This Week In My Home: A Well Seasoned Saver

As I tried to determine what my theme this week would be, I worked on menus.  "Well Seasoned" seemed to be a good term to describe the hearty sorts of meals that were filling my menu...and I realized that as a homemaker and a frugalite I am well seasoned, having stood the test of time over these years, honing my skills year in and year out  whatever season of year or life I found myself.

I was contemplating this as I worked on the menus and then Samuel called to chat.  I put aside my work and went to the chair in the kitchen sitting area and listened to him talk of the work he'd done in his yard this week, his hopes for the future provision of his family and his dreams.  Then
he started telling me of a class he'd had to attend for work.  "We were asked to tell the defining moment of our lives, when we realized who we were for the first time," he began.  He told me of the stories others had to share as he waited his turn.  " I told the class that my defining moment was when I went into the Navy and a group of us went out to eat at Olive Garden."  He said his whole group looked at him with complete puzzlement. He went on to explain," 'There were seven of us having dinner and I thought Olive Garden was the nicest restaurant I'd ever been in. I recalled that my family had only really eaten out in restaurants twice in all our years growing up and suddenly I understood why.  It was a defining life moment for me because I realized then that we'd been poor.  I never knew it because Mama and Dad were always so good at providing for us,'   But honestly, Mama, I never knew we were poor until that moment in the restaurant."

I put my phone down and cried, ladies.  I recall those years of feeling sick to my stomach that I had only $40 to spend on groceries for 7 people and part of that had to be allocated to diapers for Danny and Katie (she was in nursery, Danny attended Special Education school) each week.  I recall standing at the meat counter wondering how much meat I could buy and how well I could provide for the childrens' diets with what was left after putting those diapers in the buggy.  Oh how it hurt me!

But there were blessings, too.  My brother provided us with deer meat for a season or two.  He liked hunting but didn't like eating the meat.  He'd have the deer processed and bring it to us and fill the freezer.  Mama would show up now and then with a big brown grocery bag of fresh fruit.  I stocked up on items on sale even if it meant buying just one extra item a pay period and Mama and Granny would sometimes bring us staples that were  purchased on sale at their markets. I employed every single frugal method I knew to make things stretch, to insure that we put healthy foods on the table, albeit stretched to the limit with pasta, rice or potatoes.

We taught the children to give out of what we had.  We sponsored a child and sent a monthly donation off.  Gracious it was a small amount of money but it meant a bit of sacrifice on our part at the time.  Clothes were handed down between the two boys but then the girls were too distant in their ages to do that.  We'd donate outgrown things, especially coats, to shelters for others to use.

 Each holiday we made up a big box of foods to donate, filling it with whatever the children asked us to put in to make up a holiday meal.   John and I often received a ham or turkey each as the employee gift at the places where we worked.  We'd keep one and donate the other.  The children would gather around the table and make out a list of holiday meal items they wanted to go into that box and I'd start purchasing those items weeks ahead, scrimping it out of our wee small grocery budget.  They all went with me when the box was donated to Department of Family and Children Services and how proud they were to present it.

I've shared before how amused I always am when the children gather here at home and recall the burgers we grilled one afternoon at a park.  I'd made them up from mashed kidney beans and bread crumbs and seasoned them as well as I would have done hamburger meat and John cooked them on a piece of foil over a grill grate.  "And they were good!" they will always finish up.  And then they reminisce over other meals I'd made.

I still chuckle over a memory of Samuel one afternoon.  He'd asked what was for supper and I'd said pot roast which was the luxury meal of that week.  I always bought a big 7 bone roast back then which was cheapest cut and I'd simmer it all day long with a load of vegetables in it and then serve just a few thin slices of beef with the vegetables.  I always saved the rest to make Roast Beef Hash  adding in still more vegetables to stretch things out and then we'd finish off the roast (using the bone and any scraps of vegetable or hash or meat left and a few more canned items) with a big pot of soup.  I remember that night Samuel exclaimed "Can't we just skip the roast and go straight to the Hash?"   I laughed and laughed at the time because he didn't realize the roast was the luxe meal and the Hash was the economy meal.  He just liked the Hash, which was, of course, well seasoned to make up in taste for the decrease in the meat.

Of course, cooking was just one part of the economy of our household.  Samuel mentioned last night that he'd remembered how we always saved each pay period and bought one pair of shoes or a few clothing items for each child as they were needed.  "I remember as a kid feeling secure because I knew you and Dad were taking care of us...I just never realized that others went out and shopped for fun while you two pinched and saved to make the necessities possible.  I never felt I wanted for anything."  And that statement too reduced me to tears.

I still practice my economies.  It's a habit that has stood us in good stead, making it possible to purchase a home of our own, to pay off the debts we accumulated in raising our family and providing for them, and carried us through that economic crisis that wasn't a depression but was as close as many of us have been to one.  I expect these same economies to see us through the end of John's work days and into our retirement and the years that will follow that.  Necessary?  Yes, they are, but we're well seasoned.  We know we can do this.


Lana said...

Ah, my Mom could have written this post about my growing up years. I never knew we were poor either. There certainly were many lean times with raising our five too but God always provided all that we needed and more.

I haven't had my Mom's roast beef hash in years but I am realizing that many things my Mom made I may never have again with her reclining health. My hash is just not the same as hers.

Kathy in Illinois said...

A nice post to read, Terri. Samuel's words are a tribute to you, a mother who did the best she could with what she had and succeeded. I can see why you cried. I have a question. You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I know all your children are yours and Johns, but biologically, who belongs to who?
God bless, Kathy in Illinois

Kathy said...

I love this...well seasoned! What a wonderful tribute from Samuel!
I didn't realize how much my parents sacrificed for us, until I was grown. We had everythng we needed and most of what we wanted, plus a very happy childhood. I hope that I am providing the same for my family.

Anonymous said...

As a young mother, there were so many "things"that I would have liked to have had for my kids and if I had spent all our income could have gotten some of those wants. Now as adults I guess I don't have to feel as if my children were deprived as they reminisce about their childhood memories. The few vacations were special, a picnic at the park is more memorable than a restaurant meal, the handmade clothes were made to their design and it was special not expected to get store bought. Christmas presents were special, even though fast food restaurants probably give out similar items today. Because they did not get all their wants they all did get college educations, and they all say they are thankful they learned the value of money early by working to help pay for their educations and how much more they feel they value them. Now we are still able to still be able to be in our home, live without a pension and still help others, travel some, and have a few small luxuries thanks to those pennies being pinched at the right time and the right way so that you could hear them groan! Gramma D

Colleen Gold said...

I loved your post ! My children talk so fondly about our weekend trips. Claiming they were the very best. I laugh because they were povery trips I'd go to A&P & buy a couple liters of pop & 1 or 2 bags of snacks.we would pack bread, & peanut butter & jelly, milk in a cooler & breakfast cereal. We rented a room in a motel with a pool a few hours from the house but it had a state park close by. They would fight to be 1 one in the sleeping bag because they only had 2 beds. They swam to their hearts content, then ate & off to run in the state park. The big night meal was grilled cheese in the motel restaurant. They thought they were so grown up when they didn't have to share 1. What wonderful memories we all have

Sparkiedoll said...

As children, we 'had' nothing but really, we had everything. Nothing you could hold in your hand but we had everything that is still held in my heart. Six children..we didn't know about the 7th pre marital son of my father until very recently (and how I love him).
I remember standing in the butcher's shop with just 38p in my hand to feed us...but I did. And we are well. Rose x

doe853 said...

This post made me cry remembering my parents doing the same. We lived in n.j then and the grands were in Quebec, Canada. We got to go see them every summer for a few weeks and I know that was a huge deal for us. My mom would tuck away a bit of groceries in a box in her closet to take with us for my grandma to help feed company. Another memory that has never left me is when I was about 10, there were four of us then, my baby sister didn't come til I was 12. We had gone to the bargain store like a wal mart but not, my parents got us each a new pair of shorts and a shirt or two each so we would look nice for the trip to Canada. Afterwards they treated us to a soda or something outside the store at a picnic table. The forgot the bag at the table til we were halfway home, we hurried right back but it was gone. I remember my mom crying over that all evening, there was no replacing it. I am very lucky, I don't have to worry about money much, but I am still very careful with it and I try to help people out with my good luck in life. I love your stories and have used many of your frugal ideas in my life. Thank you for sharing. Dale

Anonymous said...

We did not have much as children either but since most of our neighbors were in similar circumstances. I remember one thing. Each time we did have a piece of roast it was a treat for one of us to take a piece of bread and be allowed to soak up the meat drippings on the platter. One person each time we had meat. As I think back i don't think my mother ever took her turn but did not mention it. And I know she probably would have loved it more than any of us. A mother's love.
Many a week there was no money for food but with what we had Mom would scrape together meals. To get to the grocery stores we had to walk or take the buss so frozen things could only be gotten during winter. Still we felt so blessed. We were taught to feel grateful and be happy for what we did have We too gathered things for others and took boxes of food to those who had less than we did. That is one easy way to make a child realize although you may have little others have less. Like Paw Ingells of Little House fame we were rich. Rich in ways that have nothing to do with money.
My children are raised the same. Finances also very tight but my husband and I were both raised like that so we knew how to pinch every penny. They got all they needed. Now they are all out of the house. doing well and keeping within their incomes and helping others too. As its should be. They too have thanked us and told us of things they thought so special when we remembered it differently as parents.
We are blessed they decided to live close and we can enjoy their company often. Many people say they just want their children to grow up and be happy That is nice but I like to hear that they are also helping others and enjoy their work and work hard at it. That they are grateful and love and honor God. That they pass on skills and memories and lessons to their children and others. That they love their country and work to keep it free and upright. Where did all the years go and how did they go so fast? I imagine very generation wonders that. Life passes by so fast. We need to soak in every memory and teach and love every time we can. It sure sounds like you and John have done all of this for your children and are now getting feedback that they realize just how blessed they are. :) Sarah

Sew Blessed Maw [Judy] said...

Terri, what a wonderful post. and how sweet of Samuel to call you and honor you with his wonderful rememberance of you and how you saved and gave to your family.
We too were very poor ,when raising our two children. We had to really scrimp and save to make it from one pay day to the next . I always felt sad, that I couldn't dress and do for my children,like I wanted to.. But, as they sit around and talk during their visits, they seem to have fond memories of their upbringing.
Our roast also got made into hash.. The grown kids still love it.ha
Seasoned life...such a wonderful title. Thank you for sharing.

Crystal H. in Nevada said...

I never knew how poor we were until I grew up. Mom made all our clothes. I always started school with 3 dresses. Never had more than two pairs of shoes. The ones that were so worn they were falling apart for play and the school shoes. We lived in a 750 square foot house - 3 kids and two adults. Never cluttered or messy. Don't know when mom cleaned or paid bills never really saw that happen. Always had food but then a lot of it was grown on our property (so many different fruits and veggies plus chickens and rabbits for meat and eggs) or traded/ bartered with neighbors for milk, walnuts, etc... what ever we didn't grow or raise.

Christmas mom must of bought small things all year long. Seemed like lots of present but when I think back on it it was stuff like a bottle of nail polish or a pair of nylons. I raised my two boys on a very limited income too but always tried to make things fun for them. Cooked from scratch most every day even when I worked 2+ jobs. They both have many fond memories of childhood things we did.

True that the best things in life are not always bought. Sometimes it's the time and effort spent. Oh, and the Love. Always the Love.

Anonymous said...

What a nice post. From reading all the comments, it sounds like most were in the same boat. Both my hubby and I were raised in families that had lots of love but not lots of cash. Our mothers sewed and cooked from scratch and gardened and canned. I can't remember ever wanting for anything.

We raised our children the same way. Some of our favorite memories are the vacations we took. Hub's parents owned a little trailer that was parked at a campground about 2 hours from our home. We'd go there for a few days every summer. I cooked, we only ate maybe one meal out. There was a swimming pool on the grounds, and we toured the area. We spent almost nothing, which was just about what we could afford. A couple of years ago, we took our children and their spouses on a trip to Puerto Rico and took a cruise. It was truly a gift from God ... More wonderful memories!

When I hear stories about children being hungry, it hurts my heart. I can understand it in third world countries but here in America? I honestly wonder why. Is it just that mothers today don't know how to do or aren't willing to do what we did?

I'm glad your son gave you the tribute that he did. It's good to hear!! I've made my father cry when I thank him for all his hard work and for taking such good care of his family. He thinks he was a terrible father but we tell him over and over that he was/is a wonderful father. I have a wonderful mother too.

I, too, still economize where I can. I think it's fun. Pam

AChatOverCoffee said...

What a lovely post and a wonderful tribute to you! My heart is full from reading it and all of the memories in the comments.

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