Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

In my novel Uncut Diamonds, the main characters, Marcie and Shawn McGill, experience some rough times. It is the seventies, when the U.S. had one of the worst recessions since the Great Depression. Marcie has to get resourceful to make ends meet, and she gets ideas and motivation from the writings of her grandmother who was a farm wife in Nebraska during the Great Depression.

Many people talk about the poor economy right now, but believe me, it isn’t anything like what we experienced in the 1970s. *I sound so old when I say that* 

Along with a need to spend less is the current recycle, reuse, going green-type mentality that brings back some of the frugal practices of days past.

Like this awesome dress my friend made out of two T-shirts:

She took a red and a blue T-shirt, cut and sewed and came up with a cute jersey dress. Snip snip voila!

Because the T-shirts had been given to her free through her job, her cost for this cute and casual summer dress: $00.00

Spending money can be fun, no doubt about it, but only if you can afford it. Exercising cleverness and creativity like my friend did is fun too. Being in debt is a form of bondage that is never fun. So choosing frugality over mindless consumption of goods is a wise move when one is trying to avoid indebtedness or get free of it.

There are two proven ways to get out of debt:

1. Live beneath your means: spending less than you take in

2. Letting your money earn interest instead of paying it

Money can disappear so fast at the grocery store. When things got tight for our family, I tried staying out of the stores, even grocery stores, and getting by on what was in our pantry and our garden. Like Marcie McGill, I cooked a lot with beans, used eggs instead of meat for protein and yes, I have even made my own crackers.  And I still make my own salsa, especially when tomatoes are ripe and delicious.


8 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, quartered

1 medium-sized onion


8 cloves garlic

8 T. lime juice (1/2 cup)

4 fresh jalapenos

1 tsp. salt

1 8 oz. can tomato sauce

Chop tomatoes and onion. Chop or press garlic.  Cut off cilantro leaves and add to mixture according to taste. Wear gloves to dice the jalapenos. Add the seeds according to taste: add a few seeds for mild, more for medium, even more for hot. I don’t recommend adding all the seeds unless you want super hot salsa. Add lime juice and salt and stir thoroughly. Add tomato sauce to thicken. Makes about one quart.

13 thoughts on “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without

  1. Jackee

    That recipe looks awesome! I’ve only just became frugal. It’s changing my life in so many ways! I love the creativity it takes to live simply. Thoreau had the secret all along. :o)

    Love your new website, Karen! ❤

  2. L.G. Smith

    I was fortunate to have grandparents and a father who lived through the Great Depression. I watched my grandparents live a simple life. He worked for the railroad and she was a teacher. They lived in a small house and drove one car. They grew their own vegetables and reused everything. BUT they put a little money away every month and invested in the stock market. By the time they retired they were able to travel the world for the next twenty years. I want to do the same thing, so I’ve learned to live without a lot of what I’m told I “need”. I’ll have to check out that movie. 🙂

    1. karenjonesgowen Post author

      It is so odd now to see an American family with just one car but when I grew up in the fifties and sixties, every family I knew only had one car. Now it seems like there’s a car for everyone in the household with a driver’s license, at least where I live.

  3. Old Kitty

    Leaving below one’s means is so important!! It’s the hardest to do in reality but it’s the most most important financial thing you could ever do.

    As is recycling whenever you can with whatever – as stylishly shown by your very talented friend!

    Oooh now the salsa recipe sounds yummy! Thanks! Take care

  4. Tracy

    Mmm! The salsa sounds delicious. My parents have a huge garden, grow grapes, etc. They make jelly, juice, salsa, freeze their tomatoes so they can use them all winter and on and on. It is less expensive and healthier! Something I would love to start doing. OH…love the t-shirt dress too!

    1. karenjonesgowen Post author

      Tracy, We moved this year from our home that had the fruit trees, big garden and do I ever miss it! It is fall and I’m actually having to BUY apples instead of going out and picking them off our trees. I did plant some jalapeno pepper plants at our new house but I didn’t plant tomatoes to go with them. Must buy tomatoes to make the salsa!

  5. Paul Anthony Shortt

    Home-made food is always so much better that what you can buy in a shop. And it’s fun to make stuff for yourself!

    Ireland was considered a third-world country within my own lifetime, so I have lots of fond memories of things like my mum making my Halloween costumes from scratch.

  6. Theresa Milstein

    I wish people always tried to live green. During WWII our country was actually recycling cans! Since my husband and I were in graduate school for so long, I’m familiar with the frugal lifestyle.

    Love salsa!


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