OPINION | Getting by


In September, the Bugle asked readers to submit stories of “getting by”: how people in the past lived frugally. We’ll be publishing some of these submissions in the coming months, and we’ll keep a cumulative list on our Web site.

Stories can be mailed (Getting By, Park Bugle, P.O. Box 8126, St. Paul, MN 55108), e-mailed (

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

) or sent from our Web site (www.parkbugle.org).


I was born in 1966, when my dad was 53 and my mom was 43. We lived on a small dairy farm in Wisconsin, so we had plenty of milk, eggs, meat and produce to eat.

My mom saved and reused plastic bread bags to freeze chicken, make crocheted rug mats and put over my feet as a boot liner.

Even though we had well water, we still were conservative. We had a top-load washer and we used a huge garbage can to save the wash water and reuse it for more than one load. We would start with the whites with the hottest water. After the whites were done, we would bail the water back into the washer for the next load. I can’t remember how many loads we would do before getting clean water.

Another thing I remember doing when I was really young and before we had a shower was to share our bath water. I hated it and insisted I be the first one in. Then my mom would take a turn.

My mom also sewed most of my clothes while I was in grade school. I had two pair of blue jeans that she made for me, and I did get to buy one pair of pink jeans from JC Penney that were on clearance. I wore them over and over again.

Amy Marshall, Como Park


My mother would cut the bottom off a bread bag to make a sandwich bag and use the top of the bag as the plastic wrap for a homemade cookie in our brown-bag lunches. We had to bring the paper and plastic bags home so they could be reused again and again.

She only bought flat sheets so she could rotate top and bottom sheets for extended wear. When a sheet wore thin in the middle, she cut it in half and sewed the outside edges together in a seam down the center, so the less worn part would then be in the center, then re-hemmed it.

Kids’ clothes were handed down to several of us, then to our cousins, and back to our little brother. When they finally wore out, mom cut off the buttons to reuse on new homemade clothes or to replace lost buttons, and tore up the fabric for dust rags or paint cloths.

Karen Lilley, St. Anthony Park


My grandma made many pies over the years, which always meant homemade crust. I’m not sure if she ever used a recipe or even measuring tools. I always enjoyed helping her.

I watched her trim each pie plate and was excited to see the extra pie crust left on the flour-dusted work space. Grandma would re-roll the leftover dough and make us grandkids a cinnamon sugar pastry treat. It needed to bake only a few minutes and was always eaten warm out of the oven. Sharing the pastry with my sisters was the hardest part.

I still make this cinnamon sugar pastry treat. Now I have the convenience of ready-made pie crust, and I don’t even bother making a pie. The crust I use isn’t as flaky as my Grandma’s, but the memories are always as sweet as the treat she used to make us kids many years ago.

Jill Kottke, Como Park