|THE BARGAIN HUNTERS|
|Written by faye|
Bargain hunting is the sport of choice in our family. We are professionals at it.
No greater bargain hunter ever lived than my mother. She was relentless in her pursuit of a cent off here a dollar off there, only in her case in was a shilling or a pound. A ‘SALE’ sign drew her like a magnet, especially if knitting wools were the items being reduced. An avid and expert knitter, she nevertheless managed to turn out her fantastically complicated and beautiful garments at a knock down price. She claimed that they cost her nothing at all for the hours she spent sitting with my taciturn father, listening to her radio programmes, her fingers flying busily, would have been nibbling time had her hands not been otherwise engaged.
Our cupboards were full of canned foods that were ‘only slightly dented’ but otherwise good, that she picked up when the local grocery warehouse opened to the public one week a year and shed itself of surplus stock. We had a fine garden, thanks to Dad, but even he couldn’t make tomatoes grow in mid-winter and it was nice to be allowed to open a tin of tomato soup after school for a snack with a slice or two of hot buttered toast. Mum was really into preserving and she made bottled tomato soup and spaghetti sauce but we weren’t allowed to open those jars willy-nilly. Anyway, we thought the tinned stuff tasted better although we had enough sense not to let Mum hear us say that. Our pantry top shelves were groaning with jar after jar of bottled goods from our garden – peaches, pears, best of all raspberries and strawberries, gooseberries, apples, nectarines and so on. As well as the fruit, she put up jars of seasonal vegetables like asparagus and broad beans, peas and baby carrots. Dad grew most of these, but Mum was not above searching out still more supplies during the over-abundance of summer. Neighbours knew that surplus plums or blackcurrants would not be refused by our Mum and would be turned into jam before the day was out. Nothing was ever wasted.
Then Mum discovered the produce auctions. We had shifted house by this time and Dad was into a new career as a tomato grower after years of painting houses and he used to take his boxed tomatoes to town early in the mornings for selling. Mum went along and found that she could bid for, and buy, along with the restaurants and greengrocers, cases of fruit, or buy whatever of the lot that the bidder didn’t want.
“What do’y want THAT for?” Dad would frown. “We live on an orchard, for heaven’s sake.”
“But the frosts got our apricots this year and these were SOOOO cheap.”
Dad would shrug his shoulders and put the box or boxes into the car, knowing he would be the beneficiary of the day’s frenetic bottling. Mum, stout lady that she was, was always starting a new diet and sugary, bottled fruit and jam were always the first things off her daily menu. While rest of us dug enthusiastically into golden apricots and creamy custard, or piled glistening strawberry jam on our bread, she would stoically eat half an apple, or put Marmite on her unbuttered toast. It never made any difference that we could see. Mum stayed pretty much the same size and shape, a cuddly round motherly person who could hug like no other.
Other auctions were attended too and always produced something. I remember her coming home with a whole bolt of permanently pleated pinky-red cotton fabric. Yards and yards of it.. She made skirts for my young sister and me that were lovely. The problem was that as they wore out or lost their crisp pleats, she made another and anther and another. We wore those confounded skirts for about ten years until the material on the roll finally came to an end. By the time I was eighteen I was still wearing pinky-red pleated skirts.
It was at this age that I found Mum’s kindred spirit – my future husband who had been bitten by the same bug and had the beginnings of a similar disease. It wasn’t fully developed until after we had married and built our first home, otherwise I’m sure that house would have cost us a fraction of what it did.
As he grew older, the Bargain Bug really began to take hold with the result that our section and his garage was filled with what I called junk but with what he called ‘things that were going to come in handy one day’. The garage filled to such an extent that there was no room for cars and they slept outside, winter and summer, giving over their rightful space to ‘things’. Auction rooms, second hand shops, junk yards – Mecca! We never passed one without checking it out. I used to complain when I found bicycle parts under the bed, or sheets of glass placed for safe keeping behind the couch. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been a temporary thing, say a day or two, but these things could rest there for years until a use was finally found for them.
On the plus side there is the fact that he has managed to renovate, restore, enlarge, build-in, build-on, build-out and renew our various homes, adding tremendously to their value, for a pittance. Almost every item that I complained about has been put to good use, sometimes nothing like its original purpose but always used with innovation and skill.
I stood aside from most of these activities, scornfully refusing to add to the wholesale gathering of bargains. I prided myself that I was not a hoarder, never bought anything that wasn’t necessary (I did, of course, but I deluded myself otherwise) and was above poking around in dirty bargain bins.
But now that we are both retired I have discovered the Super Shed. While a lot of their stuff is expensive for what was essentially a throw-out, I have found that a visit there every one or two weeks can reap quite a harvest of goods, things that have come to the end of their lives and need replacing. I recently bought drinking glasses there. Ten cents each. Naturally I bought more than we needed and now they are poked into every cupboard, but if we have a party, I am ready. I buy my home decorating magazines there too. Cheap, in excellent order, and only a year or so old. Heaps of mags sit on the bookshelves. Where to put them? I must have a throw out one day. It’s raining today. It might be a good day for another Super Shed visit. Or maybe a trip to SaveMart. Oh, yes! The Bargain Hunting genes may have taken a while to develop, but I guess I didn’t escape after all.
Copyright 2007. All Rights Reserved.
|< Prev||Next >|