On a visit to my husband’s family farm in rural Iowa, his grandmother handed me a Styrofoam plate of brownies. I made short work of that plate, and as I licked the last delicious crumbs off it, I noticed that the “plate” wasn’t actually a plate at all. The brownies had been housed on a Styrofoam tray that grocery stores use to package meat, and the plastic wrap covering looked like it had been through two world wars.
I called my husband, who was at work, and he assured me that yes, the tray had previously held raw meat, but that I wasn’t going to die. His grandma washed them in the dishwasher, so they were “clean.”
“Oh, and that plastic wrap is still good,” my husband added. “Don’t throw it away.”
Crazy or not, when it comes to being frugal, no one beats octogenarians. From freezing everything to thinning out soap with water, the majority of us probably have grandparents who were born during the Depression, and who came of age when saving money wasn’t just a lifestyle choice … it was a necessity.
Here are a collection of money saving tips from the people we know as grandma and grandpa. Some of the tips might seem quirky, but hey, they’ve worked well for our grandparents over the years, so who are we to judge?
1. Everything Is a Resource
My own grandmother, Barbara Baranowski, grew up in Rome, New York. As the daughter of poor Salvation Army missionaries, she learned to make thrifty choices an everyday part of her life. In fact, her thrifty ways are so ingrained in her that when I asked her for tips, she replied, “Oh, I don’t do anything special.”
Oh, but she does. Among other things, my grandmother is the Mother Teresa to an orphan plastic bag. She will pick up any errant plastic shopping bag she finds, wash it, dry it and iron it out between two pieces of paper. Then she reuses them for shopping, or she puts them in boxes as packing paper.
My husband’s grandparents collect black walnuts from around their neighborhood and dry them on the driveway at their farm. When the walnut husks have turned from green to black, they drive the tractor over them to crack the shells. Then, Grandpa Arnie and Grandma Betty wash and package the walnuts in (reused) Ziploc bags and freeze them. They’ve never, ever had to buy walnuts.
Same goes for cherries, plums and pears.