Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Woes of Being Frugal

A lot of women I know lament the possibility that they are turning into their mothers.  I could do worse than turning into my mother. As a matter of fact, I believe I am doing worse. I recently realized that I’ve apparently skipped a generation. I think I’m morphing into a blend of both of my grandmothers.  

My paternal grandmother was born knowing the secrets of mise en place – it’s a French term, used primarily in cooking, that means everything in its place. She was highly frugal – but also a bit of a hoarder, a trait I can see looking back but it didn’t show at the time because of her genius for organization.  Enter my mother’s mother - also a highly frugal woman who wasn’t in the least bit organized but very inclined to save everything for some special occasion that never materialized. When she died, at 82, she had half a closet full of clothes with the tags still on them and drawers full of lingerie and linens that were still in their wrappers. 

What I got from both of them was the frugal part. Where most men will spend 2 dollars on an item only worth a buck because time is money, almost any woman will spend $1 on a $2 item she doesn’t need simply because it’s on sale.  Thanks to the frugality genes from both of my grandmothers, I will generally buy at least two of them to increase the savings.   

Earlier this year, I was sick enough to leave work and found myself home, alone, with a handful of daytime colds meds in one hand and the TV remote in the other. By some fantastic stroke of good fortune I found myself at one of the really popular broadcast shopping malls – in a kitchen themed show. I was mesmerized by the color coded, silicone sealed plastic containers that all came with a single sized lid.  I’ll take two sets of those, please, because I *know* that those containers are the only thing standing between me and the immaculate, mise en place, domestic paradise my kitchen was meant to be.  

Now, please consider, when I tell you what I did next, that the only way these amazing storage containers could fulfill their destiny is if we had LOTS of homemade food to fill them. So, you see, the purchase of the next item up – a stand mixer (in a to die for color) by a highly respected manufacturer of small and large kitchen appliances – was essential to my plan.  I’d like to add that it not only has “planetary action” it also has a rubber squeegee on the paddle beater that will scrape the bowl as it mixes my culinary creations with an astounding 450 watts of power!  That’s 125 watts of power more than the smaller version of the same mixer I purchased about 10 years ago.  I did NOT purchase two of these even though it was $120 less than it’s normal price and came with a card for an additional $30 rebate AND a subscription to a magazine favored by snobbish foodies.  

Upon delivery my husband, the kitchen neophyte, seemed unable to grasp the simplest of kitchen concepts.  He wanted to use mega-mixer immediately!  Uh – no, we need to save it. Why on earth did he think it was a good idea to begin using that shiny new mixer to make a boxed cake mix when there was a perfectly good mixer already sitting on the counter? I had to keep explaining it to him so long that it literally stretched my patience, to the max, trying to make him understand that when I got ready to make food for the new containers, it was essential that I knew where all the attachments were and the only way we could ensure that was to leave the damn thing in the box!  Jeeze - they are so *thick* sometimes!  And he calls ME difficult? 

When I opened the fridge door the next morning and saw three of my brand spanking new color-coded, silicone-sealed, storage containers randomly scattered across three shelves, I thought he was just toying with me. So I cheerfully scraped the contents out of the new containers and into three of the various shaped containers manufactured by sandwich bag makers, washed the new ones and lovingly put them back in their organized stack (did I mention that all the lids are the SAME size?) on the pantry shelf. I was less amused the next morning to find three more in the refrigerator. What is wrong with this man? I have to confess that, because my patience had not yet recovered from the beating it took over the mixer, my tone when I asked him that same question may have been just a tad sharp.  That does not excuse his rudeness when he took the containers out of my hands, took their lids off, turned them upside down on the kitchen island, and then tossed them into the sink. He scratched one for God’s sake!  Several days later, when we were both calmer I again explained basic kitchen concepts to him. It shouldn’t take a nuclear physicist to see the relationship between the mixer and the containers. If we aren’t going to use the mixer until I have the time to fill the containers why would anyone, with any common sense at all, think it was okay to use the containers for food not prepared with the new mixer?  Damn, man!  This is NOT rocket science! If I only have a few containers to fill up, why in the world would I need that big ass mixer?   

He still doesn’t get it.  With reasoning skills that lacking, I know that trying to explain the purchase of 8 dozen quart size canning jars, the 21 quart pressure canner, and the new vacuum sealer in advance preparation for the garden I want to plant next year is really going to be a challenge. Wish me luck!