Monday, August 28, 2017

Feeding the Family

Mrs.White shopping with one of her Grandchildren in Vermont


Home Economics training for young ladies used to be essential, especially when it came to feeding a family.  Girls studied nutrition, cooking, baking, and careful shopping.  We need to start focusing on this again.

There was a wonderful market in my hometown in Massachusetts.  It was called, "The Fruit Center." It was a beautiful store and contained the freshest quality produce you could find. (Across the street you could see the harbor with a little public beach, and, off in the distance, was a view of the city of Boston!)  The prices were affordable, and the displays were inviting.  Quite a few homes had small gardens in this suburban area, but when we needed to supplement the harvest, or buy things out of season, we went to "The Fruit Center."

Here in rural Vermont I am finding it harder and harder to find delicious fresh foods all year round.  I can understand why many grow their own food and preserve it for the winter season.  However, I did manage to freeze some of the strawberries and blueberries from my tiny gardens this summer.

My Mother did a marvelous job feeding us nourishing foods throughout our childhood.  We always had milk and orange juice.  She cooked wonderful, comforting suppers for us every single night. Breakfast was always nourishing and our lunches were mostly eaten at work or school. She was very careful with her grocery budget and made sure we had quality food to eat.  She would not buy junk food.  If we wanted something foolish like that, we had to use our own money. 

There is a sort of laid back attitude these days when it comes to providing food for our kitchens.  I see a lot of young adults buying mostly processed foods, frozen convenience dinners, and lots of pizza.  They are buying what is easy and not necessarily what is healthy.

I remember watching an old episode of "Happy Days." After all the family sat down for dinner, the youngest child grimaced when looking at her plate.  Mom had made liver.  (shudder)  It was more common for homemakers to serve nourishment for the evening meal, rather than what everyone wanted.  I don't remember my mother asking any of us what we wanted to eat.  She just made the food and we ate it.  Of course, she would notice when we enjoyed something more than usual - such as her spaghetti and meatballs!   But always, there were fresh vegetables along with a good, hot, homemade meal.

I once read of Rose Kennedy ordering her dinners at home by telling her servants what she wanted.  In the morning at breakfast time, she would go over her plan for the evening meal with the paid staff.  It was up to them to make sure any shopping or cooking was done in plenty of time to serve the food. 

In the instance of a wealthy family with a hired cook or a homemaker doing her own work, there is a requirement of planning, budgeting, and overseeing the work of providing good, nutritious food for one's household. 

This should not be taken lightly.  It will take hours of work each week to shop, write lists, plan meals, and then to actually prepare food each and every day of the week. 

To make this work more pleasant, we ought to find ways to enjoy the shopping and the kitchen duties.

 I try to shop in my favorite stores when they are not very busy. That way I can take my time. Sometimes I have grandchildren with me. At other times I might have a grown son who will help me with the unloading of groceries.  Rarely, though, do I shop alone.  I find it more fun to have company when I do necessary errands.

Our kitchen ought to be inviting and pretty. It should be the place we will enjoy spending a great deal of time.  My old time cabinets are painted a light purple.  It is a cheery kitchen which makes me smile.  I enjoy baking and cooking while sitting on a tall kitchen chair.  I have my radio nearby so I can listen to old time gospel singing or sermons on CD.  My parlour table is in sight as I work. I try to make it all clean and pretty so I can work in a happy, pleasant environment.

Feeding our guests and family good quality food does not have to be expensive.  It does not have to be fancy.  Basic, recurring menus are perfectly okay and used to be common in households.  There are ways to keep costs down.  Here are a few of my posts, from the archives, that might help:

Why the High Cost of Food?

The Thrifty Kitchen

How the Old Time Mothers Survived Poverty

I am planning to stock up on several items over the next few months for our long, cold winters.  I will have to reorganize my shelves and cabinets to make room.  I will also make a list of basic "inventory" items so we can avoid running out of things in case I forget.  I am just about to make a weekly menu, something I haven't done for quite some time.  I have been slacking on being efficient and wise in my kitchen work.  Lately, I have not been taking it seriously. I have fallen into the common ways of being too laid back. 

I have to say this.... I believe part of the sliding of kitchen values has to do with the lack of a supper table.  People are eating on the couch in front of the television more now than ever before.  I have even heard of many people who never even use their table.   Let's bring back the old time family meal at mother's table!

This effort is just another adventure in homemaking.  It is something we can do with a smile. We can take care of ourselves and our families by doing the necessary work of shopping and baking and cooking.

I am off to bring a revival to my kitchen!

Mrs. White

From the Archives - 

It is all I ever want to be - Secretary to the Master

Peaceful, quiet Living - Sunday Driver

Ration Books from 1942 and helpful advice - Adapting to the High Cost of Living.


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Mrs. White's special book for Homemakers

 "Mother's Book of Home Economics."

312 pages, paperback.


olderandwiser said...

I enjoyed reading your post as I always do. What struck a chord with me was when you said you didn't remember your mother asking you what you wanted to eat. She just prepared the food and you ate it. It was the same at our house. I remember mom always served nutritious meals and we had a tossed salad just about every night with whatever we were eating. She might have discussed her meal planning with my father but not with us. If she had, I would have certainly voted no on the liver we had once a month!

Unknown said...

God bless you Mrs. white. It does take effort on our part, doesn't it? With a WILL as I learned from you and your writings. So thank you!
I have been repeating meals frequently.
Potatoes, oil, oats, eggs, flour, sugar..occasional meat. I found a lovely lady on you tube "Depression Cooking" with Clara and she lived to be 98, I believe. So many good ideas on simple, nourishing foods.
We have the room for a nice size garden, but it is fairly new to us and the soil needs ammended and we have no garden equipment, I will continue to look for deals on good, basic food.
Many criticise canned veggie and fruit, but that is what we can afford at this time. I will continue to use these over our winter.

Unknown said...

* The you tube channel I referred to is, " Great Depression Cooking".

CountryGirl said...

You mentioned that it takes a considerable amount of time to plan menus and budget and shop for food. Having come from a home where the menu planning I remember usually consisted of "O my goodness, it's 5:30 and I haven't even thought about supper!" --from my Mom; which resulted in boiled rice, steamed frozen vegetable mix, and seasoned ground meat for the umpteenth time in a row. The long term result is that I am woefully lacking in knowing how to plan and prepare for cooking meals without breaking the bank nor the clock. I've done research, but most information out there consists of millions of recipes (and they all look delicious--how to decide?!!) and tips on couponing and finding the best deals. My question is how to put it all together to make it work? What kind of time commitment should I expect to make? I know each person has their own method, but I'm curious, for a good sized family, with young and mid-sized children, what a good plan might look like, from day to day, weekly, seasonally, etc. If you don't mind sharing, perhaps in a post, what you have found that works, I would really enjoy hearing it!
God bless.

Mrs. Laura Lane said...

Great post. Thank you.

becky said...

Country Girl: I read your comment and questions on menu planning-go to -go to Aug.27 article on Pantry and Preparedness and how Laine menu plans-you will find a host of information on your
questions. It is a tremendous help for ladies who struggle with menu planning etc.
Thank you Mrs. White for this post!!!
Loved it!!

Southern Ladye said...

I prefer to do my grocery shopping alone so that I can concentrate on the task at hand. I used to follow a strict menu plan but now that I have stocked my pantry and freezer with items that I bought in bulk when on sale, I just kind of think about what meat I have and go from there. I stock up on my basics when they are on sale: flour, sugar, cornmeal, butter, rice, beans, etc. and try to buy enough to last at least six months or longer. I have oil that I bought last November when it was 3.99 a gallon. I opened the last gallon last week and it will hold me until about October, so I should be able to stock up on the sale again. I save a lot of money that way. I feed 7 people for 100.00 a week, and out of that budget also comes toiletries and cleaning supplies. It is hard work, but I make it a challenge to see if I can do better than the week before. Bless you on your adventure of stocking the pantry. It took me about five years to get mine where it is, but I am so glad I did it!

Regina said...

Thank you for your post. My mother never asked what we wanted either. She cooked it and we ate it. And we knew better than to complain too!

Lilypad said...

I believe that boys should also learn how to cook and shop and menu plan, so I've begun teaching my son (16) about it. (And also how to clean and do laundry etc.) I did all the cooking in my home from the age of 11 on, since my mother was always working in the family business. I'm so glad I got that experience---but because I love to cook and bake so much, my son hasn't had much practice. We're working on that now. He's going to be living with us for several more years even after we're done homeschooling (attending a local college), so we'll have time to make sure he's set before he moves out on his own. We've started with food as basic as scrambled eggs with cheese, because I'd rather he eat something like that than a frozen dinner or expensive takeout. As for having a pleasant kitchen, I was just making blueberry muffins and listening to Mozart on my phone. Waltzes by Johann Strauss are great, too! They keep me smiling (and dancing)as I work. My best wishes to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. White, thank you for this very encouraging post; I appreciate your blog very much. I think many of us struggle with meal preparation since it is just one of so MANY homemaking tasks! Like you, I was blessed to grow up with a mother who cooked from scratch and we ate together as a family every night. I am very grateful for that kind of upbringing.

CountryGirl, you might also want to look at this blog post and considering preparing mixes that you can store and easily grab for your meal preparation.

All of this can seem overwhelming as you begin, but choose what works best with your time, energy, and budget, and what your family enjoys. We're all together in this homekeeping adventure!

Mrs. O, thank you for your referral to the Great Depression Cooking YouTube channel. I always enjoy your comments!

Nancy D.

Anonymous said...

Great post! As a wife and mother who cooks most meals from home, I've learned that meal prep and planning is key!

My children are also allowed to pick what we will have for dinner on their birthdays and I try to both remember and watch for foods, that both my husband and children like and dislike.

It's so sad to see so many people abandon the kitchen table, so they can partake of fast food on the go or the ability to eat and lounge on the couch!

May you have the wisdom and strength you need, to be fruitful in your homemaking endeavors! We surely all need it! :)

Billie Jo said...

Thank you so much for visiting my little bog.
I am so glad you did, as it led me back to you!
I enjoyed this post so much.
I am thankful to find a fellow homemaker who is just as happy with her vocation as I am.
Have a cozy evening. : )

CountryGirl said...

Thank you Becky!!

Deborah Montgomery said...

My mother cooked economically and healthy. I always wished we had a little more junk food or got to have fast food growing up, but now I'm very grateful for having a good foundation for health growing up. We didn't get to choose either; she chose, and it was a good idea!
I'm just about to work out my menus and grocery list for the week. It saves a lot of time and money to do the planning ahead of time. Blessings, Deborah

messy bessy said...

For CountryGirl: I'm late to this blog post, but thought I'd let you know how I do my meal planning. I'm basically a disorganized, last-minute person, but the stress of trying to come up with meals on the fly was maddening. This little practice of mine has really come to be a blessing. By the way, I'm a homeschooling mom of six kids who are all about two years apart, by the grace of God married to a wonderful but financially poor man.

My goal is to shop for groceries no more than once every seven days. I choose the day of the week to shop, and plan meals for all the nights up to then. For each night I look at my calendar, so if there's a meeting or sports practice that cuts near dinnertime, I can plan some kind of super-easy dish (sandwiches or pancakes, e.g.). Then as I decide on meals I write down all the ingredients that I need to buy for them: 4 cans of tomatoes, 3 pounds ground turkey, baking powder, etc. I plan each meal with a main dish, a starch, and a vegetable, so that I have no guesswork at 4:30 when it is time to start dinner.

How do you choose meals? Well, whatever your family enjoys eating. Although actually i generally plan meals based on what I feel like eating! I'm not a short-order cook: they occasionally can make requests while I'm meal-planning, but usually the family eats whatever sounds good to me. I love to cook, and will get out my cookbooks and page through for ideas, but some moms I know have the same "theme" each week: Pasta on Monday, Tacos on Tuesday, soup on Wednesday, etc.

Finally, although making a shopping list based on your menu planning seems like a lot of work up front, I promise (as one who spent years and years nursing a baby and dealing with a toddler and chasing after a preschooler while trying to get dinner) that in the end it brings a great deal of peace. You already know what dinner will be and that you have everything you need to get it made!

Deanna said...

Hello Mrs. White. I grew up eating meals in the kitchen at the table as a family. When my children were growing up, I did the same. Occasionally we'd have supper in the family room and allowed to watch the television with a casual supper. It was rare, but we did as a family. I am looking forward to eating at the Dining room table or at a table in the Kitchen after we get more moved into this house. The messes and disorganization is part of relocating and I am ready to sit at a real table. Soon. Very soon. Blessings to you. Always a pleasure visiting your blog.
God Bless,

Suanna said...

Mrs. White,
Thank you for this encouraging post. I attempt meal planning each week and we eat all together at our table. There is something that I enjoy about using glass dishes for our meals even though paper would be easier. We do have an occasional movie night and that is when I serve a simple meal of popcorn or other finger food and we eat off of paper plates.

Lori said...

My mother is 93 years old. So much of this post made me think of my childhood in the 60s and 70s. We always ate at the table; Mom always cooked a good, nutritious, but simple meal, and she always had something home baked for dessert. We did not eat pre-packaged or convenience foods. She and my father were born in the 20s, so they lived through the Great Depression as children, married right after WWII and raised their children in the late 40s through late 60s. I am really enjoyed your blog.