''Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.'' That was an expression I picked up many years ago while visiting cousins in central Vermont, very frugal people. It may well fit some of us in these days of difficult times.
Dan Parker, the oldest cousin, lived on a 300-acre farm on the White River near Bethel, Vt. Only 30 acres of the farm were tillable, and the rest was mountains with some areas that were used for summer grazing his cows.
Dan was an engineer by profession, but for health reasons had to get out of the city and to the fresh air of the farm. He milked a fine herd of registered Jerseys. He was far-sighted and helped start a farmer cooperative in that part of Vermont to provide a better market for local dairymen from that area.
When I visited him many years ago, his wife had died and he was living alone on the farm. His farm house was heated by and cooking done on wood stoves since he had plenty from his wood lot. Water came from a spring on the side of the mountain and flowed constantly through his house.
Dan's living was frugal, yet he seemed to have plenty. His cows provided milk, butter and cheese for his use, and he knew how to make the butter and cheese. He didn't own a car but hitched up his horse and buggy to show me around the area. After he was no longer able to farm, he moved into town to live with his sister, a retired schoolteacher.
In town, they had enough room for a good-sized garden and raised most of their summer vegetables to eat and enough to can for the winter. Gardening was something they enjoyed and was an important and economical source of their food.
As we think about the way we live today and the current emphasis on ''living green,'' we could learn something from people like our Vermont cousins or the many Amish families in our area that grow big gardens. It's been interesting to note that some cities have established plots of land that have been divided into smaller areas for folks to garden. And many of us in town can find small plots in our own yards where we can intensively grow vegetables.
One thing we learn quickly is that a good garden takes some hard work. They don't just happen. They have to be tilled up, seeds planted, weeds pulled or hoed out and the crop picked on time. So the idea is good but remember the energy needed to be successful.
We also live in a ''throw away'' society. Many of the appliances in our homes are not made to last long, are expensive to repair and most of us don't have the patience or know-how to try to fix them ourselves.
Advertising tells us that if our suit, dress, purse or shoes are out of style, get rid of them and buy new ones. And our government tells us that by buying we help keep the economy strong.
That's fine - if we have the money to buy. If not, we can go back to ''use it up or make it do.'' Years ago when I was growing up, we didn't have much money. We only had two pairs of shoes, one for work and one for school and church. They were shoes with leather soles and heels that could be replaced. I still remember Dad straddling his cobbler's bench putting new soles and heels on our shoes. New ones were a real luxury.
Today's shoes, for example, are not made to repair. Soles and heels are generally all one piece glued to the top that is leather or maybe plastic. We throw away shoes when we are tired of them.
So frugal living may be more in the picture today - and we can do it with some thought and planning.
Parker grew up in Trumbull County, is retired from The Ohio State University and is an independent writer for the Tribune Chronicle.