No one could call the Depression of the 1930s and war years of the 1940s the good old days. Yet many of the economies we were forced to practice then can be readily adopted in the inflationary 1970s that are hurting people from all walks of life.
Have you tried homemade pancake syrup? It's simple to make and infinitely less expensive than bought syrup. Stir 2 cups white sugar and one cup water in a saucepan until boiling. Boil without stirring 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring. Use hot or store in refrigerator in tightly covered jar. If you prefer, use brown sugar and water in the same proportions, omitting maple flavoring. In addition to being inexpensive, these syrups can be made while the pancakes are cooking. A real convenience.
Meal extenders would take a book in themselves. A favorite when unexpected company drops in, or meat portions won't stretch, is to add servings of several different vegetables. The wise food manager will store extra cans of peas, beets, corn, mushrooms, onions and applesauce for such emergencies. And don't forget hot biscuits or rolls. This one food trick alone has been a consistent lifesaver in my family.
Another suggestion. If you prefer butter but the price has got you up in arms, try this Depression trick. Soften (not melt) one pound of butter. Beat one-half pint heavy (whipping) cream. Add the butter and mix well. Salt to taste and refrigerate. Your result is the volume of two pounds of butter at the price of one-and-a-half. (Of course margarine was available in the bad old days, too, but because it was uncolored-by law-it looked und tasted like lard.)
Celery was a double boon. Besides using the stalks, we washed and drained the leaves, spreading them in a large pan. Then we places the pan in a warmed oven (heat turned off) and dried overnight. Dried celery leaves were great in soups, spaghetti sauce, meat loaf, etc. And the price was right!
One great budget help was to prepare a weekly meal plan. this meal plan utilized foods in season and allowed for leftovers. From the menu, we compiled the weekly grocery list. Impulse buying was curbed of necessity. Every inch of storage space was used to reduce trips to the grocery stores. Yes, grocery stores plural. In those days we made the rounds of the grocery, the butcher, the butter and egg store, the bakery and sometimes the delicatessen. If you were lucky, these stores were located fairly close together.
As homemakers know, seasonal foods are fresher and more economical. Planning for the leftovers helped also.
A little of this, a small amount of that, and we had needed ingredients for soups, stews or salads.
For instance, leftover ground corned beef or roast beef and mashed potatoes were combined to prepare home-made hash. Heavenly! Add a vegetable and you had a hearty meal. Not quite enough hash for the family? Add a poached egg to each portion for protein-a good meal extender.
Gone are the days of the black kitchen range which provided heating and cooking. Expect for time, it didn't matter that you cooked a whole meal from scratch. Now that electric stoves (or gas) have taken the place of the kitchen range. every minute of cooking adds more kilowatt cents to the electric bill. So one of the greatest economies, in time, was to think large-to cook two meals at the same time. Now saving fuel would be the object.
For instance, meat loaf and baked potatoes can be baked together in sufficient quantities for two meals. To serve later, warm and moisten leftover meat loaf with bouillon (made with either beef or chicken bouillon cubes). Baked potatoes can be cut up and fried-with skin on or not-for the second serving.
Another good budget cutter was a large pot of home-made vegetable soup. Save leftover cooked vegetables for variety. For the second serving thicken the vegetable soup and serve with cheese biscuits. Voila! Cheese and vegetable shortcake-a stick-to-your-ribs meal for a wintry night. We made plenty of cheese biscuits and didn't expect any leftovers.
CHEESE AND VEGETABLE
Vegetable Soup 1 can (20 ounces) tomatoes 2 to 3 stalks celery (cut in pieces) 1 cup peas 1 cup carrots 1 cup lima beans 1 cup string beans 1 large onion cut up
Combine all ingredients and simmer slowly covered. Add bouillon cube (beef or chicke(e if desired for flavor. Salt to taste.
Simmer until all vegetables are done. Thicken soup using 2 to 3 tablespoons flour mixed with an equal amount butter if necessary. Stir until soup thickens.
Serve over cheese biscuits.
(Makes 14 to 16) 2 cups sifted flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 teaspoons baking powder 2 tablespoons shortening 3/4 cup cold milk 3/4 cup grated cheese
Sift together flour, salt and baking powder. Add 1/2 cup grated cheese. Work in shortening until well blended with flour.
Add milk to make a soft dough. Turn onto well-floured board and roll out to 3/4-inch thickness. Cut into biscuits. Place on a baking pan, not touching each other. Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup grated cheese. Bake 12 to 14 minutes at 450 degrees.
Over the years many organizations have published booklets containing cost-cutting hints. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been particularly helpful. Two of their current publications, now available from the Consumer Information Center, Pueblo, Colo. 81009, are: Food for the Family-A Cost-Saving Plan (45 cents, make out check to the Superintendent of Documents) No. 023F, and Your Money's Worth in Foods (one copy free, No. 552F).
When all else fails, ask your grandmother. She'll remember how we managed things back in the bad old days.