Grandma’s frugal ways
July 12, 2011
Years ago it was not uncommon for grocery stores to gather up canned goods that were bent and damaged or had labels torn either partially or completely off. These crushed, battered and sometimes unidentifiable canned goods were piled in grocery carts at the end of the aisle and marked at anywhere from 5 cents a can down to a mere penny. It was a kind of shopper’s grab bag of goodies. For a mere 5 cents you could get a can of Campbell’s soup, Green Giant creamed corn, canned yellow peach halves, pork and beans or a multitude of other possibilities from a veritable tin can pot luck. The only drawback was that the contents of the cans were often unknown until the frugal shopper opened her surprise package on the kitchen counter.
My Grandma Zeek often took advantage of these supermarket specials and seemed to genuinely enjoy the frequent surprise she would get when she opened a can and discovered its contents. After all, pickled pigs feet sold for nearly 50 cents a can and the prospect of a real bargain always presented a certain degree of excitement and anticipation. In retrospect, I figure that life must have been pretty uneventful for Grandma if opening a can of bargain beans was excitement.
However, one evening, when Grandma opened one of her surprise packages, she found that she had really gotten her nickels worth. The content of the can was obviously ground meat of some kind and a real bargain. Covering the opened can with a scrap of aluminum foil, she placed it in the refrigerator. This would be a real treat for Grandpa’s lunch. Store-bought canned meat was a delicacy and Papa Jack would be pleasantly surprised to find such a rare gourmet sandwich in his lunch sack.
The next morning, as Grandpa was sipping his third cup of coffee, Grandma was finishing the packaging of the lunch that she would send with him when he left the house for the hay field. No doubt she was tempted to drop a hint about the wonderful surprise she had lovingly prepared. However, she said nothing as she handed Grandpa his lunch on his way out the door. He bent down and pecked her on the forehead with a quick kiss as she flashed him a tender smile. Her eyes sparkled in anticipation of his praise for her frugal management of the household budget and the delicious lunch she had prepared.
The morning quickly passed and during the kitchen cleaning, a couple of loads of wash and a basket full of ironing, Grandma had decided that she would also treat herself to one of those special sandwiches. Lunchtime came, and she thought of Grandpa climbing down off the tractor and heading for the shade tree at the corner of the hay field. Grandpa would have left his lunch and a burlap wrapped Clorox jug of cool water there by the tree and would soon be enjoying the special sandwich that she had made.
“Well”, she thought, as she fixed herself a sandwich with the remaining canned meat, “he won’t be the only one.”
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Grandma took a large, long anticipated, bite and wretched.
“Dog food!!!” she gagged, as she rushed out the back door and spat out the unswallowed mouthful. The remaining portion of the sandwich was flung to the dogs that snapped and snarled as they fought over the sandwich. This was a real treat for them! Store bought dog food was a far cry from the table scraps that they were used to.
Immediately, Grandma thought of Grandpa. “Oh dear!” she moaned.
What would she say when he came in from the field? Would he be heading in now, demanding a decent lunch to replace the one that he had just been denied? She quickly set about scrounging through the cabinets and refrigerator for something to have ready when he came storming through the kitchen door. But, Grandpa never came to the house for lunch. All afternoon, Grandma stewed and fretted over the impending encounter that was bound to occur when Grandpa returned from the field.
Evening approached, supper was ready and Grandma heard the familiar, ‘POP – POP – POP’ of the old twin-cylinder John Deere as Grandpa rolled down the lane. Grandpa came through the back door, hung his hat on the peg, washed his hands and face in the porch sink, and walked into the kitchen. Grandma could not bring herself to look at him as she kept her head down and finished setting the bowls of food on the supper table.
“Don’t know what kind of sandwich it was that you packed for me today. ” Grandpa said as he pulled his chair from under the table and sat down. He didn’t notice Grandma’s red-faced cringe as she tucked her chin to her shoulder and quickly turned away. “But,” he continued, “it was awful doggone good!”
Grandma was dumbstruck. Should she tell him or not? Wisely, she silently decided that this was truly an incident in which ignorance is bliss or, to borrow from another worn out cliche, sometimes it’s best to just let sleeping dogs, and their canned food, lie. But, grandma was never known to tell a fib.
“Yes it was,” she timidly replied, “awful.”