A frugal homemaker: stewardship in the kitchen

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When hard times hit your family, even if you have never been a frugal homemaker and cook before, chances are you quickly become one.

The question of the day is this: does having to be frugal as a homemaker make you grumpy and, because of your grumpiness, make your family miserable or do you see the chance to be frugal as a chance to exercise the gifts and talents God has given you and thus, as a way to bless your family (thus helping them to relax)?

As Christians, we must strive to be grateful and joyful no matter what our circumstances. This isn’t always easy but it is always a way to honor our Lord. As wives, mothers, grandmothers, and homemakers our attitude has a lasting impact on our family. Our efforts to grow in godliness and to learn how to live out God’s Word will be a blessing to our family for generations.

You know, sisters, it’s easy to cook great meals when there is lots of money for quality ingredients and you can serve anything you want. But a smart, frugal homemaker doesn’t need fancy ingredients to put on a tasty spread. She needs a bit of creativity, some knowledge, and a lot of love for her family.

The art of cooking lies not in cooking out of abundance, for most anyone can do that, but in the ability to take a bit of this and a little of that and turn it into choice morsels and serve it to your family with love.

Frugality is better seen as stewardship. What the Lord has blessed us with, He expects us to use wisely. Simple meals served with love are some of the best meals.

There are many ways that a frugal cook and homemaker can cut costs when she has to. Breakfast is an excellent meal to cut costs on. Grits and oatmeal are inexpensive. Cinnamon toast costs less than a dollar for everyone to have their fill. Pancakes and muffins are another couple of tasty breakfasts that costs pennies to make (okay, actually maybe quarters but you get the idea).

Lunch is another great meal where cutting costs for the frugal homemaker is relatively easy. Cookbooks are loaded with inexpensive salad, soup, and sandwich ideas. Besides that, there are many ways to re-purpose leftovers. Lunch, even fixed inexpensively, never needs to be boring.

Supper can also be prepared simply and inexpensively. Beans, biscuits, gravy, rice, potatoes, cornbread, and other such items can be turned into many tasty combinations.

Keep in mind that older recipes tend to use simpler ingredients and also are usually made completely (or at least mostly) from scratch–a money saver for you. When money is really tight, you can often stretch the food by focusing in on Southern recipes and Asian recipes. Both tend to be frugal. Just FYI.

No Meat Sausage Patties: Yeah, you read that right. This recipe actually came out of WW2 off a Navy Ship. The recipe is:

one cup rolled oats, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. sage, 2 eggs–beaten, 2 tablespoons margarine, one beef bouillon cube, one quart water.

Mix the oats, salt, sage and beaten eggs, form into flat patties. Fry in margarine until browned on both sides.

When cooked, boil one quart water to which you add the bouillon cube, pour mixture over patties and simmer for 30 minutes.

Sounds impossible but they are delicious. These are adaptable to other types of flavors: leave out the sage, use other seasonings and other flavors of bouillon cubes.

I once gave this to a lady whose husband was out of work and she told me later that she’d learned to flavor it with beef and chicken bouillon, no spices, and she used it in casseroles in place of meat. She sang its praises.

The Frugal Pantry: 

When I got married, I didn’t know much about cooking. Mama never taught me and I only knew a few basics (and not many of those). It was awful for me and worse for my husband. Ladies, it’s our jobs to make sure our family is fed. If your Mama never taught you to cook, as a godly older woman to help you to learn. If no one is available, it is not hard to teach yourself. That’s what I did.

When times are hard and money is scarce, keep your purchases simple. If you only have a few dollars and have absolutely nothing at home and you need to feed your family, buy

margarine (butter, if you can)
milk (if you can’t afford milk, substitute water in the recipes)
and, if possible…
baking powder
baking soda
and, again, if possible…
a few pounds of beans
ham or chicken bouillon
canned tomatoes
vinegar (vinegar and milk can sub for buttermilk)

From these ingredients, you have the options to make pancakes, waffles, cinnamon toast, biscuits, flat bread, simple bread, milk gravy, water gravy, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, potato candy, potato soup, potato pancakes (serve with apples or applesauce), potato dumplings (recipe below), Yorkshire pudding, quick bread (apple or banana), egg sandwiches, egg in a hole, boiled eggs, mayonnaise, egg salad, simple tea cakes (a cookie), and bread pudding (from leftover biscuits).

If you add the oatmeal, cornmeal, beans, and bouillon, and rice, you can also make cornbread, hoe cakes, cornmeal flapjacks, cornbread in milk, cornmeal cookies, corn light bread, buttered oatmeal with salt and pepper, milk and sugar oatmeal, cinnamon sugar oatmeal, oat pancakes, oatbread, oatmeal and banana pancakes, beans and cornbread, bean and tomato soup, tomato gravy, tomato soup, scrambled eggs with tomatoes, rice and eggs, buttered rice, rice pudding, rice croquettes, tomato and rice soup, beans and rice, sugared rice, and bean pie (if you have pintos). With a little thought and creativity, I’m certain that you could come up with many other ideas.

Potato dumplings:

Fried potatoes, potato dumplings and fried bread (from a recipe my mother remembered from the Depression). I grew up eating this and I still love it.

Wash, peel and cut potatoes into wedges. Cook the potatoes in salted water until softened and bits of potato are flaking off, take out of water and drain potatoes but do not pour out the potato water as that is the broth for your dumplings. Salt and pepper your potato water.

Now, take some flour (AP or SR) and add some melted margarine (or lard, shortening, broth, milk, egg, or even just water) to make a soft dough; put some of this dough aside for fried bread. The rest of the dough, form into spoon sized dumplings and drop into the boiling potato water. Turn off burner, set aside; these are done.

Now, melt some margarine (or lard, oil, etc.) in pan. Take the potatoes and place a few in the hot grease and fry until crispy; flip and do the same on the other side. Cook all of the potato wedges this way. When finished, set aside and work on the bread:

You take the dough, form a smallish flattened piece and fry it in the hot grease, first one side and then the other. Finish the rest of the dough. Taste the potato dumplings and add seasonings as needed (salt, pepper, cayenne,  ham bouillon, onion powder, etc.). Serve and eat.

Remember, y’all, when you are broke and your family is hungry, just being able to put food on the table so they can eat is eating healthy because the other option is not eating. When times are good, add all the vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, and fruits that you can. When you are broke, simply do your best and feed your family.

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