Thursday, July 24, 2008

Frugal Friday -- Eating by candlelight, an ode to my mom

About a year ago I started to seek out ways to live more frugally and heard from many corners the whisperings, and shoutings, to check out the book The Tightwad Gazette. It took me a while to succumb, but I finally checked it out from my library (it somehow seemed an oxymoron to pay for a book by that name) and began to read through it.

Quite honestly, I almost laughed out loud as I read. Not because the ideas were so humorous, but because I realized my mom could have written this book! I daresay she lived out nearly half of the ideas in that book at one time or another, and could write a few more chapters of her own as well.

My mother was an amazing woman when it came to living frugally, and still has a lot to teach in this regard. We had seven children in our family and numerous foster kids in and out over the years. Add to that the dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, chameleons, fish, and other pets that called our place home at one time or another ("Mom, can we get a . . . ?") and you have yourself a budgeting nightmare! My mom stayed home and truly held down the fort while my father worked diligently to provide for all of us. Yes, we wore hand-me-downs, drank powdered milk, shared bedrooms, kept the air up and the heat down, and lived as frugally as possible, but we also enjoyed annual vacations to amazing places. We traveled everywhere from Israel to Japan, and took road trips all across the USA and Canada. How in the world could we afford to do that with seven kids on one income, even 30 years ago? My mom. That's how.

Today I was reminded of one of her many frugal habits. Eating by candlelight. Almost every night, on the shorter days of the year at least, we ate dinner by candlelight. Now, as kids we didn't care much about the frugality of this. We loved dripping melted wax on our fingers, making scary faces at each other across the table, and blowing them out when we were done (I was always in awe of my older siblings who could lick their fingers and snuff out the flame in an instant -- ooh, aah!) I don't think my parents ever fooled themselves that this was a romantic way to eat dinner with the seven of us crowded around either. No matter how dim the lighting, we still all made our presence known.

However, these candlelit meals were another small way that my mother saved money. No electricity to light our meals, and she re-poured the wax into new candles. I remember she kept an old teapot on one of the back burners of the stove and would pour the wax drippings into there as part of dinner clean up. She then had a few molds that she refilled occasionally with the multicolored wax left overs and a new wick and we were good to go for another round of 'romantic,' frugal dinner light.

I've never done it myself (well, with homemade candles anyway), but thought someone out there might want to start some frugal memories for a child of their own.

For more frugal ideas, I'd encourage you to check out Crystal's blog. Probably not as sentimental as this post, but maybe just a bit more practical.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful story! I hope I can be that kind of mom to my kids!

Brooke said...

That's amazing. That you had 6 brothers and sisters and her arms were always open for more. That you have such great memories of growing up. That you were able to go to wonderful places.

Kim said...

I love this idea. Not only is it frugal, but what a fun thing to do with your family. My kids are older now, but when they were younger we used to do eat by candlelight just for the fun of it and they absolutely thought it was the best thing. They would get so excited about it. :) What a wonderful way to make cherished family memories. As soon as it starts getting darker, I think I'll do this more often.



BarbaraLee said...

How sweet. I guess you have to tune out certain things to have along time.
My hubby has a thing about candles. He is afraid of burn something.

Kate said...

Your mom sounds like an incredible woman, and you must feel mighty blessed to be her daughter.

I love the idea of eating by candlelight. We'll have to try that out.

Isn't it funny how frugality can become such a special part of family life? :)

Totallyscrappy said...

When I was young my mom liked to light candles for dinner. It sort of made it special.
I think my kids would enjoy this.
I wonder if the kids would eat more food if the lighting was dim? ;)

5intow said...


It's definitely worth a try. There's something appealing about Brussels sprouts by candlelight . . .


rebecca rivera said...

,,, in my area , there was a sudden electricity breakDown / brownOut . it was dinner time . for my cats . i think it was their first dinner by candle light ! ,,,