Wisebread wrote about her parents’ extreme frugality, leading to an interesting discussion on the difference between being poor and frugal. When I was growing up, my parents were able to purchase good quality food, clothes and furniture. But my mother did not believe in wasting resources.
Here are twenty ways my mother was frugal:
- Cooking with little water. Using less water preserves nutrition and saves on cooking costs. But my mother always burned the potatoes, while everything else was cooked to perfection.
- Same with the kettle. It always held enough for only one or two cups of tea, to save on cooking gas. Forget teabags, there was always tea steeped from whole leaves.
- Using margarine or butter wrappers to grease pans. Frugality aside, this works great.
- Scraping out the last of the egg white from inside the shell with an index finger. I still do this; you can get about a teaspoon that way.
- Setting the heater thermostat to 62 degrees Fahrenheit, when Gerald Ford recommended 65. She claimed that the kitchen, where we mostly sat, was warmer because of the pilot light on the stove. The thermostat was located in the living room. I think she set it to 55 at night. Once when my parents went out for the evening I turned it up to 64.5 and reset it just before they got home. As soon as she walked in the door, my mother ran to check it. My sister recalls getting caught for changing it to 63.
- Hanging blankets over the windows to keep out the winter air and making the house seem unoccupied. Once, when the car had sat in the driveway for a few days, an intruder tried to enter the house through the garage. When my mother called to ask who it was he ran away.
- Using the barest amount of anything including soap, tape, butter, oil, sugar, paper towels, water, and electricity. I remembered being appalled when a school friend wrapped a package with an excessive amount of tape. She laughed when I suggested using less, and the teacher praised her because it looked nice.
- Saving wine left in glasses after the Passover seder to cook with (but only from family members).
- Saving barely used Chinet fancy paper dinner napkins for cleaning up spills.
- My Mother’s Re-Recycled Meat Soup.
- Making a menu after seeing what was on sale, and the price and quality of the produce.
- Hanging clothes year round. She set up lines in the boiler room (another pilot light) and in the backyard. No dryer.
- Filling the hot oven with several batches of food, rarely turning it on for just one item.
- Collecting cold items next to the refrigerator so they could be put away at once. I just suggested this in my posts, tips for saving on your refrigerator bill.
- Making one pot of coffee in the morning and reheating it in a saucepan throughout the day. Wisebread’s mother did that for several days. I never thought of this as so frugal. Maybe my parents drank more coffee.
- Throwing out a jar of cooked rice every few months, and nothing else (unless it was inedible, rarely, or had been leftover on a guest’s plate).
- Scraping off the bottom layer of burnt cookies.
- Cutting off mold on cheese and serving the rest (also on Wisebread’s list).
- Making gribenes, or rendered chicken fat, from fat and wings. I guess that’s the kosher equivalent of bacon grease. But my mother discarded most fat from soups and was more health conscious than most 70’s moms.
- Putting half the loaf of sliced bread in the freezer until it was needed, saying, “A slice of bread takes no time to defrost.”
My sister reminded me of two more:
- Using half a paper towel. Tightwad Gazette suggests cutting the whole roll in half.
- Saving energy when making Jello by heating up only half the water to dissolve the powder. Use cold water for the rest.
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