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To Be a Frugal Epicure

Island Epicure

Any trip to the grocery store causes sticker-shock. Prices go up, but my income doesn’t. Frugality is the only way to survive. I means not wasting anything. Here’s where we can profit from my childhood during the Great Depression years.  Our motto was, “Use it up or wear it out; make it do or do without.”

My father, a logger, was often unemployed, always laid off during summer fire season and winter’s bad weather. To feed his family he not only poached deer; he also planted alfalfa in forest clearings so the deer could live well and put on enough weight to survive the winter. He dug clams and bought oysters wholesale by the gunnysack. He traded work at a dairy farm for milk for us kids. He built our house of salvaged lumber and roofed it with cedar shakes he cut from a driftwood cedar log. He made a deal with a neighbor to clear a couple of lots across the street from our house in exchange for garden space. The soil was almost pure sand, but he enriched it with manure from the dairy farm, and planted every crop that would grow and mature in that cool Oregon coast climate.

Mother made our bread and canned garden vegetables and fruits got through trades with Willamette Valley farmers. She wrote for two newspapers, and bought school shoes, raincoats, a second hand Smith typewriter and paper, wrote and sold poems and articles. She acquired a sewing machine and made clothes for us kids.
Not all my parents’ methods of coping with our scant finances and growing family are available to strugglers in 2014, but here some ways we can live well now. (If vegan, swap meat for beans.)

1-Rice is far cheaper per calorie than bread. Brown is more nourishing than white.
Before shopping, take inventory of what’s in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Consult the store flyers. Make menus featuring dishes that use ingredients on hand or on are sale and that suit upcoming weather. Think brown rice and vegetable stir fries with a little meat.

2- Make a shopping list that fills in the ingredient gaps for your menus. Buy from that list.

3- Shop stores’ perimeters (where the most nutritious foods are).

4- Make your own cookies, cutting down on sugar quantities recipes call for. That’s healthier. Forget other desserts except for fruits and birthday cakes.   
5- Buy in quantity as your storage space permits. Freeze any meat you can’t use within four days. Label and date everything that goes into freezer or fridge. Use or re-boil and re-date if four days old.
6- Bag and freeze bones and also food scraps that can go into soups. See bone broth recipe below.
7- Spare your clothes. When you come home, slip out of your public clothes and into some old clothes.
8- Find time to take that stitch that saves nine. During the Great Depression, we got social points for clever patches that looked like artistic appliqué, such as hearts on sleeves or jean knees.
9- Save time and gas money by doing as many as possible of your errands on one trip, with an itinerary planned for no backtracking.

 BONE BROTH, a mineral rich and tasty base for soups: Save all bones in a bag in your freezer. When you have enough to more than half fill your soup kettle, cover them with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and add salt, a splash of vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, a knob of ginger, a clove or two, 2or 3 garlic cloves, a bay leaf, and a little wakame or kelp for sea minerals. Simmer all day, replenishing water as it cooks away. Add onion skins, carrot chunks, celery ends, and any other odds and ends of compatible vegetables. Simmer several hours more. Drink as is or use as soup stock. Cool and store in labeled, capped jar in refrigerator. To save space, boil down to a quarter of the volume. To reconvert to liquid, add hot boiled water or gently warm until the gel melts.