Forced to Give Up Food…

Example of an American grocery store aisle.

Image via Wikipedia

Yes,  I think I’m going to have to give it up. Not because I need to lose weight (which I do), but because I simply can’t afford to buy it these days.

Have you looked at what’s going on in the grocery stores? I did a tour through a grocery store last night, which left me gasping. I spent $100 for what a few months ago cost me $50 or $60. It’s enough to make you want to dig up your backyard and start gardening like our grandparents did. And on the same scale.

When I was a little kid, my grandmothers and old aunts spent almost every waking moment putting in the garden, taking care of the garden, harvesting the garden, then canning and/or preserving what came out of it. One of the most boring tasks that used to be assigned to me and my girl cousins was snapping and shelling peas and peeling peaches. As a kid, grumbling and grousing, I did not realize that this was an eat-or-not eat situation.

Joe & Myra Belle Matthews, my great-grandparents as they looked when I was a really little kid,

Since there was no grocery store of any consequence within a hundred miles, much less a supermarket, the garden produced by the women of the family were all we had to eat besides what they baked. We had meat because we grew our own animals, but even that called for a certain amount of preserving. Those women did an admirable job, I have to say. We never lacked for food. After my great grandmother passed, among the things she left behind were jars and jars of canned food that had come out of her garden. Amazing.

What’s ridiculous is that even though I grew up in that environment, I can’t even make a tomato plant survive. Back in the summer, my husband and I bought a green pepper plant and two tomato plants in pots. We did see  some green peppers, but they were no larger than golf balls and they were just as hard. The tomatoes were nearly the same. And my husband religiously watered and cared for them. Of course the relentless triple-digit heat in Texas this past summer didn’t help.

What’s even more ridiculous is that my husband grew up in basically the same environment I did, but he can’t remember how to grow things either. So living off the land seems like a poor option for us right now.

Even if I wanted to buy fresh produce from somewhere now, because it’s supposed to be cheaper in season, and try to can it, I couldn’t without making a huge investment. I have no jars and lids, I have no kitchen utensils suitable for canning, no canner. And even if I did have a canner, I have an electric stove, which wouldn’t work with a canner.  <sigh> …. So I think I’m stuck with the grocery store and what’s for sale in it for whatever price.

So now I’m wondering if we’re approaching the day where in order to afford eating, we all will have to group together in co-ops of some kind. Are we going to have to become The Waltons? Maybe we should have pot luck clubs where we combine vittles. It’s cheaper to cook for a crowd than for just one or two.

We’re already to the place where many young people can’t afford to leave the nest and go out on their own. I can’t count the number of people I know personally who have grown children still living at home or who are raising their grandchildren for this or that reason.

When I think back on my life as a child, I realize that this togetherness is the way many of us used to live. So it isn’t brand-new. I can recall three and four generations of people all living in my great-grandfather’s house at one time (Fortunately, he had a big house.) and my grandmothers providing food for the whole lot of us.

Matthews Home, around 1900 - Notice no trees. This was West Texas.

I’m sad to say, I am not my great-grandmother or my grandmother. Left on my own to provide my own food from scratch, these days, I don’t think I could make it. I would be forced to give up food. I’m shaking my head in sadness at all that I’ve known and lost.

But here’s something that’s even more amazing. Do you know what my grandmothers and my old aunts did for leisure and entertainment? … THEY QUILTED!

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8 Comments

Filed under Lifestyle

8 responses to “Forced to Give Up Food…

  1. They quilted forthree reasons: 1. They could sit down! 2. It got really cold in those old houses in winter and they needed the bedding 3. they could chatter while they worked.

    Like you, I remember my grandmother and mother canning. I also canned, even won blue ribbons for my jars of jam and veggies at the State Fair. However, jam for instance, is now chaper at WalMart than I can make it. Even though I have the jars and rings, by the time I buy the sugar, pectin, and lids, Balckburn’s is less expensive. The good thing about home canning is that–even though it’s hell in summer–taking a jar of home-canned vegetables out of the pantry on a cold day gives such a great feeling. Makes you feel like your work was really worthwhile, plus you know exactly what chemicals it contains (none) and how much seasoning of what kind.

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  2. I know what you are talking about regarding the increase on the price of food ! I often wonder how large families can afford to eat.
    I have shelled many bushels of peas in my day and helped with the canning of other vegtables. The only thing I manage to do now is freeze some peaches and if we have wild plums, I make jelly. They grow wild on our ranch and do not bear fruit every year.
    In the “good ole days” they did work very hard just to sustain themselves and wasted nothing.
    I love to quilt and often think of Grandma cutting apart old clothing and using feed and flour sacks to piece a quilt –it would be a masterpiece when she finished with it..

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  3. Donna

    I know what you mean about the prices, just blows me away. I remember my gramma with the gardening,canning,the smoke house and cooking everything on her wood burning stove. The best food in the world! I don’t can either but I make freezer jam and freeze lots of stuff. The best I can do is try to buy everything on sale, that’s when I stock shop. I DO have a well stocked pantry.

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    • Hi, Donna….Thanks for stopping by to chat about the prices of things. I breezed through the produce department again just last night. Was totally floored by a 10-lb bag of oranges–and not ever very good-looking ones–for nearly $8.00. You *could* construe that as a bargain because if you buy them individually, they’re 88-cents each. I vowed never to pay 88-cents for one piece of fruit until I took one nice Fuji apple to the checkout and it cost me $1.26. Now the oranges seem cheap! Aargh! ….. Oh, and I forgot to mention the loaf of sourdough bread that was $4.00. But with an in-store coupon, it was $3.00. LOL ….. All I can say is, I need to lose weight anyway.
      Anna J

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  4. valerie

    I guess I am a dinosaur since I can remember living with my grandparents (while both parents worked – no such thing as day care centers back then) and helping gather eggs, milk the cow, put up the food from the garden and all of the other chores necessary to keep yourself will fed and make money. My grandfather grew cotton and from the time I could pull a home made cotton sack till I was 14 I picked cotton for him. At the end of the cotton harvest we had a “store bought” ice cream party out under a huge shade tree. Now kids do not even go outside and I bet most of them cannot find any joy in spending time with grandparents unless they are at some overpriced function.
    I work in the food industry and get a big kick out of the term “organic”. I let people know I was raised on organic foods and am extremely healthy. Of course I have the usual problems associated with old age, mainly joint issues. But while others get the flu, 24 hour bugs and crap that goes around, I just breeze through the season and keep working. But back to organic, I let people know that my grandparents raised thier garden that way. In the fall after everything was harvested, my grandfather plowed up the garden using a team of one mule and one horse. Then he cleaned out the barn and put all of the compost, etc. on the garden and turned it under with the plow. Around late Nov. or early Dec. he plowed the garden again. This was so the snow would put nitrogen in the soil. Spring comes and he would get the garden ready by plowing and forming rows in it, then my grandmother let him know what she wanted to put in the garden. He would go get about 3 geese and put them in the garden to catch bugs and eat the weeds. My grandmother and all of us picked, cleaned, cooked and canned the produce and after that the geese became dinner. No waste and my grandmother knew to clean and properly cook her produce.
    Now days, people run to the grocery store, think the produce is safe because someone else told them so, pay an over inflated price for the term “organic” , take the food home and set it on the table. So much of our foods are from other countries that the USA has little control over and the FDA cannot test for every little thing, that people really need to know that they have to take responsiblity for their own health and wellness by taking the time to clean and prepare foods correctly.

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    • Hi, Valerie, and thanks for posting. ….. Boy, you are preaching to the choir with that post. I grew up much as you did, but I’ve become so “citified”, I don’t know if I could survive if I had to. I worry all the time about the fact that I have to go to the grocery store for every little thing. And I agree with you about the fresh produce that’s coming in from everywhere. Although, oddly enough, the outbreaks of eboli, listeria, and other maladies have not been found in food from outside the USA. The bacteria have been traced to our own backyard.

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