Stretching a dollar can save the environment


photo by Chandra

My first mother-in-law liked to say she could stretch a dollar — and she could. After all, her generation lived through the Depression. Besides, before she left her native Poland as a young woman, her father was unable to meet his debts and officials came, locked up all their possessions, and hauled everything away. They were left destitute — she never forgot that.


I could easily please her by buying apples or tomatoes for her on sale — and telling her so. I was young. I was stupid. I thought she went too far.



kitchen curtains

She could work wonders with her sewing machine

An experienced seamstress, she worked wonders


A tablecloth with burns in it became kitchen curtains

with her sewing machine. When her adult sons burned holes in her cloth tablecloth, she cut them down to make kitchen curtains. When the sun faded areas of the curtains, she cut them further and made handkerchiefs.


I was in charge of finding clothes for her to be buried in when she died. I was embarrassed when I had to tell the funeral home I couldn’t find any underwear without patches. They were clean. They were neatly repaired, but they were patched. Well, I already told you I was young and stupid. What difference could it possibly have made?


I don’t have her skills

Lately, I find myself rethinking that period of my life. I sometimes think I’ve become my late mother-in-law, but for very different reasons. I can’t match her sewing skills, but these days, like her, I find myself wanting to really use things up — for the sake of the environment. She may not have considered that, but little was wasted or thrown out in her well-organized, thrifty household! She was an accidental environmentalist!


She was an accidental environmentalist

I wonder if my kids think I’ve lost it? I take my own plastic containers along in case I’ll be taking restaurant food home. I carry used plastic bags when shopping for veggies or fruit. I use towels until they’re threadbare and then cut them down for cleaning rags. We need to create less garbage for our cities’ dumps. I reuse paper gift bags….



I use less paper to save our forests

I make my own ecologically gentle cleaning fluid (Vinegar, Baking Soda, Water) and use it for most surfaces in my household. The backs of printed pages are fine for when I print stuff which isn’t going elsewhere — we need to save trees and forests. I also want our seas to be healthier for the creatures living in them and I want the air to be better to breathe.

Remyand me2018

Remy, taller than me and proud of it!


Yes, I want a lot. I have children and grandchildren I love more than anything. I want there to be a beautiful world for those who are younger to enjoy in the future. I want it for you too…..


13 thoughts on “Stretching a dollar can save the environment

  1. If everybody followed your first mother in law to stretch the dollar there would be no need to recycle. Bless her soul for being ahead of her time. No doubt that you are a world patriot in that you do more than the average person to preserve the environment. You do what many people think of doing, like bringing your own plastic containers to a restauran for “take home leftovers”. Maybe your blog will start a trend where owners of restaurants will add a note on their menus: TAKE HOME LEFTOVERS PERMITTED ONLY WHEN CUSTOMERS BRING THEIR OWN FOOD CONTAINERS. Not only will it help the environment but it will help the economy.

    • Your response to my post, as usual, is interesting Joe: A restaurant I like and frequent decided to put a sign on their wall saying they charge 25 cents for a container at lunch time because I, (and my trained friends) all bring them in with us. The owner’s daughter said if I could bring in a container, so could others…

      • That’s great, Muriel! Which restaurant is it? I always carry plastic containers in my pack because I have a tiny stomach and can never finish the food. And I feel so guilty about using takeout containers.

      • Yeah, I always find that’s happening with me – suddenly I’ll notice something I hadn’t noticed before… Its all kindof “hidden”… there is so much going on on these web pages!

  2. Loved your post. Reminded me of my grandmothers who saved and reused everything that was possible , or sometimes impossible! Here, many of us do the same. Good to connect via the reuse- recycle way 🙂

  3. Lady Muriel, another wonderful and valuable blog. Too many people are too busy to consider recycling items. My Mother invented recycling almost 90 years ago. She never threw out anything and would wear clothing until it was in tatters. There are probably 2000 paper bags in her home. Her freezer is filled with foods that are several years old. If you google “recycling Queen” my Mother’s picture and bio appear . Love, Brian

    • Your mom was not alone Brian: So many of my friends are telling me the same thing after reading this post. It must have been a generational thing. Know that your mom is not the only one. I’m now a member of that club myself! Love ya.

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