I was raised by my grandmother. That’s me (the baby), my big sister, & Gram on our front porch.
I learned a lot growing up with someone who survived the Great Depression. Things were not wasted in our house & common sense prevailed when it came to what was needed and what was a luxury. Sure – the occasional luxury was a welcome gift (usually on a birthday or Christmas), but day-to-day meant being practical and using one’s head & what one had on hand.
First off – something was only thrown out if it was ruined beyond repair or reuse. One example: t-shirts and worn out towels were cut up into rags. Larger pieces of fabric might be torn into strips, sewn end-to-end, and rolled into balls to be crocheted or braided into rag rugs. (Some women used old nylons for this same purpose – but who wears nylon stockings anymore! ) Also, Gram was a fabulous seamstress & reworked hand-me-down clothes so that everything got it maximum usage!
Secondly – meals were planned with left-overs in mind. Not just reheating last night’s dinner, but making something new out of it. A beef roast became hash (when I was a meat eater I loved hash!), leftover chicken became Southern chicken hash (a chicken and rice casserole), the ham bone became ham & bean soup (love, love, loved it!), meatloaf was sandwiches the following day, even spaghetti & meatballs (& my Gram, who was Sicilian could make spaghetti sauce to die for!) ended up as a casserole the next day. I love casseroles to this day & find ways to make the old standards with veggies & meat substitutes!
Thirdly – When it came to laundry – Gram was an ace! And – she did not waste water! We had an old wringer washer & double rinse tubs. The clothes agitated in the washer, went through the ringer into rinse # 1, then through the wringer again to rinse #2, then into the laundry basket & out to the line. If it was a rainy day, or too cold in winter, they were hung in the basement.
Fourth – Empty jars were reused for storage, newspapers were saved for paper drives, paper bags from the grocery store were used as trash bags & burned along with the combustible trash in the incinerator. Milk cartons held food waste that was then put in the trash cans for pick up. Empty bottles were returned to the store for refunds. Meat was wrapped by the butcher – not prepackaged. Some jams & jellies came in glass jars that were meant to be juice glasses when they were empty. Not only was my grandmother savvy, but manufacturers were more conscious of what they were giving to the public (at least it seems that way!)
Fifth – We took care of what we had. Shoes were polished every Saturday. Socks were darned. Tears were repaired. Envelopes and other paper scraps were used for lists and notes. String was saved (surely many of you remember string balls?!) Rubber bands were saved. We washed our bikes on a regular basis. The sidewalk was swept every day. Dishes didn’t sit in the drainer. When you were done using something, you’d put it away.
There was no throw-away mentality in our house. If something didn’t have staying power – it wasn’t purchased. Often that meant saving up to buy an item that was a little more expensive, but better quality.
Just writing this shows me that there are some areas I’ve slacked on. . . and ways I want to re-incorporate into my life. It needn’t take another depression for people to start valuing the earth, our resources, and what we already have. A little more awareness & gratitude would go a long way, methinks!