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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Frugal Kitchens 101 - Frugal Recipes

Frugal Kitchens 101
We live in such a wonderful time where there is easy access to an abundance of recipes. One of the biggest things you will notices about newer recipes and online recipes is they tend to stipulate a certain brand for some of the ingredients. Many companies also have a recipe component to their website using of course their brand. In addition to this a lot of newer recipes include ingredients that in some cases can be rather difficult to find unless you shop online. The downside to using all brand name ingredients and exotic or hard to find ingredients is of course cost. The reality is that when it comes to most foods especially those used as ingredients in other dishes is brand doesn't matter at all. Del Monte green beans is the same as store brand green beens is the same as home canned green beans. The only difference you will see is size with a can of store bought green beans being 14.5 oz whereas home canned is 16 oz (500 ml). In most cases this little extra using home canned makes no difference at all. So when it comes to newer recipes that specify brand names don't be afraid to substitute with a store brand or home canned but it you really want to save money look to the older recipes.

There has been a growing interest in Depression era recipes and for good reason. These recipes came about when ingredients like flour, sugar and butter were rationed, when times were tough and homemakers quickly learned how to stretch what they had. The very idea of even getting a piece of fresh fruit out of season during the Depression in Canada or even in the winter pre-Depression was unheard of yet savvy Canadian homemakers had a good supply of fruits and vegetables put up in their cellars. It was a time of anything that could be put up was and meals were always cooked from scratch using the ingredients that were on hand. There were no fancy seasonings, mixes or other ingredients. The overall frugality and simplicity of ingredients is reflected in cookbooks written pre-1965. The earlier you go the more you will find excellent home economic tips that despite their age are still applicable today. At the same time there are many older books specific to home economics. One I thoroughly enjoyed is The Work-a-Day Girl by Clara E. Laughlin (published 1913). These types of books re an excellent way to see how you really can do with a lot less.

My earliest cookbook dates back to 1852 and belonged to my 4th great grandmother. I collect old cookbooks not only because of my culinary interests but also through my genealogy research. They are very much cherished! If you are interested in finding these older cookbooks check yard sales, estate sales, resale stores and antique stores. Take a trip to your local library and check those smaller libraries in surrounding communities as they may have a holding your local library doesn't. Another source for older recipes is newspapers normally archived in micro-fiche or microfilm. Newspapers often ran recipes in the Women's Section of the newspaper.

When it comes time to use your find, if the cookbook is pre-1900 and even some later than that you will want to protect it. I recommend taking a digital image of the recipe which surprisingly works quite nicely with a little bit of practice and doesn't damage the book. It is a lot quicker than writing out the recipe and unlike photocopying doesn't cost money or damage the spine of the book. Some microfilm machines have printing capabilities usually at 25¢ to $1 per sheet where as most micro-fiche machines have no printing capabilities. With a bit of practice you can also take digital images from either source. As with any digital imaging always take several shots and again with practice you will be able to get good shots. Edit your images of the recipe then print the image if desired. In some cases if the spine of the book is good you can use an ORC scan as well. This way you can gather quite a nice collection of older recipes complete with their wisdom without spending a lot of money.

7 food lovers commented:

A Year on the Grill said...

I am just discovering the joys of old cookbooks... the world has indeed changed, flash and style over substance comes to mind. Sometimes i think an awful lot of effort is put into presentation when the basics of a recipe do not hold up.

interesting post

RE Ausetkmt said...

Hi Mom ! I have a first edition Fanny Farmer cookbook. I never handle it or even open it for fear of damaging it. maybe it's time to take it to an expert and get it safely put up. I've been told old cookbooks are worth alot of money. I have lots of those company cookbooks that you could write away for from the 40's and later; all in my bookcase, sitting safe. thanks for writing about cookbooks. btw, that beef barley soup looks oh so delish !

Garden Gnome said...

Old cookbooks are just a delight, Dave. There none of this brand name thing going on as if one brand is better that another. I watch the food channel a lot so love presentation but you are right the presentation can be spot on but if the food doesn't taste good it really doesn't matter.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Ruthi and thanks for visiting. Any recipe is simply a starting point. Aside of using TNT canning recipes, some baking recipes you really can just explore, build on existing recipes and have fun. I hope you enjoyed your visit and stop by again.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi RE Ausetkmt and thanks for visiting. Older books can be worth a lot of money. If you want to use the recipes you will want to protect the spine of the book. You might be able to photocopy but better is to use a handheld scanner or digital camera. That way you protect the book yet get to use the recipe.

Thanks for you lovely compliments :)

Sharkbytes said...

I like cooking from scratch. I swear I can taste those preservatives or whatever other stuff goes in the packaged foods.

Garden Gnome said...

I know what you mean Sharkbytes!