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.

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