Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Dumping Coffee

I refuse to make my own laundry detergent. It is kind of a fad right now--as are all things frugal. I am naturally a frugal gal and pinch pennies all over the place. So why don't I do this making my own detergent thing? I just can't handle one more fiscal sacrifice. I like the smell of Downy.

There is a fabulous book called A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It is about a very poor immigrant family in Brooklyn, New York in the early 1900's. This is a family that looks for the tin from cigar wrappers in the gutters so they can melt it down and sell it to the junk man. They buy the hard, week old bread and use the crusty chunks as a base for their meals for the week. They go without as a regular thing. However, coffee is an important part of their family culture and they cut corners in other places so they could buy it.

Neeley and Francie loved coffee, but seldom drank it. Mama poured Francie's coffee and put the milk in it even though she knew that the child wouldn't drink it. At the end of the meal, it went down the sink.

Mama had two sisters, Sissy and Evy, who came to the flat often. Every time they saw the coffee thrown away, they gave mama a lecture about wasting things.

Mama explained: "Francie is entitled to one cup each meal like the rest. If it makes her feel better to throw it away rather than to drink it, all right. I think it's good that people like us can waste something once in a while and get the feeling of how it would be to have lots of money and not have to worry about scrounging."

This queer point of view satisfied mam and pleased Francie. It was one of the links between the ground-down poor and the wasteful rich. The girl felt that even if she had less than anybody in Williamsburg, somehow she had more. She was richer because she had something to waste. She ate her sugar bun slowly, reluctant to have done with it's sweet taste, while the coffee got ice-cold. Regally, she poured it down the sink drain feeling casually extravagant.
Smith, Betty (1943). A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. New York. Harper & Brothers. pg 13.

I'm not nearly as destitute as this family, but I do make clothes out of old tablecloths, build my new deck from someone's old wood and feed my family a lot of beans. I will keep using Tide and Downy, however, drink out of glass glasses, and buy Kraft Macaroni and store-bought Popsicles.

Until our next money crisis, at least. Then, we can swap detergent recipes. K?


  1. You aren't missing much. I DID make a year supply of soap and it doesn't clean as well. I end up re-washing and soaking a lot more. I was given a bunch of household items for Christmas- TP, handsoap, paper towels, etc. I found that I really missed that "fresh laundry" smell. I am down to my last bucket and loking forward to smelling something other than Fels Naptha soap.

  2. Trust me, you're saving your family money. I could never figure out how come doing laundry when I was growing up was so much easier than after I left home. I couldn't get the stains out from my children's clothing. It was so irritating.

    I finally figured it out. My mom used Tide! I grew up with Tide but switched to cheaper brands to save money when I had my own home and budget. In the end I ruined a lot of clothing. Moral: I could have saved money by just paying a little more for the Tide, thereby not having to replace stained clothing. You learn.

  3. I am totally right in the middle of that book. :o)

  4. Just found your blog! I agree about the laundry "splurge", if you would call it that. So worth the saved time, and saves clothing from stains!! Thumbs up from another penny pinching mama!!