(Don’t forget that it’s our first Pennywise Platter Thursday tomorrow! I hope to see you there!)
I don’t want to sugar coat hard times, because they were (and are) hard. Sometimes making ends meet on a tight budget isn’t dignified, glorious, or fun. Instead it can be depressing. I know that’s true.
But I think it’s important for us to realize that this struggle of survival is hardly a new phenomenon. Reaching back into the past we find so many lessons of help and encouragement for us today.
For example, take the women and men who lived through the Great Depression in our country.
“Women surely suffered from overwork and constant worry during the depression. Many lived bleak lives of want. And if is true that they were pushed out of jobs in favor of men. But to sum up their lives during the 1930’s as pure drudgery and powerlessness would be terribly wrong.
When men lost jobs during the depression, they sometimes found themselves unable to fulfill their societal roles as providers. But for most women, the depression reinforced ancient lessons. Transforming leftovers into soup, making bread crumbs from stale bread, recycling corn seeds into new plants-these womanly skills of thrift had been stressed for centuries. In these hard times most women had concrete skills and comforts they knew how to offer.
In oral histories and memoirs, many women express undeniable pride in their creativity and ingenuity in coping with tough times. When the bank account is low and there is a wonderful pot of soup made out of bones, vegetables scraps and herbs, how do we measure this value? When the boredom and sorrows of being human weigh us down to despair, how do we measure the value of food in its comfort and simple physical pleasure? During the Great Depression, women used cooking to create economic value. They also made life better, more gracious and humane. “
A Thousand Years over a Hot Stove, Laura Schenone Pg 300-301
Yes, things were hard, often terribly hard, but there was a dignity to the home gardeners and cooks who made it possible for a family to survive. That is a dignity that goes far beyond the Great Depression and reaches back to the thousands of years of history where humans needed ingenunity and hard work to simply survive.
Perhaps some of you have lost jobs, or your spouse has. Perhaps you’ve had a pay cut. Perhaps you, like me, are trying to learn how to garden in a hurry! Perhaps some of you are trying to learn how to cook for the first time to help make ends meet. Don’t look down on your work, and don’t get discouraged. Like Laura said, how do we measure the value of food scraped out of a tight budget? Not only does it create “economic value” but it does make life a little better, a little more gracious and humane during hard times.
Hard work? Yes, but it’s hard work full of worth.
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I’m fairly new to your blog and just wanted to THANK YOU for this awesome reminder. Somehow it’s incredibly comforting to know that we are not the first generation to undergo and endure harsh economic times, that we are quite blessed to draw upon the strength that the stories of previous generations give to us. I feel the repercussions of this economy very strongly, as I am a wife and mother of two, trying to provide healthy & affordable meals to nourish all of us. I appreciate this insightful reminder! We need it!
There is nothing like necessity to spur creativity!!! I am proud of all the women embracing their skills, talents and abilities to make their families better. How rewarding it is to roll up your sleeves and get busy with what you have rather than just grumble and complain….. Do something with what you have rather than fuss with what you don’t…..!!! I have long been learning skills and techniques used by women of the past. Thisn like gardening, canning and bread making are favorite hobbies of mine….. Life can be GOOD, even in hard financial times. Make the most of life and enjoy the simple things!!! Thanks for your post!!! Enjoyed it!
What a wonderful post! I am sending a link to all my kids to file away. I grew up on a farm and we definitely learned ways to make do or do without. This is something I tried to passs on to my kids even though we lived in the suburbs and I hope they pass it on to their kids.
Kimi, Very well said…We live on a tight budget ( as do most all my friends) w me as a stay home mom & 6 children… We could have a lot more, but I choose my children/family & learn to be creative to make the meals & budget stretch. I feel I have become a better person who the Lord would have me to be being thrifty & making the very most of my husbands hard earned money. Right now w the economy being what it is..I am trying & praying for ideas to be even more careful & frugal…I started making my own laundry det & so on…I also think it is good lessons for our children so they too will learn how to be thrifty & creative in their lives when they are older..not only will it be second nature to them & not new to them like it is to me, but it will help them know the importance of making their money stretch. Really it is not our money @ all but Gods & we should make the most of it for Him…
The article is so true. I love what it says about women expressing undeniable pride in their creativity and ingenuity during hard times. For most of my adult life (and childhood too) making ends meet was challenging. I found that I could be very creative with meals, decorating, clothing, etc. Then I ended up falling into a job that paid incredibly well (in the mortgage market). During that time I found that my creativity diminished. And to be quite honest I felt like I was chasing a rabbit that I couldn’t catch.
I got out of the mortgage market (actually before the crash) and returned to a simpler lifestyle. For me this works much better. I feel like I am doing what is right for my family and myself. Working with a tight budget is not always easy and sometimes I find myself wishing for more but I try to focus on being pleased with what we have and making the most of it.
Perhaps it is because my husband has yet to lose employment, so we have never been truly in dire straits, but I rather enjoy the challenge of making something out of “nothing” on occasion. Of course there are times when I wish we could just eat out too :).
I just put that book on hold at the library. I *love* read about the history of women’s role at home.
My weekly carnival food roots is held every Thursday, overlapping with your carnival. Would it be ok to use my food roots submissions as a contribution to pennywise platters?
True, true, true. We are not the first generation to “suffer” lol and suffering has been going on for a long time. But instead of looking at is as losing out, losing in general it is better to look at it as a way to learn new skills, and practice things your generations past have been doing. I think these lessons will help us preserve our lives for the future as well.
Thanks for the lovely comments!
Shannon, yes, you are welcome to double use your post for you carnival for mine too (obviously as long as it fits the topic, LOL). I’m just sorry that they are on the same day! I guess, no matter what day I put it on, I would be overlapping with someone else’s carnival!
I’ve found it so interesting to read of the ‘plight’ of families today to have to eat and home and make do with less. For better or worse, I feel I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember and the driving force has been a combination of frugality borne of necessity as much as a burning desire to just do it out of a sense of accomplishment.
I was raised with 5 brothers and sisters and we never did without, but we never had much excess either so every meal was around the kitchen table. Despite the luxury of a much different lifestyle as a young married woman, that tradition remained a standard and my girls in turn developed those same habits.
Moving from the married world to single parenting made me cherish those skills I learned as a young girl that grew more accomplished at as a young woman; cooking, sewing, gardening. I own three different businesses and work long hours but the times I love the best are still when I am nurturing myself and others. I love this quote in Nicole Aloni’s book, “Secrets from a Caterer’s Kitchen.”
“It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company.” That holds true for friends and family and I’m not ashamed that people know to come to me when they need comforting and that often means comfort food!
So I see the change in our economic times as a plus as more and more people are forced to spend time doing something they find is actually nurturing for them and their family.
Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home
Thanks for the wonderful reminder of the positive challenge that comes with feeding the family in tough times. We have been feeling the crunch for a while, but specifically since my husband began his current 4 month special diet, it’s been harder still. Hard to balance out the special foods that meet his needs, and the ones that I still need to purchase for the kids and I. Hard to restock the freezer and pantry with foods that he can actually already eat, meanwhile having to overlook the abundance of foods we have stocked up that simply don’t work for us in this season. And this afternoon (all week, really) hard to figure out what on earth to cook that will satisfy and fill us all.
I’m encouraged, though, to use the ingenuity and creativity that I’ve been blessed with to find a way to serve my family and make good use of what I have. Think I’ll go sit down and have myself a little meal planning session (I skipped last week out of frustration. Now I see that it would have been better to do it and not be frustrated every afternoon! 🙂
And I’m grateful to be learning these lessons of gardening, preserving, and making do with less early on in my life. We are a very blessed society that often takes for granted all that we have, not realizing just how very rich we are! I want to be a woman who is able to cheerfully feed her family and graciously open her doors to others, no matter how plentiful or empty my kitchen is.
Thank you for this! It’s not always easy to remember that there’s worth and dignity in weeding and watering when nobody’s around to notice. But the thrill of picking fresh veggies as I’m making dinner is like nothing else. Great reminder!
gfe--gluten free easily
Great post, Kimi. I read the book, Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression, by Mildred Kalish last year and found it very inspiring. Whatever takes us to eating more real, nourishing foods put together simply whether it’s economic times, special diet (like my own gluten-free diet), etc., can end up being a very good thing. Sometimes we get caught up in a rush-rush life and forget what’s the most important. Feeding and nourishing our families is paramount, and it’s very satisfying when we can do it in both basic and creative ways as needed.
If there is a lesson I hope people will learn with the current economy, it is to become more independant, thrifty and crafty.
I was brought up in France where we ate at home everyday, going to the restaurant maybe once or twice a month. It’s been the same rule since the dawn of humanity: if you want to eat, you gotta cook!
Anyway, I hope people will become more inspired to (re)learn traditional & forgotten crafts/skills, even if they don’t master them. I think it’s a good way to reclaim your life and give it more meaning as well as strengthening relationships with family and acquaintances. And there’s always something to learn!
I cook, sew, knit, grow some edible & medicinal plants, make my own herbal remedies & skincare products…I think people should be proud of their skills!
And nothing beats a handmade gift made with love…
We should not forget that the people who lived centuries before us had a much harder life than we do (even just 2 generations before ours). Yet they managed to survive, living simple/frugal lives with simple needs.
I’d like to mention Delia Smith’s Frugal Foods.
This cookbook has been around (and reprinted a few times) since the 70s, when England was going through rough times.
It has a wide range of recipes using cheap cuts of meats (including organ meats) & fishes.
Some of the recipes using flour can be adapted to a gluten-free diet.
Thanks Shirley and Alchemille, for the book recommendations! I will definitely check them out as they both sound very interesting. 🙂
My mom was a pre-teen during the Great Depression. My grandmother used to tell me stories about stone soup (using a real stone!) feedsack dresses and selling flowers. There was always a neighbor lady who would buy two daisies for a dime for her dinner table, and my mom grew the prettiest daisies in the neighborhood!
When hard times hit, we need to be very careful to guard our hearts. Grandmother became fearful, distrusting and miserly, living her final days eating bug-infested grain to save up every penny for the eventual hospital stay she never suffered. She died a healthy 95-year old, in her sleep, and left a huge inheritance for my mom who is now eating very poorly herself, to save up every penny…
I’m not saying frugality is bad or saving is wrong. It isn’t. But we need to be very aware of our hearts and guard them during tough times.
My in laws had a tough time during the depression and they still have that ‘depression’ mentality when it comes to frugality and living. Even with this mentality they manage to live well and eat well. I am very lucky to have them because I was raised in such a way that we ate everything out of a box and watched a lot of screen time. I am 32 have just begun to learn how to garden, knit, can food, be self sustaining, etc. And I am glad I can teach these things to my children….I couldn’t imagine going through ‘hard times’ with the lack of skills I used to have and I want to make sure my kids can survive and eat well and live well all at the same time on their own!
This is all so true. Tough times call for creative cooking! I love to be frugal…always have been, and not always out of necessity. There is just something that seems honoring to the Lord about being “wise” with all that you have been given, even if it does mean chicken bones or liver for dinner! 🙂
I am continually amazed when we compare our “all organic” grocery budget to those of our more conventional friends, and find we “under-spend” them weekly…
How can this be? We make it all from scratch! There is definitely a feeling of empowerment that comes for me when I became a “home-maker” instead of just a wife and mom that cooks dinner for my family. Thanks for your post and your blog! Inspiring…
I am new to your blog as well. I would love to learn how to garden better and make more from scratch….not only because it is healthier and more frugal but, you feel good about doing it and doing all you can to provide better for your family. I am so thankful for women who still want to live this way. I feel that it God appreciates us living more simple lives. Thank you for this post….God Bless.
There are some great documentaries on The Depression, and books from the point of view of women. Remember to share, for God always gives you even more. It feels great also to share.