Friday, January 23, 2009

Frugal frugal frugal

When I was growing up, we lived on a pastor's salary while my mom stayed home. So... you do the math and figure out if we were the kind of family that ate out three or four times a week. Hint: no.

We had a garden. We bought ingredients instead of prepared food and cooked all our meals from scratch. We bought beef once a year from a local rancher. We didn't waste food, ever.

For my mother, it wasn't such a stretch. She, like many in my parents' generation, was raised by folks who grew up during the depression, whose frugality wasn't an affectation, but a characteristic learned by bitter necessity. But somewhere in the prosperity of the last thirty years, my parents' generation struggled to pass the skills of frugal living and frugal eating along to my generation. And for many people my age, we had little motivation to learn those skills. In times of unparalleled economic growth and national wealth, it seemed unnecessary to many of us to learn how to bake our own bread, how to plant a garden, how to make a roast chicken stretch into three meals, how to can and preserve food.

But I'm blessed to have a stubborn mother whose dad was the youngest of eleven and grew up on a farm. Gardening, baking, canning, and generally saving money were second nature to her. I basically grew up in her kitchen. And now that we seem to be in for a long haul with this recession, I'm more glad than ever for that fact. I can bake bread (and I do!). I can make delicious meals with frugal ingredients. I can home-can produce and beans. And these skills are saving me money.

I was talking with my awesome, gorgeous sister-in-law last night and, on the topic of stretching grocery budgets and feeding ourselves and our loved ones with less meat and more love, I said, "By golly, if our grandmothers could do it, so can we!"

Too often what hinders people (especially women) in my generation from really mastering domestic frugality is just plain fear: fear that it's too hard, that it's not worth it, that we really can't do it even if we try. But that's just not true! We can do everything our grandmothers did to steward our finances and care for our families. We truly can.

6 comments:

Astrid said...

I recently brought a bread maker for when I move out soon. It means I get good cheap bread with out the trouble of having to knead.

Laura said...

My brother and sis-in-law got a breadmaker for their wedding and they NEVER use it. It's so big and takes up a ton of room on the counter, so they keep it put away always. So having counter space I think is key.

Bron said...

Sounds good Laura! We love cooking and gardening, but the garden is a bit difficult in the inner city. Fortunately there's a community garden nearby, and college runs a fruit and veg co-op which saves us heaps of money.

Frugality has been uncool in Australia for the last 30 years or so. You're more likely to be labelled a 'cheapskate'.

It's been interesting getting to know our friends from New Zealand though. I'm not sure, but I suspect that it's less likely to be looked down on there. New Zealand's an awesome place, but I don't think it's seen quite the heights of prosperity that Australia has.

There's a series of cookbooks over there called "Destitute Gourmet" by Sophie Gray and it's all about making healthy and yummy meals on the cheap. From what I gather it's relatively popular over there. But I don't reckon those books would have been published in Australia, or if they had, they certainly wouldn't have been very successful.

I reckon growing your own fresh herbs is a good start to cooking well on a budget. That at least you can do in the concrete jungle!

Donners said...

Yay! Laura I wasn't raised being taught how to be thrifty, but mum and dad were very careful. However, starting out in a new marriage with very little money gave me a starting point to try and work out how to do it myself and I did okay. Had a lot to learn!

The year we moved to melbourne we were paying off a few loans and livivng on a very small salary. I learned to be frugal, obsessively so.

Last year I started to get embarassed about it b/c I COULD have been less frugal but I wanted to make our money stretch further so that we could spend the rest in other ways.

Now I'm still in my element with the way of the economy meanign that I have to be frugal again. Do you want to write a post about how to can beans for us and other tips?

I would really like that.

(By the way, I am an old friend of Jolly and know Stine)

Laura said...

Bron -- you're right about gardening. I often wish I'd bought a house instead of a condo, because house means yard and yard means garden! It's nice to see, though, that many cities here recognize the evils of urban blight and have started setting aside green spaces for people to potter around in the soil and plant a tomato or something. I'd love to see those cookbooks! It's great that people recognize the importance of frugality, even when you don't "have to" be frugal.

Donners -- absolutely! That's how our grandparents did it, just starting out in marriage and raising children without the so-called luxury (really the trap) of credit cards and the like. You made do with what you had because you HAD to!

I'd love to do a tips post or two. Canning beans is very easy if you have a pressure cooker -- otherwise I'd recommend cooking and freezing them. But I'll see what I can get together about home canning. It's the right season for all of you in the Southern hemisphere to be thinking about extending your harvest!

Laura's Mom said...

Destitute gourmet has its own website.

http://destitutegourmet.com/

More later. Nice to know you were paying attention in the kitchen all those years! Actually, your a better cook than I am because you are braver in the kitchen than I am, willing to try to recreate favorite flavors.