Our New Home Economics

A Home Economics class receiving instruction in cooking, Ottawa, Ontario, 1959.

I keep thinking of the conversation I had with Johnny of the blog Granola Shotgun on Monday. If you haven’t listened to it you should. Johnny is a home ec master whose lifestyle has been vindicated by this crisis. At the risk of over simplifying our doomside chat, Johnny basically said this: buy in bulk, use this bulk food for daily meals (We’re not talking about stockpiling MREs that you never eat). With Johnny’s simple method you’ll save money and eat healthier. As a byproduct you’ll have food in an emergency. That’s pretty much it. And you don’t do it to prepare for disaster you do it because it makes sound economic sense and cooking from scratch is a worthwhile pursuit in itself.

Friend of Root Simple Michael asked Johnny on his blog about what food preservation appliances he should get. Johnny replied, “Storage containers – filled with food you already enjoy and cook on a regular basis – would be my first choice.” The sorts of appliances and food preservation techniques you use depends on what you like to eat and what bulk items you have access to. Do you have fruit trees or a vegetable garden? Do you go fishing or hunting? Do you live in an apartment or small house with no yard? There’s not a one size fits all approach. But buckets full of stuff you eat on a regular basis works for almost everyone.

In my own case this crisis has highlighted food related practices in my life that are useful and those that aren’t. Bread making? Useful. Vegetable gardening? Wish I had one right now. Avocado tree? Thankful that it has fruit. Storage space for buckets? Need to get on that.

In the next few posts I’ll look at what’s working in our household and what isn’t.

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8 Comments

  1. I too have been giving lots of thought to your podcast with Johnny and how I am storing the foods that I eat. I, too, don’t believe in having food that I don’t like. And I do rotate. I will be interested in hearing how you are doing bulk storage. Buckets? What is the shelf life of bulk food in buckets? Sounds like it would be hard to rotate out of buckets. I checked out his blog and he has quite a nifty set up in his store room.

  2. I always had a well stocked pantry and storeroom. I did a major shop once a month roughly and bought 2 or 3 packets of pasta and so forth. So the only thing I’ve had to shop for is fresh milk. Which has been fortunate because here in Melbourne Australia the shelves are still not being adequately restocked and there’s still hoarding and panic buying of dry goods, canned goods and toilet paper and kitchen paper towel and nasal tissues

  3. I’d like to add that all parts of our home economics are really working for us now! Grooming the dog myself – been doing it for years. Cutting the hubby’s hair – doing it for years. Cooking and meal planning – check. What a comfort right now that we had lots of practice with these things and so our life built around home has not been thrown into a tizzy with our new stay-at-home lifestyle. Here in Brooklyn we don’t have much room for large buckets, but we do get oat groats, farro, and a variety of other seeds and grains we store in big mason jars and that works great for us.

  4. I prefer to store in mason jars, too. I just need to keep them out of the light. Today, I went out to pick lettuce for salad and kale for a bean soup tomorrow. I love it and cannot wait until the tomatoes are in the ground and ready. I stock up only when food is on sale, reduced, or when I can use coupons. Therefore, everything I eat is at a lesser price.

    • You just inspired me to make bean soup with my kale. Yum… Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. When it comes down to home economics, it’s not just about having the stuff in bulk; you have to also have the skillset to set up, maintain, and utilize the things you have on hand. Each of those takes some not insignificant time to learn and then do it well enough that you actually want to use what you made over and over again, not just end up in the pile of discarded hobbies. And then find the time to keep it up.

    For example, as a newer Mockmill owner, you have to get the mill. Then you have to figure out what grains you can use for which baked goods and then find a source. It’s not just “all purpose flour”. It’s “Red Fife” or “Turkey Red”, etc….and those two are wildly different in how they behave. Then you have to figure out how to mill them. And then you have find recipes that work for fresh-milled grains that result in a product sufficiently tasty to make it worth streamlining and incorporating into daily life.

    That said, I think there is a lot to be said for learning the skill, even if you have to drop it from daily life. In the last three weeks, I’ve dusted a lot of skills off and have been having fun. Making pasta by hand, vegetable gardening, fermenting, etc. I’m finally going to give sourdough a real go. It may be that having the skill in your back pocket is more important than using it every day, as nice as that would be.

  6. There’s no sense storing what you won’t eat. While I can exist on a variety of dried beans, rice and cornbread, my roommate detests beans except in small quantities. So I may can a dozen or so jars a year and keep several lbs around. She loves meat, but hates killing and butchering them. I can honestly respect that and keep small animals and birds to butcher for our table. I am a single functioning hand homesteader. So while we love deer, beef, pork, goat, and large animal meat, I can’t do the large animal butcher.

    We make choices in this life. Those choices govern our life and what we do with it.

  7. My childhood was marked by extreme austerity. Lots of home canning, sewing, hair cutting, walking and enjoying what was free. Buying in bulk was a big part of it too Once I was on my own I recreated many of the habits but soon realized there was more to it than just buying in bulk and storing it somewhere, as I often tossed expired goods or worse, deteriorated due to incorrect storage. Living in a small apartment in a neighborhood with plenty services, it quite didn’t make much sense to hoard… Where would I put it? Canning peaches or pears when I much prefer fresh fruit and wouldn’t eat them? Not worth it. My point is, there is really no formulas and there is a steep learning curve. But, as someone else mentioned here, those are skills to keep in your back pocket and they all come handy right now.

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