Here in Ohio, we’ve entered that in-between season of not quite summer, not quite fall (my husband’s favorite frugal time – we don’t need the air conditioner or the furnace). It is the perfect time for outdoor activities: the heat and mosquitoes have largely abated, but there’s no need for heavy coats and snow pants yet. We’re simply enjoying gorgeous, eye-popping blue skies, the gradually brightening colors of the leaves and a curious, hurried feeling in the air, probably because we all know what’s coming. In our family we take every opportunity to savor the last days of summer while welcoming fall as it arrives. Here are some simple ways you can, too: Continue reading
Recently I had the privilege of visiting Anna*, a longtime friend of my grandmother’s. Penpals for decades although they live just a few miles apart, they met in an apple orchard and immediately bonded over their shared frugal ways.
Anna is a 70-ish widow who belongs to one of the strictest orders of the Amish, so I expected her house to be very bare, almost austere. But I was wrong. Like Anna, her house was a delight in the purest and most innocent sense. In fact, Anna’s house taught me… Continue reading
My 85-year-old grandmother was a young girl during the Great Depression, and her family, like many others, went through some extremely hard times. Her father, an aspiring truck farmer, lost everything, and several of her six siblings were literally “farmed out” until her parents got back on their feet and could afford to feed them again. Her only brother went to stay with a farm family at the tender age of eight, to work for his room and board. As the baby of the seven, my grandmother stayed at home. She remembers sitting on her father’s lap as he read the newspaper, perhaps scanning the help wanted ads.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” but I wondered if Grandma could give me some specific examples of what her family did to get through those hard times…joyfully and happily, even!
I’m blessed to live right next door to Grandma, so I recently asked her about ways I can apply some of that hard-earned wisdom to my own life, in 2015. Here’s what I learned.
Our dried yellow corn makes excellent corn meal or corn flour. Add to recipes or use as a stand alone baking ingredient.
Buy in Bulk. According to Grandma, during the Depression her mother would go to the store and buy a 25-lb bag of soup beans. Several times a week, she would send one of her children over to the neighbor’s farm to buy a quart of cream, which cost a dime. She would then make a large pot of “bean gravy” for supper, along with cornmeal mush (the cornmeal ground from their own homegrown sweet corn). Grandma must have continued the tradition with her own children, because “your dad still loves that meal,” she told me. (Now I know what to make for my father’s next birthday dinner – but the cream will cost me a lot more than a dime!)
The point is, buying in bulk makes sense on so many levels. It saves you grocery money, gas money, and — sometimes just as importantly — it saves you time. Not having to run to the grocery store once or twice a week is huge in my house, where evenings are precious and should be filled with much more important activities such as reading aloud to each other by the fire.
Buying in bulk also forces you to…
Use up what you have. This seems obvious, but I know I don’t always think this way. In our modern day terms we like to call it “thinking outside the box,” “upcycling,” “repurposing,” “shabby chic” or other popular terms. During the Great Depression it was just plain necessity. Even later in her life my great-grandmother saved everything that could be reused. Long after she could afford flowerpots, she still planted her geraniums in used tin cans. Imagine what a chic Pinterest idea and photo shoot that would be today! “She didn’t even bother to take the labels off the cans,” said Grandma. “And did those things bloom!”
Give the gift of a life skill. When my great-grandmother was growing up, her parents gifted each of their children with some type of lessons when they turned 16. Her sister Lizzie got sewing lessons. Later, during the Depression, when Lizzie had a family of her own to support, “she could sew something out of nothing,” Grandma told me. No doubt this was a skill that came in very handy! This is an idea that translates beautifully to our time, when many parents want their children to learn self-sufficiency skills. There are so many skills our modern-day youngsters could take a shine to: growing a garden for food, “lost” kitchen skills (think canning, making yogurt or cheese, even home butchering); knitting, sewing or quilting, chopping and storing wood. Even the skill of building a good fire could someday prove a great help to them. Find what they like, then find someone who knows and can teach them.
Appreciate. A little frugality in 2015 could go a long way to reminding us how much we take for granted. Oranges are everywhere this time of year. But think just what a luxury they really are, to be shipped to us in Ohio, in the dead of winter, from so far away. Back in the Depression era, a single orange was what my grandmother and her siblings got for Christmas. What a treat it must have been after many, many meals of beans, potatoes and cornmeal mush! This month, my children have been eating oranges every day and they think nothing of it. I’m not saying we should deprive ourselves of readily available, healthy food. But thinking carefully about where it comes from changes our mindset, makes us appreciate it more and waste it a lot less.
“People weren’t very particular in those days,” Grandma said of the Depression. (Indeed, most of them couldn’t afford to be!) “We expect so much today,” she continued, with a wry smile. “But I’ve always believed, the more you’ve got, the more trouble you’ve got!” Wise words for a modern-day mom like me.
Ah, the college years. Did we even realize how good we had it? New friends, exciting (or not) courses, free time, parental units probably far away, little responsibility – at least compared to full adulthood/parenthood. College was where I learned to love coffee, where I found out I had a gift for making my roommates laugh…and also where I learned to cook!
After two years in the dorms, subsisting on cafeteria food (which, I must admit, was actually pretty good) and Ramen noodles cooked in hand-me-down hotpots, my girlfriends and I signed the lease on a townhouse close to campus, where we would live until graduation. It had a full kitchen, so one of the first routines we set up after we all moved in was the dinner schedule.
Breakfasts and lunches, we decided, were free-for-alls, but dinners would be sacred, in a way. We all came from good solid families where sitting down for nightly meals was the norm, and I’m sure we all (despite our burgeoning independence) longed for some of that stable “homey” feeling. So we each picked a night, and began to cook for each other.
Like most students, we were all living on a shoestring budget (I got paid $2 per typed page of notes I took for a Psych 101 class – imagine that!) so our meals were simple, hearty and shall we say, sometimes quite creative. And sure, during finals week we threw the cooking schedule out the window and ordered in pizza. But interestingly, some of the same recipes we each came to be known for, I use to this day. In fact, the following three are still some of my “go-to’s,” – 14 years, one husband, two jobs and three children later. Enjoy – and send some good thoughts to your college roomies as you cook them. I know I do! Continue reading
So, it’s coming: fall! While I enjoy all the seasons, there’s something about it being “almost autumn” that makes me, and most of us here in Ohio, smile with anticipation. People start to hanker for hot chocolate, hot soup, sweaters, bonfires, Sunday afternoon walks to admire the foliage, and all the other truly fabulous things about fall. Here are four favorite items for fall at my house.
Fab Fave #1: Maine Garden Hod – So you can traipse around picking up anything. Anything, I tell you!
OK, it’s a bit of friendly hyperbole. You’re obviously not going to haul wet laundry or mulch with this little basket, sturdy as it may be. But, it is extremely handy when harvesting all those wonderful edibles from your garden (spray off that annoying green worm before it comes into your kitchen!); when collecting various and sundry balls from the yard at bedtime (ex: base-, soft-, golf, bocce, etc); and to hand to your child when he/she says, “Mommy, I want to make a fort/have a pretend picnic/build a stick castle/carry stuff.” Works great for small indoor toting chores, too.
Fab Fave #2: Roma Food Mill – So you can turn those tomatoes and apples into downright family traditions.
Honestly, this is one of those items that sits quietly in my basement for several months out of the year. But during the fall season it really gets a workout, and not just in my kitchen. My father, the consummate gardener, borrows it each September to make his family-famous Northern Spy applesauce, or, in two-year-old speak, “grah-paw’s appa-shaush.” My husband and I love it for juicing tomatoes (we freeze the juice since our family loves homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches). Nothing is easier or faster than this mill. It’s simple, quiet and the children love to help turn the crank. Seriously. They actually ask when it’s time to use it. And have trouble taking turns!
Fab Fave #3: Cast Iron Skillet – So your children will eat anything cooked in it. Anything. Really.
OK, a little more hyperbole. My children would never eat anything. However, we have discovered that even the dreaded scrambled eggs (“They’re mushy!!”) will be scarfed up pretty quickly when they’ve been made in the cast iron skillet. I really don’t know how to explain this, but I’ve experienced it firsthand — the cast iron actually seems to add flavor to food. Wait, I’ve guessed it: it’s the residual bacon grease. Yep, that’s what it is. Case closed.
Fab Fave #4: Plastic Bag And Bottle Dryer – So you can stop buying so many of the blessed things, but still enjoy the convenience of using them.
This is the perfect product for me. Like many of you, I am truly concerned about, and try to keep a rein on, the amount of waste my family generates. However, I am also loathe to give up the little conveniences that help me keep my sanity. Case in point: plastic baggies. That’s why this little wooden gadget is so great. And while I’ve never sat down and penciled it out, I’m sure it helps our budget too, since I’m buying baggies once in a blue moon (like when I can’t see through them anymore) instead of almost every time I shop.
Happy almost Fall, all!
Another set of great family ice cream recipes to share during National Ice Cream month! Hope you’re enjoying these as much as we are. –CountryLife
When it comes to taste, texture and downright nostalgia, you can’t beat
homemade ice cream. Of course, part of its deliciousness comes from the effort part – yes, the cranking, and the waiting part – that is, until it’s sufficiently frozen
to eat. It’s a summertime tradition here in Ohio, no doubt about that.
Amish, non-Amish and everyone in between, we all love ice cream. In fact, my in-laws (from whom the next two recipes came) used to give their dog his own special bowl of the stuff each and every time it was made. He’d patiently sit right beside the freezer as we all cranked, and cranked, and talked, and laughed, and cranked some more. Mix these two tried-and-true recipes in your own hand-crank ice cream freezer, and see below for some unexpected and delectable topping ideas.
Grandmother’s Heirloom Vanilla Ice Cream (Grandmother’s recipe)
4 eggs, well beaten
2 Tablespoons vanilla
2 cups sugar
1 pint whipping cream
6 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Mix together and freeze in freezer. Makes 1 gallon.
Please note: This recipe requires raw eggs. Please be cautious. Children and persons with reduced immune systems should avoid eating raw eggs. See previous July–National Ice Cream Month posts for alternate recipes that do not use raw eggs.
Heirloom Lemon Ice Cream (Great-grandmother’s recipe)
1 quart thin cream OR 1 cup milk plus 3 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup sugar
dash of salt
Scald cream with sugar, salt and lemon juice. Cool and freeze.
Six Luscious Homemade Ice Cream Sundaes
1. Berry Shortcake Blast – Crumbled vanilla wafers (or other favorite
vanilla cookie), sliced strawberries, whole blueberries and/or black raspberries.
2. Cherry Crisp – Tart cherries, your favorite granola, chopped almonds
and a drizzle of molasses
3. Candy Bar – Milk chocolate chips, chopped nuts and drizzled caramel
4. Red and White Delight – White chocolate chips and red raspberries
5. Salted Caramel Sundae – Crushed Pretzels and coarsely chopped caramels
6. Tropical Treat – Crushed pineapple, mandarin oranges, chopped
maraschino cherries and flaked coconut
*The above toppings are best with homemade vanilla ice cream.
Tip: For cookouts and parties, portion out ice cream into bowls 2-3 hours ahead of time, cover and freeze until ice cream is completely firm. Add toppings and serve immediately.
Everyone loves family reunions (ok, most of us do?), but I think we can all agree that sometimes the food turns out to be…pretty predictable. Yes, we all enjoy those heirloom family favorites that are handed down for generations, but personally, I’ve had enough deviled eggs, green bean casserole and gelatin salad to last me a looooong time.
This summer, I’m “wow-ing” my relatives and friends with some new tastes that are sure to complement the old favorites, too. Try them yourself, and who knows? They may become heirlooms, too!
Cool ‘Cado Salsa :
2 avocados, peeled, pitted and finely chopped
4 medium tomatoes (any variety, Romas work well), finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T. lime juice
2 T. olive oil
1 T. red or white wine vinegar
1 T. fresh cilantro, minced
1/2 cup feta cheese
Gently mix together all ingredients, adding the cheese last. Chill for at least 2 hours. Serve with tortilla chips, corn chips or pita wedges. Note: This salsa is best served the same day it’s made. It’s delicious for days, but the avocado tends to turn a bit brown after a day or two.
Cashew Crunch Salad
10 oz. frozen peas, thawed (or 10 oz. fresh garden peas)
1 1/4 c. celery, diced
1 1/2 c. cauliflower, chopped
1/2 c. green onion, chopped
1 1/4 c. cashews, whole or chopped (to your preference)
1/2 c. sour cream (can use fat-free)
1 c. ranch-style salad dressing
1 c. cooked bacon, crumbled
Combine all ingredients and chill well. If desired, reserve a few chopped cashews and some bacon to sprinkle on top. Note: To use fresh peas instead of frozen, bring 3/4 c. water and 1 tsp. sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add peas and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes; drain.
Maple Baked Beans (from The Lehman’s 55th Anniversary Cookbook)
1 lb. dry navy beans
4 qts. water, divided
6 slices bacon, cut up
1 medium onion
1 c. maple syrup
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. favorite barbecue sauce
5 T. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Rinse beans and place in a 4-qt Dutch oven. Cover with 2 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans. Return beans to Dutch oven and cover with remaining water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until beans are almost tender. Drain and reserve bean liquid.
In a 2 1/2 qt. casserole or bean pot, combine beans with remaining ingredients. Bake, covered, at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 hours or until tender. Stir occasionally; add reserved bean liquid as necessary.
And of course, a smashing dessert:
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/8 t. baking powder
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. lemon rind
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
2/3 c. confectioner’s sugar
Mix flour and butter to fine crumbs. Sprinkle evenly in 11″x9″ pan. Bake 10 min. at 350 degrees. Meanwhile, beat eggs and add brown sugar, coconut, nuts, baking powder and vanilla. Take pan from the oven and spread this mixture on top of baked crumb mixture. Return to oven and bake 20 min. longer. Mix lemon rind, juice and confectioner’s sugar to make a creamy mixture. Spread over the top as soon as you remove from oven. Let cool completely and cut into bars. If desired, garnish with candied lemon peel.