Monday, March 28, 2011

The Price You Pay

Growing up with parents who lived through the Great Depression certainly made its impact on me. Raising four children close in age (then having me a little later on), they learned the value of a dollar very early on in their lives.

Their penny-pinching tendencies are often on my mind too, even in the 21st century. I use every little bit of chicken on a roast, stretching the meat to fix several dishes afterward, and I typically make a soup with the carcass. I feel guilty when I don't. I scrape every last little bit of peanut butter from the jar or so I think, but I always imagine that if my Mom were next to me, she'd be scolding me for not doing it more thoroughly and then she'd demonstrate how she can get another two tablespoons of peanut butter with a little more attention. Old towels? I use them until they are threadbare then cut them into rags. And when pay day is a long way off, I make do with the food in the house by getting creative. No eggs? I find a cookie recipe that doesn't use eggs. No more sour cream? I use cottage cheese instead. I get every last drop of shampoo from the bottle and I am ridiculous about squeezing out every last little bit the toothpaste. I hear Mom's voice daily.

When something breaks or when I need to enlist someone's service, I hear Dad's voice. I am no where near as handy as he is, but I do my best to patch cracks in the furniture or to rebuild a drawer when it falls apart. I find it a challenge to re-purpose items and knowing how very organized he's always been with his bill records, I again chastise myself when my scribbles in a notebook get a little sloppy. How much am I paying for oil now? How much was I paying last year? I should know that. How much is gas this week? Why aren't I paying more attention to that? Where I falter, I vow to do better next time. I turn the heat down and put on a second sweater. I don't run the water too much when I wash my face. I remind my children to unplug their electronics and to turn off the lights in empty rooms.

I remember talking to my Mom one day in recent years, telling her how I often feel guilty for buying ready-to-eat snacks or prepackaged chips to throw into lunch bags each school day. I told her of the cut and pre-washed carrots I buy and of the expensive muffins I pick up at the grocery store's bakery. I tried to justify that it's easier to do this when I am working full time, but that in the summer I cut back on such convenience items. I thought I'd be flashed a look of disapproval or given a crisp reminder of my wastefulness, but instead she quickly joined me in saying how very busy I am as a working mom of three active children and she stressed that "time is money". Once again, she supported my adult decisions and made me realize I usually am doing the best I can.

Yet, for everything they did for me in my childhood and for everything they sacrificed so that we could have more, I honor my Mom and my Dad as best I can by cutting back, stretching groceries, and conserving energy. I cannot and will not ever be able to scrape the peanut butter jar without thinking of my Mom and I'll continue making homemade soups. I will never pay the oil bill without looking at the price of oil today and thinking of my Dad and his book-keeping logs of expenses. Waste not, want not. As if it were not already obvious, the lessons my Depression Era parents have taught me over the years are priceless.

"Waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both. Without industry and frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything."
-- Benjamin Franklin

1 comment:

  1. To this day there is nothing
    I enjoy more than a scratchy
    loofah like towel after showering, guess
    it's due to my frugal upbringing.
    Spa exfoliating treatment!