Old Habits

 Does this economy seem familiar to you?  It sure does to me! 

And I find myself defaulting to old habits and ways of thinking.  Conservation.  Suddenly I’m more consistent about turning off the lights.  No dripping taps.  I organize my errands to conserve gas. Walk more. Bike more. Cook from scratch more often. Drink chilled tap water, not bottled. I’ve even planted more food plants in my garden this year.  Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans.  Every year I make jam from all the extra berries and fruit I grow, but this year I’m getting more requests from friends and families. Today I bought  two more cases of Bell jars. So far, I’ve put up cherry and mixed berry jam. I’ve put blueberries in the freezer and tomorrow I’ll make blueberry jam.  I’ve gone back to my mom’s ethic of save some of today’s plenty for tomorrow.

And in doing so, I’m a bit abashed that I’ve strayed so far from it in the first place.  

My parents were products of the Great Depression and the World War II shortages in England.  I grew up in a household where things were mended and kept, not discarded for the next ‘new improved’ model.  Clothes were mended and passed on to younger siblings or cousins. Cars were repaired, often in the driveway.  If a radio stopped working, we opened the back and looked to see if a wire had popped loose or a solder joint gone bad.  And we weren’t alone.  Most of our neighbors and friends did the same. In the early years of my marriage when money was tight, I was proud of how I could manage things.  A whole chicken was roast chicken one night, chicken sandwiches the next and chicken soup on the third.  Leftover vegetables went into soup stock.  Bread crusts became bread pudding or part of the meatloaf.  Old blue jeans became patches, cleaning rags and quilts.  Canned and smoked our own salmon and venison, made our jams and jellies and syrup, and grew a good portion of our vegetables.

But somehow along the way, as the kids got older and our incomes rose, I got a lot more careless.  I wasted food in a way that would have made my mother’s hair stand on end.  Drove the kids places where they should have biked or walked.  Discarded clothing my mother would have mended or made into something else.  I did it because I could do it.  I could ‘afford’ to be wasteful.  I saw so many other people doing the same that it began to seem normal.  Doesn’t seem very admirable now when I actually stop to look at it.

Strange to say, it feels rather good to be getting back to thrift.  As if it’s where I should have stayed in the first place.   Maybe this is the ‘old fogey’ gene becoming active!

Maybe before all this is over, we’ll be glad that we did revert to some of our old habits.  I confess that I’m uneasy when I wonder what heating oil prices will look like this winter.  They’re not going to be cheaper, that’s for sure.  Time to think about insulated curtains again, and check the furnace filters, clean the ducts and renew the weather stripping. Time to buy sweaters to wear in the house, and a throw for the couch to make tv watching cozy.  Cuddling up to your spouse or kid isn’t really a hardship!

According to what I’ve read in the newspapers, the grain crops have really taken a beating this year because of the weather.  And prior to that, a lot of corn was diverted from the food chain into ethanol.  That brings me to another disturbing question. When grain prices rise as they have, bread and cereal and pasta prices go up. Those used to be the cheap foods, the foods that home makers could use to stretch out a meal.  Look at the old Depression era recipes and you’ll find a lot of grain based foods.  So now I’m wondering what this decade’s ‘cheap foods’ are going to be. Potatoe based?  Pumpkin?  Turnips?  🙂    Tonight at the grocery store, a box of macaroni and cheese, the kid-favorite kind, was on sale for $1.  Same for a package of Rice-A-Roni.  Bread is up.  As grain prices continue to rise, so will beef and chicken, because cows and chickens eat grain.  

So I guess it’s time to think again. To plan ahead.  To share with neighbors.

A toughening economy might actually be good for me.

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