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?