Pinch a Penny till it Screams

Cousin Kat was tight as Dick’s hatband, or conservative as she called it.  We learned early on stop by a grocery store before going to spend a few days at her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Our first visit, she knew we’d be arriving about dinner time.  She insisted we wait and eat supper with her.  We were surprised to find she’d cooked a about a cereal bowl of full of beans, sliced a tomato or two and an onion, and cooked four chicken wings for herself and our family of four.  “I don’t eat much,” she explained.  “I don’t want to make a pig of myself.”  My fifteen-year-old son could have eaten everything on the table.  Then she stirred eight teaspoons of sugar into her iced tea.  About a half-inch of sugar settled in the bottom of the glass after she stirred.  Apparently, the rules did not include sugar.

We went out for breakfast the next morning over Cousin Kat’s objections.  The kids were starving.  It was buffet style, so Cousin Kat ate like a lumberjack, loading about six biscuits on her plate.  She wrapped the leftover biscuits in her napkin, tucking them in her purse, topping it off with packets of jam, honey, sugar, and butter from the table to take home.  “They put these out here for us!”

Afterwards, we drove twenty-five miles into Independence, the nearest town, to the grocery store.  Aunt Kat went straight for the reduced for quick sale bin where she loaded up a bag of battered fruit, several dented cans, some aged produce, and a taped up bag of flour.  Then she cornered the unfortunate manager, a guy she’d taught in Sunday School thirty years ago.  He paled when he saw her, obviously battle-scarred.  “Marty, how much do you want for this rotten fruit and bent cans?  Something has leaked on this flour.” 

“How ‘bout a dollar for the whole lot, Miss Kat?” he asked tentatively.

“Now, Marty.  I don’t think you ought to charge me that much for this flour and this rotten fruit buzzin’ with fruit flies. I ain’t sure I’m gonna be able to use ‘em.  These peaches and bananas look pretty bad and ain’t nobody else gonna buy this flour.  You’re gonna have to mark ’em down some more,” she countered.

He looked desperate.  “How much are they worth to you?”

“How ‘bout a quarter?” Marty looked hopeful.

“Well, I’ll give you twenty cents, but I’m coming back to see you if that flour’s bad,” she promised.

“Tell you what.  Don’t worry about paying.  I don’t want to see you disappointed.”  I’ll bet he didn’t.

“Okay, but I’d be willin’ to give you twenty cents.”

“That’s alright, Miss Kat.  Wouldn’t want to beat a good customer in a deal,” he finished gallantly.

I roasted a chicken, and cooked green beans, and mashed potatoes with gravy for supper that night.  We’d bought plenty of groceries, so getting enough wasn’t a problem.  Cousin Kat pulled the biscuits from her purse and made a small fruit salad from her finds of the day.  She ate heartily, since all those groceries were going to waste anyway.  She canned the rest of the fruit with the honey and sugar from the restaurant.