Frugal Roots, Frugal Ways

Frugal living is not a fad, but a way of life. For many of us it started out generations ago, when there was far more urgency to conserving resources.

Make it Do

“Watch the top step!” I can still hear my grandmother’s voice in my head, even though she left that home years ago.

My grandmother’s attic was legendary among our friends. It was a rare visit to her modest cape cod home when we kids weren’t sent up to fetch something. It wasn’t a hoard. It was neatly organized collections of things, ranging from the sentimental to the useful.

We all loved the chance to explore the pictures, toys and clothing she had so carefully saved. In other sections were neatly folded wrapping paper, empty boxes, yarn, marbles and buttons.

If we needed something to do, wear, use for a project, or give to a friend, we were first sent upstairs to see if we could find something that would work. As a daughter of the Great Depression, my grandmother grew up with the slogan, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Now I see how her keeping everything as she did made sense. [Read more…]

Eat it Up! Love your Leftovers

Do you use leftovers, or do they get lost in the back of the fridge? Frugal living means learning to "use it up," but that doesn't have to mean boring.“Oh, my husband hates leftovers.”

“At the end of the week, I just throw out the leftovers no one has eaten.”

Does your family groan and maybe roll their eyes when you announce that it’s “Leftovers night” for dinner? Well, tell them that is rude.

In my research on the Great Depression times, I found out that the original quote turned into a conservation motto during World War II was “Eat it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” In fact, Calvin Coolidge said that to the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer magazine in March of 1938. He was quoted as saying that these were “the four maxims that made New England great.” By 1942, the idea was expanded, with “eat it up” turning to “use it up.” That stuck, and today we still say: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

However, being a stickler for going through things in order, I will start with looking at how to “Eat it up” by rethinking our leftovers. [Read more…]

Great Depression: Timeless Tips

Tips and stories from the Great Depression on frugal living, cooking and keeping a positive attitude.What if you didn’t know what you didn’t have?

How would your attitude and outlook change if you focused only on the things you do have in your life, without knowledge that others have more or that there are endless things you could buy?

Such was the case of a lady named Clara Cannucciari. A couple months ago, I was looking for something to read at my local library, when I stumbled upon a small cookbook called “Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories and Recipes from the Great Depression.” [Read more…]

Barley and {Beef} Venison Stew

This hearty venison stew is a delightful way to incorporate the texture of pearled barley and nutritious vegetables. Comfort food perfect for a chilly day.I have to say, I used to be adamantly against hunting, and would refuse to eat venison. Over the past 10 years, and with the insight of some very responsible sportsmen, I have learned to accept it as part of how we get our food. Furthermore, between my food allergies and the high cost of meat, I now truly appreciate access to safe venison as a substitute for beef in many dishes I enjoy. I take care to ration the meat throughout the year, so none ever goes to waste.

Beef barley has always been a favorite soup of mine because I enjoy the texture of pearled barley. This Barley and Venison Stew brings the taste and texture in a leaner, thicker dish. Use whichever you prefer — beef or venison. You can also be flexible with ingredients, using what you have on hand rather than having to run to the store. The last time I made this I didn’t have any beef stock, but I did have a lovely homemade chicken broth so I used that instead. I grab handfuls of chopped frozen vegetables from the bags in the deep freezer and have the makings of a simple and economical meal. For those new to cooking, soups are a fun way to “get your feet wet” so to speak. There is so much room for creativity and customization based on your family’s individual preferences and supplies. [Read more…]

How to Live Below Your Means

You know it's important to live below your means, but how do you get there? These 10 tips provide practical examples of how to cut back and save money.In the post “Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck,” I brought up 5 different ways people get trapped in a cycle where they just make ends meet and never seem able to get ahead. They aren’t the only reasons, but they are pretty common.

This post is about practical solutions and ideas to try to get out of the cycle so that you can gain some forward momentum. I am basing my suggestions on what has worked for me over many years, and dealing with all manner of life events. Also, I have researched extensively what experts and other finance writers suggest.

The reason I feel that I can add something new to the great advice already out there is that I do not see many of them paint a realistic view of what I went through. I look at the budget examples and tips, and they would not have worked in my case. I am guessing some of you have felt that same frustration. Similarly, my examples and ideas won’t match some people’s situations, but I hope they are useful to a lot of you that are struggling like I have.

Most experts agree you need to get to the point where you have the extra room in your budget to have an emergency fund, to save up for purchases, and pay off debt. I agree, and refer to that as ‘living below your means.’

However, they rarely seem to offer strategies to get to this point, or the strategies don’t work for those who have already cut back everything, don’t have anything left to sell, and can’t work much more than they are. People who, like me, saw a debt snowball as a fast accumulation of more debt, not a debt reduction strategy. [Read more…]

November Meal Plan

Great ideas and recipe links for a November Meal Plan filled with easy, economical and scrumptious family favorites.Growing up, if you asked me what my favorite meal was, I’d always answer, “My Grandmother’s Beef Stew.” If my birthday did not fall on Thanksgiving Day, it was what I requested for my special dinner.

My Grandmother still remembers making it for me while I visited one Summer. She had asked if she could make my sister and I each a special meal during the week. I, of course, requested beef stew. She slaved away over a hot stove — with no air conditioning and only one small fan in the house — to make it for me as a special treat. I will share her recipe for you when I recreate it for my birthday meal on the 24th.

I’ll also be sharing other recipes throughout the month, some of which I’ll link here. I want to try some things with fresh cranberries, which are a favorite of mine and so good for you. I’m also working on ideas for bread that take less time and would make a good accompaniment to the soups and stews we love. [Read more…]