Waste Not, Want Not


The “Greatest Generation,” those who lived through both the Great Depression and World War II, are dwindling in number and I fear there are many lessons they wanted to teach us that we refused to learn before it became too late. Boomers and Xers and Gen Y became too comfortable believing they would never see that kind of strife again and forgot how to do things as a society (and I’m using broad brush strokes–so please, don’t send me angry mail.) We don’t sew (although the knitting trend is cool) we barely cook, we don’t grow or raise food. Only a few know how to build a house or to fix even the simplest machines. Everything we want is either at our fingertips or a two-day wait from Amazon.

But imagine a time when supplies become scarce or there is an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) that wipes out all electronics and people can’t go to YouTube for how-to videos or ‘Google’ answers to their questions. Now, I’m hardly suggesting that we all vie for a space on the National Geographic show “Doomsday Preppers” but knowing how to take care of oneself and one’s family without an iPhone would be a good place to start. (Said the blogger who is now second-guessing the giveaway of an old printing press in the garage.)

We love Pinterest for all the great recycling of old stuff ideas, but how many of us actually are DOING something instead of just pinning the idea under a title that might as well read “cool stuff that I will never do because I am too crazy busy in my crazy busy life”?
I used to be a teacher. Now, I work part-time at a low wage job where my children can come with me and I don’t pay for daycare. And when I’m not at work, I can be home with them while they are little. Besides that, I’d be paying exorbitant rates for daycare if I was back to work full time before my kiddos are in school, anyway. What I’m trying to say is I understand being on a budget.

So, besides coupon cutting, one of the ways I can save cash is by taking to heart the old adage, “Waste not, want not.” The Greatest Generation did this all the time and we would be wise to take a page from their books. They were reducing reusing and recycling long before it was the “in thing” to do.

I remember visiting my paternal grandparents’ home on Kibby Road in Jackson, MI and learning from them about being frugal and living off the land. They would save their coffee cans and use them for all kinds of containers. They saved jars that could be re-used for canning. They had neatly organized little drawers with bits of string,rubber bands, paraffin and other random items. You don’t need to buy rubber bands. Save them off other things in a little bag or drawer! Straight nails and screws and nuts and bolts and yarn and just about anything can be re-used.

They had a big garden and some fruit trees and nut trees and Grandpa hunted in the woods behind the house. Grandma taught me a little about wild mushrooms. Why would you pay a high price for food if you can get it for a little work instead? Most of us like to think we’re in the position where gardening would cost more than it would save. But, if you plan ahead, gardening can be a real money saver! Start your seeds ahead of time under a sunlamp in the early spring instead of paying ridiculous prices for starter plants at the nursery or hardware store. Can tomatoes. Dehydrate the skins and make tomato powder from them. Save seeds for next year. Pull weeds. It builds muscles and character. Be outside. Grandma always stayed trim and never went to a gym! Learn to eat “weeds”. There is so much nutrition in the plants we overlook all the time.

Grandma sewed us dresses and did all her own alterations and mending. Have you ever paid for alterations? OH MY GOSH! Didn’t you wish you could do that? Buy a book or take a class on sewing and pick up an old sewing machine at a garage sale or on craigslist for cheap. You will thank me. I’ve learned how to take in my husband’s shirts since he lost weight. That’s saving me $20-30 PER SHIRT on alterations alone.
Learn to darn socks. Yes, socks. I know it sounds so old-fashioned, and it is, but it only takes a few minutes. Use an old Edison-style light bulb, stick in it your sock, and sew up the hole. Just try it. You’ll get it right eventually. And when you do, you’ll be saving yourself $6 a pair instead of going out and buying new socks. I know. $6 is not a lot of money. You can afford it. I can afford it. No big deal, but the sense of accomplishment is great and it’s a perfect place to start if you’re new at sewing. And, while we’re on good places to start, sew on your own buttons for Heaven’s sake! You do not need to be an expert tailor here. Just put thread into a needle, tie off one end and start sewing back and forth through the buttonholes. It takes less than five minutes. Save hiring a seamstress for the big jobs. And save the buttons off your old clothes that can’t be salvaged or donated. My elderly neighbor had a button box full of buttons that I found fascinating and beautiful as a young girl. If you don’t end up using them for clothes, use them for crafts and scrap booking. And for crying out loud, use scraps for scrap booking, not overpriced pieces of paper from a craft store. That’s why they call it SCRAP BOOKING!

I know you’re busy. I know you’re tired from long, crazy days. I know your bills are, at best, annoying. So, look at life with a critical eye. Where can you save? What can you cut? What can you learn to do on your own? Be creative! Don’t be afraid to learn new things. And be kind to yourself. Remember, practice makes perfect. You’ll get where you want to be with just a little practice and you’ll have that great sense of accomplishment that only comes from actually accomplishing something. 🙂

What would you like to learn to do on your own?
I can host classes or post YouTube videos if you are interested.