I learned some valuable tips from my grandmother who grew up during the Great Depression. Her parents had emigrated from Germany just prior to the Depression; it really hit the family hard. My grandmother was brought up with lessons about keeping items working and stretching meals to last a week. While I’m not as intense about saving the old so I don’t have to buy new someday or turning old, worn sweaters into hats and mittens, I use much of what she taught me every day.
If it is broken, try to fix it
My grandmother complained that now-a-days nobody fixes anything anymore; everybody rushes to the nearest store to replace items that don’t work properly. She’d go on at length about all of the men in her neighborhood being “backyard fix-it-alls” when she was a child and how they could literally fix anything that was broken, be it machine or toy. She taught me to always try to fix something before replacing it. “Even if you can’t fix it,” she’d say, “You still learn something about it.”
While a lot of consumer goods seem to be built to last only a few years, at least try to fix it before you rush out to buy something new. If your computer isn’t performing like it used to or the refrigerator is leaking water, search for how-to’s online or call a repair person.
My dryer recently started to sound like I had left a pair of tennis shoes in the drum. My fiance tried to convince me that the 18+ year old dryer was on its last leg and would need to be replaced right away. After a quick search online and half an hour of taking the dryer apart, I discovered a bearing had slipped. The cost of the part, along with some elbow grease, was less than $20. A new dryer would have been several hundred. Visit howstuffworks.com for an overview on how to fix small appliances.
My grandmother taught me that having a stockpile is a wonderful idea. You’ll always have something to prepare if unexpected guests arrive. If you unexpectedly lose a job or have a financial emergency, it can help get you through what otherwise might be tough time. In weather emergency situations, you won’t be hungry if you can’t get to the store.
Stock up on basic essentials whenever you can. If you have an extra $10 in your grocery budget this week and are going to the grocery store, pick up extra of items your family uses most. Whether you go through toilet paper like it is water or your kids can’t get enough canned green beans, you won’t be caught needing to go to the store again that week if you stock up now. You also won’t be tempted to spend an extra $50 on stuff you weren’t intending to buy on that second trip, like chips or ice cream.
While my stockpile pales in comparison to what hers looked like, I’m happy I have one. When I was laid off, living off of my stockpile helped keep me nourished and clean – and able to make my car payments – while I was looking for another job. As an added benefit, I don’t have to run to the store for every little thing because I keep a constant stock of what my family uses regularly. See threethriftyguys.com for more benefits of having your own stockpile.
My grandmother taught me that food is a precious commodity and to waste as little as possible. She’d talk about how little her family had to eat sometimes, and how they survived on sauerkraut for a week.
If you have dinner leftovers, re-use them somehow. According to groovygreen.com, the average American family throws away about 122 pounds of food every year. That waste is hard on the environment and your wallet.
If you have picky eaters in your house who refuse to eat anything classified as a leftover, try freezing meals for later use or turning them into something else to help disguise them. My favorite meal to recycle is my mother’s “three-day roast,” which she received from her depression-era mother. To start, she’d make a large pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions. Two days later we were treated to a hearty beef stew with all of the leftovers from the pot roast meal and more vegetables, like corn, peas and green beans, added in. Two days after that, she’d toss in more vegetables and we enjoyed Shepherd’s Pie. My mother, and my grandmother before her, got three full meals out of one, just by adding additional vegetables.