Category Archives: THRIFT

A Month Eating Out of My Cabinets – An Exercise in Humility

1cupof coffee

It had been such a beautiful Saturday morning!  I “awakened the dawn”, as the Psalmist David says.  For a solid hour, I sat with a cup of coffee and watched the sun rise and then dapple the trees with its rays, then shine in full brilliance.

After such a glorious start, motivation was high enough to tackle cleaning up my writing papers, a most necessary but long-delayed task.  During that dreaded process I found an unexpected bill for $100, due this month, which meant I could not do the too long delayed oil change, pay the small fee to have the ring my daughter gave me 20 years ago repaired, nor could I keep buying lots of low calorie fresh food which had FINALLY helped me take off five of the 30 pounds I needed to drop because of high blood pressure.   My happy bubble burst and I just lay down for a few minutes – to rest and to pray.

“Well, Lord, maybe now is the time to finally eat out of my cupboards until they are totally bare.  You know I am trying desperately to lose weight and losing weight with the food that I already have in the house seems impossible, but I am going to try it.  I will trust in You to either help me lose weight or else be content with staying as I am. 

Please forgive me for ungrateful for all Your generosity.  Help me fully appreciate that it is a luxury to even think about weight loss when so many are desperately trying to just stay alive.  Teach me this month, dear Lord, what You want me to learn. And thank you for reminding me of the Scripture “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” (Proverbs 24:10, New American Standard version).   Help me be strong in what is really an easy task.  And let’s have fun with it!”

To be honest, that thought about having fun with it surprised me, but then when I pray I am always surprised at the wonderful thoughts God gives.  I’m sure He laughed at that one.   Here is a record of the fun we had that month.

  • I immediately put a bag of pinto beans in water to soak.
  • I made a list of my low calorie soup ingredients, which were cheap as well as healthy and would be enough fresh food.
  • I checked everything in every kitchen cabinet and found I had more than enough to do just fine, I had:    A box of popcorn, two boxes of diet chocolate pudding, five cans of beans, four cans of vegetables, a box and a half of oatmeal, two jars of applesauce, two boxes of six-pack crackers for snacks for my grandsons, one box of chocolate poptarts (my secret super indulgence for years), five tins of smoked sardines (which I genuinely like), two packs of ground beef in the freezer,  and on and on  – you get the picture.  I had PLENTY of food in my cabinets and refrigerator.

Bottom line?  That month was just fine.  I never went hungry and even managed to stay the same weight.  And through it all I was reminded, each day, with every meal and snack that I had, that I was eating far, far better than many Americans were eating this month and countless millions across the globe.

What I initially thought was a bad thing God had, as always, turned out for my good.  I had needed a fresh reminder to be truly, sincerely grateful and to fervently pray for those struggling in true poverty.

What a kind and loving Father He is to gently nudge us toward truths we need to remember!

Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 2 of 2

The sadness I so often felt at Christmas I knew was in large part because of unrealistic expectations.  It had been that way since my childhood.  It was time to stop that habit of mind!

I now understand and deeply appreciate all that both my parents did for their three children.  They both sacrificed and gave selflessly of their time, energy, and resources so that their children could have advantages they did not.  Through just plain hard work and common sense and thrift, they raised our family’s standard of living year by year.

When I was two years old, we moved to the lovely little antebellum town I grew up in.  My parents had to really pinch pennies at first but by the time I was in elementary school (back then that was fourth through sixth grades), our family was well established and respected in our little community.

However, about that same time I began to notice differences – in cars, clothes, houses – all the trappings of wealth or lack thereof.  My family was working class, and I always wanted more and better toys then clothes, radio or whatever at Christmas than I got.

I never knew, until late in high school, that the parents of some of my classmates – the very ones who wore the “groovy” Villager skirts and penny loafers and flaunted Gucci purses and every other gadget and gizmo that was advertised – did not pay their bills.  Some of them also had other, more serious financial problems created by excessive spending.

My family was working class but our bills were always paid, we always had an abundance of good, healthy food to eat and all the clothes we needed and then some.  I learned even later that some of the small business owners in town had been forced to close their shops because the folks who appeared in the society page owed thousands to the plumber, the contractor, etc.

Once I became a parent, then a single parent, I understood the sacrifices my parents had made.  However, for all these years, even with all the writing about gratitude, this little poison of jealousy at Christmas time has been hiding in the dark corners of my heart.

Dear Father in heaven,  I can only ask for Your forgiveness.  Forgive me for this sin of coveting, or desiring, what other people have.  Forgive me of being ungrateful – after You have been so very gracious and faithful each day of my life to provide so generously for my every need and those of my family.  Thank You, for shining the light of truth into my heart and freeing me from the bondage of jealousy. During this season, when we celebrate the greatest gift ever given – Jesus, Your very own Son, help me keep my mind on You.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalms 19:14, New International Version)

Below is a link to a video by Christy Nockels and Janna Long  that embedded this attitude even deeper in my heart.  May it do the same for you!



Expectations . . . Blessing or Affliction? Part 1 of 2

christmas wreath and star 2015

I looked at the glittering star and wreath my four-year-old grandson Ben had delightedly helped me hang on the wall.  I felt a twinge of sadness and knew I had to get to the root of it.  Ben and I had had a delightful time decorating a few days ago.  Why was remembering it now making me sad?

My first thought was that all the decorations were from the Dollar Store.   Such a contrast with the pricey items lining the aisles in every store!  Next, I realized I had subconsciously envisioned covering every available surface of my tiny apartment with glittering tinsel and garland and bells and wreaths.   Ben and I had made two trips to the Dollar Store and had quickly spent the ten dollars I had allocated, which was all my budget allowed.   However, the ten decorations looked few and far between to my adult eye.

Then, thankfully, common sense and a grateful attitude prevailed.   Ben could not yet perceive the difference between our decorations and those in the mall windows.

Not only that, for a solid hour last Tuesday, Ben had been in charge of the decorating project, which satisfied his emerging leadership qualities..  As we opened the packaging, we discussed the best placement for the wreath, the star, the bell door knocker, the huge red bow, the two soldiers, the two red skates and the  “candy sticks”, to which we tied the jingle bells.  But Ben made the decisions, with confidence and big smiles each time.

As I had done with his Mom, I had taken the little I had and make it seem much to his innocent eyes.  As we celebrated our decorating with some shared crackers, Ben’s eyes sparkled as he looked around.  He said things like, “I really like the shiney star, Nana” and  “I have a soldier and stocking and Allen has a soldier and a stocking.  Thank you, Nana.”

If you look at the picture again, you will see the star hangs next to the plague that says “Enjoy the little things in life. . . for one day you will realize that they were the BIG THINGS.”  Truth was literally, written on the wall.

I had to face the fact that I had had unrealistic – and materialistic – expectations.   Aye, there was the rub!  And, I reflected, it had been a problem ever since childhood.   How had I let it go on this long?  And how much joy had been stolen each year?  I knew I had more mental cleaning house to do.




Unjealous Heart, Chap 2, Post 11

Operating in that small kitchen proved excellent training for not only Sharon but for me as well — even before my current emphasis on not complaining.  I found the experience fertile ground in which to grow the good fruit of patience, especially when preparing a meal.

We both liked simple foods, a fact which should have prevented having to spread ingredients all over the counter.  Like so many single parents, though, I leaned toward short-order cooking of two separate meals, one of traditional children’s foods and another with foods more appealing to my adult taste and adult need for lower calorie intake.  So the end result,  preparation-wise, was identical.  I may as well have been preparing an involved, complex meal.

Cooking a typical evening meal might begin with hauling out a bag of carrots, cutting board, knife, and scraper.  The carrots had to be done first, because their preparation took up the sink and two-thirds of the counter space.  With the carrots scraped and chopped and back in the refrigerator to chill in their yellow plastic container (a former economy-size margarine container), I cleaned the counter, cutting board, and sink. Next, I hauled out ground beef, salt and pepper, eggs, milk, and bread to mix up hamburger patties.  There was not one inch to spare, and quite a few inches too few, by the time all that was sitting on the  miniature counter.

I used the ever-faithful, ever-useful large mixing bowl to mix the patties.  With two hamburgers sizzling in the frying pan, I packaged up the rest of the patties in aluminum foil, put them in the freezer, cleaned the counter, and started a can of green beans heating on the back burner.  Next, I took the cookie sheets and broiling rack out of the oven, put them on the floor by the card table, a further impingement on floor space, then arranged tater tots on a small pan and put them into the oven to heat.

I tried hard to see the humor in all the necessarily careful planning and timing and patient rearranging of bowls, food, pots, and pans.  At times, though, like tonight, the best I could manage was a caricature of a grin, a resigned slow shaking of my head, and a tight-lipped silence as I fought hard not to complain out loud.

“It’s so unfair,” I thought as I turned the burgers over and put the ketchup squirter and mustard bottle on the table.

“The Wexels and people like them have so much and we have so little and…”

As I closed the refrigerator door I saw the words, written in red, I had taped above Sharon’s first grade picture and her latest example of penmanship.  “Be patient with difficult circumstances.”

I smiled, not much, but a little, and with that, the tension began to ease.  I shook my head and laughed, this time a real laugh, as I turned down the heat under the burgers.

“If I hurry,” I thought, “I can get one of our special cheesecakes in the refrigerator before Sharon finishes her shower.”

Bargains. . . A Double Blessing!



sketch lotion

In the cabinet under my bathroom sink stand five bottles of cream oil body lotion, with shea butter,  for extra dry skin.  (Thanks to Texas weather, that definitely describes my skin!)  The lotion was on sale in my favorite department store – clearance priced with a $5 card for buying four bottles, which made it an even greater bargain. Bottles of this lotion now stand next to my bed, my rocking chair, and the bathroom.  No more chasing one bottle of lotion all over the place  – luxury!

I rubbed some on my hands, arms and neck before sitting down to type this post.  The fragrance envelopes me like the finest perfume – at least for several minutes before it fades.  Scent is calming to me, and I have not purchased perfume for more than five years. But my loving heavenly Father gave me a six month supply of a most comforting scent for a miniscule fraction of the regular cost.

God consistently, faithfully leads me to bargains like the lotion.  It is always like a loving pat on my head.  “See Freda.  I am taking care of your every need, and I know every detail of your life.”  I bought five boxes of stuffing mix (which I love) for 81 cents, instead of the regular $1.15 in the same department store in January.  And the list could go on, with innumerable examples from the 34 years I’ve known Jesus.

Do I ever tire of having to be frugal?  After all, I’ve had no choice for most of my adult life and that’s getting to be a lot of years now.  Do I ever get sick of having not so much that the haves do?  Of course!  I am fully human, believe me.  But to keep the bitter roots of envy, resentment and jealousy from taking root, I do several things.

  • Keep a heart of true gratitude and express that to God continually.
  • Avoid malls, catalogs, television, and anything else that revolves around materialism
  • When I do succumb to wistful longing (usually about something I wish I could get for my family), I talk to God about it, add 10 things to my gratitude list, and take extra care to guard my heart.

I am far from perfection, but like the song by the group Selah says,

“In Jesus’ name, we press on. 

Dear Lord with the prize, clear before our eyes,

we find the strength to press on.”

Why set my heart on earthly things, more fleeting than morning mist, when I can store up treasures in heaven?   Unseen treasures – like love, joy, peace, and gratitude – are eternal.  (II Corinthians 4:18)

P.S.:  Yes, I know the sketches are by no means professional but I am enjoying doing them.  And who knows, if God helps me improve, we can watch the  progress together!!


Mysterious Housewarming Gifts

Last night I received three delightful housewarming gifts, though I’ve been settled in my little apartment for seven months now.  The gifts were in my favorite colors and harmonized with my shabby chic style.

First was a large framed picture of a rose.  By large, I mean Georgia O’Keefe large.  Two similar pictures ones grace my walls.  This one was in a heavy, double-beveled brown frame.  Dove gray flowers with light brown swirls backgrounded an off-center frame on frame, of a gray rose, fully opening its petals over the elegant arc of its stem.

Next was a small white flower stand, its graceful flaring legs topped by a seven by seven inch top.  White just happens to be my accent color.  Now, my CD player could rest on the flower stand, not the floor, while Johnny Cash’s rich baritone read me the New Testament as I cooked and cleaned each night.   (Get your copy at

Finally, was a conically-shaped silver glass.  As I rotated the heavy weight in my hand, I saw not one scratch.  The glass completed my little collection of silver bling at the end of the counter underneath the window.   There, propped on an upturned brown wicker basket sat the Brighton clock a Florida friend had given me at my going away party.  Next to that, was a running horse etched on a paper thin silver plate I’d made as a horse-crazy ten-year-old Girl Scout.  The plate had been propped in a place of honor, in every home I had had for the last 43 years.   Horses remind me of my Dad.  The shiny silver glass drew my eye to that little touch of my Dad.

Had I asked for the gifts? No.  Did I need any of them?  No.  My Sunday School class and fellow Prayer Team members had amply supplied, and then some, all I needed to set up housekeeping.  But, you know, our loving Heavenly Father delights in giving us unexpected pleasures like sunsets, bargains, butterflies, and smiles from strangers when we feel low.

Decades earlier, one winter night my daughter and I had crept quietly outside and lovingly propped our much-used diminutive table-top Christmas tree against the dumpster.  When we walked back two minutes later to add a box of Christmas decorations, the tree was gone.   I can still feel the warmth that night as we just smiled at each other and went back inside.

Where did my mysterious gifts come from?  Last night, when this Texas heat relented just a bit, I took the trash out.  Propped against the dumpster stood the framed rose, leaning on the plant stand, with the silver glass on top.  How grateful I am for the little things God does!  I can almost hear Him whisper “My child, I see you right where you are.  And I am always caring for you.  I love you.”

Birthday Party. . . for $10 total

“Thank you for planning a wonderful birthday party for our gal, Nana. . . “

I smiled at the text from my son-in-law.  Yesterday, Frank, my two grandsons and I had celebrated my daughter’s birthday, in grand and excited style – for less than ten dollars.  I would have spent much more, but that was what I had.  I was grateful God provided a way to take good care of my darling daughter, just as He has done for more than three decades now.

Our secret?  The same tactics He taught me throughout all her pre-teen years, those sweet, sweet years of innocence.  I used lots of prayer for help, inexpensive items and then made a big celebration out of it.  With two grandsons, gifts were easy.  The boys (two and three and a half) gave Momma the gifts to unwrap but promptly claimed them as their own, according to my plan, and delighting everyone, Momma most of all.

The most expensive thing was a bedtime book.  The other gifts were from the Dollar Store – two tiny yellow shopping bags, two small memo books, two sprigs of plastic flowers, and two paint brush boxes.  Wrapped separately in white tissue paper (which cost one dollar), with festively generous curling ribbon, that made eight gifts for Momma to receive, open and watch her toddlers happily claim as their own.  Ta da!  No jealousy issues (at least for a few minutes.)

As for decorations, I hung one half of a “Happy Birthday” penant string from lights at the side of the room and the other over the room divider, then dangled long, curled strands of ribbon from the edges.  With bright “Happy Birthday” plates as the centerpiece, I covered the table with two dozen “curly cues” strips of the curling ribbon.  The oldest grandson kept asking me again “What did you call these, Nana?” as he tossed them in the air and uncurled them so he could watch them spring into curls again.

Our traditional birthday cake is a box mix cheesecake Sharon has enjoyed  since she was eight and everyone, except the two-year-old,  loved it.   We lit  candles, blew them out and repeated it all until the smoke–and laughter– overwhelmed us all.

I looked at my daughter and saw her down through the years, when it had been just her and me, with the same type of celebration:  numerous small gifts, carefully wrapped, decorations everywhere in our tiny apartment, and much prayer that she would feel as cherished as she was.

Thank You, dear dear Father, so very much for showing me how to give her good birthdays all these years.   What a gift it always is to me, from You, to see her smile.  And now, to see her do the same with her own children.  How loving You are and how faithful! 


Unjealous Living

I have been living, UNjealously, since my late 20s.  Before, envy and resentment twisted my thinking.   Though afraid of failing with this blog, I have important information to share with you. If you are poor, I can show you how to keep yourself and your child from feeling poor, even if you are.

For most of my adult life, I have lived in functional poverty. I define that term as being so poor you could not feed, shelter, and clothe yourself and your family without constant and extreme deprivations. Your clothes, and nearly every thing you own, are from thrift shops; you never ever eat out—ever; you wash and reuse plastic water bottles and carry them so you never buy anything while you are out to drink; you look first at the clearance shelf at the grocery; you treat your kids at the Dollar Store; you cook as healthy as you can, but never prepare expensive food; you often eat saltines as a snack; you rent the smallest apartment you can squeeze everyone into; your family has not been to a movie theater in ten years; you cover cardboard boxes with pillowcases from the thriftstore to make end tables; you don’t make your kids eat them but you eat a lot of sardines and liver.

I will share photos of my 375 foot square apartment as we go along so you can see God in action as things tidy up. I’ve been here three months, exerting genuine effort (in spare moments) to make space for everything so I could work on the real writing. As you can see, it is cluttered and seems totally disorganized. Well, it is and it isn’t.

I can find most things I need, but could not find my completed manuscript of “Unjealous Heart.” You see, today I had determined to take a step of faith and just start taking daily time to write, for God, and trust Him for enough time to do the writing job, and other things in my life. Funny thing, though. I found out my home is nowhere near organized enough to start. Clutter is stressful and causes confusion of the mind, heart, and spirit – and I cannot do creative writing in the midst of clutter.

So, I begin today to get organized so I can do the real writing, which is this blog entitled My Unjealous Life. This blog will be about how I am still, after many years, living in functional poverty, as I defined that yesterday (link). AND I AM JOYOUSLY HAPPY!!!!!! I am so excited about both my part-time jobs and the real writing that I often wake at 4 a.m. and write before going to work. I love my life with God, in the midst of being poor – because I do not feel poor. I feel so very rich, spiritually as well as materially.

I got the idea to write a blog about my personal life as a writer/blogger while I am learning to blog my book Unjealous Heart and creating my writing website Words of Hope and I mean it to be encouraging to you that I can truthfully say I have never had much money my entire adult life and still do not and that I am happy – and you can be, too, regardless of circumstances.
I learned that about 30 years ago when my daughter and I were immersed in single parent poverty. The same principles I learned then I have used for all these 30 years and am using them now, to dig myself out of this situation, and make it better and turn it into a blessing for God and His people.

So, my dear new friend, come along for the ride! It is going to be exciting, I promise, for two reasons:

(1) I have seen our God do miracle after miracle in my one ordinary life for 34 years now. And He is the same yesterday, today, and forever,and
(2) there are no favorites with God. I am nothing special, and what He did for me, He will do for you if you follow Him with all your might.