Wednesday, April 29, 2009

grandma really did know it all.

Most of the people in my life now [including Matthew] never met my Grandma. She died right as I was getting to know all the people I know now. And that's a shame, because their lives really would be better having known her. I may be a little biased, but in my opinion she was just about the wisest, most genuine person on the planet. Reminiscing and realizing I was copying some of her habits, I decided to specifically remember and try to implement some of her wisest ones. So now, I am sharing them with you. And if you think about it, I'm sure your own Grandma's little bits of wisdom could help you out in a pinch too.

1. The Communal Rag.
This is something that will probably make anyone slightly germophobic shrink back in terror, but I obviously did not die of any crazy disease growing up, and neither did anyone else who stayed with my Grandma. So I'm sticking to it.
This came to mind when Matthew mentioned that we were on our last roll of paper towels. AGAIN. I really really hate buying paper products. It seems so wasteful! You run out over and over again, you have to use a ton to clean up anything, and they're not cheap, unless you want to get the kind that run out in a day and a half. And I'm pretty stingy, so for me to talk junk about the cheapo kind means it's BAD. So, frustrated about the $20 or so a month we spend on napkins and paper towels [and that's getting them on clearance at BigLots!], I remembered my Grandma's communal rag. This was a rag that sat in the kitchen, usually draped over the faucet, and was used to clean up anything and everything that got spilled. At meal time, she'd wipe mine and my sister's hands and faces [obviously either with a different rag or the same one washed out], and then the table, and BAM! Clean kitchen. Clean kids. No paper towels or napkins. No trash, no wasted money, no environmental impact. Was she thinking about being green? Porbably not. But she wasn't wasting her money either, which, like I said in my last post, usually go hand in hand. "Waste not, want not." Remember that?

2. The Big Freezer.
Some people will argue whether or not this is green, but if you get an energy efficient freezer it can be, and just the basic principle behind it is pretty green, no matter how you implement it.
My Grandma would freeze ANYTHING. She had a shed out back that had a big deep freezer in it, and she had it full at all times - all kinds of broths, soups, fruits and vegetables, meat, water - if it could be frozen, she would freeze it. And she kept that thing full. Now, let me explain the difference between my Grandma's freezer and most people's freezers they have out in their garage or wherever:
1.It was filled with leftovers and extra of things she had made or grown in her garden. Not $12 bags of chicken fingers and egg rolls and microwaveable frozen dinners. People go out an buy freezers to make their Sam's Club membership seem like it's not a waste of money. They put a few bags of frozen vegetables that have no nutritional value or processed, fake, overly salted meat products [example : chicken wings/fingers/strips...they're horrific for you] in it that they paid way too much for and call it a day. My Grandma's way is greener and cheaper because first of all, she didn't go out and buy crap food in bulk just to put something in a freezer she bought to seem economical. She needed to save all that extra and leftover from what she already had so that she wouldn't have to go out and buy more. Opposite principles.
2. Also, it wasn't a drain on her energy bill because she kept it full - even in your freezer attached to your fridge, you should always keep it full, even if it means filling a milk jug wth water to have something taking up space - this makes the freezer use less energy to stay cool.
And I can't even begin to explain how tasty it was as a kid to go out to the freezer and get frozen fruit juice - from canned fruits, she'd pour the syrup or juice into a tupperware container and freeze it. This was much less fattening than ice cream, albeit probably just as much sugar, and it was free for her. She just used excess from what she had.

3. The Clothesline.
This may be my favorite, and I had a clothesline at our old house that I miss having here -I'm looking into rigging up an indoor one for our apartment, even though we don't pay for the washer and dryer use. It's just plain relaxing to hang up clothes! Especially outside on a pretty day. My Grandma always did this, and again, it probably wasn't to be green, but her simple lifestyle just lent itself to being green. Next to your refrigerator [which is like 30% of your energy bill!! Cut those temperatures back!], the dryer uses the most electricity to run. So next time you think it's a waste of your time to go out and hang up clothes, remember that 20 minutes of hanging up could save 10 to 15% on your energy bill...and then see how wasteful it feels.

4. Gardening and Using What You've Got.
So I've already announced myself as a big big fan of gardening, and to me, if you're going to me out there manicuring your lawn and planting flowers, why not have a little patch that actually does you some good as well? My grandma had about a 5'x10' garden, where she grew amazing tomatoes and cucumbers, not to mention mint and other cool stuff. She always used what she grew and loved giving it to visitors when they came. I love tomatoe sandwiches more than anything to this day because of her tomatoes! It saved her so much on her grocery bill to be able to walk outside and pick fresh produce! Which, by the way, she made her own compost to fertilize. :]
She also used what she had in terms of backyard growth. She had a pear tree with a strawberry patch around it that she didn't have to do much to take care of, but she could pump out some strawberry jam and pear jelly in that little kitchen of hers thanks to those random things in her yard. Also, she had a huge pecan tree in her yard, and she used to let my sister and me go out and collect all the good ones and had a huge basket to keep them in inside. And nuts are flippin expensive!! She could've just raked them up with the leaves and done what everyone else does and go buy pecans and pecan pies, but she used what she had and saved more money buy picking them up and using them. And no one ever complained that they didn't taste store bought!

That's about all I have for now. Matthew and I went and bought some washcloths today to try the communal rag deal, so I'll let you know how that goes. I'd encourage you to sit back and try to remember thing from your childhood that your grandma did. They lived through worse recessions than we have, and they made the best of it. Pretty smart ladies.


caednkat said...

Hi Shepard, (It's Mandi, Cory from The Rocks wife)...
I stopped buying paper towels all together about 8 years ago, prior to that I had cut it down to just buying a roll when I had a lot to cook for holidays etc.
That didn't have anything to do with being green, just saving money. Washcloths work really well for going paper free. I knit all of our wash rags though.
I agree with you, we all should revert back to how our grandmother's lived (live in my case).
People who grew up during the depression knew how to cut corners and save money.

Mrs.Flake said...

We also are fans and users of the communal rag; I have several actually.

Paper towels are such a waste! And why must they be so expensive?

Cutting corners has become my new mission!

Julie Wilson said...

grandmas are the best! this blog reminded me of my grandma doing the same exact things...composting, grape vines, garden, and a giant freezer with leftovers (even the frozen juice thing my grandma actually had popsicle molds she put it in!.

**paper towels: not trying to promote lowes (cause im sure u can get them somewhere else) but on our cleaning aisle (7) we have a bag a reusable rags that are specifically for that purpose...they have stuff on them to prevent them getting smelly and they come in cute they are great!!! pat and i use them often!

Julie Wilson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.