Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Location
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Birthday
June 14
Title
VP, Repartee
Company
Swift Retorts
Bio
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me

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MARCH 26, 2010 12:01PM

The Perfect Two-Fer, How to Save Money & Embarrass Your Kids

Rate: 63 Flag

 money

Raising a family in today's tough economic climate isn't easy. Guess what? It's never been easy, except for the rich. In our family we have The Legend of Mrs. Swift as guidance.

So, herein I present the Savings Stylings of my late mother-in law. They are all 100 per cent true.

My MIL grew up during the Depression, the second of five siblings, all first generation Americans in a modest immigrant family.

An incredibly determined young woman, she worked hard from childhood, eventually putting herself through university by working to earn a year's tuition, going to classes a year, working for the next year, going back to school, and so on ... for the seven years it took her to get a full BS in Chemistry.

She became a school teacher. She married and had three sons, my husband the eldest. She never lost her frugal ways, in fact her ingenuity in stretching a dollar only increased as her family grew.

But, well, her novel money-saving techniques also became more and more, let's say, unusual. I'm being kind. You'll see.

Her three sons have told these stories and others for years, always with love and respect. But also with rueful humor and no small amount of discomfort at the memories of her obvious eccentricities.

Think I'm exaggerating? Take yourself back, become a kid anywhere from age 5 to 15 and imagine this...



salami   knf brd
1. Why pay when you can bring your own?
Taking 3 boys to the movies, even the Saturday Lunchtime Matinee Special, can get expensive. They charge an arm and a leg for soda and popcorn in there. Forget the local restaurants for lunch, they're even more expensive.

Here's the thing. To this day the boys all remember sliding down in their seats, eyes rolling, hisssing "Mo-ohmm" as she pulled from her cavernous purse a half loaf of bread, a jar of mustard, a salami and --oh yes, really-- a small cutting board and a knife.

By the light of the movie she'd get busy slicing and spicing, making them sandwiches. They were too hungry to refuse, but kept their heads down as people in surrounding seats began sniffing the pungent air, "What's that smell? Is somebody eating salami??"

soda

Then, out came the cans of warm, off-brand soda, cheaper by far than concession stand Cokes. They all swear she'd wait til the quietest moment in the movie, then wshsssss, wshsssss, the sounds of the cans opening echoed throughout the theater.

They claim they watched some movies from the sticky floor, too humiliated to risk being seen.

The woman was barely 5 feet tall. How she corralled 3 rowdy boys while schlepping a purse easily the size and weight of a 9 month old baby is beyond anyone's comprehension.

bcake
2. One party for the price of two.
My husband's birthday is near the end of July. His brother was born barely 14 months later in November. The youngest brother came 4 years later, so he was out of this particular loop.

You can't have a birthday party at the end of July. School's out, people are on vacation, away visiting relatives, whatever.

Plus, let's face it, the cost of throwing three birthday parties a year can add up. So, she held a joint birthday party for the two older boys in November, usually on a weekday after school, making a main meal unnecessary.

Just pretzels and soda. Oh, and a homemade cake. One. For both of them. Okay, a sheet cake, but still, pretty small pieces for each attendee.

To her credit, she was scrupulously fair. She kept a list of who invited her boys to parties and made sure they returned the favor, even --in fact, especially-- all the dweebs they normally wouldn't be caught dead talking to, much less entertaining. (Another reason for November, somebody who was "owed" an invitation might not be able to join a party in July).

Here's the thing. She didn't believe in exchanging gifts, celebrating birthdays or fussing over any occasions within the immediate family, except for Jewish holidays. So her sons' birthdays were public affairs, only held to reciprocate the invitations they'd accepted from their friends.

And she never got around to explaining the whole July-not-good rationale. So, while the two older boys knew they were born a year apart, until they were 9 and 10 both thought they shared the same November birthday! July passed without a ripple, my husband having no idea his real birthday had passed too.

Note: I make a BFD about my husband's birthday every single year. He still can't get enough and grins like a little kid.

pillow case

3. Practical gifts have lasting value. A cheap plastic toy has none.
This could be presented as a sidebar, but well, you'll see. Many of us learned from our elders the importance of squirreling away sale items for a rainy day. My thrifty MIL wrote the book on that practice. Towels, pillowcases and shower curtains were prime finds apparently, as her closets were filled with them.

It's almost impossible to gauge the humiliation of a 9-year-old boy handing over a set of pillow cases as a birthday gift. A Lone Ranger set, well, maybe. Daniel Boone or cartoon figures would at least be in the ballpark.

But no, just plaids or prints or (god-forbid) flowers that had been on the Reduced table, then languished in a closet waiting for the opportunity to strike.

Here's the thing. I can attest to this practice personally. Our son received from his grandmother on his 5th birthday ... a 3-piece towel set: bath size, hand towel and washcloth.

Practical? You bet. Bless his heart, he thanked her with a kiss and moved on to open a Ghostbusters car from his best friend. I washed the towels and hung them in his bathroom.

What? I should have regifted them? Not after his innocent class act showed me up.

clothes

4. If the richest man in town can wear old clothes, so can you.
My husband and his brothers swear that aside from each receiving a brand new Bar Mitzvah suit, all their everyday clothes were hand-me-downs.

Hey, don't get me wrong, we all share kids clothes (and our own) with relatives and good friends if we're smart. Still, occasionally a new shirt or pair of jeans or for sure new underwear could be purchased. Nope. Too many older cousins with too many bags of clothes to give away.

But boy clothes, especially back then in more free range play days, were vigorously worn. Con gusto. Holes in knees, seats, elbows were the norm. Plus, the older cousins' clothes never seemed to arrive in the right sizes at the right time.

There are stacks of photos of the three boys with big rolled up sleeves and pant legs, bodies barely visible under hugely oversized winter coats, and all clothes carefully mended with patches, many meant for girls. (They are well hidden, not allowed to be shown to anyone. We laugh at them together, privately ... sort of).

Here's the thing.
The role model guy was Old Money rich from a famous, affluent family and was a city councilman. He was photographed frequently in terribly expensive, worn-looking tweed blazers with suede patches on the elbows. You know the look. Casual elegance, a supposed disregard for fashion, one has more important uses for one's fortune.

patch

Not quite the same panache to pull off by a budding adolescent wearing too big, rolled up worn pants with patches on knees, crotch and butt.

None of the brothers will wear hand-me-downs to this day.


coupon
5. Coupons and sales are like money in the bank.
This was the big Kahuna of Mom's life, her raison d'etre.  Envelopes stashed everywhere, overflowing with coupons wrapped carefully in rubber bands. Stacks of newspapers waiting til she had time to read them and find more coupons.

Along the way undoubtedly she saved money with those coupons. It was in fact a noble, time-honored tradition.

Here's the thing. We'd occasionally go through the stacks to sort the coupons. Most had expired years before. My father-in-law always said, "Don't throw them out, she's waiting for 1964 to come around again."

coup

Sales were manna from heaven, irresistible siren songs to her ears. The boys had a dog growing up who eventually died during their teens. Every once in a while Mom would come home from the supermarket with a case of dog food. Reminded by her husband the dog was long gone, her reply is one that echoes through the ages, "But it was on Sale!"

Here's the other thing. She kept shelves stacked in the basement with non-perishable items, soups, cans of vegetables, cereals, detergents. Part Depression mentality, part Bomb Shelter mind-set ... all frugality-driven.

Cleaning out the basement after she died we found Cheerios that had expired in the 1950's. Literally. Canned goods bulging with the gas of age, miraculously unexploded.


ivory

Best of all, an Ivory Snow detergent box, contents petrified rock solid. The sweet, lovely mom pictured on the box was a former model named Marilyn Chambers, who'd gone on to become a huge 1970's porn star.

That box was a collector's item, but somehow it got thrown out. Mom would have preferred that, frankly, though she'd have had a moment of angst at the idea of tossing even a porn star adorning even probably toxic detergent, bought but never used.

Last one, too irresistible...

shep pie

6. Leftovers are just as nutritious.
Mom cooked every night for her husband and three sons. It's impossible she didn't start out at some point with a new meal that then became 'leftovers.'

Here's the thing. My husband and his brothers insist that the only dinners they ever ate were leftovers. With two exceptions --meatloaf and mashed potatoes turned into Shepard's Pie and last night's chicken into homemade lo mein-- they all hated leftovers with a passion.

No matter how disguised, reinvented or reinvigorated, none of the three will ever willingly eat a re-purposed meal ... aka leftovers. Good thing their mother taught them to cook, because none of their wives are willing to create a brand new dish every night.

Think of the waste!!

Oh wait, we could make some into sandwiches and send our husbands to the movies with them.

My MIL was a wonderful woman, caring and especially generous to those less fortunate. A role model for many. She raised her sons to be equally loving and charitable.

It's just that, well, the one take-away from their childhood she might not have expected: they all believe that charity begins at home.


With additional apologies to stellaa, thanks for inspiration supplied by Denise Montgomery's Grandma to finish a piece coincidentally already begun in response to the discovery of an unopened pack of ugly dish towels circa 1969.

dish towels
 

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I have some psychedelic sheets, never used, if you need a gift in a hurry.
this piece, as denise's did, rings so many bells in my head. the unexploded ancient canned goods in the basement -- i can see them. we had to flip coins on who would touch them, cleaning the old place out. some lessons we learned to do, some we learned not to. great writing, sally.
I've cleaned out those ancient canned goods too. Scary. It does make one think about how that sort of mind-set is created, though. Both funny and sad. Good for your husband, who has you to make up for some things.
I'll take 'em! This was really entertaining. The movie thing was too much. The depression era people never got over it, did they? The best one I saw, was my old aunt who used to send out recycled Christmas cards with other signatures crossed out!
Actually, several of those types of tips got my family through the recession in the 70's . . . to my Mom's eternal credit, nobody starved. And during college, we called the basement pantry "the land of plenty," raiding it before returning to the dorms. I mean, shampoo and toothpaste never go bad, right?
At least she took them to the movies. They all grew up healthy and with good memories of home. And those few little emotional scars about hand-me-downs. The best line is "she's waiting for 1964 to come around again!!""
Other than the coupons and Jewish holidays you described my childhood. We would go to the drive in movie with a big bag of popcorn and a cooler full of sodas and pickles for my sister. My mother would let us pick out a pattern for our pillowcases, I always went for the classic cars and we each got one birthday party, not one a year but one for our entire childhood. All the rest were a homemade cake, ice cream and one present, family only. And Christmas was large shared toys like a Tonka truck, a couple of hot wheels and the socks/underwear combo. Once I grew up and saw what happened to kids who got whatever they wanted I realized I wouldn't have traded drive in movie night for anything in the world.
Sally, did we share the same mother law?

Now about that salami....
My 85 year old mother still has the saddle shoes she wore in high school. Not that she ever wore them again, just she couldn't throw out a perfectly good pair of shoes. She graduated in 1943! She also was infamous for really bad leftovers. Thanks for the post. I have no doubt that growing up during the Depression was a traumatic experience for many, and they lived with that fear their whole lives!
hilarious and true! my grandpa packed my lunch for me once -- he sent me to school with a can of spam and butcher knife. I was 7. HaHa, the look on the teacher's face when I pulled out that knife! r-
Since teens pay extra for distressed-looking clothes, make them buy the cheaper new-looking jeans. They'll be mortified.

r
I share ocular's memories of the drive-in. Always a double feature. Always went early enough to play on the playground (swingset, etc.) they had in front of the screen. Cooler with Pepsi, baloney sandwiches, chips and hershey bars; big old brown bag of homemade popcorn. gosh....
I had a drawer of gifts to give in the old days. Now I just shop very frugally and no one complains. One year I bought all my kids clothes at TJ Maxx for the holiday. I left the tags on, they were in middle school. It was a teachable moment. We left the store tag on, the manufacturer tag. We added each pile up with the price we paid, the tj manufacturer price, the real manufacturer suggested retail price. I had read somewhere that you needed a budget of $500 a month for clothes. Probably one of those morning talk shows where everyone makes at least 6 figures. Anyway. It was great to show the kids what riches they had according to the manufacturer, and what mommy actually paid. They learned quick to watch their pennies in a smart way. Rated.
Hilarious. Rated. Thank you.
Your MIL's ways bring back many memories—most good.
My parents saved money on concessions at the movies by not sending us to the movies!
Sounds a bit like my mom. :-D

Although, to be fair, she never came home with pet food for a non-existent pet simply because it was "on sale". Unless, of course, a neighbor could use it.....

Rated. Depending on how those coupons were dated, 64 will be around again - the products depicted, however, might not be. ;-D
femme, you can't imagine my laughter and shivers as I read Denise's post, this one already mostly written... is that eerie or what? Cleaning that basement took months.

sophieh, it's much harder on the one locked in the fear of having no money, but she did teach her sons the value of a good value.

Spud, my MIL would have sent recycled cards too... but she never sent them at all to begin with. "A waste of paper." Green before her time.

Aunt Mabel, I forgot that practice! Not only were plastic bags washed, but so were plastic utensils after each birthday party or living room picnic. The woman was a chemist, oh the germs!

Owl, you're quite right, nobody starved. And while all three boys had college scholarships, they all went to college and none had to work full time while there.

nolalibrarian, my FIL was a very funny man, "she's waiting for 1964 to come around again" is only one of many. His story's coming up soon.

jane, make sure to give the boy pretty pink pillowcases, maybe a salami too. My kid laughs at the stories, but it was his grandmother who first drove him to Children's Hospital to donate his unwanted toys and games.

ocular, although we went to drive-in's too, in our pajamas, we also had a bulging picnic basket packed by Cook. My childhood was so different from my husband's we might as well have come from different planets.
Lea, considering our other connections, we might have had the same MIL. I refuse to discuss the salami... I am a lady! heh

Libmomrn, truth be told, my MIL was not, hmm, the best of cooks. It was a relief to all when I started making meals for family gatherings. Still, nobody make pot roast like hers.

Audrey, a 7 -yr-old with a butcher knife! What a picture, imagine it today. Wow.

Con, if new-looking were cheaper but "out" she'd have bought them for sure!

Connie, you are making me drool... "Cooler with Pepsi, baloney sandwiches, chips and hershey bars; big old brown bag of homemade popcorn" ... YUM!

Sheila, you taught your kids a great lesson AND they got New clothes. A great two-fer.
I almost didn't make it past the title - that along made me laugh out loud - the Jew in me, you know. And the rest did not disappoint - very funny.
Rated - now don't give me any guilt this time, OK?
wshsssss, wshsssss, the sounds of the cans opening echoed throughout the theater. Been there, done that, been embarrassed, but I never said no to the goodies. I was the eldest, so I didn't get hand-me-down from brothers, but I did get hand-me-down shoes from a rich older relative. I had to wear them with the toes stuffed with newspaper because they were way too big. "You'll grow into them" I was told, but of course, I didn't.
Oh, and by the way, I seem to recall reading that Marilyn Chambers passed away recently. Not that I know what went on Behind the Green Door or anything like that, he lied.
Cheap Bastid loves your "MIL"!!!!!
What a great post! My memories of the drivein movies the same as the others - playground, concession stand that we never used, butter-soaked brown grocery bag full of home-popped corn. Those darn speakers never quite worked, did they?
BTW, I STILL wash out some of my "better" zip-loc plastic bags. Old habits die hard... rated.
Lezlie
Maerwynne, glad you enjoyed.

Chuck, always happy to provide good memories.

trig, are you sure they didn't just drop you off at the drive-in for the evening? heh

Bill, she started buying sale cat food for the "poor starving cat" outside her back door... word travels fast in the feline world, she became the cat lady of the neighborhood. Those coupons got used.

Andy, you can stay guilt free... as long as you clean your plate tonight!

Karin, "furry" soda, I love it! Can you guess how many times we've been to the movies and I've whispered to my husband, I'm hungry for some salami... ;)

Tom, you totally know! Newspaper in the shoes too. Wow, are we related-in-law?

Walter, I am SO sorry, I should have dedicated this to Cheap Bastid.

Lezlie, go ahead and wash those bags, my husband still tries. I cringe, feeling my grandmothers rolling at the thought. Old habits and training indeed.
Marilyn Chambers and salami - you never disappoint Mrs. Swift! I was imagining that movie theater as if I was there with them...the cutting board would have made me crawl on the ground, too. We just got the generic pop and candy from my mom's purse - at least they were getting nutrition! ;)

I love the way you dote on your husband during his birthday...I do the same. I really feel your familial love in all your writing which always makes me click when I see your name.

Best to you!
Loved this. Love this kind of lady.
Sparking, OMG, I never made the oh so obvious connection between Marilyn Chambers and salami! Thank you, the games will begin tonight. ;) But please, for the love of my sanity, remember that "Mrs. Swift" is and forever will be my late beloved MIL, I am simply, happily Sally.

Maureenow, for all her idiosyncrasies, she was much loved by all. For good reason. I make gentle fun of her now with respect, as nobody laughed louder than she when her sons told these stories at family dinners while she was still with us.
I can't remember a more entertaining piece. This was wonderful stuff. _r
Ack. One of the things I've felt sorry for over the years was never appreciating what my gran did. Like your MIL, she survived the Depression, was thrifty to a fault and was an avid creator of practical gifts -- scarves, mittens and quilts being among the most memorable. I was too young (stupid) to get it.

I still have one of her quilts that she and her church lady friends made. It has to be 50 years old or more. I occasionally use it, so it shows its age, but it's beautiful. So was she.

Rated for the example they set. Over the top as it might have been sometimes, they meant well and lived what they preached.
Oh Mom, Mom, you're right. No reason to waste a bundle of twist ties or the box of crumbling rubber bands or the shelf of old corrugated cardboard in the garage, or the electric mower that never did work on zoysia.

Yes, Sally, I remember the frugal days and still have some of those compulsions I grew up with. "We might need this [whatever it is] someday. No reason to buy another one." I had a good mom, and I would have liked your MIL.
Oh dear. I thought these behaviors were normal. I stockpile toy pails to give to my husband's students when they tell us they've had a baby. I have a collection of silicone cookware for when they tell us they're getting married. Whenever I see a good book on sale, I get it for my grandchildren, even if it is a few years ahead of them. I sit through movies without food because movie food is too expensive -- always has been. I tried Flicks Chocolate from the movie concession stand once -- it tasted like cardboard. I couldn't believe I saved up several weeks allowance for that!
And get this -- when my daughter liked one of the books I gave her children, she asked me where she could get it on sale. She wanted to stockpile some for her girls to give as gifts when they go to parties.
My mom made the sandwiches at home and the popcorn and then packed it all in her purse with the soda wrapped in tin foil! She still has coupons from the 70's
Joan, what a wonderful compliment. Especially to my mother-in-law.

B1, you appreciate your gran now, that means a lot. We live on in the bright memories of those who celebrate us. Use that quilt with pleasure.

charlie, I bet you would have liked her, everyone did. She was open and direct and spoke her mind but Never with malice. She was a mighty good woman.

geezerchick, you're doing it right... what, you think I don't keep a closet shelf full of in-case gifts for kids and adults? Saves plenty of harried shopping for overpriced last-minute gifts. Good for your daughter too!

Poppi, we might in fact be related.
Blew out a few cobwebs in my brain with this one Sally... I knew one family that always bought unlabeled, deeply discounted, often dented cans... A coupla' turned out to be Vets dog food, they said it wasn't bad on a slab o' white, Wonder bread... RRR
None of my children learned to drive in high school because I substituted a wire coat hanger for a broken radio aerial. It worked splendidly in both cases.
A little boy handing over a pillow set... hahahaha
Sally, we always had to load mama's purse with Hardees biscuits and penny candy for movies (I was so embarrassed because it was sooooo obvious her purse was stuffed and it smelled suspiciously like breakfast)... and, we never had brand named anything, just "grits" or "cereal" in white boxes with black text. hahaha... I love this.
patrick, dog food on Wonder bread, yum!

Cassandra, I like the way you think!

Amanda, the whole routine works better if you're Southern, where eccentricity is nourished and encouraged. In East Coast urban Jewish neighborhoods, wellll, not so much...
Aunt Mabel said--I knew somebody who used to wash her no-name brand plastic ziploc baggies

We still do that! A good quart or half gallon freezer bag can last a long time and multiple uses and cleanings! We only throw them out when they spring leaks and water squirts out while we're cleaning them.

But I still find the salami and cutting board to be hilarious as well as audacious. It's one thing to go to the Dollar Store for candy and other stuff for the movie but to take a salami. That's priceless! I'm loving this post even more the second time and from reading the comments. Thanks again, Sally.
Cap'n, glad you approve.

Walter, if I can bring you a smile twice in one day, my job here is done. For now.
I swear your MIL is also related to my father. R.
This is great! Your MIL was certainly a character--I can't stop smiling at the scene in the movie theater. But I got the sense that she was also a loving mom and you confirmed that.
Yeah, we get it. Your mother-in-law is a cheap Jew.

How charming of you to honor your kids' grandmother in this fashion.
Oh my gosh - salami in a movie theater! She sounds like she wasn't above doing anything to make ends meet for her boys. Too funny about the towel set for a 5-year-old. Great story, Sally!
This was so entertaining! I have to admit, though, that I have done the sneak-our-snacks-and-drinks-into-the-movie-theater-trick myself. Well -- it wasn't salami though. And I waited for a LOUD part of the movie to open the sodas.
Frugality is a gift that can be re-opened time and again, with each new recipient that receives and gets the idea the gift will continue to keep on giving.
Thank god for cheap Ziploc plastic storage boxes for my leftovers - now I don't have to wash out any more Ziploc storage bags...
Please tell me that you found the Ivory box behind the green door. Lie to me, Sally. Lie to me.
My brothers and I had a 2 ton dumpster delivered to Mom for her birthday and we spent the day filling it to overflowing. It was the epitomy of practical present giving! After we were done I had to hand it to her - she never went near the thing to see what was in it. But boy - DadaDaddy did. Even in his dementia he still the guy who pulled over and rummaged roadside trash for 'goodies' to bring home (which never left his domain- the garage- accounting for a full 1.9 tons of the dumpster contents). He was visibly distressed in the moment, but once the dumpster was gone, it was the end to some stress Mother was feeling about being burdened with all the 'stuff' in her house now that she's 75. A good present for anyone looking to live lighter. ::off to check closet for good linens, circa 1965::
Ha! I just last year got my mom to stop sending me towels on every possible gift-giving opportunity. I actually boxed up 4 years worth (plus assorted placemats and tablecloths) and sent them back to her. She was delighted!

My parents grew up during the Depression and they and my grandparents did all the same things with a few twists. We simply never went to movies. One of my chores in the summer and on school breaks was sorting out the expired coupons. My mother would drive 3 miles out of her way to use a 10 cent off coupon if the item was additionally on sale. She didn't like to use them for regular priced items. She simply didn't buy non-sale items. My ex used to laugh about how my mother would buy day-old-day-old bread which was an actual label at our store. It didn't matter how old it was since she'd freeze whatever wouldn't be used right away. She'd also buy lots of milk on sale and freeze it. My parents still maintain the basement stockpile. My mom's specialty is decades-old cake mix.

We saved foil, plastic bags of all sorts, twist ties, margarine tubs, shoe boxes, string and rubber bands. My father would bring home reams of slightly used paper from work and another summer chore would be to cut and staple it into improvised scratch pads. My grandmother, who was diabetic, would save any sugar packets that came her direction and empty them into our sugar bowl. She also patched our clothes. I remember being taught as a 4 year old how to darn socks -- my father's socks were more darned sections than original.

As kids we were rarely allowed to use batteries, tape or glue because those items would become used up if we used them. We made paste from flour and water for years for crafts projects. We weren't allow to sharpen crayons because it was wasteful. I scored points at home by asking the art teacher at school if I could bring home all the scraps of construction paper the other kids would throw out. For packing our lunch for school, we were issued one brown bag that originally held purchases from Ace Hardware or Sears and several saved plastic bags and were expected to fold up the bags and bring them home for use the next day. On Fridays we could throw them out. (Metal lunchboxes were uncool at my school, much to my parents' dismay. Not that fishing our sandwiches from the far end of a used bread bag made us particularly popular.)

I could go on but you get the point. It was hard as a kid because we were raised so differently from our peers but on the other hand, I've never learned how to spend a lot of money carelessly, and so I'm not so impacted by the current economic conditions as some people are.

PS: My brother, who was born in November the year following my October birthday, always got presents on my birthday. The reasoning there was that he was "too little" to understand why it wasn't his birthday and that it was cruel to "make him wait" for his own. He got his own birthday as well. I still can't figure that one out.
Wonderfully funny! And hey - parents embarrassing you builds character! :-) R
Awesome post. My husband still carries the scars of his mother's ways as well. He refuses to eat any type of casserole to this day. I think there's a difference between thrifty and cheap. How great is the savings compared to the years of therapy your kids will undergo to repair the damage?
What a great nostalgic piece Sally. You are so right about the embarrassment for the kids, but what lessons they learned. I always said I wanted to be a Walton. Those people were resourceful!
Your MIL would have loved me, cause I love salami and warm soda! LOL
Bernadine, I bet a lot of us are related.

Karin, you got it, she was a terrific mom, much loved.

TRIXIE DORAIS, I am highlighting my reply to you and not deleting your rude, obnoxious comment dissing me and dishonoring my late mother-in-law. I'm sure you want everyone to see how witty you are and how well you understand nuance. Please, do not ever comment on my blog again. Thank you.

Lisa, a compliment from the Queen of the Mommy Stories just made my day!

Eileen, we've probably all have done it. She was just so focused and disingenuous, she never understood why it bothered her sons.
Your psychedelic sheets are worth good money on e-Bay. Also, you can cough when you open the pop at the movies.
So, Sally, how you keep getting all of your posts on the front page? Do you blackmail the editors with pictures of Joan Walsh getting it on with Pat Buchanan?

Or maybe it's because your pieces are always engaging.

My mom grew up during the Depression and she was always frugal. I recently had to use her car for a couple of weeks, and it was so no-frill - no CD player, no power anything, windows you had to roll down yourself - I almost went nuts.

But don't knock coupons and sales. We live by them. I keep having to remind Mrs. Cuss that buying something you don't need just because it's on sale is not smart shopping.
MOMSACOMIC, you said it perfectly, and in just one sentence, very frugal.

Susan O, I buy the house brand ziplocks for everything except heavy duty gallon freezer size... I save more by not having to throw away freezer-burned meat.

Stim, how oh how did you know we found the Ivory box behind the green door. All tied up too..... heh

Gabby, what a birthday gift, a dumpster! Why didn't I ever think of that?!

ixxiedust, you should absolutely report that on your blog, make a post with more tips for saving money. From the comments here, most of us grew up with some form of savings credo.

Pavanne, we've all known for years that the best thing parents can do for their kids is embarrass them. It's in the parenting handbook. Anyway, even when we don't try, we still do.
Writer Mom, you make a valid point... up to a point. Or at least for my husband's family. "Cheap" implies a sense of not wanting to spend money. "Frugal" has much more to do with necessity, as was the case with my MIL. But no matter how hard parents try, therapy is never, um, cheap. :)

DrewBerry, oh the Waltons! I don't remember clearly, did they show us frugal ways? I do remember that Little House on the Prairie did.

Stud, you'd have made her year!!

Hells Bells, I'm not selling my psychedelic sheets, I'm going to give them to... well... someone. heh

Cranky, "Joan Walsh getting it on with Pat Buchanan?" Bite your tongue!! Oh, the horror. I hope it's the latter and thank you for such a nice compliment. I am not so much a coupon person, but my favorite designers are Sale, (pronounced Sahlay) and Clearance, (pronounced Clairahnssse).
Both my grandmothers were the same way. Both my parents are the same way, to a more limited extent. You don't want to know what my basement looks like...
I'll take those psychedelic sheets, Sally. :-) Awesome.
After a frugal childhood (though not nearly as extreme as the one you so hilariously describe) I gave my mother the silk scarves and kid leather gloves she had deprived herself of. She was always very appreciative. After she died, I found them, unworn, in a drawer: "too good" to wear.

But I did inherit some of her frugality. I buy most of my clothing - and a lot of sheets and towels - by the pound, at a thrift store nearby.

That's right - by the pound.
Amy, I bet your basement could net you a fortune on eBay.

Denise, the sheets would look great in your new bedroom!

ladyslipper, I so remember finding things of my MIL's and my grandmother's kept carefully packed away "for good" and never used. I'm a big fan of Ross and Marshall's, but I've got to know, how does one buy by the pound??
You go a certain Goodwill store in a certain neighborhood. It's BYOB (bring your own bag) and hope you find a shopping cart. If you do find a cart, you immediately park it against a wall and cover it with a sheet or towel or curtain, to declare ownership. Ownership is respected. The place is a warehouse. There is a public side and a private side, and about a dozen sets of rollers (think of an airport security checkpoint) divided by the two. Every five minutes or so, tubs come down the rollers into the public side and it is a feeding frenzy. But people demonstrate genuine good manners; they don't grab from each other, they hand each other things. When you are finished, you take your cart to a register, where a friendly cashier weighs it. Clothing is about $1.29 per pound.

Right now, I am wearing a Ralph Lauren sweater and a pair of Donna Karan jeans that I bought there, brand new. I'd estimate my outfit cost me fifty cents at most.
Took notes and will let you know how well my kids take to the changes . . . If I have to put out a missing children's report . . . I'm holding you and your MIL responsible. :)
ladyslipper, what an incredible story. I'd love to see a place like that here. We do have a nice consignment shop nearby where I give clothes and have also bought too... but I can only buy the "unworn" ones with tags, then I get them cleaned... designer outfit for $5-10 plus $3 cleaning, not bad. (I have a thing about "cooties." ;)

Lori, just please no flowered pillow cases to preteen boys and no warm soda!

Algis, the three words of childhood.
A memoir co-author for clients, I'm passionate about people saving their personal history as a family legacy. You have a treasure here! An interesting story well told.
Hawley, thank you, I agree, we must pass these on to the next generation. There is so much more to her story, I will have to think about how to do her justice.