A Frugal Life

Skill with money was a lesson I learned very early.  I was given an allowance for helping in the kitchen, doing chores, dusting, ironing, sweeping, weeding, picking vegetables, picking up rocks and sticks in the newly cleared field, feeding the animals, cleaning the barn and more, $2.50 each week.  We were expected to contribute to the upkeep of the household in the form of work in order to receive any money. With my allowance, I was supposed to purchase all my clothes and shoes, tickets for the movies, etc.  Saving enough for a new winter coat or a new dress for school was difficult.  Though my friends thought my allowance was a lot, their parents bought their clothes and paid for the movies.  Little did they know that I did without a lot of things I wanted because I could not pay for them.  A trip to the movies took a week’s allowance and left me with nothing to spare.

I budgeted a certain amount of cash for each type if expenses, divided into envelopes marked clothing, entertainment, school needs, tithing, miscellaneous.  Sometimes I would have to borrow from one envelope to make a payment needed in another category, clothing being a big ticket item.  Thus I became a thrift store shopper.  The only one around when I was in junior high and high school was Goodwill off Boren Avenue in Seattle.  I can remember getting dresses there from Saks Fifth Avenue.  Some of my favorites were dresses by Lanz which was popular at the time.  Many of the clothes sold there were outdated and I didn’t want them when I was in high school. They just weren’t cool, but if you really “shopped” the store you could find some wonderful treasures. Fads and fashion were what it was all about and you needed to find the most recent craze so folks didn’t know that you purchased it second hand.  Later I furnished my first apartment entirely from second had goods.

When I was in junior high, my parents devised a method so TV wouldn’t take up all our after school time.  We were not allowed to watch until evening after chores and homework were finished.  We were given an allowance each week which included a little extra for “pay TV.”  We each got an extra quarter.  Each program was 5 cents.  Most programs were a half hour. We could watch more than five programs, but the extra shows came out of our regular allowance at a nickel each.  I saved all mine and skipped most of the programs.  My sis always ate through all her allowance.  Needless to say this plan didn’t fare very well with either of us.

The consequence of my being frugal as a child is that I now am frugal as well.  Because I can stretch a penny endlessly, I don’t need a lot of money and therefore do not work as much as most people.  This has been the bane of my life.  If I had worked more, even full time, for most of my life, I would have a better, more comfortable retirement, or even a retirement.  As it is, I tell my husband that I will have to work until I die to make ends meet.  Most of my adult life I have either been self employed or worked part time.  Consequently I have not garnered the retirement most create by working full time.  Social Security is greatly decreased and my “retirement accounts” are abysmally small compared to the full timer.

But…I can still stretch that penny.  Because I make food from scratch, can and freeze a lot, because I shop at the thrift store and seldom purchase new goods, because we do not travel extensively or have expensive tastes, the minimal retirement that we do have goes a long ways, for which I am thankful.

My parents idea of teaching me to frugal as child did not necessarily work out as an adult.  I am willing to do with much less.  I save as much as I can and spend little compared to my contemporaries, I am satisfied with little, I work hard with small resources to create a happy and prosperous home environment, not a wealthy one, but one that comes from hard work and frugality.




Pasta Anyone?

ravioli cutter

Pictured is a ravioli stamp manufactured by Pampered Chef.  I find it the easiest
way to efficiently and easily make great ravioli.

Recently one of my readers asked if I made pasta.  Yes, most certainly.  When I was much younger and when I lived at home with my parents we rolled it by hand and cut it by hand.  Now I have one of those handy doohickeys made by Atlas that makes it a whole lot easier, a hand crank pasta machine.  Sometimes I still cut it by hand if I want to make papradelle, the really wide ribbons of pasta.

My machine came with a ravioli maker, but I do not use it.   I also had one of those aluminum, flat plates that took a sheet of pasta, which, in turn, was pressed with this plastic cupped thing that made space for the filling.  You then put a second sheet of pasta over the top and rolled the rolling pin over it to press and cut the ravioli apart.  It didn’t work very well either.

If I want to make ravioli, I make them by hand.  I did find a round ravioli maker which hand-stamps out round ravioli at remarkable speed made by the Pampered Chef that I use often.

If you have read my earlier blogs, you know that I make ricotta, as well, and often make it part of the filling with spinach or pesto and sometimes ground chicken.

How do I make pasta?  One cup of flour to which I add a pinch of salt and one large egg.  I mix this in a bowl with a table fork until mostly together.  I run this crumbly mixture through the pasta machine.  As it starts to coalesce, I pick up more crumbs and flour, which didn’t mix in initially, until it is all together after going many times through the largest opening of the machine.  I fold the sheet in half and put it through the machine until it “pops” like bubble gum when going through.  If you put the raw edges down through first, eventually the folded edge will pop.  When it does you are ready to start decreasing the opening width thus making it thinner.  When you have it as thin as you would like, cut as you wish, either by hand or with the cutter on the machine.  Leave on the counter to dry while you boil salted water for cooking.  Remember that homemade pasta that is still soft takes a lot less cooking time than dry pasta.

My husband usually makes the pasta while I make the sauce.  By the time he is ready, I am ready.  The sauces we make a simple, often cubed, boneless, skinless chicken thighs browned in some butter, freshly chopped garlic, chopped tomato, some basil or pesto and some parmesan cheese.  The tomato provides the juice needed.

I have also used a tin of drained, smoked oysters with fresh mushrooms, a little basil, rosemary and thyme and cream for another simple sauce.  Prawns may be substituted for the smoked oysters.  Fresh peas, spinach, onions, both green and regular, bacon and much more can make a beautiful fresh pasta dish.  Just use your imagination.  I use it to clean out the fridge of all kinds of things lurking there.  Green or black olives, red roasted peppers, pepperoccini (sp?), salami, prosciutto, blue cheese, the list is endless.

It can be as complex or as simple as you like.  The thing that makes it really special is the homemade pasta. It has a different texture than any store-bought dry pasta.

Remember you can use it for other things too, like wonton, lasagna, Chinese dumplings, cannelloni, little purses with all kinds of surprises, tied with chive stems.  I have used these for appetizers and they look very fancy.

Don’t have a pasta machine?  You can watch for one at the thrift store which is where I have bought several, cheaply.  You can roll the dough out with a rolling pin and cut it with a knife, which was the way I made it for years before I managed to get a machine at the thrift store.


Sewing as a Way of Life


I use to be a seamstress. I use to sew for a living. I loved it. When I was growing up, I sewed. I learned when I was six years old. I sewed almost all the clothes I wore. As I grew older, Vogue patterns and I became intimate.
In college, spring break was a sewing marathon with a new dress every day for each of the five week days of the break. I chose the latest Euro fashions. Only the most stylish designs were for me.
When I first started working, I was probably the best dressed at the insurance company where I worked. Between the designer sale rooms of the local fashion outlets and my sewing skills, I was a fashion plate.
These days a pattern can set you back twenty bucks. That’s just the beginning. You need fabric, thread and notions (buttons, bias tape, elastic etc.). No one cares about fashion. Anything goes including garments that look like they should have been thrown out last year. Retail outlets sell goods that are meant to be worn a couple of times and then used as rags. How do you keep warm and fashionable in a pair of jeans that are more holes than cloth? I can give away my old jeans and someone younger thinks they have found a goldmine after I have just about worn them out.
I wear clothes forever. I am still wearing a T-shirt I bought thirty years ago. I have a sweater that is probably more than forty-five years old that is my comfort garb at home. The elbows are worn through, but leather patches are trendy.
Now that I am “over the hill,” why should I care about fashion. I am only concerned these days about comfort, but not entirely. I still have an eye for something fashionable, but now it comes from the thrift store. Why pay a fortune for some great ensemble when it will probably out live me?
Turtlenecks are my winter go-to. Summer it is t-shirts and cotton slacks or pedal pushers. Am I ever happy that pedal pushers came back into style….or maybe not. Maybe just anything goes these days.
I sewed commercially for a lot of years and those days are past, but sometimes I will fine one of those fine garments hanging at the thrift store. Sometimes someone who knows me will see the label and tell me that they saw or bought one of my designer dresses or coats from back then. They were made to last, not like today’s throw-away society. I hope they get lots more wear from them. I have been tempted to buy them myself, but I am trying to shed some of this stuff that packs my closet, so maybe they will find some more of these in the thrift store soon. I certainly hope so!