The Cheap Luxury Gene

The McFarlane family 1954

When I was growing up in the 50s, I was one of five children born 18 months to 2 years apart. My mom was under huge pressure to keep us clothed and fed and as I grew up, I learned some very valuable lessons in living frugally. She had grown up in the Depression and then the war came and she had to re-use and recycle just about everything. To mention just a few things:

My mom used to keep paper bags, carefully folded once she’d unpacked their contents. When plastic bags became popular, she’d washed them carefully and store them for later use. I still keep brown paper packets. I use large ones for taking on picnics as rubbish bags; I decant mushrooms, from their plastic containers into smaller paper bags. They last longer this way, because they remain dry and air can circulate around the mushrooms and stops them getting slimy.

She’d store dry goods in glass bottles (not matching plastic containers which cost the earth!) I still prefer to use glass to store dry goods; it’s durable and transparent and doesn’t get tatty the way plastic does.

Bits of string were rolled up and kept, as were rubber bands. I still keep these, because you never know…!

My Dad and sister Barbie with me, the baby

When clothing had been passed on too many times, zips and buttons were removed from discarded clothing and the cloth was used for dusters. Maybe we wouldn’t re-use zips or buttons from old garments, but we can donate old clothes to charities in order to recycle.

Mom would buy a three inch thick piece of sirloin and with it she’d make four meals. She cut the top end off and make a stew with it, the fillet would be carefully sliced for Saturday night supper, the back bit, with the fat on would be a Sunday lunch roast and the bone would be boiled up with veggies for soup.

In the days before commercial cooking oils were available, all the fat was drained off cooked food and kept in a crock and used for frying. Of course, this is unthinkable now because we know how bad animal fats are for us, but in those days it was what everyone did. I recycle fat by crumbling old bread into it and putting it out on the bird table.

Sheets that were wearing thin were cut down the middle and the stronger outer sides were joined to remake the sheets and it would be useful for a while longer.

The Gang

We are so used to our throw-away society and those of us who were born after 1970 seldom had to make do and re-use. We are now faced with rising costs and huge inflation. Every increase in income we may get, is quickly swallowed up by this escalation.

Recycling is all the rage nowadays, and wise consumers can turn their eyes to the methods grandma gave us and learn about making do. The Shabby Chic trend is really recycling grandma’s old ‘stuff’ isn’t it and just look at what fun that is!

We’d love to hear from you about how you Recycle and Re-use.



9 Comments Add yours

  1. Paul says:

    The aluminium deposits in the dumps of Durban were all the fault of my Mother, and the War. That’s the second World War. During the war Mom, like other concerned citizens around the world, collected all sorts of stuff for reuse. We were not allowed to throw away our tooth past tubes one by one. We had to collect them and throw them away all together. Every few months our dust bin would be full of aluminium tooth past tubes which of course ended up in the dump in one big lump. One day they are going to dig up the dump and wonder why there are these unexplained deposits of aluminium. If they get to read this they will know.

    1. Elaine Young says:

      I love it darling! I wonder why they didn’t make a special dump for those things because people were collecting them for the war effort and if they just went to landfill it was a crazy waste!

  2. Dawn Austen says:

    Elaine u are describing my childhood! Besides all u describe we also recycled magazines – used the pics for paper dolls etc. We made toys from match boxes nd anything else we cud get our hands on. Things from nature (stones twigs etc.) were used to make ‘houses’, streets, cars nd much more. We had IMAGINATION! My folks didn’t throw away anything until it was kaput!!!

    1. Elaine Young says:

      I remember the cutouts from newspapers and magazines as paperdolls also the furnite ads were used in the same way. Matchbox furniture…! I loved making stuff and sticking it together with flour paste.!

  3. Jacqui Sinek says:

    I grew up in what was then Southern Rhodesia, where we had to save EVERYTHING because of sanctions. At school we had to draw extra lines at the top and bottom of our exercise books and ignore the margins. We washed cling wrap and re-used it ( I confess I still do that. I never buy it, just keep what my fruit and vegetables are wrapped in). Aluminium foil was washed, flattened out and stored for re-use. Wrapping paper was painstakingly taken off gifts so that it could be re-used without too many tears or crinkles.

    Here’s one of my 21st century recycling ideas. I re-use tuna fish cans in my underwear drawers to hold and separate my undies, bras and socks. Works like a charm !

    1. Thanks Jacqui for sharing your story with us. I think we can all learn a lot from the thriftiness of others. Great idea about the old tuna cans, will give that one a try.

    2. Elaine Young says:

      You were in a war situation in Rhodesia so it made sense. We are in a ‘war’ situation now (against rising costs) and most people don’t realise it!

  4. ladyredspecs says:

    I have nominated your wonderful blog for a 2012 Blogger of the year award. read more here.

    1. Cheap Luxury says:

      Wow! thank you so much, it is such an honour to be nominated by a fellow blogger for an award like this.

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