Tuesday, August 27, 2013
I studied cooking in Home Economics classes when I was a teenager. My mother also gave me freedom in her kitchen. I would look through her cookbook and bake special treats when the pantry ran low. While Mom did most of the cooking, I was happy cleaning and cooking whenever I got the chance.
In my first home, I enjoyed making meals for my husband. I still remember our first trip to the local supermarket. We were so excited to pick out our own groceries, together. I made his breakfast, packed his lunch, and made his dinner each night. With a small household, and a decent income from his job, we didn't have much to worry about financially.
As more and more children came into the home, I had to learn to make many things from scratch, with the ingredients I had on hand. I remember going to the local library and finding all kinds of old cookbooks. I borrowed them, and found recipes that would work well for my family. Many of these recipes (like breads and stews) were made so many times that I memorized them. If I really loved a borrowed cookbook, I would save up and buy my own copy.
Frugal, or thrifty, cooking is a valuable skill for the housewife. People often share recipes, which is good. However, many families have different tastes. Some have allergies. We also live in different climates and have a different cultural basis for what we eat. In the Boston area, fresh lobster and clam chowder is common, whereas, they may not be staple menu items in a little town in Idaho. Restaurants in Florida serve the most delicious fresh orange juice you could ever taste! They are known for their oranges and have them in abundance. We have to make use of what is available and low cost, in our area. It is important to learn how to adjust recipes to work in our own kitchens.
It is a common cliché for mothers to save money by serving "rice and beans." This might work for many, but not in my house. One cannot always save money by doing what the masses suggest. We have to remember to serve foods that our own family will enjoy. Cooking basic foods from scratch will save money. Serving carefully portioned- sized- meals and storing leftovers will also save money.
To learn basic cooking skills my favorite book is The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. It boasts 1,400 recipes! The pictures are stunning and are set up almost encyclopedia - like. My children used to love to look at all the pictures and say, "Let's make this one!" You will learn to make easy breads, muffins, meats, and all kinds of dinners and desserts. Once you learn the basics of these foundational recipes, you can start adjusting ingredients to meet the needs of your family.
Basic cooking also means you have freedom from the supermarket sales ads. Certainly buy hamburger or chicken only when they are priced reasonably. But you can make so many different things with them. The store will recommend processed foods to go with the meats. Cooking from scratch means we don't need those items. You will no longer be a slave to what is on sale.
When we buy hamburger in a "family sized" package, I take it home and divide it up into smaller portions. I then put each meal's serving in a gallon Ziploc bag and freeze it. Even though we have a lot of people in this house, I only cook with that small amount of meat. It is the ingredients that go with it, that make the meal stretch - the vegetables, the bread, etc. I love the older cookbooks from the 1960's that have old menus that go along with the recipes. This was from a time when portion sizes were much smaller than those of today. The fun in the dinners had a lot to do with the beverages, the way the vegetables were prepared, and the lovely way in which it was all presented.
Nourishment was key, and homemade was the most nourishing of all.
I realize we mothers have days of being exhausted and can't do as much as we would like. But when you are in the habit of cutting and washing vegetables for stew, or whipping up a quick batch of muffins, making food from scratch can be a valuable part of the daily routine. When all my children were little, I had lots of helpers. We set to work at the big kitchen table. I had children rolling out dough, or peeling vegetables. The bigger children were at the counter or stove stirring sauces, or handling the hot foods, while the safe work was done at the table. Meal preparation was a happy, pleasant way to pass the time with small children. To them, it was playing! It got the work done, and the children enjoyed it. They also loved taking turns serving the food and giggling and visiting at the table.
These days, I have a barstool in my kitchen. I often sit near the counter to wash dishes, or to make biscuits. I also have my kitchen radio nearby to hear CDs of gospel music or sermons. Often my grandbaby is in the highchair watching me work. He plays with bowls and lids and has a wonderful time. The kitchen can be a happy place to be, making frugal cooking a pleasant part of life.
From the Archives:
Remembering my Childhood - When Television was Special.
The beauty of a formal morning table - Breakfast at Home.
Mother's work - The Pleasant Task of Cleaning.
Order My Books:
For Home-keeping Inspiration, - For The Love of Christian Homemaking.
A 90 Day Bible Study, inspired by John Wesley, - "Early Morning Revival Challenge"
An Invitation - Subscribe to The Legacy of Home and have it delivered directly to your email.