Monday, March 19, 2012

Why The High Cost of Food?

Library of Congress: Buying groceries in store at Blankenship Indiana, 1938.



We have become a nation who eats recreationally. It is part of our "entertainment" expense. We have snacks and processed food and junk, because we like the taste of it. We are kidding ourselves if we think snacks are good nutrition.

In my childhood home, grandmother* would have a fit if we kids were offered ice cream before dinner.  That wasn't allowed. Grandma made simple homemade meals, with little meat, all week long.  Sunday dinner included meat as the main dish. This was common in those days.

When Grandma passed on, my mother continued with the common tradition of making sure we ate nutritionally.  We had a home- cooked dinner every night at the same time.  There were no snacks to  hold us over until the meal was ready.  We greatly appreciated the food when it was served because we had time to become genuinely hungry.

The only time we had snacks was on Friday nights. We children all looked forward to the homemade popcorn and a little soda. We would watch a program with Mother and Dad on that night and enjoy a special time together.  If there was soda in the house, on the weekends, we were allowed only one glass. After that we had to drink water.

Mother always had orange juice and milk in the house. We drank the milk with meals and the juice in the morning. These were not all-day-long beverages to enjoy. They provided a certain amount of nourishment that we needed. But overdoing the nutrients was a waste, because the body could not use it.

We had plenty of tea and water available throughout the day. If we children wanted soda (other than on Friday night) we bought our own, from the local corner store, with money we had earned ourselves.

If we wanted extra snacks, candy, or junky convenience foods, we bought it on our own. I still remember my pink, homemade bookcase that My Father made me. It was in my bedroom and that is where I kept pop tarts and the occasional treats I would buy from the store myself.  This kind of junk was never in our kitchen cabinets. Mother knew it did not satisfy hunger. She knew it did not provide basic nutrition, so she didn't buy it.

I remember babysitting, as a young teenager, and finding cabinets full of hostess snacks, chips and cupcakes! I couldn't believe it! It was exciting! (smiles) One family, in particular, was a mother and father who had a baby. I was the babysitter. When the parents left, I checked the kitchen for snacks and couldn't believe how much junk food they had! It was only two adults and not even any children, and they were eating all those treats themselves!  This was obviously for entertainment. It was for enjoyment. I knew it did not provide any nutrition.

In other countries, throughout the world, people eat basic foods like whole grains, potatoes and locally grown produce. If we gave them a box of highly processed American snacks, what do you think that would do? How do you think they would feel?

In the old days, Mother would serve oatmeal, or porridge in the  morning. She would serve homemade cornbread, biscuits or bread. She would cook with homegrown potatoes, carrots and onions. Her seasonings came from the garden.  I don't think her fruit trees produced bbq potato chips or candy bars.

We have become a nation who expects junk on a daily basis as if it were a necessity.  This kind of eating makes us unhealthy, broke and unsatisfied.   It reminds me of birthdays. When we give our children presents all year long, buying them some of the things they want, rather than waiting for their birthday, they become selfish, and think people "owe" them things. They don't learn to wait. They don't learn to delay gratification. They don't learn to work for things. Every single one of us will appreciate things more if we have to wait for them.. . To earn them. .  Like ice cream (smiles). . . I remember watching my father make homemade ice cream outside. He had a large bucket and had to crank the handle for a long time. He worked to make the ice cream that we got to enjoy. We appreciated it very much! But I don't think I appreciate buying a carton of ice cream from the supermarket.

Now I must say, if you looked into my shopping cart today, you would find junk. . . (sigh). . We are all going to struggle with this because it is such a normal, expected part of our diet! But this is something we all have to fight. This is something we will all struggle with.  Because if we keep giving-in to buying and eating the garbage, we will be broke and diseased.

Mrs. White

* Grandmother - Our family lived in the same house with  my grandparents, just like my parents now live here in my home with my family.

From the Archives -

What Many of us Crave - An Ordinary Life at Home.

Playpens are essential! - Keeping House with Small Children.

Please keep passing it on -  Homemaking Links the Generations.

- To find out more about this blog, or Mrs. White, please visit our About page. -



  For Encouragement in Christian Homemaking, order Mrs. White's book, "Homemaking For Happiness: Wonderful Days at Home."

In this book, you will find essays, articles, and diary entries about life in a Christian home.

Entries are arranged by season, and include:  "Keeping a Frugal Kitchen;" "Missing the Lilacs;" "An Evening Walk in the Garden;" "At Grandmother's House;" and "Chores for Grandchildren."

You will also find a few photographs showing a little of the local landscape.

Paperback, 307 pages. 


Arden said...

I have been on the same train of thought recently and it is coming through to my children. This morning I served my 6 yo a strawberry smoothie. He looked at it and then asked me if it had "nutrition" in it. He said it somewhat suspiciously so I think we have a way to go to convince him that "nutrition" is a good thing!

Anonymous said...

excellent excellent excellent post!! i loved this and will be sharing it!

Cameron said...

Your blog is a inspiration. Your blog is my favorite blog to read. It gives me so many help tips and advice.

Blessed Homemaking said...

I love this post and I love your blog. I think yours is almost the only one I check every day. I hope you are able to keep writing for a long time, and that your blog is always up.

Now, I imagine dessert was only served occasionally, too, or was it served regularly?

Mrs. White said...

So true about dessert, Mrs. Q. That was reserved for Sundays or special occasions. Thank you!

Mrs. White

Katrinka said...

I think it's interesting to observe the items in the different shopping carts while I'm grocery shopping and the people who are buying them. Although a bag of apples or oranges seems expensive, if I compare it to a candy bar or bag of chips, it's really quite a bit of nutrition for the money. I've also made it a kind of challenge to shop the sales at our local grocery store and see how much I can buy for as little as possible and then use those items throughout the coming week. I try to only purchase food that we would normally eat unless it's a nutritious whole food and no processed/junk foods unless it's for a special meal (if there's a deal on frozen pizzas, I'll buy one for Sunday evening supper). This has been a lot of fun and we have been able to walk out of the store with a lot of bags for a whole lot less money.

Cathy said...

The older I get, I really notice that I feel better when I eat healthy food and feel lousy when I eat junk food. Some of my sons' friends at work find it amusing that he brings whole carrots, apples, whole wheat bread, etc. for lunch. Most of them bring a sack full of packaged junk food. But he finds that amusing, and he appreciates that I pack him a healthy lunch.

Jessica Dimas said...

I was just wondering about what people used to eat in the old days. I wondered what my granny probably made for breakfast, lunch, and supper. I also like the idea of not centering every single meal around meat, because it's getting too expensive. Not to mention more vegetables is better for us anyway. Thank you for sharing, as always, Mrs. White!

Nicole said...

I completely agree! I have been recently gripped with the necessity to feed our family healthier and more wholesome foods! (we did at once, but due to financial hardship, we stopped, *thinking* it was more expensive to buy the junk!) Thank you for sharing! :)

Dusty (To the Moon and Back) said...

Stopping by from the raising homemakers linkup! This is a great post! I've been working on many of these things slowly with my family. I'm having a harder time converting my husband than my children! lol

Unknown said...

This is good, good stuff here my friend!!! It's truth! More people need to read your perspective. I will be sharing this on fb and twitter...excellent Mrs. White! said...

I am bookmarking this for my 8 year old to read with me today, she is treat obsessed and I give in to her pleading too often. It's nonsense, how can we collectively get back to seeing food as needed sustenance? I grew up in a home like yours until my teens when my mom got a little tired of being a homemaker (I assume) and packaged foods started showing up. I still remember the first time I tasted spaghetios, they made me gag. Hmm.. how long does it take to recondition taste-buds? Thanks for the insightful post, it is perfect.

Sarah @ Nature's Nurture said...

Excellent post! I've already commented on your FB page but just wanted to express my gratitude once again for a great reminder for all of us. I'll be sharing this on my FB as well :)


sarah smith said...

my sister in law and i were just talking about this very thing. she and her husband are working very hard to remodel there kitchen, and have no way to cook the same meals she usually does. she has been buying a lot of processed things that can be microwaved, and that can be eaten without cooking,like pop tarts. she has really noticed that her children and her are hungry alost right after they finish a meal, because there is just no nutrition in what they are eating. there bodies are "hungry" for real food! great post, great blog. you are always an inspriation to me.

suzyhomemaker said...

This is a fantastic post. I love your writing. And I totally agree with what you have written. Slowly but surely I am trying to move my family back in the direction of whole foods, homemade.

JennaK said...

Stopping by from WLW linkup.

I really liked this post. It also made me think of all the extreme couponers whose cupboards are full of highly processed junk food they got at a good deal. You rarely find extreme deals on wholesome good food and since I do most of my cooking and food preparation from scratch and use lots of fresh fruits and veggies in my meals, I never could benefit from extreme couponing (I have a sister-in-law who is always trying to get me going on it).

But I think you hit the nail on the head. Eating used to be functional, serving a purpose. Now it seems to be recreational.

JennaK said...

I'm sorry, I also wanted to add that mealtimes also served another purpose--that of bonding family together--because most meals were usually spent as family time. That is so different than these days where many meals are eaten in the car or in front of the TV.

Anonymous said...

A timely post, for all of us need to concentrate on the best way to spend our food dollar!

I'm firmly convinced that getting one's children accustomed to drinking water in between meals can be one of the hugest money-savers. And, of course, salty snacks can be a big bite out of our food budget. It's just not worth it. Seriously, I have nothing against chips & stuff, per se, but as nutrition goes, those things just can't match what's in real, whole foods.

I say: "Brainwash the kids early on!"


p.s. My current favorite thing for breakfast is a softboiled egg & a cup of tea. Very, very good & satisfying. :o)

Anonymous said...

I want to add that for a good look at a family who made do with very little, read the book "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith. The story takes place at the turn of the twentieth century, & is told mostly through the eyes of the daughter, Francie Nolan.

The parts of the story I remember that I liked a lot (it has been many years since I read it last) was how Katie, the mother, would manage to feed her family on very little. For instance, wet, mashed loaves of stale bread, with seasonings & such, & made something that I suppose was like meatloaf. Anything leftover was sliced thin the next day & panfried. And there were other examples, which I can't remember now...but I found it really interesting!


p.s. I should add that this story is a very gutsy one, though not crass. Nevertheless, there is some swearing in it.

MomLaur said...

You know, you're so right. So much of our lives revolves around food. I know we could be more economical and frugal in our food purchases, and love seeing how others are honouring God with EVERY purchase. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Such wisdom in this post. I just finished up lunch which was some tortilla chips and shredded cheese. There are times when my shelves are filled with fresh foods but most of the time they are pre-packaged food. I think we've trained our children to expect sweets or salty chips and soda on a daily basis.
Retraining ourselves will retrain our children.

Katie said...

Truth and wisdom! Yes, yes, yes!

Amy said...

Family friends used to ask my mom why her kids liked whole wheat bread and didn't beg for sugary cereals - and the answer was - because those were the only options we were given! Though, I will say that "junk food" became a sort of special treat - we could get soda and candy, etc. only on special occasions, so it became a type of reward. The downside of that being that later on in life, when I was stressed or sad - I'd use those same food rewards to feel better. I think it's good to keep junk food rare - but don't tie them to any sort of reward - have rewards be experiences, etc. That will go another step further in preventing children from growing into adults that treat food as entertainment.