Legend or doorknob?

Posted March 6th, 2006 by Penny Wise

I love listening to the stories my Mum tells me about my grandmother. She was a prime example of a Simple Saver! She raised Mum and her three sisters on her own in England for several years during WW2, but they never went without. Rationing was never a problem for her; she had a huge vegetable garden and kept cows, pigs and chickens to keep everyone well fed in meat, eggs and dairy. Nanny made everything from scratch, even her own butter and Mum remembered as a little girl how her mother would always find ways to make the blandest food taste divine, devising her own 'as good as' substitutes when so many items were not readily available during the War. By the time I was born, Nan could no longer walk and my Grandad did all the cooking so I never got to sample her food myself, but even though all my memories of her are sitting in her chair, she still kept busy. She was always making something out of nothing, I even remember her crocheting recycled plastic bags!

These days when Mum watches me cook, she often talks about the things her mother used to do and it amazes me how much I actually still waste, even when I think I'm being frugal. Recently after a big session of vegetable chopping and freezing, I was about to take all the stalks and peelings out to the worms when Mum said 'Why don't you cook those up first to make a vegetable stock?' She showed me how and that's what I did - it smelled delicious! Now I have heaps of natural yummy stock in the freezer to be added to soups and stews and the worms still got to enjoy them when I had finished with them! A heck of a lot nicer than those powdered vegetable stocks too. I am trying to be really resourceful lately, making pasta sauces and tomato soup so I don't waste any of the tomato avalanche tumbling out of the garden. One of Noel's colleagues gave us a huge bag of carrots last week – I mean enormous! I was kept very busy chopping and freezing some and making carrot cakes. The donkeys were most impressed with their feast of peelings! Then Noel's mother gave us a heap of courgettes, which don't freeze so I made courgette loaves and froze them instead. I used to take these kind of gifts for granted, or even worse, leave them to go to waste in the pantry or the back of the fridge, but these days I really appreciate how much money these save us.

Shame then, that even with all my resourcefulness, I still managed to make a huge blunder last week! I didn't even realise I had done it until I was on the phone to Maxine several days later. We were discussing school photos, which had come around again. I was bemoaning the fact that these had cost me $97, which I felt was rather excessive. So did Max, who wondered what I had done differently as she had only spent $25 on a family package of her two children. I proceeded to explain that we were away last year and the kids had missed their school photos being done. This really had not gone down well with the boys and I had heaps of rellies and friends overseas who were owed long overdue pics, so when the photo forms came around, I went the whole hog. I ordered individual packs of both Liam and Ali’s photographs, a $25 family pack AND class photos of both of the boys. The daft thing is, as Maxine pointed out, the family pack was really all I needed. There were plenty of photos of all sizes in that pack – and even a photo calendar and bookmark, which would have been perfect to send overseas. Even if I had gone mad and ordered two family packs, it would have given me more than enough for everyone – and saved me $47 in the process. Through not taking time to read the form properly and think carefully about my choices, I had chosen the most expensive option there was. To use Liam’s favourite phrase, we all agreed I was a prize doorknob.

Talking of phrases, my youngest son came out with a classic line the other day. Our phone lines were down after a storm, so unable to do any work while the boys were at school, I decided to be kind and empty what we affectionately call 'Ali's Mess Basket'. Ali readily admits to being chief mess maker in the house, he never sits still for a minute and in the space of half an hour he can make the most spotless home resemble a bombsite. Because he is so busy moving on to the next mission, nothing gets put away first. So we have a rule that he can get out whatever he likes each day, but at the end of the day everything must be put into Ali's Mess Basket and when the basket is full, he cannot get out anything else whatsoever until the Mess Basket is emptied and everything put away in the correct place. He absolutely dreads the basket being full, which it was on this day, so I knew that he would be very grateful and relieved that I did it for him. When he returned home from school I said 'Look! What is missing from over there?' 'My Mess Basket' he grinned. 'What did I ever-so-kindly do for you?' I asked back. 'Put everything away!' he answered. 'Yes, so what does that make me?' I replied. 'I am a...' 'Cleaner?' he offered hopefully? 'Legend, Ali. The word I was looking for was LEGEND'...

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