Friday, January 28, 2011

Making Do

When I was a kid, I used to love reading Pippi Longstocking books. The girl had skills! Not only was she strong but knew how to survive with just the bare minimum. Salvageable was her middle name (well, not really but it should've been). We didn't grow up anywhere close to wealthy. In fact, most of my childhood memories are based on making do. My parents were experts at getting by. My mom used to grocery shop at at least 3 different places. She would spread out the sales ads and then grab her coupons and decide which store had certain things on sale. Then, we'd tag along with her, watching her skill. She would buy a 5 pound box of Mother's cookies that were marked "broken" and our job once we got home, was to pick through the crumbs and put the "whole" cookies in a separate cookie jar. The crumbs were saved to sprinkle on ice cream. She would head over the butcher where she knew just what to ask for and how she wanted it cut. Once home, she'd divide the meat up and freeze them individually.

She baked her own bread, made granola, and cookies. She sewed all of our clothes. I remember when the rage was wearing the Holly Hobby print dresses....she made ours and we proudly went to school, thrilled to be among the girls who had Holly Hobby dresses. When our socks developed sag, she had us use rubber bands to hold them up. Those rubber bands would be so tight that I'm surprised it didn't stop our blood from circulating. She was also queen of moonlight sales, those crowded but fun parking lot sales held at night. Don't think about her going into a cloth store searching for would be the longest shopping trip ever!

The love that I have for shopping in thrift stores and browsing yard sales and estate sales, comes from my mom. She knew bargains when she saw them and we'd frequent some of the shops until they knew us by name.

My dad was also thrifty. I remember the first time he was caught rummaging in the neighbor's trash so that he could read their newly discarded newspaper. I wanted to die from embarrassment but he took it in stride. After that, the neighbor always put the paper on our doorstep after he was finished with it. Then, the day before trash day, my dad made a habit of "trash digging". I was surprised at how many treasures he found along the way. He would go behind the stores and find items still with their tags on them. Eventually, his penchant for collecting led to him starting a ministry of donating food and clothing to those in need.

One thing I've learned from them both is how to search for bargains, look for ways to cut corners and still feel like I've accomplished quite a bit at the end of the day. When I shop, I do use coupons and when I don't, I still plan my meals for the week and mainly TRY to stick to buying things based on that menu. That also means not buying expensive cuts of meat but cooking with ground turkey and chicken most of the time.

What are some of the ways that you are making do?


zunzun said...

We grew up dressed from thrift store finds (no one would notice because my mom was a master at picking good materials, altering and making discarded clothing look fashionable...she taught us all about materials and what would hold up and what falls apart), and a friend of the family who used to dumpster dive (sorry...'tis what we kids used to call it) would keep us supplied w/ stuff that was in good condition but recently thrown out by big department stores/grocery chains.

Anyway...fastforward to now and I still love the thrill of a bargain hunt, shop at thrift stores (although according to friends I have a bit of an "attitude" as I get annoyed how "in" it has become and now it's getting harder to find good bargains!LOL I remember when my sister and cousin would have just DIED if a school friend had seen us but now half the high schools frequent the local bargain shops...things have changed!LOL), and still alter clothing to make it more modern.

Interestingly enough my daughter and her friends see it as a way to stretch their dollars (mixing in thrift store, garage sale finds with newer good quality items) and I'm in the process of teaching her how to sew (I'm not that great but it's a good skill to have to make your own alterations) and it makes my heart happy when the other day as she was cleaning her closet out she came out w/ a dress that no longer fit around her hips and said "I think we should cut it and turn it into a blouse"

I guess I can relate...a while back we were looking at pictures of when we first got here to the
US and someone wondered as to how our furniture looked so good with us being such recent dad furnished our houses with what others threw away and combined with my mom's inate sense of style and artistic eye the appartment looked modern and chic....I remember at times feeling embarrassed but now...I'm awed by their resourcefulness.

Brian Miller said...

nice. i remember pipi longstocking! oh we are bargain hunters for sure....also refurbish or reimage furniture to make it look different or new...just did that witht he bathroom mirror...

Lin said...

I think bringing our lunches to work each day helps a ton, and not eating out too much.

Sewing today is much more expensive than just buying off-the-rack. We can't compete with China and their cheap clothes. I don't quilt as much anymore either because it is just too darn expensive!

Mari said...

I always love your posts about your childhood. I can always see the love in your home shine through!
We also had to make do at our house. Things were not wasted. I remember the work my Mom went through to make a dress for my 9th grade banquet.
I've been doing a lot of couponing and stocking up on deals. As a matter of fact, I'm working on a post about it now, so you can see what I'm doing when I put it up!
PS - I loved Pippi Longstocking too!

blueviolet said...

I believe I read every one of her books at least twice. Even though you were embarrassed a bit as a child, in the big picture you've learned some great economizing skills. :)

Ina in Alaska said...

Great post and comments!

I actually get most of my clothes from thrift and upscale consignment shops. Designer clothes for a fraction of the original price, many with tags still on them. I never fail to get compliments on my large Harvey's seatbelt handbag that I got for $20 (regularly over $150) at a consignment store, never used. The saleslady at the consignment store said the woman who brought it in got it as a gift and did not like it.

When I fly Alaska Airlines, I exchange 10K miles for the lowest possible fare. this way I still get miles and I have so many miles this works out well.

I too plan ahead for the week's meals, shop the specials, eat lunch that I bring to work and always check the meat clearance section at the grocery store. Last week I got 4 beautiful rib eyes with nothing wrong with them for 30% off original price. There is always something in the meat "specials".

We have lots of delicious fish in Alaska so there is always some in the freezer, halibut, salmon, cod.

Just a few ideas. xoxo

Veronica Lee said...

When we were kids, we wore hand-me-downs from my older cousins.

Things were never wasted in our house as Mom was and still is a horder. She always finds a use for anything and everything.

Diva Ma @ Mommy Fabulous said...

I really do love the influence that your parents had on your thriftiness. I have to say, I am nothing like that. My mother was not a thrift-store type of girl and turned her nose up at the idea of yard sales or store brands. And it wasn't that we had a lot of money... because we didn't at all. We made due. Today, I am not a coupon cutting girl, although I wish I was. Everytime I have tried, I leave the coupons at home or in the car. And Meal Planning? Forget it! It's whatever I feel like that day! I too often have to run to the store to pick up something at the last minute because I don't have all of the ingredients. I really wish I could plan meals. Does it actually save money?

I did, however come across this interesting site that I bookmarked just in case I might actually decide to give it a try. It's called It has a meal planner. If you try it, let me know if you like it. Maybe it will inspire me!

Anonymous said...

I was raised by two parents who lived through the Depression. Life lacked any frills. Mom and dad were always living on a shoestring and holding onto $10 here and $5 there. The one thing I remember was their conservation of ALL things, including water. Without going into details, we had no plumbing.

Now? I hoard water like you wouldn't believe. I even combine my laundry, and use the lowest level possible in the washer. That might also be why my flowers die in spring. I hate using up (WASTING water!)

Anonymous said...

Hey there Guys

i wanna purchase a movie but its a blu-ray 1....i do not have a blu ray player though....can it still do the job??

Bless you !

Sweet Tea said...

I love this post because it reminds me so much of my childhood. There is a lot to be learned from Mom's who have this skill, and it IS a skill, IMO. I used to sew when my older 3 were younger. I still LOVE a deal and stick with the motto, "Never, ever pay full price"!

Anita said...

I remember using rubber bands to hold up knee socks! I don't think I've thought about that since I was a child. lol

You were taught well as a child. I picked up some of those values, too, because I hate seeing food and things wasted.

Life with Kaishon said...

We do go to the thrift store for clothes. : ) I mean, I cringe when I have to pay full price for Kaishon's pants. He goes through them so quickly! I have no idea how they all get ripped so quickly!

Anonymous said...

My parents weren't so much thrifty as they were very conscious of the money that made and spent. We were middle class, but they chose for us to have certain things yet live a little below our means in case of emergency.

I'm frugal/cheap as heck! I am a huge couponer and the discount/bargain racks of clothing stores are the only places that I will shop.


Template by | Header Image by Freepik