Friday, August 2, 2013

Reds Confess to Silly Economies

RHYS BOWEN: Earlier this week we discussed what luxury meant to us. Today I'm extracting confessions concerning the other side. Those secret and completely unnecessary economies that we can't seem to give up.
My husband grew up in WW2 and in those austere post war years. His mother was the queen of economies. I suppose she had to be during the war, but she never gave them up. She'd save butter wrappers to use to grease pans when she was baking. She washed out and kept every glass jar to put leftovers in. And speaking of leftovers--nothing got thrown away, it was always recycled as a new food the next day. Unfortunately John has inherited some of these quirks. When he was going through his parents home after his father died his sister phoned me to say "John is currently filling a container with large glass jars to bring back to America. Do you really want them or do you want me to quietly lose them for you? We lost them.
But I still have to sneak empty jars out to the recycling before he washes them out and tries to store them in the garage for possible future use.
My own silly economy? I use toilet paper to take off my make-up, instead of tissues. Not so silly economy--I recycle padded mailers. I figure I'm saving the planet with that one.
And the one I've inherited from my grandmother? I cut the buttons off worn out clothing, just in case I'll need buttons in the future. My grandmother had a big box of buttons which became my main toys in my early years. I played families and schools and hospitals with those buttons, giving them each a personality and a voice. Good training for a future writer.
So how about you? In what ways do you economize?
So how about you? Come on Reds. Confession time....

HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, buttons! When my mother-in-law died, my daughters (then about 22 and 17) found jars and jars of buttons. We spent hours sorting them out on the floor in rows and column by size and color. Then they each took a share.
My own silly economies. Does printing on the back of already printed paper count? In good weather I put vegetable waste in a pit in the garden -- hate to pay for solid waste stickers and eventually it feeds the garden. I wrap leftovers in wax paper instead of plastic wrap or foil, or put them in a bowl covered with a plate. I realize these are all green as well as cheap.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: OH, I have SO MANY paper bags! The grocery store ones, sure, and also a MILLION glossy paper ones, the ones that are too pretty to throw. It's ridiculous, I will NEVER use them. 
I have a million buttons, too, the ones that come with new clothes, in case you lose one? I rarely lose one, (oops, knock on wood) but I sure do have all the replacements.
And I refill water bottles. Even though that's supposed to be dangerous, bacteria wise. I am SUCH a risk taker!

LUCY BURDETTE: So funny Hank:). I am more green than cheap...we compost everything vegetable, including coffee grounds, and then John digs it all into the garden. (Except in Key West--I haven't figured that one out yet.) But I do have this lingering feeling that I shouldn't buy any clothes that aren't on sale. Which is a perfectly good idea, unless you end up buying things that don't fit or you won't wear. Then it's a seriously false economy. (And yes, I have a few things in my closet with price tags still on them because I made that mistake...)

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I was just talking with Jan about composting! I want to be the person that composts - but I can't bring myself to leave a pile of rotting food anywhere near the house.
Like Hank, I do save the "nice" shopping bags. But I don't think that's weird. Buttons...oooh...I buy the old ones at flea markets.
You want weird? I save the thick blue or green rubber bands that come on the mail - or on bunches of broccoli. I always seem to need rubber bands, like the colorful ones. For some reason when I buy them I only buy the boring beige ones.

RHYS: Oh Ro--John does that too. Especially the ones that come on asparagus. Speaking of which he'll cheerfully pay a fortune to eat asparagus all year then drive to the dollar store to get a can of tomato soup twenty cents cheaper. No logic.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys, so funny about jars. My mother and grandmother did that, so I did, too. When we remodeled our kitchen, I made a vow that I would never again save a yogurt or cottage cheese container. That, I've stuck to, but I do keep a few small glass jars. But only a few!
And Hallie, when we moved my parents out of their home, my mom had squirreled so many boxes of paper clips and rubber bands that we're still using them, thirteen years later.
I do save padded mailers, absolutely!  Have you priced them at the office supply???? I do not print on both sides of paper, though. That drives me crazy. And I don't compost because we have an issue with, um, RODENTS in our old neighborhood, and hubby thinks compost would attract them.
My own silly economy? I use Glad plastic containers for most leftovers, but when I do have to use plastic bags I use gallon freezer ziplocks and save the used ones for cleaning out the litter box. (I'm sure everyone wanted to know that...)

RHYS: So fess up everyone. Have you stranger economy quirks than us?


  1. Oh, my goodness, yes, I have button boxes . . . we compost . . . I write on the back of envelopes and paper . . . I take reusable bags to the grocery store . . . .

  2. I have many little economies. I'm a fairly frugal person. This is more conservation than economy, but I'm very careful with water. I will heat water in a tea kettle to warm it rather than run it forever from the tap until it gets hot.

    My biggest economy is with paper. I am as green as can be on the job and do 99.9% of my writing work online. (Thank you, Track Changes and Submittable!) I never print unless I must, and when I do, I try to use old paper. For my face-to-face critique group, a paper copy is required, and I always print on the back of old manuscripts. That's usually my biggest printing jobs. I can make a 500 sheet package of new paper last for a year. Maybe years.

  3. I confess. I do all of these. Plus I save all the Christmas tins that will make good button boxes.

    I save and reuse bubblewrap especially for the audiobooks the library sends me. They book wraps wear out fast and the library never seems to have quite enough. So when I return the books I stuff extra bubblewrap in the mailer bag. I guess that's not being frugal for myself, but it does help the library.

    I save peanutbutter jars, because they have wide mouth tops and screw top lids with thin rubber seals.

    The rest of my house keeping time is spent throwing out wires, cords, pieces of rope and unknown electronics replacement parts for things that will never get used but would be if I hadn't thrown it out. So says my husband. He's the one with the office that could be on one of those TV shows. I just kick the stuff back in and shut the door.

  4. I am Queen of Compost (Ro, it doesn't smell if you do it right!). Also save rubber bands. And canning jars - several boxes full in the basement. I MIGHT make half-gallons of pickles again, you never know, wouldn't want to have to buy those jars again... And I wash out non-greasy zip-lock bags. Heck, they cost money.

    I just glanced at the title to this post again. If economies allow us to work less for pay and work more on our writing, then they're not silly. Although your sister-in-law was right, Rhys, about losing jars to bring home from England. Funny story!

  5. I love pretty buttons - even the simplest are beautiful. And I've been known to remove them and replace with different buttons before taking clothes to Goodwill (or here in Boone we have RAMS Rack which is the Resort Area Ministries shop).

    I use the buttons on my collages and needlework (not doing much needlework these days, but you never know when the urge might hit!).

    And coupons! I am The Queen of Coupons and once got $64 off my grocery bill using them.

  6. Old buttons! I do remember playing with my mother's stash when I was quite small. Rhys's memory is setting me up for a bunch of my own.

    Mine is that I use the backs of paper. there are always large piles in my office. Green and economical both, so don't consider it silly.

    I certainly buy clothes on sale.

    My husband, who will take a cab home form Manhattan to Brooklyn any time we are out in the evening, will also go around the house turning lights out.

    We are all imprinted by our early years. aren't we?

  7. Writing notes... learning. I used to make fun of my mother in law for reusing Xmas wrapping. And now I do it! Not wrapping paper per se, but fancy bags get hauled out every Christmas and save again. I have a closet full of them. I also reuse nice ribbon. I've even been known to iron them. Cheap... and too lazy to go to the tore.

  8. I save odd socks--they make great dusters for blinds when worn over the hand.

    Hey, we're becoming like Martha Stewart here. Next thing we'll have Jungle Red book of household hints.

    And another confession--I love finding great clothes on sale. I feel as if I've speared my wooly mammoth when I come home having snagged a great outfit at bargain price!

  9. This is so pathetic, but I am using an old orphaned sock as an eyeglass case.

  10. I used to play with Grandma's button box. Now I have my own--all new clothes come with extra buttons. I love to shop good sales, online! Or at an outlet store. I save rubber bands, and still have all kinds of office supplies my dad saved and gave me to use. He prints on the clean side of used paper on his computer. I'm not quite that thrifty. Mom's parents saved jars, string, lord knows what else to use. I recycle faithfully and have a compost bin where the contents do settle but don't seem to turn into dirt for some reason. But I notice my trash can contents have really been reduced. I save the long twisties from my husband's dry cleaning to fasten all those freakin' empty hangers together to give a mom and pop landromat/cleaners to use. My husband would throw them all away otherwise.

  11. Kaye Barley, so you're the woman I want to kill when I get behind you in the supermarket check out line:-)

    Ramona, we have a sixteen gallon water heater in the cabinet next to our kitchen sink. Instant hot, without waiting five minutes for the hot water to come from the heater in the upstairs attic. It's great--except when friends help with the dishes. Because you can't just let the tap run full-on hot. It really teaches you how quickly you can use sixteen gallons of water.

    Our latest green thing? (Hopefully frugal, eventually, although expensive in the short term.) Replacing all our light bulbs with LEDs. The technology has improved enormously, and you can now get warm white 40 w and 60 w equivalents that use about 5 watts and last forever. And they are cool to the touch!

    We've been buying Cree brand at Home Depot, a few every time we go in. We're now contemplating ordering LED replacements for all the chandelier bulbs in house. Ack. Maybe we just have way too many lamps and light fixtures:-)

  12. Reading what everyone else does makes me feel less embarrassed about some of my own miserly quirks!I have time to mention only one; maybe I'll mention more after work:
    I hate shopping for clothes, among other things, so I tend to wear things until they fall apart. There is rarely anything that GoodWill would want from me as a donation. I do not buy articles of clothing unless I really, really love them, so when they DO fall apart, it isn't unusual for me to rip them apart some more and use them as actual rags. I get a lot more use out of some of my favorite things this way!

    Now I must check in the mirror to see how red my face is!

  13. I am loving today's posts!

    Debs, yes, hanging my head, I'm afraid you probably would.

    Rhys, I love the idea about "Reds' Household Hints." I could use a few!

    Sales - oh man, do I LOVE a sale. I really don't remember the last time I paid full price for clothing or shoes. I've found it's really just not necessary. If you're willing to wait, most of the time you're going to be able to get that dress you're dying to have at a substantial savings.

    Hallie, you made me laugh out loud. Mother and I have the best time after Christmas sorting and sharing the pretty Christmas bags and ribbons.

  14. When I was young, my sister and I had to swipe off all the foil and wax paper and save it. My mother grew up during the depression and she saved everything. When I got my first apartment and actually threw away some foil wrap, I felt really independent.
    Then something happened, I got older,and without even noticing, turned into my mother. Gift bags fill part of my closet, all twist ties, rubber bands, and safety pins must be saved in a drawer. I'm kicking myself for not thinking about saving the buttons from clothes that I no longer wear. Now I know where my mom must have gotten some of her buttons. . .

  15. I make grocery list paper by using my first grade teacher's method for making spelling test paper. Take an 8x11 sheet of paper from the used pile that has at least one clean side. Fold in half the long way. Fold in thirds the short way. Tear along the lines.

    This is much more useful than the paper lanterns I learned to make from newspaper in my Lynn, Massachusetts kindergarten class. I really hated kindergarten, but those lanterns were great—not worth going to school for—but great.

    I use bread bags for... Kendall's... walks. My snooty neighbor told me where I could buy real walkie bags. I told her where she could walk.

    My good friend Kay was asked to make a button blanket for the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. She needed all white buttons. My collection has never recovered, but I can visit it any time I'm in Cambridge.

    Saving is good. Right?

  16. " old orphaned sock as an eyeglass case."

    Hallie, please tell me that is not a teenager's old used gym sock. I can only picture my sons'. After they grew up and moved out I discovered a stash of these things they called socks. I'm guessing my brilliant idea of having them do their own laundry was not all that brilliant.

  17. The b-ylaws for my condo complex require trash to be disposed of in plastic bags. I have not purchased plastic trash bags for a couple of decades. I reuse the plastic bags from supermarkets and other stores.

    The monthly mailers I receive with coupons for local businesses are a good source of note paper for notes to myself if one side is blank.

    Like others here, I NEVER pay full price for clothing, shoes, or other items. When I recently had to buy a refrigerator I took advantage of a Fourth of July sale. The last time I bought a new mattress, it was in time for a Labor Day sale.

    I will now remember to rip buttons off clothing and save them before I turn the clothing into rags! I have a jar of buttons inherited from my grandmother who died in 1969. On occasion I will buy collections of buttons at tag sales. It's always in the back of my mind that if I don't use them for clothing, maybe I can use prettier ones for jewelry-making projects. I haven't used buttons in jewelry yet...but you never know...!

  18. Yes, yes, RUBBER BANDS! I would never throw one away..

    And RO and I MET JOAN EMERSON!!! SO happy!! xoox

  19. These are all so great and I also (re)use several of everyone's ideas.

    My late MIL taught me to cut and use old Xmas cards as gift tags and they work just fine, and are pretty, to boot! Thanks everyone.

  20. Well, I am obviously in great company! My parents grew up in the Great Depression, and "use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was a mantra in use throughout my growing up years, which also included some of the war years, with its rationing. Actually, that has mostly been my mantra, too.

    Buttons! Besides mine, I have jars and tins of them from my MIL and my own mother, who is still frugal at 98! When my son's kindergarten teacher wanted some buttons for some project, I cheerfully sent a quartful. Yes, we washed plastic bags AND aluminum foil, and I still do wash and re-use ziplocks.

    My husband thought it was great that we could save vegetable peelings in bags in the freezer, chop them up in the old food processor, and bury them in whichever raised bed that's currently at rest to improve the soil at low cost. Lynn in Texas, I do that thing with Christmas cards for tags. And bows--- we didn't use much ribbon, but we were big on bows. So everyone in our extended family knew to gather up the bows in the bow bag for next time, along with the beautiful gift bags.

    I draw the line on saving cottage cheese containers, because they don't hold up, but when we moved my Mom out of her house, I threw away a shelfful. I prefer good glass containers for leftovers, because you can also heat in them in the microwave! Yes, I save and use coupons, paper clips, the other side of the paper for printing, rubber bands, and more. But I don't feel (and never have) embarrassed about any of these. Frugality helps save our environment, as well as our money. Truly, I am thankful that I learned so many of these things from my family.

    Probably the most important thing we can conserve now is water. So, have a pitcher handy to catch your "warming up" water, and use it to water the potplants, or to rinse the sink, or some other way.

    I have noticed that things like today's blog come up every so often, and we all learn from each other. Keep it up! And all of you writing ladies, keep that up, too! Thank you for your hard work, but especially for sharing your humor, your perspective, and your ideas here. Gail in Seguin
    (Proving I'm not a robot: part of mine is ChePays. How true!)

  21. I'm loving the uses for solo socks...