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Sunday, August 14, 2016



This re-run is from August 2011

I have often been accused of being cheap.  It is true, but it is not my fault.  The fault is with my mother.  I was raised by a Depression Mom.

When the depression (giyp*) hit in 1929, my mom was a teenager.  She was one of the lucky ones in the depression.  Her family did not lose their home.  They had some steady income.  For their time they were very well off.  By today’s standards, they were church mice.

I grew up comfortably.  We lived in a nice house, my father earned a good steady income, but my mom still had a church mouse mentality. 

We had a car; we had a boat, we took vacations, mom even had a housekeeper (called a maid in those days) come twice a week. We never went without a meal, and did not lack for clothes.

You notice I did not say we were well fed and well dressed.  Food and clothing were a luxury which the depression mom never took for granted.  Our Thanksgiving turkey lasted for at least two weeks.  That fabulous feast became leftovers for dinners and turkey sandwiches for lunch for a week.  When the bird could no longer be sliced, the meat was picked off by fork and turned into turkey salad which stretched with celery, tomato and mayonnaise would last another week.  Finally the carcass was dropped into boiling water where the remaining meat would flake off into the pot and along with more celery, and left over rice we would have turkey soup up until Christmas.

When I was thirteen I ordered my first roast beef sandwich from a deli.  When it arrived I could not believe it.  The sandwich was two inches thick with roast beef. The sandwiches that mom packed for school were one thin slice thick.  Mom’s bologna sandwiches were made with one slice, and I swear she re-sliced each strip of pre-cut bologna in half. 

At dinner our family of five shared vegetables from one can, and mashed potatoes were really mashed potato.  Seconds were served to the fastest eater. 

I was fourteen before I actually wore clothes which were not handed down from my two brothers.  If there was a fashion trend in school, I was always six years out of the loop.

My kids grew up with all new clothes, designer jeans and designer sneakers.  We always had seconds at the dinner table…..and my income sucked!  Our Turkey lasted until lunch the day after Thanksgiving.  Our trash can was full to the brim.  The depression mom’s garbage was bones and tin cans.

The depression mom threw nothing away.  Garbage became compost, paper towels and napkins were replaced with washable and reusable cloth.  Rubber bands and foil wrap were saved in ever growing balls.  Fat from fried foods and bacon was saved in an old coffee can.  (I still don’t know what ever happened to it.) 

When in season, vegetables came from a garden.  We had a dryer, but everything smelled better when hung out in the sun to dry.  We had a dishwasher, but dishes were first scrubbed clean. The dishwasher was only to sanitize. 

Mom walked to the store when needed.  Dry-cleaning, beer, soda, milk, butter and eggs were all delivered, so one car for Dad to go to work was enough.

The depression mom would have nothing to do with prepackaged food or throw away plastic.  Bottles were all recycled, tin cans became storage units.

I am guilty of waste.  I enjoy the convenience of prepackaged stuff and of throw away containers.  I do not try and find a use for everything.  I would not survive a depression, but I do feel the pangs of depression guilt.  I hesitate before I throw anything away.  I think twice before I buy anything, and if I think I can do it myself, I do (well I try to). 

I am a cheap skate; I am the son of a Depression Mom.

*giyp = Google it young people


  1. Kinda reminds me of my upbringing, too.
    If anything was no longer of any use, it was offered to other family members before being sent to the church rummage sale

  2. we were poor. my mother scraped by with 8 kids and a husband who was somewhat disabled and unable to work. that never goes away. i live simply and frugally for the most part. still, i am blessed.

  3. "fats from fried foods and bacon"... probably were used to fry or roast the next few meals; clean fat could be used as shortening in cakes etc instead of butter. I remember making 'rock cakes' with lard instead of butter, and currants instead of sultanas.
    We grew up poor too, I rarely had new clothes, everything as handed down from my sister until I grew bigger than her, then I wore clothes that other mothers gave our family. Even now, a lot of my clothes come from secondhand shops.
    My own kids had new clothes, but I made a lot of them myself and there were no designer items until they had jobs and bought their own.

  4. After all that, do you know why in the world she had a maid/housekeeper? That part does not compute!

  5. Frying grease can be used more than once to fry foods. My mom would use the grease twice before she deemed it too brown to be reused. Now you can use it a couple of times and then turn it into biodiesel if you know how, or save it for a friend who does.

    Bacon grease is used to season and flavor the vegetables and beans, making them taste better without having to use meat in them. Sweetie loves almost all of his veggies and peas/beans to be flavored with bacon grease that we save whenever we cook bacon, just like his mamma did it. She was a Depression Mom, too.

  6. I so get this. It was the way of things back then. I don't know if I could survive a depression either. Probably not very well. Waste not, want not was the mantra around our house.

    I so know about the rummage sales. I'm guessing I spent most of my growing up years wearing stuff that someone else tossed.

    Have a fabulous day Joe. ☺

  7. Mine was a depression mom too. I grew up in a 'Chicken and Feathers' household so her early training kept us kids fed during the feathers times.

  8. My mother was four years old when the Depression hit and she still uses it as an excuse for all sorts of cheapness.

  9. Depression parents, here. Eat it up, wear it out, make it do. Eat what we can and what we can't we can.

  10. I spent my formative years in a 50-foot house trailer ("What a surprise!" Said absolutely no one. Ever.) and ate my fair share of government cheese and peanut butter, while my dad worked as a telephone lineman and my mom went to night school to become a teacher. My grandma made clothes for me and my sister. But we always had a couple of bucks for me to make a Scholastic Book order.

  11. My mom was 8 years old when the depression hit. Her family had to conserve but got through the depression without too much problems. My mom would tell of stories of hobos coming through that my grandmother would give a meal to.

    My mom was frugal being widowed at a young age with 3 small children she raised alone. I learned her frugality and I can do it if necessary, but I really truly enjoy having the luxury at times of a nice income earned by hubby. Now that we are nearing retirement age, I'm making an effort to go back to frugal to stash more aside for that rainy day.


  12. My grandma was a child growing up in the Depression. Her family lived on a farm in MN and so they were lucky that they could grow their own food and they had chickens and other animals. They didn't starve, but money was tight. Nothing was wasted. I loved my grandma and loved spending time with her, but boy she was tough sometimes. If I said, "I'm full, Grandma" she would never just say okay to that. She would look at my plate, and say "Oh, here...just a few more bites." then she'd tell me how there are children in the world who don't have enough to eat and so I shouldn't waste any food. That never made sense to me because whether finished my dinner or not wouldn't change the food quantities of starving kids in the world. But I didn't argue with my gram. I just ate the last few bites and kept quiet. And whenever she'd get a present that was wrapped up, she would spend 20 minutes unwrapping it so that she would not tear the paper. She always wanted to reuse the wrapping paper. And a pill know how they always have that cotton at the top of the bottle? My grandma would take that cotton out and stick it in a drawer. I'd say, "Why don't you just throw that away, Gram?" and she'd say, "Oh no....I can use it to take off my finger nail polish. It would be a waste to throw it away." These are just a few examples of how my grandma didn't like to waste anything. I sure do miss my gram. She was the best.

    1. That's right. I'm back. Me with my long comments. You know you've missed me.


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