Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Case For Vintage-Style Cooking

Sometimes I conduct a secret experiment.

I walk through the supermarket and pretend I am shopping 50 or 60 years ago. Of course, supermarkets did not exist in Australia 60 years ago, but bear with me.

I ask myself what would I have been able to buy, and which products would not have existed.

Some of the things that I might have purchased include flour, sugar, milk, butter, cheese, eggs, fruit and vegetables, meat or fish, oats, plain biscuits, cocoa, rice, tea, coffee beans and canned goods. The cost of shipping was high, so imported goods were usually more expensive than local produce.

There would have been no cook-in sauces, instant noodles, little tubs of snack puddings, corn chips and any number of other processed foods we now take for granted.

Often, if I need to cut my grocery budget, I go through my vintage cookbook collection for ideas. Many have recipe ideas for simple meals using basic, seasonal and local ingredients. Without the many gadgets we rely on today, meal preparation was often fairly uncomplicated; lots of grills, roasts, pies and casseroles for main courses, with desserts that used stewed or fresh seasonal fruits.

Now, I am not saying we should swear off broccoli, bok choi, or brie just because they were not easily available in the past. Nor am I saying we should boil our vegetables into oblivion as so often happened in days gone by.

The point I am making is that vintage cookbooks (which are easily available in second-hand shops) can be a wonderful resource for economical meals. As well, they often contain sections on preserving produce and using leftovers. Asking an older relative about the foods he or she remembers fondly can also provide hints about good, simple, delicious food.

An easy, healthy way to cut grocery costs is to go back to basics, have some fun reading old recipes, and bring back the nourishing, nostalgic cooking that we so fondly remember.

This post is my tip for the week for Kitchen Tip Tuesday at Tammy's Recipes.


Lis said...

How did you know what is always on my chopping list? Due to my son's food intolerances I tend to buy the basic ingredients and make it from scratch. I'm glad to see other people try it sometimes too!

Suzanne said...

I also spend a lot of time shopping for the basics and working off some good old-fashion favorites recipes. My one year old daughter will eat any vegetable as long as it's not boiled and boring. So I find a lot of pies, casseroles and bakes work really well for us.

blessedmomof3 said...

That's a good way of thinking. I'd love to get into vintage meals. I wish I was better as creating meals from scratch, things I already have in the pantry, simple ingredients. Just to be able to get back to basics, and cook healthier meals. And to be able to cut down on grocery costs would be wonderful! The past month I've seen our supermarket trips getting more and more expensive. Need to stop that soon!


Anonymous said...

This is so, so true! I find that as I try to be more frugal with our grocery money, it helps if I stick to the basics. Thanks for the tip!
Amy @ http://hopeistheword.wordpress.com/2007/12/11/kitchen-tip-tuesday-little-helpers-in-the-kitchen/

Mrs. Mordecai said...

What a beautiful blog you have! Thanks for sharing this thought: it's a lot of fun as well as very practical.

Laurie Anne said...

I also love the old cookbooks. Baking from scratch is such a lost skill. Our school has a new rule that treats must now be "store bought". How very sad. If I want to bring cupcakes it now costs $15 where as making them myself would cost maybe $2 at the most.
Did you ever see the PBS special 1940's house? The put a modern family in 1940's England during the war and had them live they way they did back then. One of the biggest challenges for the wife was cooking from scratch. She had never done it. The family had jam and toast for the first few days until she figured out how to manage a recipe. It was very interesting :0)

Busy Woman said...

I am a great believer in this concept. I often joke to myself that my trolley looks like a pensioner should own it - you know, packets of flour, sugar, bi-carb etc etc. I agree with what Lis said also. Once you start looking at additive free living, you start eating like the 1950s. It is truly wonderful. It gives me so much joy to know that it's better for my family and for my budget.

Kez said...

Have you noticed how the instructions are in far less detail in older recipes? I've got some that don't say how long to cook for, the temp etc - any cook would've obviously known it back then!! And then I have some old hand-written ones from my Nan that are just a list of ingredients - challenging to replicate lol.

Sondra said...

I use my old cookbooks and my amish cookbooks a lot too. They are so economical. Yes, there are just way to many products on the shelf now. I think that is one reason for so many overweight people and so many illnesses. To much junk in everything :)
Cute post.

Niki RuralWritings said...

A good tip, I'll have to go through some of my mother in law's old cookbooks!

Nunnie's Attic said...

This was a fabulous post! One of my favorite cookbooks is by Loretta Lynn and her early days of cooking. Not much money back then but who could tell by the food she prepared?


Shell said...

What a great topic you've covered today!

It always amazes me when I do a huge shop for basics how cheap my trolley is compared to when I used to buy lots of processed food and cleaning products.

I love cookbooks, particularly old ones. My 1970's Margaret Fulton still gets a good workout, I first learnt how to cook a roast from that cookbook.

My very favourite recipe from an old cookbook though is one I came across for rabbit stew.

The first step is-

-catch a rabbit.

How fantastic is that!



BittersweetPunkin said...

I think about that often too...unfortunately..convenience foods have become quite cheap and are the food of choice for many families on a budget....my grocery bill is through the roof because we buy fresh everything...no canned stuff...I often wonder about all those ingredients they put in food to "preserve" them....UGH!!

Jill said...

What a great post. I remember using the book "Commonsense Cookery" at school many years ago, and I think there is now a reprinted edition available. I must have a look around some of the 2nd hand bookshops for some treasures.

Kristen said...

What a wonderful idea! I love the idea of simplifying our cooking as well as our budget. Many of my favorite recipes are old family favorites! YUMMMM.....

Laurie Anne said...

Hey Kate,
don't forget to post for the cookie exchange today :0)

Jen said...

You are so bright and creative! You offer so much inspiration "outside the box" for me to enjoy. I have been trying to catch up ob your blog today. My, you have been busy! It looks as if you have a glorious holiday season planned. Thank you so much for your thoughtful get well wishes. They meant so much to me and really brightened the dreary days I have had. ~Hugs~Jen

Jane said...

Thanks for the wonderful tip. I will try this next time my grocery budget is on the low end. :)


Stitchingranny said...

with supermarkets so handy we pop in regular and come out with far more than we need. If I am on an economy drive I write out recipes for the week and a shopping list of what I will need and stick to it. Its amazing how little my shopping costs when I do this.

Busy Woman said...

I know it's some time since you wrote this post, but I have been revisiting your site.
I love this post! I always think that every comes back to the 1940s. If we want to 'live green' we go back to old fashioned ways. If we want to 'live frugal' we incorporate many of the old fashioned things. If we want to reduce food chemicals and additives, we go back to old fashioned recipes and meals. Whichever way you look at it, having you 1940s glasses on benefits us all.
I love the way you have expressed it in this post. I often joke that my trolley looks like that of a pensioner - lots of sugar,flour, butter etc LOL