Friday, July 24, 2009

Recession ponderings... you can live on less

A very true saying, stitched when Stephanie was an infant. :)

If there is one thing I have come to realize these past few years, it is that one can live on a lot less than they ever thought they could. Just when I thought we were at the very least we could live on... another $200 was taken out every month to pay for Christopher's surgery.

I can't say it is easy but it is always... interesting. It never ceases to amaze me how provision is made unexpectedly. Last month I had "extra" money come in so I purchased a few items needed for the garden, meat for the freezer that was on sale at my grocery store, restocked some basic pantry items, and was even able to purchase a few clearance flowers (together costing less than one went for at the nursery).

Yesterday Christopher called to ask if I was "making anything for dinner" (I can always tell when it is getting close to the end of his bi-weekly pay period). Fortunately, I'd defrosted a few items in the refrigerator and could put together a nice chicken stir fry for the three of us. My husband has remarked a few times how happy he is that I had purchased items for the freezer and pantry.

It's a little dicey at times, having to look for change through the house to be able to purchase a small coffee at McDonald's while waiting on my son (he needed the car that evening... yes, we share one car between three people who live in two houses). It is amazing what one can do when needed.

So, what is your point, Brenda??? Well........ it is this, my friends. I can live on much less than I used to only because I have the experience to do so... and those skills are learned on a daily basis over time.

Such skills as:

Baking bread
Cooking "from scratch"

Knowing what leftovers will come together for soups, casseroles, etc.

Stretching meat and other proteins

Thrift store shopping

Driving by a garage sale at 35mph and knowing if it is worth stopping or not

Substituting ingredients or changing recipes when I'm out of something

Purchasing really nice presents for little money
Making presents
Rich decorating... cheap
Purchasing expensive clothing, purses, shoes, etc. for a couple dollars or less each

Building a home library for pennies

Quilting and crafting... but not sewing clothing (believe me)

Well, you get the point... and many of these skills were developed when I had "enough" money because the lifestyle was enjoyable.

Believe me...
are you listening?...
drop the chocolate bar and look into the screen...
voluntary frugality and simplicity of life is a whole lot easier than if you come into a season of forced frugality without the skills.

I am now learning... gardening with the raised bed garden, freezing zucchini, pressure canning, and that I shouldn't plant tomatoes next to the fence in the back yard.

For all the knowledge and skills I've been accumulating for over the years, there is always so much to learn (my original files are from the 1970s when people were writing about frugality, getting back to the land, and simpler living... also during a time of severe recession!).

I love... love... love reading blogs such as those listed on my sidebar (they don't come any better than Rhonda's Down-to-Earth blog and her links to start with). I just have to remember when an Australian blogger talks about winter they mean June through August. :)

It took awhile for me to learn materialism is not the measure of success... simplicity and living a frugal lifestyle are good (and can be very enjoyable). These lessons taught to our children will serve them well.

One step at a time... one skill at a time... one day at a time.


b said...

A long time ago I came across a saying that I've always tried to use and to is "Those who know when enough is enough will aways have enough."

Have a nice weekend,

Echoes From the Hill said...

My favorite blog for money saving ideas, is "Money Saving Mom". If you subscribe, you get emails about all of the great deals out there.
I just purchased four travel size packages of Huggies wipes, for 14 cents each, with two $3.00 off two copons that were in Sunday's papers. ( They are great to keep in the car, as well as using on babies). This was one suggestion in a recent email.
I have gotten many free items, with coupons, and saved a lot of money using this blog's suggestions.

I love your blog, for the common sense ideas. I, too, do most of the things you do.

Tracy said...

Wonderful post, Brenda! You inspire me. :)

Linda said...

Excellent post Brenda. I was thinking about how this has been a gradual process for me and I am living on a lot less than I ever thought I could. My garden is in pots and next year I want to expand it and see how productive I can make it. I love learning new things. Linda

cindy said...

I am listening. Thanks so much for all that you share. Today I am sifting through too much stuff in my office and am ready to simplify my life. Just found my own copy of Frugal Luxuries (at the local thrift store). I'm looking forward to reading it. You have inspired me to change the way I am living.

Packrat said...

Great post!

There was a recession in the 70's? I guess part of that time we were too poor to notice. :) We were able to buy a house because where we lived it was cheaper to buy than to rent. We had one car, and purchased a refrigerator and deep freeze. We grew almost all of our own fruit and vegetables, and most us of here in the canyon traded for what we were missing. We all canned, dried, or froze. Two or three families would go together and a buy a beef. Hunters and fishermen would share or trade their bounty.

We cut our own firewood and heated the house and our water with a wood burning stove. We didn't have to; we had electricity. It was just what everyone here did.

I (actually most of us) made many of our clothes, because in those days it was cheaper to sew than to buy ready-made.

My times have changed. Now, so many people don't even know some simple tricks for making do. Or worse, they don't care; they expect someone else to take care of them.

Oops, sorry for the book.

Anonymous said...


I have learned so much from you;
you are very inspirational.
Keep up the almost daily posts;
they are needed.
Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

I have a library of 70s how to books too. They have been here for years helping us learn new skills and inprove our lives. All gotten for a few cents but invaluable to us. We shop used stores and seldom see any of these books now. Maybe they are on the on line stores though.We shopped used from day one out of necessity. We got all our basic kitchen and house goods used and most are still being used daily. Cast iron pans and pots and everything else. We tried for the best basics we could get for the little $ we had. Never buy junk. Now I know that if we had to stretch a bit buying those cast iron pans they would have still be a bargain. After years of child raising we did start to buy some things we wanted but did not need like more decorative type things used. I have found I love our home better as we have furnished it than if I could go to a department store and do it from there. We did it gradually as we found just the right thing. Each new thing made the rooms new again. If we had gotten everything at one time it would also have been old at the same time! As we have grown older we sometimes have to replace a shovel or such and get it used. We go to swap meets and a few yard sales. This is one of our date time together as a couple. We seldom have anything we 'need' to shop for anymore. Friends ask us to look for things for them though. :) Now being to the swaps and such is an outing of seeing old friends. The vendors over the years have been our community and we get out and stroll and get to share ideas with each other and such. It costs us nothing to go cept for the car gas. We too have lived for almost a year on 0 income and had other times of less but still made it. We have few people cept family that lives like we do but this is our life and it fits us perfectly. Our home is beautiful and welcoming. Our small family is close. We never had anyone who could help us cept our tiny family but as I said God still provided for us. He led us to learn skills and set aside provisions etc. It can be done. We are living still close to the bone but know we could live much closer when and if needed. I know what you mean about Rhonda. She is sooo inspiring. No matter how much you already do you can learn so much from just reading her's and your blog and searching the pantry sites you show us. There Are resources. Just start and keep working towards each tiny goal of self sustainability. Share your knowledge{and exccess garden produce etc] with others. In these times as in any other year this is a good ministry. We have just gotten too far from the basics and it will be like a breath of fresh air for some families to step back and know they can do more themselfs if needed. In reality they probably will even enjoy it. :) Jody

Rhonda Jean said...

A lovely post, Brenda. I love that you're sharing your car among the three of you. That's very sensible.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, and how very, very true.

Manuela@Pleasures of Homemaking said...

Great post Brenda! I love Rhonda Jean's blog because she really explains how to do things. Alot of people that live that sort of life style just tell you what they're doing but they never explain the how and she is really great at that. Plus I love how she's so encouraging to homemakers.


scrappy quilter said...

This is so true. You little picture at the top "eat it up, wear it out, make it do or go without". That's been our motto for years. My great grandmother lived it on her homestead and now we live it on ours. Another great post.

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

Yes, I try to remember "live within the harvest." This is something that comes through discipline and experience--I have not always lived this way. But, I believe, it is a spiritual law as well as a financial one. Thanks for this post. C.

Gill - That British Woman said...

my post today on my blog is sharing, and you sharing your ideas, is perfect.

You have a lovely blog.

Gill in Canada

Lisa Richards said...

We've always lived frugally, but it's so much "fun" to see how others do it. You can always learn. And, I find, that living simply is easier as the children leave the nest. We are now just the two of us, and if we get down to eggs and bread we can still make a meal without feeling guilty. It's like playing house all over again.

BTW, we aren't down to just eggs and bread, but it's nice to know you can make do with very little and be content.

Take each day as a creative challenge, gals! =0)

donna said...

Your strong faith is amazing. I pray that I too will have that strong of faith.

Married life said...

So very true. I love this post : )

Anonymous said...

excellent! i totally enjoyed reading this!

Gretchen said...

I just go back to my early days of first being married when we were a lot strapped for cash. I love baking bread and making a meal from some things I just put together.

You've given me some great ideas I'd forgotten about and will soon be doing.

Thanks for your great blog.


pilgrimama said...

I understand where you're coming from! As newly-weds my husband and I moved to Central America and went through some very lean years which was very different for both of us. We returned to the US a couple years ago with failed investments in our buisnesses and with about 8 suitcases of stuff and our 4 little ones (one was on the way) set up housekeeping again. We lived with family for over a year and now live in a townhouse.This lifestyle we live would be so much more difficult if we had not had those lean years in Central America! God has provided so abundandantly for us and led us to such wonderful communities of people. He is so amazing!
God Bless!

Marie said...

Necessity is the Mother of invention. I am sorry to say that we did not learn to live frugally until my husband retired. I get so mad at myself for not asking myself about "needs" and "wants" sooner. I always appreciate your words of wisdom.

DarcyLee said...

I, too, have learned so much from Rhonda's blog. In fact, I thought I knew how to live frugally before, but she has stretched me further. Thanks so much for this post. I just cut out a new summer robe for myself out of an extra bed sheet that doesn't fit any of our beds. I never would have though of doing that before. Thanks again for the inspiration.

Maggie Ann said...

Ahh, building a home library for pennies..or dollars, I'm all for that. I have a passion for reading!!! =)

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog via Down to Earth. Great post and one we all should heed.


Tracey McBride said...

Hello Brenda! I've been catching-up on your lovely blog and especially enjoyed this post and your list of skills to be grateful for! I too enjoy Down-to-Earth! I also must say that I related to the pantry shopping at the end of the month and the scrounging for change to pay for the frugal luxury of a nice cup of coffee! I firmly believe these experiences make us appreciate our blessings even more. In fact, if I find myself beginning to take things for granted a bit, I might put myself on a "money diet" (an idea I borrowed from DianJohn from our old ivillage days)and try to not spend any money at all for a week. Doing this acts as a sort of default button for appreciation! I'll cook only from the pantry and freezer and not indulge in my weakness (good coffee, made by someone else, preferably Starbucks or Coffee Bean ;). Thanks so much for all your lovely posts and wisdom Brenda. You are in our prayers and good thoughts always.

a King's daughter said...

I'm over from Manuela's blog, and I've used a quote from your blog that really ministered to me. You can read my post here: