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Wednesday, September 14, 2011


It's not what you don't have, it's what you do with what you do have.
~Kitty Bartholomew~

The thought occurred to me the other day as I was preparing bread pudding, that the thrifty life is so much like making one.  It's doubtful that very many people would choose bread pudding as their favorite sweet, given all the ooey goooey goodies that are out there.  No, a bread pudding is one of those things you bake to use up the bread that's going stale, the milk that's nearing its expiration date, too many eggs.  But once you taste it warm from the oven (hopefully with a dollop of cream), you realize how deeply satisfying and good it is.  How rewarding it was to take a combination of ingredients that by themselves didn't amount to much, and making something delectable from them.  How much fun it was to  use your creativity.

And that pretty much sums up the thrifty lifestyle.  Rather than being resentful that you can't afford things, you discover that it's fun and rewarding to use the old noggin to figure out a solution.  For instance, this cottage was really ugly when we bought it.  And when I say ugly, I mean ugggggly!  Everyone thought we were crazy when we bought it.  But the location was right, the size was right  and most importantly the price was right.  Was it the perfect little gray shingled cottage on Nantucket Island? No.  But we knew we'd never be able to afford that and we didn't want to be a slave to the mortgage company anyhow.  So we tackled the task of making this place into something closer to our heart's desire.  Planting flowers started from seed to make beautiful gardens.  Figuring out that with the addition of shutters  and a flower box,the little kitchen window looked more in balance with the larger picture window on the left.  Removing some of the ugly cabinets and painting the rest white in the kitchen made it look a lot more cheerful.  Painting the ugly turquoise metal garage and putting on new doors (the old ones were as thin as rice paper) made such an improvement.  Little by little, with very little money, we made a silk purse from a sow's ear. And because we were frugal, we managed to pay off the mortgage in less than five years too.  Which allowed us to save up for the new siding that will be gray shingled, so we will soon have the house we envisioned.

Looking back, I've been doing this my entire life. As a girl, when we couldn't afford a new winter coat, I would remove the collar and add a "new" fur one found at the thrift store and change the button outs.  Jeans that met with an unfortunate encounter with the bleach bottle were dyed  back to a nice deep indigo. The little black dress that had to be trotted out for another season, was given a new look with the addition of a pretty scarf or brooch. When we moved into a house with an ugly turquoise bathtub, we applied a cheerful complimentary wallpaper to the walls (found at a discount store) to make it look like the color was chosen on purpose.  We had Cath Kidston style before Cath Kidston! And you know what?  It was fun!  I actually feel sorry for people with unlimited resources.  How dull life must be!


  1. Very wonderful post! How inspiring that you were able to pay off your mortgage because of your frugal choices. I myself grew up being creative with thrift store clothing, it could be pretty fun. In the past I have made the mistake of shielding my children from when money was tight, and done so by spending money on things that should have been spent on more important bills. We now live much more frugally but still have work to do in that area, very encouraging post, and wonderful example!!

  2. Do you know I've never made bread pudding. So after I read this, and noted I bought another two dozen eggs the other day, forgetting I already had two dozen, I just pulled out my cookbook and I'll try it today! I think limited resources inspires creativity, and good old-fashioned recipes which everyone knows taste best. I would choose your house to buy based on your wonderful yard. To me, the yard is of first importance, because it is important for me to be outside as much as possible. (and raising my kids, they claim I had them outside more then in). That is great about your house. I just paid off our house yesterday. That is how everyone in my childhood town pay off your house. It is bad enough how they determine interest on the full amount each day, even though you are paying down the principal. I look back to my poor childhood, and our whole little town was poor, so we didn't realize there was anything different about that, and I cherish the lessons I learned. That and growing up with 38 cousins in the same 1,000 person town! love,andrea

  3. Thanks April! It is fun to be creative with thrift store clothing. That coat I was writing about was just a plain coat, but after I added the fur collar, brass buttons, some braided trim to the cuffs and a wide belt, it had a very Dr Zhivago look which I was aiming for. Everyone wanted to look like Lara that winter!

    Hi Andrea! Congratulations on paying off your house! It's such a good feeling to know that you don't owe anyone. Our yard was just a large weed lot when we purchased this house. It still wants to revert to that whenever we slack off a bit. I grew up in the same type of little town. I wish every child could. It really was very Norman Rockwell-ish. Although a bit shabbier!

  4. I love this post Jane. You write so well... and your lifestyle is encouraging. Definitely a worthwhile read!!

    Looking forward to pics of the bargain Nantucket when she's finished. But then, are we ever finished? O.K., looking forward to pictures of the evolving beauty!

    Blessings, Debbie

  5. Oh I really like this post Jane! This is exactly what living simply truly is...making do with what we have. Seeing the possibilities :)


  6. Thanks Debbie! I'm looking forward to seeing my bargain Nantucket too. Right now the contractor is working on another project and we're impatiently watching the verrrry slowwww (how to type slow-motion?) progress, knowing we are next.

    Thanks Maria! The possibilities are endless with a bit of imagination and gumption. Hope it gives others hope that anyone can attain their dreams.

  7. Funny how life is. Some of my favorite childhood meals were meals I never realized were thrifty. We thought they were great. My mama made her cold bread pudding out of leftover biscuits. My grandmama always made each person two pieces of toast for breakfast. It was just her standard breakfast meal -- but we always had one piece of cheese toast and one piece of buttered toast just like she did. It was only when I was older that I realized it was her way of cutting the cost of serving so many breakfast.

    I can't wait to see more photos of your cottage as it evolves.

  8. Hi Shara! One of my sons' favorite meals is potato pancakes. Little did they know that was what I served when there was nothing in the house and a day to go to payday. They still request them. We had to eat those quite a few times back when wages were frozen and inflation was high! But we had happy memories of those times.

  9. hi jane,
    i love your post.....your bread pudding looks good
    and wonderful flowers have you on your table.
    i love your lifestyle!!!!
    love regina

  10. Hi Jane,
    I too love the simple things in life. Thank you for stopping by.
    Mrs. E

  11. Hi Jane, I sure enjoyed reading your post tonight! I know what you mean, I did many of those things when I was growing up too. My jeans always had at least two or three butterfly patches by the end of every school year! :)

    I can still hear my Dad's words ringing in my ears every time I think of buying something new for the house: "What?! But it's still good!" So many times just realizing that something is "still good" even though it may not be perfect, always gives me a jolt of fresh perspective. Life becomes more content and more simple, when I am able to enjoy what I have. I have learned over the years the importance too of caring for what I have, because it may not always be able to be replaced. Styles change, colors change, but if you learn to take care of what you have, you will not be forced to have the stress of having to go on a hunt or to have to settle for something you really don't like. Then when it is really time to paint, repair, and decorate, it is more fun and special. Hope you have a lovely evening ahead! Delisa :)

  12. Morning Regina! Right now my garden is producing a lot of plummy colored flowers. It's really inspiring me to knit something in those colors.

    Hi Mrs. E! I enjoyed visiting your blog and will be back.

    Hi Delisa! I think one of the nice things about getting older is that now I can look at the pictures of styles in magazines and not feel the want to go out and update my look in fashion or decorating. And yeah, clothes shopping is stressful for me. I always go to the store knowing what I want but am unable to find it. Then I settle for what the store has only to be unhappy with it. I really need to start fashioning my own clothes again!

  13. Dear Jane,

    Let's hear it for bread pudding philosophy! I'm reading a book right now about quilts and women's diaries that mention quilting, and it makes me feel quite nostalgic. Those women were thrifty to the core, and they made everything they did shine with love!



  14. I love those type of books Marqueta. What's the title? I just got a cookbook from Salvation Army about depression era cooking. It has nice stories along with the recipes. The one thing I gather from it is that hard times drew families together.

  15. °º✿
    º° ✿
    ♥ ♫°
    Olá, amiga!
    Passei para uma visitinha.
    Bom fim de semana!
    º° ✿♥ ♫° ·.

  16. Olá Inês! Eu só estava pensando no outro dia, eu preciso mais pop para o Brasil e ver o que minha bela amiga é até!

  17. Hi Jane! I hope you are having a nice monday! I thought I would just pop over and say hello this afternoon. I have been having a quiet day, puttering around doing laundry and various chores. I finished the gloves I have been knitting and also made a big pot of soup. I tried some thing new that added a lot of flavor. The soup has a beef broth and tomato base with ground hamburger and little macaroni pasta, carrots, celery, onion garlic, basil, a little marjoram, cayenne pepper and bay leaves. I had two cans of seasoned butter beans that have been in my cupboard forever. I got them on sale at the market a few months ago and they had been pushed to the back of the pantry. So I threw them in the pot. Oh my goodness, what a difference! It really took an ordinary weekday kind of soup, and took it up a couple notches. I baked a pan of cornbread to go with it. I hope you a lovely afternoon! Delisa :)

  18. Good evening Delisa! Aren't those improvised soups the best? I don't know where butter beans got such a bad reputation, they are wonderful. I tried that pumpkin cornbread that I e-mailed you the link to the a while back. Thought it was a bit dry, maybe needed to increase the oil or pumpkin in it. Going to have to fiddle with the recipe a bit. But that will have to be later because for some reason, probably allergies, my taste buds are on the fritz. I once lost my sense of taste for six months when a can of corn fell on my head. Crazy thing, I know! Hope you'll share a picture of your gloves soon! Did you see the latest edition of Piecework Magazine? They have a pretty pair in there. But for now I'm knitting lowly old slippers, which is what I need, my feet are always cold, even in summer.