I come from a long line of strong, independent, frugal women. My gram was a child of the great depression born of Italian immigrants. The stories are pretty fantastic.
My mom was divorced from my dad before I was two and there were a lot of years that she was a single mom. Even after she married my stepdad, she never lost the ability to stretch a dollar. Coupons for food and rummage sales for clothes were a necessity and later became entertainment. The coupon box was huge!!
I had some really great dresses that cost less than a dollar in high school! My favorite was the rummage sale put on by the ladies of the Jewish Synagogue in the summer. They had the best stuff! We would go get in line bright and early in the morning with Aunt Cecile every year. You had to go early to get the best stuff. Beautiful wool coats and barely worn shoes. The costume jewelry was my favorite! And if you went out to breakfast and went back, you could hit the “stuff a bag for a dollar” at the end of the sale. Boy, could we stuff a bag!!! Some of my favorite memories.
Cheerios were the cold cereal of choice. There must have been some really great coupons for plain Cheerios in the 80’s because that was pretty much all we ate for cold cereal. I was never a fan. You had to dump a cup of sugar on them to make them taste good and then all the sugar would settle in the bottom of the bowl leaving really sweet milk yet still tasteless (and just a tad sweet) bowl of Cheerios. I remember when I got my first job, I would buy Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs with my own money. Still, not a fan of Cheerios.
We used wood to heat and just about everything was made from scratch. We had a huge garden, too! I remember (not too fondly) of having to go outside into the garden and pick beans. I am telling you, I was NOT a fan of the picking of the beans. Nor was I a fan of the outside, really…
There were shelves in the basement that held all the canned goods from the previous summer. Mom still does this, by the way. She is an award-winning “pickler” at the fair! My husband LOVES her pickles and the relish!! Oh, the relish!!! My son loves the grape jelly and I will take whatever she wants to give me just so I don’t have to buy it!! But I do not have the green thumb ability. I have tried to grow vegetables and have been unsuccessful. It isn’t my thing. So, I accept her food donations.
There are things that I have learned from my mom that I will forever be grateful for. The ability to whip up a dinner in under 30 minutes from leftovers in the refrigerator. Freezer Soup. Buying great sweaters at The Salvation Army.
I am frugal. My husband says I am “tighter than bark to a tree”. My son knows what a budget is.
I don’t buy clothes unless they are on sale. I shop at discounted grocery stores. I try to make most foods from scratch. I don’t do processed foods too much. I spend much less than the average household on groceries. And doing this spending freeze, trying to meet my financial goals, I have pulled all of these tips and tricks out of that place in my memory, dusted them off, and put them into play again.
So, thank you, Mama. Thank you for teaching me how to be frugal and for showing me you can have a good life without spending a fortune! As much as it pains me to say this and as much as you will rejoice in hearing it…
Thank you and I love you.