Contact Me

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Would You Be More Frugal lived in this tenement?

Frugality in the early 1900s was the same as ours in a few ways and different in many other ways. One major difference I will share with you. Thanks to preservation and research done by others, I had the chance to experience how tenement dwellers lived and how they paid for their gas usage for cooking.

While in New York City, visiting my daughter, I chose the museums I wanted to visit. Of course, I went to visit my daughter, but I did want to see a bit of the city. She wanted to take me to the Statue of Liberty.

Instead, I chose other venues, choosing one she did not want to visit and declaring I wanted to go there for my birthday! How is that for getting your own way? Really, she liked it once she got there. I knew she would or I would not have insisted.

Would you be more frugal with your cooking if you dropped a dime into a gas meter to start gas in your stove, and the gas went off when you used a dime's worth of cooking gas? That's what I thought! I would be more frugal, too. That is how tenement houses kept residents current on their gas upfront!

When we visited  the Tenement Museum, we all learned how people lived at the turn of the twentieth century in a tenement.

There was a little gas meter near the stove in the kitchen. Renters deposited a dime and the gas ran for ten cents worth; whatever that amount was and however long the stove would burn, we were never told. There would be no accounting later and no one to ask for an extension for what was used or credit to get gas before it was paid for by a dime in the meter.

I would imagine that lots of one-pot meals were prepared. Did you ever consider that one-pot meals consumed less energy to cook? I didn't consider how tenement dwellers  might need to conserve energy usage or how they would do so until I started thinking about this post as I cooked.

Have you ever cooked a one-pot meal to conserve energy? I have not unless you consider how I cook meat for 24 meals in the oven at one time. Yes, I stated I wanted to use the oven once for energy conservation, but not once have I feared the gas/electricity would suddenly be cut off in the middle of my cooking.

Cooking pots of beans is not a money-saving ploy for me. Yes, I can cook and have food for many meals if I cook beans. But, never in the back of my mind have I ever worried I could use up a limited amount of energy available at my home. Of course, cooking to get a couple of cups of beans is just not practical, considering how long they must soak and cook.

Maybe that would curb my conspicuous consumption of energy used by my stove. By the way, I am frugal but would be considered extravagant to anyone in a tenement.

One pot meals would be the way to go if 4 quarters had to be deposited before I could cook anything. (You know everything, almost everything, requires multiple quarters these days!)

Right now, I am cooking pasta shells for two meals. But, there would be pasta for a week in that pot if I feared my dime's (quarters') worth of gas might not last long.

Has anyone been to the Tenement Museum? If you are going to NYC, I would highly recommend it. "It is the first museum in the United States to preserve a tenement and have it designated a National Historic Site." This is how many emigrants lived. It is educational if you need home school projects to do on vacation.

Has anyone ever had to pay a meter in the kitchen to get gas to cook?


  1. Some places in Ontario have electric meters in their homes. You buy a card- like a debit card- for however much you wish to spend at a time. Swipe it through the meter and you're good to go.

  2. Like Wendy said, there are places in Ireland too where they have pay-to-use metered fuel usage not only for ovens/stoves but for heat too in the home.
    Heck, if Americans had to pay up front for energy(besides gas for the car)alot of folks couldn't afford to at the current rate of their usage. Going to a system like this would be a big wake up call for many and might get them into living within their means more than they do now.

  3. Wendy, that would keep people on their toes! I was not aware this existed. Thanks. I would be willing to have a pay-as-you-go system in my home.

    Slugmama, I see people using credit cards for gasoline, so lots of people are still using more than they can afford. I wonder if a credit card would work on these meters? Hopefully, not.

    Both of you--I never imagined this meter use for paying up-front existed still. Thanks for the information. I have often thought that if I could see my outdoor electric meter's little wheel whirling around, I would be less inclined to use as much electricity.


For the present, I am taking comment moderation off the blog.