Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Frugal Thoughts

"...if we could just admit, even if we never quite believed it, that a tender sizzling rare grilled tenderloin was a luxury instead of a necessity."
From 'How to Cook a Wolf' by M.F.K. Fisher

At times one profound sentence reminds me of the simple life my Spouse and I are trying to live. We dwell on our actions less than we used to as a result of carrying them out for so many months: it is hard to believe that we have been involved with this for so long, it has almost become ordinary in its necessity; Spouse and I have been trying to lighten our material load for the better part of a year now. So, returning to the original, frugal-minded roots of my writing, I mean to recapitulate on a number of things that we have changed about our living style.

1. Economising on the space we live in.
We have been preparing for a time when we might not be able to afford a two bedroom apartment with living room and kitchen. A studio, we feel, might be a viable personal option in the near future. That said, we have since discovered that we appreciate the smaller spaces and working together on our independent projects. We have reached the liberating point where full half of our living space can be written off, in a manner of speaking. We know now that we can live in a compact space half of what we currently rent. For now, that extra space seems a luxury.

2. Examining our grocery receipts.
I imagine that the money we saved through meticulous scrutiny of receipts during the year would not, now, enable us to even buy a gallon of milk. The majority of errors found and corrected involved mere cents. They were, however, our cents, our hard earned money, and the habit allowed us to understand prices and recognise increase in prices long before newspapers reported inflation. A head start and working knowledge of prices is valuable in such times.

3. Evolving our cooking processes so that bulk and staple foods are the majority of our supplies.
Our grocery bills have reduced since we began to use a lot of cereal, flour, frozen fish and rice as part of our daily recipes. I make all of our bread now and as a result our ability to make dough never diminishes. Our determined motto of once-a-week-grocery has not failed us yet.

4. Drawing most of our entertainment from the local library.
We cannot imagine ever again setting foot inside a video store in order to rent movies. The library offers concerts which we look out for, and all sorts of self-help, financial and educational programmes. Our library is a splendid one and we become better in our hearts for visiting it once a week. It gives us all that we need in terms of books: should we find something we cannot seem to live without we will buy the book at a discount price online after establishing that it is indeed a masterpiece. Of course I make reference here to my current reading enjoyment, from which I took the opening quote.

5. Reducing the output of waste.
We use grocery bags for our trash disposal and go down to the dumpster only twice weekly. It seems that we fill less bags than we used to; perhaps the buying of bulk foods, the absence of plastic packaging from bread and other goods are some of the reasons.

To reiterate the superb M.F.K. Fisher, certain things are luxuries, others necessities, and we ought to know which is which.
Some days ago I observed one of my neighbours driving one hundred feet to the mailbox, whereupon they collected the mail and reversed smoothly back to their apartment.
As a walker; as a lover of fresh air; as an individual who tries to understand the difference between want and need; as a frugal person; as somebody whose aim is to live more gently for the sake of our fragile environment- I find it hard to identify with that careless sort of action.
All that the rest of us can do is keep our chin up and our eyes open wide, perpetually ready, ever careful- and always having a wonderful life.


Anonymous said...

test to see if i can leave a post :)

Anonymous said...

dear The Elementary,
Thank you so much for all of your kind words. You always make me excited when you leave a comment, it makes me feel so good that others are reading my writing!! THank you because you are inspiring me to continue blogging everyday. Thank you! Now that I figured out how to leave a comment I will being coming here often! :)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Hurray, and welcome! You made it. I'm so pleased.
I'm glad it makes you feel good- just keep writing, for yourself firstly, and from the heart.

Pappy said...

It is amazing the amount of time and money we spend just keeping our things. Taxes, maintenance, supplies, storage, heating and cooling, fuel, contracts, and insurance. Many of these items have been in a closet or storage area for years. I don't know that I'll ever need them again, but I keep them. Glad you are making progress in the opposite direction.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Texican, I hear you. It never ends. My Spouse has receipts, papers, statements going back ten years from his first days in the US. He is a careful person and wants to keep them so we have been scanning them then shredding them. The earlier portion of this blog was centered around having less stuff and being frugal and I wrote a lot about how we did it. After a while there wasn't much happening that I could talk about in terms of possessions. Every now and then I come back to it but at least once a week we let something go to the dumpster. This week it will be a big old, heavy dresser that nobody will buy or accept for free, and some magazines nobody will take. Every time we send something out the door it brings us a strange happiness. Lighter. We even had a lawnmower in the kitchen last year, from our time in Texas. We can be proud of ourselves now.
Hmmm, seems I do yet have a lot to say on this matter :)

julochka said...

dear The Elementary--

thank you so much for your comment on my blog earlier...i was sort of writing it all for myself and not really imagining that anyone would read it, so i thank you for your comment--and for making me realize there are readers out there! but, mostly because it led me to your blog, which is dealing with exactly the sort of paring down and living a simpler life that i have been thinking so much about lately! coincidence? i think not!

i'm sitting in an airport at the moment, waiting for a flight, but will definitely be back to read more.

thank you!!!
/julie (from moments of perfect clarity)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

There ARE no coincidences :) Just meant to be...I think! We simple-life people all need to stick together.
I'm very pleased you came by. I'm looking forward to reading your blog.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

congratulations on all the steps that you and your spouse are doing to lead a lives that embrace the maxims of 'small is beautiful' and 'tis a gift to be simple'

I believe that if we are to 'save the planet' each of us must be more mindful regarding our habits and make decisions that embrace sustainability and simplicity....

thank you for your inspiration and sharing what you are doing.

may we all walk gently on mother earth...

hele said...

This is inspiration from above. I am trying to live more frugally since giving up my job to go back to University. You have given me many handy tips.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Kimy, Thank you. We do try. My Spouse said to a colleague at work yesterday when discussion of shopping malls came up, "I have everything I need." He got a very surprised look in return. Stuff is overrated :) Less is more. I appreciate your like-minded thoughts.

Hele, that makes me very glad. I used to write about it more regularly on the blog. It's a combination of being concerned about our own pocket, and caring for the planet, like Kimy said. Thanks for your feedback.

Charles Gramlich said...

An excellent post. My wife and I too have begun to simplify our life. I've found that just the pleasures of watching birds is often enough to give me a sense of profound relaxation these days. Congratulations on your success.

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

thank you very much for everything you said. It makes me feel better about the world to hear from people who appreciate birds and sunsets and simpler things and who like to Think.
I can hardly believe that this little blog has been visited by so many good people! It's a fine experience.

Please look around, explore my writing, leave a crumb:
I welcome comments and thoughts.