Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Like many others in recent economic times, we have cut back on spending and tighened the purse strings.  For the most part, I am so thankful to have our home that the tight budget has not hurt much.  But other times, it has felt terrible.  My heart has grumbled about things I can’t buy  —-a science book for Lincoln, more clothes and another set of winter shoes for the girls, a restocking of art supplies for school. 

I spent most of the weekend re-organizing my pantry and reflecting on budgetary issues.  I moved beans and grains from the floor and set them on the new shelves Sid just built from our stash of leftover wood flooring.  Reaching the top shelf is easy now with my new stepstool (Sid-built from our stash of leftover wood flooring).

I thought about this week’s menu plan and debated whether I could skip my regular grocery trip to Ingles this week, which would make the 3rd week in a row that I had managed a skip.  I’ve been getting by with a quick run-in to Aldi for eggs and butter on Thursdays.  We were out of raisins and almost out of vanilla extract, two things we use a lot in our oatmeal and baking. 

Looking over my pantry shelves, I determined that if we do without fresh fruit, skipped veggies, we can eat mostly beef, beans and rice for supper next week.  Plain oatmeal, no raisins, no vanilla extract, a very tiny amount of sweetner will get us through several breakfasts.  The kids will miss the raisins and decreased sweetness, but it will be good for them (and the adults) to “do without” a few things.  Perhaps our hearts will develop a deeper appreciation for what we have.

I passed a window where I could see Lincoln and Sid on the front porch, constructing another stepstool from . . . . . . . . . can you guess? . . . . . . . our stash of leftover wood flooring

I remembered how Sid had so much work 2 years ago that he didn’t have time to do many things he wanted to do, like teach the boys real-life skills.  Life was so much more hectic then, and we balanced it by spending money on “convenience.” 

Two years ago, when money was more plentiful and time was in short supply, we would not have thought twice about buying a couple of stepstools or ready-made shelves for the pantry and closets.

I realized what a true blessing a tight budget is.  Trying to supply needs on little to no money forces us to be creative and see with new eyes.  Sometimes, it is even fun.  Creativity, frugality, money management, self-denial — this is real-life training at its best, and I so want my children to have this training.  Next to a deep love and faith in God, I want them to learn these lessons more than anything else.

So stand back grumbly heart.  My kids don’t NEED this grammar curriculum or that science textbook.  These things, like raisins or vanilla extract, are nice and can add real quality to our school day and diet, but they are not NECESSARY to life, love and happiness.

instant death to an old habit

Last month, my dear husband spoke to me about a habit he wanted me to change.   

It was not a bad habit, you understand.  But Sid felt that if I changed this one habit, it could significantly trim our budget.

His request was simple — I remove clothes from the washer and NOT put them in the dryer. 

He wanted me to hang them on the new clothesline he had constructed.  Not a new idea and simple in theory, at least.  But I . . . . . . . . . .well, I tend to do many daily tasks by rote, without thinking.  Knowing it would take awhile for me to REMEMBER that we had a clothesline, I asked for Sid’s patience and some reminders to help me make the transition.

Well, I washed clothes two days later, and I . . . . . you guessed it . . . . .tossed them straight in to the dryer and pushed the ON button. 

Nothing happened.

Persistence being one of my virtues (or maybe I was just desperate for dry clothes), I pushed the ON button again.


I sighed.  Then I remembered the clothesline.  Wow — I thought — great timing.  It is a good thing Sid put up that clothesline before the dryer went ka-put.  Another mildly uncomfortable thought crossed my mind also, but I brushed it away.

Then I hauled my wet laundry down the stairs and outside, all the while thinking I’d rather be taking a nap to the soothing noise of my dryer, and feeling just a might grumpy.  But while I hung my nice clean clothes in the warm sunshine, I found myself feeling content.  Reaching down for a clean shirt, shaking it out and pinning it to the line had a peaceful rhythm.  And each piece of clothing has a memory or picture attached to it —– Rachel wearing her pajamas outside and getting red clay all over the seat of her jammies when she slid down the bank.  Sidney’s pants, with black grease on them because he helped Sid fix or grease something.  Lincoln’s hand-me-down pants from a neighbor who had cut the ends with ragged edges for a scarecrow costume, but Lincoln wears them daily as if they’re the latest fashion.  Prairie’s little dress, that used to be Rachel’s dress, that Bree made the Easter she was 2 years old.

When Sid came home later, I proudly pointed out my clothesline full of clothes.  It was tempting to let him think that I was wonderfully responsible and had remembered on my own, but I admitted to him that I had tried the dryer first, but something was wrong with it.

He smiled.  “I disabled it.”

“You didn’t trust me!”  I tried hard to look outraged, knowing the whole time that he couldn’t trust me not to take the whole summer to consistently hang clothes.

“No, no, it’s not that.  You asked me to help you remember.  And I did.”

Drat it.  The man is brilliant.  He found a way to work around me.

If only all less-than-desirable habits were so easily and instantly changed.

Fruitlessly Frugal Week

Ever heard of Fruitlessly Frugal Week? 

No?  That’s because I just made it up.  It is Fruitlessly Frugal Week at our house. 

Sid reworked our budget, and we’ve been trying to trim down our spending.  We have this crazy dream of paying off our house.  But we’ve had some unexpected expenses the last few weeks that have put us over our budget goals.  According to our books, I have only $25 left to spend the rest of this month for groceries.  If I stay within this amount, we will be back on budget for groceries May 1st.  (We won’t talk about how over budget we are in the Miscellaneous category).

So I decided to be ruthless and fruitless.  I skipped my normal grocery trip altogether this week, though I will hit Aldi Tuesday for eggs and butter.  I wasn’t going to buy milk, but Sid is begging for mercy, so I may relent enough to pick up ONE gallon.  He will have to make it last.  But there will be no apples, no bananas or grapes . . . . . . or . . . . .or . . . . . .pineapple (sniff, sniff).

I know you are dying to know what I will feed a family of 6 without a regular grocery trip.  I won’t keep you in suspense.  Here is this week’s menu based on what I can scrounge from the pantry and freezer.

SUNDAY —  Veggie Soup (using the last dying dregs of my onions, celery, carrots and potatoes, Grandma Sandy’s frozen limas and corn) and homemade rolls

MONDAY —  breakfast — oatmeal

                     —-lunch –4 thick slices of bread smothered in peanut butter so the kids wouldn’t come back looking for more bread we didn’t have and some carrot sticks that didn’t go in the soup

                    —-supper — leftover roast I zealously guarded dumped in rice, spinach from my inlaws garden and homemade rolls

TUESDAY — breakfast — something with rice because I have a lot of it

                    —-lunch — peanut butter balls from pb that is about to go bad

                    —-supper — homemade pizza that will use up the last of the cheese

WEDNESDAY — breakfast —oatmeal

                            —-lunch — homemade cinnamon rolls

                            —-supper —refried beans and rice, sweet potatoes I found

THURSDAY —- breakfast —- eggs

                         —–lunch —– bread, bread, bread, make more bread

                         —- supper — white chili, Grandma Sandy’s corn

FRIDAY ——–breakfast —- oatmeal

                 ——-lunch —- pb sandwiches

                ——-supper — salmon patties, Grandma Sandy’s green beans

SATURDAY —- breakfast —– eggs

                         —–lunch ——I don’t know, bread maybe

                        —–supper —-apple pie because apples are what’s in the freezer

Now the real test of my thrifty culinary ways will be trying to get through NEXT week on mere butter, eggs and milk from Aldi.

I just realized that this week will not be totally fruitless since I have Mom’s frozen apples in the freezer for that apple pie.