Non-Consumer Photo Essay

by Katy on December 21, 2023 · 25 comments

I accompanied a friend to Target and paused by an empty bank of self-checkout registers. Me being me, (unapologetically cheap) I glanced under the registers and was rewarded with a quarter, a dime and two pennies. The 2023 Found Change Challenge finish line is right around the corner, so I’m relieved to add an extra 37¢ to this year’s meager money haul.

I saw an Instagram reel about how it’s become a mid-winter tradition to read Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising during the winter solstice. (There’s even a BBC podcast!) I love this series, but hadn’t thought about it since I read it aloud to my daughter when she was a kid. Luckily our copy survived multiple rounds of decluttering and was easily located. Officially the group read starts on the solstice, but my day was completely open due to an ill behaved car battery. In other words, the perfect opportunity to lose myself in a book.

And on a frugal note . . . the replacement battery was covered under the warranty.

You may remember that I gave butternut squash soup to my neighbors in Bonne Maman jars last week. Well . . . they boomeranged back with Almond Roca in them. An honorable trade.

My father gave me an envelope of family photos and memorabilia to look over, which included a piece of my great grandfather’s letterhead. Nat Sanger was a successful businessman, with multiple menswear stores in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It took maybe two minutes to find this photo of his “O.P.O.” (one price only) store from 1915 on the internet. The “one price” was a reference to his no haggling policy, which was a modern concept at the time.

Note his name and logo in the tile vestibule.

I also found this postcard of his lake house, which I mostly know from stories of how it burned down without insurance. (Also how a panicked maid threw a phonograph out a second story window to “save it!”) Somewhere I have a photo of my teenage grandmother lounging on that wraparound porch, which has always been a special picture.

I never met the man as he died in 1929, but it’s still amazing to find these photos.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Hawaii Planner December 21, 2023 at 7:49 am

That lake house is gorgeous!


Christine December 21, 2023 at 8:54 am

Old family photos are priceless and always fun to look through. Nice of your father to share them with you. It must be the week for finding 30something in coins. I found a quarter and a dime in my driveway yesterday. It was added to my found change jar which, like yours, is meager this year. I’m still hoping to find some paper money before the end of the year.


Leslie D. December 21, 2023 at 9:12 am

I’ve started the first book in the Dark is Rising Sequence series, based on your recommendation of the second novel. Checked it out free on Libby, of course!


Blue Gate Farmgirl December 21, 2023 at 9:15 am

I love familial histories! What an awesome picture. I probably would blow it up and frame it to hang in the living room. Priceless.
Once upon a time I created gingerbread houses and entered various contests, your lake house pic intrigues me. What beautiful architecture.
I went to town yesterday and my mother kept reminding me to stand up tall and stop looking at the ground, hee hee. I only came home with 1 dime and 2 pennies. Oh the thrill! I-5 driving this time of year is not for the faint of heart.


Bee December 21, 2023 at 9:58 am

What a great idea! I think that the photo would be beautiful blown up. I love black and white photography.


K D December 21, 2023 at 10:13 am

I walked to the nearest grocery store to buy bananas and pick up free with Rewards eggs and potatoes. I went past the Coin Star machine and found a penny in the rejected coins receptacle and a nickel and a penny on the floor near the machine. I used a backpack to pack my purchases so I didn’t need to pay for paper bags.

On Tuesday a friend came over for lunch and I served leftover chicken & noodle soup with crackers. Yesterday she invited me over for lunch. She made broccoli cheese soup to use up items that were leftover from a cocktail party.


A. Marie December 21, 2023 at 11:56 am

I’m with everyone else: The lake house photo (a) is gorgeous and (b) is a perfect model for a gingerbread house.

And although I haven’t run a total yet (we still have 10 days left in 2023, after all), I’m thinking I may have the lead in the Found Change Challenge. I should add that I may have an unfair advantage in all the Canadian coins I find in the Coinstar machine at Wegmans (most local merchants, as I’ve noted earlier, will accept the nickels, dimes, and quarters at U.S. face value), as well as in the $1 and $5 bills I’ve found in my street in the last month.


Lindsey December 21, 2023 at 12:00 pm

I don’t have pictures of my grandmother’s youth. What I do have is an intricate embroidered tablecloth she did in 1917 at 13, when she still lived in Russia and the Tsar was busy being overthrown. I had it cut into four large pieces by a professional seamstress who made the final products look like they were meant to be small, not hacked off a larger piece. I kept one and had the rest put in frames and one Christmas gave them as gifts to the siblings who would appreciate and keep them. She lived to 99 and 11 months, still living independently, so we all were lucky enough to have plenty of childhood and adult memories of her. Grandma ate donuts and full sugar Pepsi for breakfast for as long as any of us can remember. Died with Pepsi still in the fridge waiting for her. We grandkids wanted to throw some donuts and pop in the coffin with her, but my uncle forbid it. I never eat a donut without thinking of her.


Selena December 21, 2023 at 4:56 pm

You grandkids were right and one of you should have distracted Uncle and just did it. We’ve put meaningful items in the coffins of a few relatives. And the wife of our good family friend buried him in his standard work shirt, pack of his favorite brand of smokes in his pocket.


Ruby December 21, 2023 at 1:11 pm

1. Repaired the wooden threshold of our bedroom floor with materials we had on hand.

2. Sewed a button back on my husband’s pajamas.

3. Read the manual for our new washing machine (it replaced one that was 21 years old and nearly worn out) and determined we can keep using the big bucket of powder laundry detergent we already have.

4. Our 18-year-old cat has health problems that make it hard to get him to eat lately. We discovered that canned smoked herring is cheap, very low in salt, agrees with his sensitive tummy, and he likes it. Big win all around.

5. Took a bag of donations by what we refer to as “the big Goodwill” after a dentist appointment nearby and dropped in to look around. As right now I have only four pairs of slacks that fit, I looked for some in my new, smaller size and the racks obliged. Bought two pair for $8 total. Got home and found the corduroy pair had the original store price tag of $37.99 still attached inside. Thrifting rocks!


Marybeth from NY December 21, 2023 at 1:38 pm

Love the old photos.
1.Hubby caught Covid from me. I am on the mend and he is feeling yucky. He used a free test .
2. My daughter was going grocery shopping and asked if we wanted anything. I downloaded some coupons to my card. She got me 5 pounds of broccoli and asparagus. Both were 99¢ a pound with the coupons, 5 pound limit. I chopped most of the broccoli and blanched it. It’s now in the freezer. I cooked most of the asparagus too. I love cheese and asparagus omelets. Its easier if the are already cooked. They are also in the freezer.
3. We have been getting our money’s worth from Netflix. I finished watching The Great British Baking show. I am onto the Holiday version now. Hubby and I are watching The Squid Games based on the movie. I haven’t seen the movie but we are liking the show.
4. Meals are being pulled from the freezer. That is why they are there.
5. I read The World of Little House that I got from a free library. I love the Little house books so it was interesting to read about their background. I will pass the book onto my daughter.


Mary December 21, 2023 at 2:48 pm

The sign reads Worth Thifty Everywhere, if he only new his great great granddaughter would live by this motto and make a career out of it.


Katy December 21, 2023 at 8:23 pm

Actually I know that it’s “Worth thirty everywhere,” as his schtick was that he sold $30 suits for $20. However . . . I like your version better.


Selena December 21, 2023 at 7:51 pm

Birth order and to some extent marriage order of your direct lineage widely differs from family to family. One set of my great-grandparents died when I was 9. The last great-great died five years before I was born.
One of these years, likely when I’m retired, I’ll put the mother lode of family pictures in some semblance of order. They’ve migrated to my house, along with other history items – report cards, marriage/death/birth certificates. I also have a box load of items from a relative that I need to go through. He was technically 3 generations from me but more the age of my grandparent on that side of the family. Genealogy is just fascinating.
Be thankful for what has survived and that you’ve been able to view (and possible entrusted with for the next generation).


Katy December 22, 2023 at 9:32 am

My father’s family has a lot of genealogical ephemera, but luckily there are a lot of cousins to share the wealth. Note . . . not financial wealth.


Selena December 22, 2023 at 7:11 pm

I have a boatload of cousins on one side, not so many on the side with lots of ephemera. Sad to say the not so many have little interest in family history but perhaps the children of one of them (already counting out children/grandchildren of one of them) will show some interest. If any do, I’ll make copies and likely my kiddos will send the part and parcel to a historical society. In the meantime, my kiddos and I enjoy what we have. Others are not so lucky.


Bethany M December 21, 2023 at 9:06 pm

Christmas break edition: I hate cooking turkeys. But when they offer them for 49¢ a lb, I guilt myself into it. I cooked one up today and will can up the broth tomorrow morning. Then I plan to do 24 pints of beans while I have the canner out. It will warm the house besides.

Hubby and I shared a Starbucks using a Christmas gift from a student and then popped over to a thrift store that I never frequent anymore because their only hours are during the school day.

Last day of school was a half day. Then my girls went to a friends for baking for caroling gifts the next day. My friend’s kid spent the night and we were able to bring her back the next day. Fun and free way to start the break!

The kids have been wanting to do some genealogy work, so we went to the library and used the Ancestry website for free with our library card.

My 8th grade class got to make soft pretzel bites after learning about the chemical reaction in yeast fermentation before the break. My 7th grader (never one to be left out) now has plans to do that with me over the Christmas break. It really is a fun and rewarding project. I’m totally for projects that are unplugged in nature. So good for kids!


Katy December 22, 2023 at 9:28 am

And if those plans feature warm yeasty dough, all the better!


Jen in Santa Cruz December 21, 2023 at 9:41 pm

Ah, that lake house photo. So pretty. If only…

Next year I am tempted to save the change up all year. I swear, finding a penny in a parking lot makes my entire day. Laundry Wench (Me!) is so happy to find coins in the laundry. Next year it is all going in one jar. Ice cream money…ice cream money in another Country money.


Katy December 22, 2023 at 9:27 am

Not “Laundry Goddess?”


Vickey December 23, 2023 at 11:22 am

“Laundry Goddess” – I like the way you think. ☺️


Christine December 22, 2023 at 8:12 am

1. DH and I foraged greens and berries to make cemetery baskets for our loved ones graves. The only thing I paid for was a container for one I purchased at the Salvation Army store for $6. To buy a cemetery basket around here is upwards to $40.
2. I made Danish Puff pastries for two friends as Christmas gifts and fudge for another in long term care who requested it.
3. We were invited to our friend’s home last night for chili and corn bread. Afterwards, we watched the version of a Christmas Carol with Henry Winkler in it. I had never seen it and enjoyed watching it with friends. Next month we’ll have them over for dinner. This is so much more frugal and enjoyable than going out to a restaurant and having to jump up after we are finished eating.
4. Rediscovered Sharyn McCrumb, my favorite Appalachian writer with her novella Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas Past. Library book.
5. Keeping the heat at 64 (during the day, 60 at night with the help of warm blankets), keeping my speed to 64 mph on the highway to conserve gas and this is my 64th Christmas. Happy Holidays to everyone!


Katy December 22, 2023 at 9:26 am

I think you’ve found your lucky number!


nancy December 22, 2023 at 7:00 pm

Hi Katy,
You’ve been a great source of inspiration to me for many years.
Attached is a google link which has 5 newspaper articles about your Nat Singer.
It’s my way of thanking you for all the great advice you’ve taken the time to share.
Happy Holidays,


Nancy December 23, 2023 at 7:00 pm

Apologies, the link is now accessible, I didn’t check the sharing guidelines, sorry. I’ll leave it open for a few days and then delete the folder.


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