Waste Not and Want Not

My maternal grandmother came from a family that belonged to the Protestant Reformed Church of France and my grandfather was raised in the Presbyterian tradition; together they taught my mother to practice Calvinistic thrift.  Notwithstanding her fun loving ways—she loved a good joke and a sip of Scottish nectar—my mother was very careful with money.

My mother’s thrifty nature was deepened by the Great Depression.  Raising two young children , she learned to pinch every penny.  When something broke, it was repaired—with a toolkit consisting of a kitchen knife, a hammer and a pair of pliers, she could fix anything.

Sue Tucker’s mantra was “Waste not; want not.”  Christmas gift-wrappings and greeting cards were saved for the following year.  A meal would last for days.  After Thanksgiving, for weeks we would eat turkey: sandwiches, hash, tetrazini, salad and finally, soup.  Believe me, if she had found a way to do so, paper napkins would have been washed and reused.

I came along when times were easier.  My parents wanted to spare me from the worry of  depression and war; so like many in my generation, I was spoiled.

“Waste not; want not” is a principle almost forgotten by the “Boomer” generation.  My cohorts and I  spawned a disposable world: a new computer comes out, get rid of the old one; something breaks, buy another; cook too much, throw the leftovers away.

I recall my parents’ reminiscing how they made do.  My mother never forgot the lessons she learned during her upbringing and the Great Depression—similarly, the lessons learned during the Great Recession will shape behaviors for years to come.


Waste not; want not.”  Thomas Hardy as quoted by Sue Tucker

4 responses to “Waste Not and Want Not

  1. I look at my own children and see that they have learned the lessons these hard economic times have been teaching them. They are thrifty, watch what they spend, do without things they want to buy things they need, and I feel good that they get it. Don’t think they got it from me, though! Good article, Bill.

  2. My grandparents had a huge influence on my life. They were born in 1898 and 1900, so they believed in fixing things, darning socks, making do with what they had, and being thrifty.
    Both my brother and I live thrifty lives. I would never throw food away..I always find a use for leftovers. Anyway, reading your post reminded me that I was thinking just last week, about how I used to darn socks and how long its been since I’ve done that. Does anyone in this generation know how to darn socks???
    You’re right. We live in a throw-away society. Good message.

    • I don’t know how to darn socks but I remember wearing them. When we cook we prepare meals that can be enjoyed for several days. Often food tastes better the second day.

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