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Sudie Crouch: Nickel and diming along, just like granny
Piggy Bank
Diane Helentjaris, Unsplash

For whatever reason, Granny always thought things stayed the same price as the first time she bought it. 

“What the –” 

I can’t write her next word; it wasn’t ladylike, and she said it in the middle of the Winn-Dixie bread aisle when she saw that bread had gone up to what she declared to be the sky-high price of 50 cents. 

Sudie Crouch
“This is ridiculous! How do they expect people to eat with prices this dadblamed high?” 

She was more or less talking to herself but also eager to engage anyone she could in debate and discussion right there in the store — employees, other customers, it didn’t matter. 

Granny was mad about her hard-earned money not going as far as it used to. 

“Prices go up, Mama,” my mother would inform her. “It’s not the 1940’s anymore.”

“Tell that to my paycheck.”

When gas went up to 70 cents, my grandfather guffawed at it. “Look at those greedy jokers, thinking they’ll get us to pay a dollar. That’ll never work.”

Granny watched her pennies closely and was never one to make a spontaneous purchase at the grocery store. She knew very well the racks by the cash register were there for impulse buys and told me to keep my eyes and hands to myself. 

She could tell you when something went up and by how much, as well as tell you what it went for in 1957. 

Never one to miss an opportunity to complain, we heard about it daily. 

Often at every meal, too. 

“Y’all better eat every dang bite of that,” she’d tell us. “They’re robbing us at the checkout lane now, so I don’t want to see any food thrown away.”

My grandfather chewed slowly. “Helen, this beef’s as tough as my old shoe.”

“I don’t give a dang, Robert. You’ll eat it. And you’ll eat it all week if there’s any leftovers. I’ll make hash or S.O.S. One way or the other, every bit of it will get ate.”

“Oh heck,” my uncle muttered under his breath. 

I didn’t blame him. 

She threatened to make us eat all vegetables, largely because my grandfather thought meat was the foundation of every meal. 

“Corn,” she declared. “We’ll eat corn every meal.”

My grandfather shook his head in disbelief. 

When I asked for cookies one day, I was told they were a luxury item. 

I wasn’t sure when a basic ol’ Toll House had been elevated to luxury but according to Granny it was. 

She was nickel and diming everything. 

Pop drew the line at the air conditioning. 

“Woman, I work out in the heat all day, with the sun beating down on me,  covered in sweat. I’m not going to sweat when I’m at home, trying to relax and enjoy the Braves.”

“That light bill’s gonna be $100 dollars, Bob!”

“It’s worth every penny! What are we working for, if we can’t enjoy something like having cool air? You’ve done told the baby she can’t have a cussed cookie. I like cookies, too, you know.”

In fact, I had probably asked for the cookies for our afternoon snack during our soaps, while he stayed with me while Bobby took my Mama to work. We were always conspiring about the things we could eat. 

Since Granny was so concerned about the rising prices, I decided to help her by clipping coupons, assuring her I was going to save her lots of money. And, dangit, I wanted some cookies. 

She didn’t say a word when the total was about $20 higher than what she had budgeted, all thanks to my coupons that required the purchase of two items instead of one. Instead, she stared, that lethal stare with the jaw set so hard she could probably carve granite with it. 

“I spent more than I needed to at the store,” she announced when we got home.

“What happened?” my grandfather wanted to know.

“Sudie had the idea to help us save money.”

Pop was confused. “What happened?” he asked again.

“It costs us more,” she said. “We can’t keep this up. I am not working my fingers to the bone, just to put food on the table and pay bills. That’s not life.”

My grandfather agreed. Heck, even I agreed, and I was just a kid.

“If we let them get away with charging what they’re charging, they’ll never go back down to a decent price again,” Granny said exasperated. 

Maybe that was part of the underlying purpose of it. 

They were blue-collar workers — Granny, Pop, and my uncle Bobby — working in skilled labor jobs. Every penny was earned through blood, sweat, and elbow grease. 

And when things went up, it really knocked the wind out of their sails. Any little bit of hope of saving towards something was gone. It took more just to do less. 

So needless to say, they had, even more, to be surprised and shocked about prices as the years went on, and I can only imagine what they’d be saying now. 

Me? I’m nickel and diming and watching my pennies, just like Granny would do. 

Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.