2. You Can Always Do More DIY
My father recalls that his grandparents made their own toothpaste out of baking soda and a little hydrogen peroxide. “It tastes awful, but it gets you clean,” my dad said. It should be noted that he buys his toothpaste. At the store.
Two years ago, I started making my own kitchen cleaner with natural soap and tea tree oil. When I told Grandma Betty, she wasn’t impressed. “I’ve been doing that for years!” She said. “Before you all were ‘going green’, we were just cheap!” She also suggested washing my floors with a vinegar and water solution, and I’ve been washing them that way ever since.
The very idea that you would hire someone to do something you can do yourself was horrifying for our grandparents. My friend Jim Martin told me that his grandfather taught him to do everything himself, from changing his oil to roofing his garage and cleaning his house. Martin adds, “He also worked 50 hours a week, but managed to always have a side business white washing barns in rural Ohio.”
3. Waste Not, Want Not
Robin Mayhall remembers that her grandmother used to save the heels of bread and used them to make her own croutons. She also reused tin foil over and over, washing it and flattening it out, so it could survive multiple uses. Mayhill notes that while she may draw the line at reusing tin foil, she does follow her grandma’s example and recycle Ziploc bags.
My grandma Baranowski showed me how to take little bits of soap bars and ball them together into one giant ball of soap. She also would sew two washcloths together to make a small pocket, where she would deposit the soap remnants, just so she didn’t miss “one little soapy bit.”
My mother’s mother, Barbara Boyce, grew up one of thirteen children and knew how to save a penny. She cut the buttons off old shirts so she could turn the shirt into a rag and still keep the buttons. “They’re expensive!” was her justification.
4. Less Is More
Brenda Della Casa was raised by her grandfather, who would make her humble meals of pork and beans, with dessert of rice, milk and a little sugar. And once a week, he would take her out for a hamburger and a piece of pie. Said Della Casa, “…it was the most incredible ‘date with Grandpa.’ So much so that I celebrate him on his birthday and honor him the day he died by having ‘burgers and pie’ with my closest friends.”