Valdosta Daily Times

November 11, 2012

Weird things I learned from the Army

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Many of you don’t know this, but aside from what I claim is genetic, my budgeting roots stinted from growing up in the military.

My dad was in the Army for 20 years. Between two kids who both wore braces and a 100-pound lab named Chelcy who easily cleared double her weight in dog food a week, my mom and dad had to be very creative to make the money stretch on a modest military budget.

While my mom taught me how to shop the sales, my dad taught me what he will probably refer to in his memoirs as “real world values.”

First, why buy paper when you get it at a hotel for free?

My dad’s office has a stack of paper pads from various hotels around the state. I seriously wish I was joking. Second, always keep the change. My dad has been hoarding pennies for so long that he probably collected enough to put me through college.

However, we will never know because he refuses to cash them in because you never know when you will need them. Third, hot sauce makes anything taste good. When you are trying to get by on a budget, you have to get creative with your lunches. My dad found that hot sauce brings life to tuna salad, rice, pretty much anything that is edible ... and maybe some stuff that’s not. I don’t know. He’s pretty curious.

While his methods are unusual, they worked because I had a pretty cushy life. Now, I don’t steal paper from hotels, collect pennies, or use hot sauce (at all, gross), his neurotic sense of budgeting played a small role in the creation of the original budgeteer! So today, salute him not only for his service, but for raising me because let’s face it, I’m probably the best thing that has ever happened to you.

In honor of Veterans Day, here is a list of some budget-savvy tidbits that I learned growing up on Army bases.

A Cheap Breakfast

When you have a lot of mouths to feed and not a lot of dough, my favorite go-to breakfast is biscuits n’ gravy. Now, in the Army, they call it something else, (a certain expletive) on a shingle. I’ll let you Google it and fill in the blanks.

While this breakfast is no secret to any Southerner who doesn’t live under a rock, the Army did add a unique twist.

You cook the gravy and then after you cook the sausage patties, you grind it up in the gravy.

Soldiers cooked it like this because you could quickly run through a mess hall or line and slap some on a biscuit and off you go!

Personally, I love this method so much more than the way it is traditionally served and it is so much easier when you have multiple people to feed.

Avoid the Doctor

Anyone who has ever had to deal with Tricare health insurance is quite aware of how difficult going to the doctor can be. My mom knows all too well how a simple case of strep can turn into a two-hour phone call of why a certain medicine wasn’t covered.

Thus, to avoid the headache of military health care, my parents did everything they could and then some to keep me and my brother out of the doctor’s office.

My mom made me eat vegetables every day. We couldn’t drink soda until like middle school and we were forced to take vitamins every morning.

Keeping healthy and eating well doesn’t just have positive effects on your overall well-being, but it is a habit that has saved me money now that I have to pay for my own health care.

100-Mile an Hour Tape

If you have ever been inside the inner-workings of an Army base, you have probably noticed that soldiers like duct tape. In fact, the origins of duct tape in the military date back to the 1940s .

According to an article by a staff writer from, military started using duct tape because of a ticked-off Navy mom who worked in an ammo-packing plant in Dixon, Ill.

The military was shipping ammo using a method that made it hard for troops in the field to get to it in a hurry. She had a better idea, a thick, cloth-based tape that would keep the bullets dry but could be ripped open in a blink.

She took her complaint to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Two weeks later, the Office of the Chief of Ordinance responded to her request and proudly implemented it.

That was a long, fancy answer for this short tip: If it breaks, fix it with duct tape. If it still isn’t fixed, it’s probably pretty dangerous and you should re-consider your purchasing history.

Boot Polish is Multi-functional

I’m not proud of how I found some of this out, but here are some multi-functional uses for combat boot polish.

Shoe polish is a great DIY wood stain. If you’re making a quick craft sign or even need to add some color to a book shelf, boot polish works great. Just spread it on and let it dry.

Boot polish can also be used to revive old leather. If you need to add a like-new punch to a purse or a jacket, dab on some polish and rub it in. Of course, only use Army boot polish on black leather, but you can buy polish in other colors for things such as brown leather.

Of course, my favorite use is putting it under my eyes. Sure, it’s technically supposed to be used to block out the sun, but I just do it to put on my “game face” and scare small children.

Those are just some of the things I learned growing up on Army bases. I hope some of them help and if anything, I hope they amused you.

Don’t forget to like me on Facebook at follow me on Twitter @VDT_Brittany.

I would like to extend a huge thank you to all the Veterans out there and especially to my dad. I appreciate all you did for your country and for me. I am now a little weirder because of it.

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