Monday, 11 January 2010

Making making do doable

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

The homemaker has a heavy load to carry these days in tough economic times. When many people reminisce about the Great Depression, a common thread is that they don't remember really going hungry. I am sure though that times were very tight. My family on both sides were farmers, so food was ample and other things were in short supply.

But I suspect that the person who was running the kitchen had many tricks up her sleeve to make foods stretch and maybe added a little whimsical touch now and then to lighten things up. There are many good posts on this blog and many others about cutting back on various things, but I want to go the other way and throw out some ideas about what to do with what you have, when you feel you can't cut back anymore.

Scratch cooking takes some planning and a well stocked pantry, but even the homemaker who doesn't work needs to save a little time now and then. I have found if I have components of meals made ahead it frees me up for some creative thinking at meal preparation time. Like pennies, little things add up.

This year for our Christmas meal, I wanted to concentrate on using up what we had in the pantry instead of splurging on meal items. A quick look at the freezer inventory revealed a pork tenderloin that needed using. It seemed to be a perfect fit, and my daughter wanted to try a recipe that she had seen on a blog. So we made Pioneer Woman's pork tenderloin with cranberry sauce. It was fun to break tradition a little, be more creative with the holiday fare, and make do with what we had on hand. We saved money and had a great time doing it.

Even though I am a SAHM now, I work at home, most days outside, so I still don't have the time to leisurely work on meals. Habits I started while I still worked full time off farm stand me in good stead these days too. Hash browned potatoes are daily breakfast fare, so I try to keep boiled potatoes on hand. That way they are ready - jackets and all - they will cook as fast as the eggs, and a farm breakfast from scratch is ready in minutes!

And while the rules here state that lunch is a fend for yourself kind of deal - the person behind the apron still has to make sure the lunch supplies are available. I keep cooked beets on the ready too. I know beets aren't usually considered a snack food, but in the winter months, when the roots are at their best, a quick beet salad tossed with olive oil, orange juice and seasoned to taste is a delight. A small treat of citrus with my peasant fare beets. Yum, I don't feel like I am going without at all, and with the beets already cooked it is just minutes to mealtime. Slow food, fast.

And, I find even though I get a little down, from the weather or just the realization of my work load, if I make others around me happy, it is contagious and I am happy too. It doesn't take much to bring a smile to someones face - yesterday I made sourdough muffins, and when no one was paying attention I used a star cookie cutter to cut out a few muffins. The stars and I had a secret. The little stars looked like they were making snow angels in the corn meal, and shrouded under a dish cloth to raise, no one was the wiser.

When I started to cook the muffins, I placed a star in the middle of the array and waited for a response. I knew the smell of fresh muffins would bring the troops close to the kitchen, and the reaction I hoped for followed. Muffin munchers were delighted and it really didn't cost me anything to just add a little touch of whimsy to brighten our day.

These are just a few things that came to mind today from my kitchen. But other things we do for each other can really make bleak times seem a little brighter. My daughter did my afternoon chores for me yesterday without being asked, and it was a blessing as my errands in town took longer than expected. I have a friend whose husband saddles her horse for her before they ride out, all small gestures but so meaningful.

Please share your tips and tricks with us, thriving while being thrifty never goes out of style!