Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Recession Ready...or Not?

Just yesterday I was thinking about how GREEN my grandparents were, before GREEN got cool. Not in the whole "electric car/organic everything/save the whales kind of way, but in the "Hi, we were raised in the Depression" way.

You know the stories: how the only thing they would get at Christmas was an orange, how they walked everywhere (or in Pappy's case, drove the school bus), and the only things they ever wore were hand-me-downs. And if the sun was shining through the windows, lights were off. Period.

I vividly remember seeing old cartons re-used as something else, from plant pots to button-boxes. They always had their vegetable garden going, and always ate what they grew. They never drove somewhere they could walk, and spent most of their time gardening, sewing, or doing Home Maintenance. I don't think my Honey ever bought a "prepared meal" -- everything was scratch, and everything was local -- no fancy-pants pineapples here, thank you very much. They ate what was in season, they mended clothes (rather than tossing), and they never saw a piece of trash they didn't turn into something useful.

I used to think they were just penny-pinching fools, but now that I'm older and a millimeter wiser, I understand the importance of their way of life. While they were just living by the creed, "use what you have", they were also doing wonderful things for the environment. Why buy lots of harsh cleaning agents when baking soda works just as well for a fraction of the price? Why spend money on other people's tomatoes when you can grow them yourself? Why throw away that stained tablecloth when you could turn it into a lovely doilie? (Okay, I stole the last one from Friends, but you get the idea.)

This Aha! moment came to me yesterday as I was making (and then storing) a great big pot of Italian Tomato Meat Sauce, using old mason jars that I'd been saving for just such a purpose. Then, as I was washing out the non-recyclable carton of Ricotta cheese I used for the lasagna I made, I realized what a great container it would make to store all those coffee grounds that I'm going to be using my garden this season. You know, the vegetable/flower garden I'm planting with my MIL. The one with all the cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, cantaloupe, lilies, forget-me-nots, jasmine, honeysuckle, etc... The one for which I'm using all my old soup cans and eggshells to start the seedlings in my perpetually crowded, but sooo comforting kitchen.

As far as saving money goes, not only did their frugal tactics help at home, they also put them to great use when shopping. They took their time, clipped coupons, searched clearance sales, and frequented quite a few pawn shops. So while they may not have always had the newest, best products on the market, they also knew what they needed and what they didn't need -- and didn't waste their money on things that weren't necessary, so that they'd have money for the things that were.

I love new shiny pretty things as much as the next Martha, but what my Aha! moment taught me was that I'd much rather have the nice, pretty things that matter, rather than the ones that don't. I'd much rather have a beautiful, fruitful garden, a fridge full of healthy foods, and a home that is both safe and sound. It doesn't mean we should all start dumpster diving or anything, but why not take a note from the elderly in our lives? Why not try out one or two of these tricks on your own? Amazingly enough, I received an email from Tree Hugger that was about just that : being Recession Ready and Green at the same time.
**(If you'd like me to forward it to you, just leave a comment!)

"But what about clutter, Amy?" you may be wondering. Uggh. Clutter. The nastiest of all the 7-letter words, clutter is such a problem in our society today, I don't blame anyone for wanting to throw things away, just to get some breathing space. But why throw when you can give? Pass your unused things on to a local charity, or sign up for your local freecycle group. We do both those things, and it's made such a difference in what we no longer send to our landfills! Also, if you're afraid of becoming a packrat, here's another idea: STOP SHOPPING FOR THINGS YOU DON'T NEED!!! Take a good look at what you've got, and I'll bet you'll realize that you need a lot less than you'd thought.
When you do find yourself in need (which we all do at some point), consider using those same giving outlets as your shopping base -- I've received a ton of wonderful things from freecycle (including all the seeds for my new garden)-- Goodwill has some decent clothes (especially for kids), and who needs a bookstore when you've got a library??? The point is, there are a plethora of alternative-shopping outlets available to you, if you'll take the time to look. Why buy new when you don't have to??

If you're interested in learning more, click on some of the links above, and don't forget about the buttons on the left -- they may say"Swap" but that's just another term for RECYCLE!!!

I know I've climbed pretty high up there on my soapbox today, but I wouldn't lecture if I didn't care. **Commence eyerolling NOW** As an appeaser, I've included a couple of pics from this past month for you to peruse. Truce??

Well, hello, Ryan!

"Daddy Monster" dropped in for a visit...
...and so did "Monster Jax"...

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