or better life we can work towards by being mindful and paying attention to how we live and spend. The homemakers number one tool is her Mind and Intelligence. Let’s keep exercising that muscle and see what clever and mindful things we can achieve.

Happy Homemaking.


  1. I think these are really good ideas. I am always amazed at what people throw away.

  2. I just did a similar thing with our Halloween pumpkin. It made a much-admired jack-o-lantern, then was cooked, cooled, and pureed and stored in 2-cup packets in the freezer for future use. The peel went on the compost pile and the seeds were roasted. Used it all! Throughout the year, when I make pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, or even pumpkin/carrot soup, I think of our useful jack-o-lantern (who started out as Frankenstein this year!)

  3. I would like to commend you for your whole way of life. You are inspirational and a great addition to "Pretty Blog Land."

    Ahhhh yes, "Pretty Blog Land," where there is much that is warm, cozy and lovely. But also much that is conspicuous consumption (even though termed "thrifting"). Thank you for being here!!!

    Gentle hugs,
    "To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing. None is excluded, but excludes himself. You have only to push aside the curtain." ~Henry David Thoreau

  4. Dear One, I wonder if you really have to have the *dreaded* Word Verification Setting on??? And make your Dear Readers do this *dreaded* step???

    If you really have to check your comments, before they Publish, you could simply have Comment Ver. Setting turned on.


    Please consider...?

    Gentle hugs,
    "To be admitted to Nature's hearth costs nothing. None is excluded, but excludes himself. You have only to push aside the curtain." ~Henry David Thoreau

  5. Auntie-I didn't even know that setting was there. I am still sometimes a bit 'out of it' with technology. Sometimes I feel like an idiot savant with technology. I can get into something and learn some things rather quickly and then other times more of the 'idiot' comes through. I shall try to shut off this verification you speak of. And thank you for the compliment.
    lynn-what a grand idea for pumpkins. Its always nice to get to enjoy a traditional decoration and yet know you are still going to use or consume it. I love it.

  6. Dear 50s Gal,

    Another wonderful post! I remember my mother too, used to always save the Chinese Takeaway containers when I was a child to use for bits & bobs or storage, as she couldn't fathom wasting perfectly good containers.

    It sounds odd, but before I moved to America I had *never* used Paper Towels or Zip lock bags at home. When my mother first visited, she was horrified by "all the plastic" and went out and bought me Pyrex and Corningware. Henceforth, I don't think the transition into not having wasteful things around the house was as drastic for me as it may have been for you back in '1955', because I'd only had these wasteful modcons a short time before reverting back to the way I was raised- brown paper bags, proper storage containers, and dishcloths.

    One thing I would like to mention to your readers however, is although space heaters CAN be more economical, you have to choose very wisely and also be sure to properly insulate the rooms that you are heating.

    Back in Australia, I used to work for my State's Dept of Energy & Mines, and a common misconception people had, was that using a small space heater wouldn't be too expensive. The cost however of using one can drastically vary so you have to be very conscientious when choosing a model!

    -check the hourly Kilowatt Usage when the space heater is on it's maximum setting (it should be with the documentation or packaging)

    -'insulate' your room. If there is a gap underneath the door, a rolled towel or 'door snake' helps.

    -do not keep the heater running if you can avoid it. Just like with an HVAC, when your room gets up to the desired temperature, turn it off. Some heaters do this automatically, some you have to do yourself. The room will hold the heat for some time as long as you're not constantly opening and closing the door.

    -old Space Heaters tend to use a lot more electricity than the modern day ones. As cute as the old ones may be, a new, more energy efficient one will save you a lot of money in the long run.

    -Finally, if you can avoid it, don't run your space heater unless it is EXTREMELY cold in your house. As I always used to tell people who asked for Energy Efficient advice when I was back in the land Down Under, "More Blankets! Socks! Long Johns!"

    Best of luck and Kindest Regards to all of you, especially 50sGal :)

    Amber Lee

  7. Great and thoughtful post – as always! :)

    I also save those plastic take out boxes, they last for very long and has a great size for leftovers.

    I also save paper tissues (yes, I admit I often buy beautiful tissues for dinner parties). I they are hardly used, they find great use for spots on the floor, etc. My SIL looked surprised at me and said with disgust “what if they have blotted their lips?”, and I said it can still find use for rough things like the floor or the stove.

    We have a fireplace in the middle of the living room and that’s our only heating, we just keep the doors open to the kitchen and the hall. Son has turned his radiator on and we have heated floor in the bathroom – our luxury. Now for the next four months son is living at a landscape gardener school and only gets home in the weekends, so I turn his heat on at Friday afternoon right before he comes home and switches it off again Sunday evening when he leaves. We never have heat in our bedroom - I have gotten used to the chillness and like it. When it is very cold in Winter I wear fluffy bed socks, very sexy. ;) The daily heating routine is that DH gets early up in the morning and light the fireplace, very nice, and the person who comes home first after work lights it too. It works very well. Our neighbour is a gardener, so we often get free wood. But fire wood prices have risen too.

  8. Dear 50sGal,

    I adore your happy, homey, helpful, homemaking posts ...

    Glad to see you back-on-track!

    '55 MorningGlory

  9. One trick I always use in the kitchen is researching what can be frozen...I try to use the same ingredients throughout the week's menus to avoid a bunch of leftover ingredients, but it's not always perfect. I realized that a lot of stuff can be frozen, like chopped fresh ginger, and now I rarely have to buy that stuff because I can just cut off what I need from my freezer stash. A new ginger root might only be a couple of bucks but why buy a whole new one every time I want to make that recipe, if all I need is a tablespoon of it? I also dry herbs myself if I buy them or grow them...I had to buy one packet of bay leaves earlier this year and because I dried them, I haven't had to buy a new packet and we've been enjoying soups and stews this fall. That's one of the small things I do, but I also cloth diaper, breastfeed (so we never had to buy formula), make my own laundry detergents, and make my own cleaning supplies. We also use cloth napkins and mostly cloth cleaning rags. It's amazing what my normal monthly budget is compared to my other mommy friends who don't do any of that stuff.

  10. Lol I wash my baggies too. And my foil. I put a sweater on when the air gets cool. And I *try* to never throw anything out without figuring one more way to use it. Just like my grandmas taught me to. Excellent post!

  11. Just this morning I was cutting up and peeling carrots for my hubby to take to work and I thought of how many people by baby carrots which are usually cleaned with chlorine!! It does not take a lot of time to do it yourself if possible. Cloth napkins are a favorite in our house. I do use paper towels, but would really like to get away from that. We reuse the plastic containers from food and glass containers. I bake most of the sweets we eat so I can control the ingredients as opposed to buying something in supermarket. We compost for our veggie garden which keeps our garbage small. Nice to read about people doing even the smallest things to not be wasteful.

  12. I also wash baggies. We don't have too much waste as we make most of our food from scratch. It amazes me, my husband and I are in our early 30s and both of our mothers tend to buy far more premade things or bake from mixes than we do. Where as my grandmother saves everything. Growing up I spent a great deal of time with her and I would see her washing everything from milk bags to cling wrap. One year for christmas I gave her 3 kinds of mint I dried from my garden for tea and she always gives me the cute jars back that I refill and return to her. For heating we have an oil furnace but to reduce our use of that over the past few years we have installed both a grain burning stove and a wood stove. We live on a farm so we cut down trees in the bush that have died for fire wood, sadly between dutch elm disease and the ash borer there are a great many dead or dying trees. We use some of the corn we have grown for feed for the cows in the grain stove. Though this year we are using the wood stove as corn is worth $6 a bushel making it the more expensive option. It is nice to have options for heating. I grew up with only a wood stove for heat and I just love having a wood stove.

    One thing I do want to do is get more glass storage containers. I will be doing this as our plastic ones break. Most of our plastic ones were from my husbands mother so I can't really complain since they did not cost me anything.

  13. You should NEVER use plastic storage container, plastic wrap, etc. in the microwave or dishwasher or plastic ice cube trays or containers in the freezer. Anything that heats or cools plastic rapidly causes the chemicals in the plastic to leech into food. Even when restaurants put hot food into plastic take away containers the damage is being done. Plastic makes a nasty, nasty food/beverage container and can cause serious health problems particularly to children and fetus'. Just thought you might want to know.

    CDC, Atlanta

  14. Your ideas may be simple, 50's Gal, but they're hardly silly! I employ many of them, myself, in our household....would not want to take on a wasteful attitude once we started to "get ahead".

    Amen to the chickens!....they are amazing little waste-disposers, aren't they? How they love the 'treats' I bring them! :o)


  15. I've noticed that Pyrex is now issuing glass storage containers with glass or plastic lids. They're clear glass, not the awesome vintage milk glass ones of old, but they're probably doing it in response to 2 things: 1) the public's concern of harmful chemicals leaching into the food from plastics (like BPA), and 2) the newly emerging frugal mindset and disdain for how disposable everything is. Although I personally feel that #1 is more the reason, if it gets people to move back to glass over plastic, it's a win.

    I'd love to add to my collection of vintage pyrex refrigerator dishes. Are the glass lids really airtight enough to store leftovers? (I only have the smaller pieces right now, that I use as my salt and sugar dishes).

    The one drawback to using glass for storage of leftovers is reheating in the microwave. The dishes get so hot and are kinda iffy to get out using potholders (at least the ones I have are like this). I know, one shouldn't use the microwave in the first place, but when limited on time during a lunch break from work it's kind of a necessity.

  16. I try to use everything to the max and waste as little as possible.

    T-shirts are a good example when we first buy them we wear them to go to work, when they become less bright we wear them on the weekend, then to work around the house and they end their lives as rags.

    When the veggies are a bit soft I make a soup. It's usually called cream of greens or cream of leftovers.

    Instead of raising the heat we wear sweaters. When I was young during the day the thermostat was set at 68F and at night 65F but we got used to it and dealt with it.

    Prices are going up all the time and we need to stretch our bucks. I rarely buy ready to eat items I make most everything from scratch. It's less expensive and better for you.

    This was a great post. Thank you for sharing your thrifty point of view :)

  17. So many good tips and responses, I am sure I am going to miss responding to some.
    Besty-what you could do for micro reheat is keep a glass plate at work with a set of silverware and glass and teacup(this is what hubby does) and then simply 'plate' your meal from the glass container to the plate. The plate will not get too hot and you also have a nice quick but beautiful presentation. Its like eating out but not as expensive, more time for you as not having to go and wait for service and no need for tip (except for a sweet thank you to the person who packed the lunch). This also saves on throw away at work. Hubby, since 1955, is always astounished at the amount of waste and throw away in his eating area at work. Before our time travel he noticed but not to the degree he does now that we use the same stuff over and over. He even brings in tea bags to have his own hot brewed tea without leaving the building, it really saves money and is easier for the person in the long run, no standing in lines!
    As far as plastic leaching, My ice cube trays, though I now am using a dorm sized modern fridge, are still the metal ones from my 50's fridge. These are wonderful because they have the lever to pop out the ice rather than the annoyance of twisting the plastic ones. And for me the leaching isnt an issue. and if one used leftover plastic (not bought but leftover) to store at fridge temp and then plate BEFORE micro then there is not heating happening and there is no freezing if they are in the icebox not the freezer.
    Good points too about laundry detergent and cleaner, I forgot to mention those. Vinegar, baking soda and water clean MANY things and are really cheap and easy to refill.
    and of course, I forgot to mention with my little heater this biggest aid is layering sweaters. I also buy heavy duty wool tights, cut them off to make stockings (simply serge or zig zag the tops with your machine) and wear with my garters for warm legs with my skirts in the house. I am planning on making a sort of housecoat creation this year out of wool, long floor length, button up that is almost a hybrid Edwardian/1950s style gown that I can wear over my clothes in the house. This will add a layer, look nice, be fun to wear and allow me to keep heat off as much as possible when I am home alone.

  18. oh and Missfifi-another fun carrot tip, simply a good scrub with a veg brush makes peeling carrots often not even necessary. The outer layer has many nutrients and just tastes of carrot, especially when cooking the carrot. I like the look and as long as the soil is removed they are fine to eat this way. Just as, though it is not as 1950's, I often leave on potato skins in many circumstances esp in mashed potatoes. It is easier, healthier and, I think, prettier especially if the potatoes have a lovely colored skin like red or purple. Another excuse to try those fun colored potatoes in your garden next year. And don't forget, even if you are an apartment dweller, potatoes are easily grown in buckets and containers that take up the same amount of space as a good size geranium or flowering plant, but you get to eat your creation AND the potato has a lovely flower. And when the flower dies you know it is time to dig up your delicious food!

  19. Agree about leaving peelings on for carrots and potatoes. I've never, never understood the logic behind peeling potatoes! Just eat them. Peeling them is such a waste of time, as well as waste of food. As for carrots I'm a recent peel-on convert. I never made the connection between thinking it was silly to peel potatoes, but continuing to peel carrots, until one day I just said, "Why?" As long as they're clean, makes no difference in taste. And saves time prepping.

  20. I LOVE it when you do these kinds of posts, they inspire me so much to try and make small, but doable, changes. :o)

  21. What a coincidence! I was reading a vintage 1898 leftovers cookbook on my Nook just this afternoon. Most of the recipes looks quite tasty.

  22. i love your homemaking posts! as a homemaker myself (that has a small home business that takes up about 25% of my time), i'm always interested in learning the vintage way. both of my lovely grandmother's (who were married & raised their children in the 50's & 60's) are both gone now. i've always had a love affair with this time period, and i'm sad i can't chat with them about it.


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