Monday, August 31, 2015

Carol's 10 Frugal Tips

Carol's 10 Frugal Tips
If my 1930s character, Carol, of my stories Pocketful of Pinecones and sequel Lessons of Blackberry Inn, were to make a list of frugal tips - this might be some of her advice.

antique picnic basket
 I leave it to my readers to make personal application for this century. (Oh, I was sure to remind Carol to give away very little story-plot - for those who haven't yet picked up Lessons at Blackberry Inn for it is from Blackberry Inn that she comes to us today.)

Pack a Lunch
I enjoyed my date with Micheal. He insisted, in his gentlemanly way, of driving to Bridgeton on Saturday, just the two of us. The day before, when she heard that her dad and I were having a picnic - my little Emily told me that she wanted to have a picnic, too, with her friend Sarah, so we worked side-by-side to prepare food for our baskets.

As Michael and I set out by car I felt an unexpected pang of apprehension at leaving the children so far behind. But I reminded myself, the next instant, that they would be enjoying their own special day with the pastor's children. I've heard it said of a mother:

"She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn't take them along. "*1

I knew of a peaceful spot just a few blocks from the shops on Main Street, and choose that place for Michael and I to share lunch, between our shopping errands.

Amish Farmland
The view from the end of our road. Do the clouds look sleepy?
Group Errands 

Appleton, where we live, is an hour's back-roads-drive by car to the city of Bridgeton. We needn't frequent the shops in the city. But when we decide it is time to shop for what we cannot find in the village, we group our errands. How did we end up in Appleton? Jobs are hard to come by in the city. Thus we found ourselves living back near family. I was skeptical about moving back to my home town. In the country one is troubled by stubborn weeds, muddy roads, and a backwardness in some of one's neighbors. But there are moments when nature fills one's senses with unbelievable loveliness. And watching the children's energetic games, the calling, running, and climbing in the apple orchard, is helping me to accept our life here.

Pay Cash
Because it was just the two of us in Bridgeton that Saturday we accomplished lots of stops. Lastly, we stepped into the book shop. Even though it was a purchase with another year of home education in mind, I decided we should hide away a couple books for the children for Christmas. Michael knew it would flatten his wallet. But we never buy on credit. Buying with cash we spend carefully and spend less. I wasn't to worry about his wallet, as he said he had stuffed some dollars under the mattress.

A page from Famous Paintings that Carol displayed for the children.
Use a Library
An ancient saying goes, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." While I miss walking to the public library in Bridgeton I am very happy to avail myself of our good friend (and the children's adopted grandmother) Emma's expansive library - and my brother Bob's shelf of books - apart from our own collection.

"Make do" is what we did in the Depression years. Emma's copy of Famous Paintings - Selected from the World's Great Galleries and Reproduced in Colour, with descriptive notes by G. K. Chesterton, is very welcome. To follow Miss Charlotte Mason's plan exactly, would be to display at least six of one artist's work during one semester. If I could make arrangements for for a collection of pictures to come to me from various museums, mostly likely, our tight budget would only allow for postcard-size black and whites - so I am content with Famous Paintings.

vegetable soup
My pot of soup shown here is plain vegan summer vegetable.
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
From Blackberry Inn we walk to the village, easily. Emma takes her bicycle. On a walk to the butcher I bought a large soup bone. This less-expensive piece brought me a palm of pennies and nickles for my change purse. My plan was to "stretch" a meal with vegetables from the garden. Though the amount of beef in the soup would be minimal, I knew that the broth from the bones was good for us. A visitor to Blackberry Inn gave me an unexpected compliment. "This is the most wholesome nourishment I've eaten all week," he praised.

After several "stretched" meals I had saved up enough change to purchase a skein of red wool at the general store. With it I was able to knit a new pair of mittens for Emily and Donald. Making good use of the remainder of the wool I knit a small pair for a little boy who is needy. Which brings me to another tip.

maple leaf patchwork quilt

Use it Up

In the 1930s - reminiscent of grandmother's previous century, scraps of fabric cut away from dress-making were never thrown away. Scraps were used for quilting. And girls made doll quilts out of scraps cut away from their mothers' quilting-making. I haven't attempted quilting yet with Emily. But without giving away too much of the story of Lessons at Blackberry Inn, I'll tell you that Dora, my sweet-mannered sister-in-law, was eager to shows us how to make fabric yo-yos from pieces in her scrap-bag. Afterward, Emily and I made more yo-yos, enough to for a Christmas gift-pillow for someone we esteem.

With our large oak ice-box and deliveries from the ice-man, I am able to cook double and keep the second meal cold for the next day (or day after.) Cooking double uses up whatever is abundantly in-season. It also frees up my time the following day for a peaceful solitary walk, or an outing with the children. Keeping note of what gets pushed to the back of the icebox is a way to have less "food waste." I somehow manage to add leftover portions to a savory pot pie or a casserole.

In order to "use up" our bumper crop of tomatoes in the garden I spent some hot hours with Emma canning tomatoes to put by.
The little one has Emily's dough rolling, and is ready for filling.
My brother Bob brings us milk from the diary farm regularly, with his sly, "I just happened to be out this way." The very day of bottling our tomatoes, basking in the happiness of our completed efforts, my brother brings us a bushel from his bumper crop. Oh my, Emma and I had another day's work cut out for us in a steamy kitchen. But we are grateful for Bob's offerings. And the hours of cooking and canning with Emma has a way of building our friendship. We seem to speak more freely when our hands are busy.

To show our gratitude, Michael, and our son Donald, lend their helping hands to Bob on Saturdays. I can't tell you who chopped a winter's supply of wood in return for meals eaten at Blackberry Inn. But you'll discover this when you read the story. With the autumn chill in the air I was relieved to finally see a stack. Wintertime waits for no man. My guess is that wood heat will be around for a long time out here. Every winter storm brings at least one downed-tree at the wood's edge that, when cut and cleared, is good for nothing better than a free warm fire. Coal costs.

rumeford fireplace
The pair of argyle socks I knit Michael were already worn at the heel. I commented that it's a wonder how he can fray socks so quickly. He cast me a quizzical glance which momentarily changed to a smile when he replied in his defense, "It must be one of my hidden talents." I should have listened to the wise advice of my mother. "Knit a strand of hair from your head into the toe of your sock [or heel in Michael's case] and you'll mend less often." Perhaps there should be a rhyme about a stitch-in-time that includes a strand of one's hair. In the country, however, we are used to keeping things until they are beyond repair. Clothes wear out until they are not even decent for cleaning a horse stall. Such clothes are cut up for patching.

Do Without
Michael had been harboring romantic notions of country life - city born and breed as he is - for a long time without me knowing it. I am well aware of the strong backs needed of country-folk and also how folk have to "wait-it-out" and "do-without" until spring's first asparagus sprouts are spied and the chickens start laying again.There are only so many recipes to fall back on, for cabbage and potatoes - the lion's share of what's left in the root cellar. Yet, the strawberries preserves, blackberry jam, and apple butter we women put by, do keep breakfast and tea-time palatable and varied, at least.

It's also by late winter, that I am tired of wearing the same worn-out cardigan. I wouldn't dare wear the one reserved for Sunday-best. It is then that I start dreaming about what color yarn I'd like to purchase to start knitting a new one. But, with the coming of a busy summer in the garden, coupled with the needs of fast growing children - who grow out of their cloths with a blink-of-an-eye  - a cardigan for myself can get lost in the shuffle. My to-do list is always longer than my arms can reach. The rose colored cardigan I knit Emily turned out to my liking. I surprised myself with how pretty it is, if it's okay to boast a bit.

Share Hand-me-Downs
Frugal people buy used. And they know the value of a hand-me-down. Michael startled me by digging up the copiously cabled pull-over I knit him in the earliest days of our marriage, to impulsively hand it down (without his left hand knowing what his right hand was doing) to a needy new friend. My sentimental attachment to it dissolved, however, and my wrinkled brow softened when I saw how well it was received by its over-joyed recipient. What Michael had worn to rake leaves, this man is wearing for Sunday-best.

Emma, also in the spirit of giving, parted with a size-2 hunter green sweater she had knit many years ago and kept wrapped in tissue paper in an attic trunk. It was never worn by the child she knit it for - as sadly, this baby only lived to one year-of-age.

What's the difference between a penny-pincher and a thrifty homemaker? The thrifty are not stingy. They consider the lilies and how they grow. Placing her trust in God's provision, the thrifty homemaker can take joy in giving as well as receiving. One by one, she casts her cares, money worries, and list of anxieties, to her Heavenly Father. Therefore, she is willing to live with less and/or economize, to be God's instrument in adding to the happiness and well-being of another. -Your story-friend Carol

End Notes
*1 Quote by Margaret Culkin Banning. While browsing a book shelved at a B&B I jotted this quote down on a scrap of paper I retrieved from the recesses of my pocket-book because I felt a kindred spark alight. Here, someone was describing, in simple terms, a feeling that matched my own experience - every time I would travel by airplane to a speaking engagement, leaving my children behind.

For your convenience I link Lessons of Blackberry Inn directly to Amazon. It is also described on this blog in "Karen's Books."

The pencil drawings are by my son Nigel Andreola and are illustrations in Blackberry Inn - though seen here with watermarks.

In the spirit of hand-me-down the photographs in today's post are re-used from a sundry of previous posts.

Rather than the tangled mess of knitting (with three colors) that you see above, to see the finished vest I knit for a grandson click here.

Here is my original post on making fabric yo-yos.

Here is a post with an introduction to Picture Study with the Gentle Art of Learning.

Writing Carol's 10 frugal tips was fun. If you read between the lines there are actually more than 10 here. I hope the advice is of some benefit to you. So nice to have your visit. Write anytime,
Karen Andreola


  1. This is charming, Karen! :) I returned almost instantly to your stories. :) Your photos and collection of illustrations are lovely. You make me want to go make something...which is good, as I think I want to make a birthday cake for my father in law this afternoon. Bless you. :) Amy

  2. I love Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons of Blackberry Inn. I love your writing style. I felt a real kinship with Carol and she inspired me. The short chapters were great because I could read a couple here and there throughout the day. They were so homey and relaxing. I have been hoping that you would write another book about Carol. This story is perfect in the meantime:)

    1. I feel the same way! Please write another book! Lori

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful post!

    My father, born in 1929, used to say that folks in his little community didn't really know there was a depression going on. They had already been living with less, and their lives didn't really change during the depression years.

    A good friend's grandmother used to say, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

    My mother and I were discussing her growing up years. Seven people from three generations shared a house with one bathroom. Interestingly, they had no thoughts of deprivation.

    Every now and then I meet someone who I want to add to my list of people I'd like to be with when disaster strikes and circumstances are difficult. Carol is one of those people.


  4. This was so much fun to read, Karen! I love Carol, she is a lovely story-neighbor. I am on an extremely tight budget and I look to the Depression-era households for inspiration. My house was built in 1929 which makes it more fun. :-)

  5. Beautiful post! I love all of the ideas you have listed. I would love to read your two books, as I love stories set in that era. I must send for them soon. : )

  6. Thank you Karen for this heartwarming post. This is the time of year I love to read your Pocketful of Pinecones and Blackberry Inn books. They really help to refresh my heart and mind for the new school year. We are to think on that which is pure, lovely, admirable - your books lead me on that excellent path.

  7. I think this is a very clever post. It was fun to read and think of Carol giving this advice.
    Dianne L

  8. What a lovely post and so inspiring! Now, I am going to pull A Pocket full of Pinecones off the shelf and have a cozy little read!

  9. Karen,
    You know after reading this post I will have to pull these books off the shelf and reread them. They help put me back on track when I feel I must hurry to get through the days and accomplish more than is possible. I, too, hope there is another book one day. Thank you for sharing the lovely photographs. I always find myself looking back over them again and again. Nigel's illustrations are lovely. He is so blessed to use his talent in his mother's books.

    Blessings to you, Karen.


  10. I love your books! They are just lovely :)

  11. Lovely post. Your view and house is just beautiful! We live close to Lancaster County and go there often for a retreat from our "city life".

  12. Thank You for sharing. my maternal grandfather came from Mifflin. Pennsylvania is a beautiful state.

  13. I just love Carol and wonderful tips, we all need to remember. Clarice

  14. I am actually in the middle of reading Lessons of Blackberry Inn for the first time and laughed when I started reading the post. :)
    I am loving the book! I read Pocketful of Pinecones this past week while we were camping. I thought it was perfect timing since we were surrounded by nature and will be starting school this week. Thank you, Karen, for writing these books. They are much enjoyed!

  15. Thank you, Ladies.

    To read of your kinship with Carol makes me smile. Refreshment be yours for a new school year. Karen A.

  16. I too heart Carol! These are very good pieces of advice. I would love to hear Emma's take as well.

  17. Oh to live at Blackberry Inn!

  18. Dear Karen,

    Thank you for this post; I love your stories and treasure all your writings! May we all take Carol's lessons to heart.



  19. If you do not see your comment here it is because some of the comments have failed to post - even with me repeating the process. I wish, too, that the "publish" and "delete" buttons weren't located as close as possible. Perhaps this has something to do with the problem. Anyway - my apologies. I invite you to try again.

    It is always good to hear from you.