How You Can Cope with Rising Prices
AS I shook from my hands the clinging suds of dishwashing detergent, I asked myself: “How can I cope with rising prices?”
I nearly pushed aside the question, thinking: “That’s one for the experts and/or laboratory testing.” Then it occurred to me: “But I am an ‘expert.’” Nearly fifty years, bridging the Great Depression, world conflicts, and including life on many continents, have furnished me a wealth of experience at a most important craft—housewifery, and this in the “laboratory” of my own home.
Could this experience help me to meet the challenge of today’s runaway economy? Could I learn from past mistakes as well as successes? I decided to organize my experiences at coping with high prices. Let me share some of them with you.
I Recall Childhood Lessons
I looked down at the sink. It was now free of dishes and the water had drained off. But there, staring me in the face, was a mass of dense suds that refused to disappear. I recalled a lesson that I had learned in earliest childhood: Do not waste. But how can a person avoid losing a residue of soapsuds? I thought of two things that had helped me in the past:
(1) Do not guess; measure. I should have scorned the snipped-off top that permitted me to squirt the detergent into the sink. Measuring it out always results in savings.
(2) Reuse detergent water. In South America, for example, laundering proceeds from loads of less-soiled clothes to dirtier ones, each time reusing the suds. Finally the same soapy water is used to scrub the floor.
Does that sound extreme to you? It is vital in countries where the price of soap and detergents is nearly out of reach.
Food is something else that many people waste. My grandmother used to sing a little rhyme that went this way: “Do not throw upon the floor the crumbs you would not eat; for many a little boy or girl would think them quite a treat.”
One of my first household chores was to scrape the bowl clean of all batter when baking was going on. Nothing was to remain in the bowl. I now appreciate that I was learning an attitude that helped our family to survive the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It can help you to cope with rising prices today.
Make the Most of What Is Available
Instead of throwing out leftovers, why not make the most of food that you have on hand? For instance, one days’s menu might call for meat loaf, baked potato and coleslaw (raw cabbage salad). The remainder of the cabbage can be cooked for a later meal; and the leftover meat loaf can be broken up, “doctored” with tomato sauce, and used on a pizza, in Spanish rice or as a meat sauce to pour over spaghetti. There is no need to buy more meat for that purpose.
Many do not realize that much of what people throw into the garbage can is the secret that has made French cooking famous the world over. Yes, elegant French “cuisine” often begins with a pot of “stock” made tasty by snips of meat trimmings, vegetable tops and bones that find their way into the soup pot instead of the garbage.
I recall a “special sale” that I once came across on a poor quality of chuck. While it was about twice the price of bare soup bones, I saw in it greater nutrition and opportunities for several meals. I cubed some of the cooked meat for soup. Half of the remainder went with a small amount of gravy (using some of the soup stock for base, thickened) to produce a pseudo-Swiss steak. Another part went with leftover barbecue sauce. Few persons would guess that these three recipes came from a common source, and at good savings.
Could a Varied Menu Help?
Have you ever considered that a change of menu from time to time might help you to cope with rising prices? This is true particularly if you prepare dishes in which meat is used rather sparingly. Besides saving you valuable food dollars, your working up such a foreign menu will probably delight your family.
The staple of the Orient, for example, is rice. The Chinese find their principal sources of protein, not in meat, but in eggs and vegetables. Meat and fish usually serve just as condiments or in sauces to give variety and flavor. I once observed a Chinese cooking class where the recipe called for eight ounces of thinly sliced beef. Because the students wanted to sample the results, the recipe was doubled. Combined with vegetables, those sixteen ounces of beef made enough delicious sauce to provide a tasty small bowl of rice with a little meat for all twenty-seven students.
Skillful Buying Can Reduce Costs
Skillful buying is indispensable if you are to cope with rising prices. Whether you frequent a modern supermarket or the boat stores of Bangkok, you can save money when you buy.
A valuable principle for buying is: Do not buy more than you need. Instead of pounds or kilos, buy by ounces. Do not feel that you must purchase a certain amount of something just because it is prepackaged in that way. There is nothing wrong with summoning the storekeeper so that you can buy a reduced amount, say 1/4 pound of ground beef or just one apple, if that is all you need. Buying in this way not only stretches out a limited food budget, but also safeguards you from using more than is necessary simply because it is on hand.
Do you know of stores that sell day-old bakery products? Bread purchased there is usually half the price it was twenty-four hours earlier.
Are you aware that you can buy meat in the same way? Search out the far reaches of the packaged-meat counter. A housewife visiting California reduced her meat bill by one third when she discovered a day-old bin marked “Manager’s Specials.” Do not let the dull gray color of some day-old meat discourage you. That does not necessarily mean that it has gone bad. When in doubt about meat, rely on your nose.
What, though, if your market does not have a day-old meat section? Why not approach the manager personally and ask about the opportunity to buy such commodities at reduced prices? You may be surprised to find out that he already has a following, and will be glad to include you.
A couple in Memphis, Tennessee, came upon an interesting way to save food money. Realizing that they gleaned most of the news from television, they canceled their subscriptions to the newspaper and to magazines that were not being read. They noted, however, that on a certain day grocery-store advertising included printed discount coupons on “leader” items, goods sold at a discount to “lead” people into the store. As these were often commonly needed goods, buying that day’s paper at the newsstand rates more than paid for its cost.
Could a Garden Help You?
When food prices obliged a young couple in Indianapolis to cut expenses, a small vegetable garden seemed to be just the thing. But they lived in an apartment. What could they do?
After looking at the property of a neighbor, the young man suggested an arrangement: “If I mow your lawn throughout the summer, will you allow me to dig up that section over there to plant vegetables?” It was agreed; and that garden produced a bounty for them and for their friends and even for the man with whom they made the agreement. Could something similar help you to cope with rising prices today?
If you are thinking of growing some food, you may find helpful the technique of “multiple cropping.” What is that? Instead of planting all of your seed at once, you may find it beneficial to plant it at one- and two-week intervals. Thus when one crop is ready for harvesting, another is well along the way. Harvesting mature crops leaves the field open for planting still others. Crop-production experts in the Philippines have refined multiple cropping to the extent that one acre has produced thirteen tons. This procedure can increase the yield of your vegetable garden too.
Do You Really Need That?
You have probably noticed that most cooks used finished or semifinished products as building blocks for their meals. Is it really necessary to go to that expense? While store-bought bread, canned sauces, packaged desserts and TV dinners lighten the work load, they also increase your food bill. Willingness to “start from scratch” when preparing food not only reduces costs, but brings with it a special satisfaction. The aroma of homemade bread baking in the oven and its distinctive flavor are things that no commercial product can duplicate. And it can be less expensive.
In many countries today advertisers continually pressure people to “buy,” “buy,” “buy.” But do people really need all of the material things that are dangled before them? Do you need all of the things you now possess? These are good questions to ponder when thinking of coping with rising prices.
When a family of three in Indiana felt the squeeze of reduced buying power, they decided to “dial down” their living standard by selling their home and buying a smaller one at about half the price. They still have adequate living space; but their mortgage payments are a full $100 a month less than before.
You can use a similar approach even in your present home. Wearing heavier clothing around the house and drawing drapes across drafty windows will save you money on fuel bills. Further savings will result if you switch from long-distance phone calls to writing letters. And instead of using air mail indiscriminately, why not send less-urgent correspondence by surface mail? Savings can accumulate quickly, as do expenses.
Another thing that you can do to cope with rising prices is to follow this important principle: Never borrow unless it is absolutely necessary. Of course, credit cards and charge accounts are a great convenience. And you may have been told that the cost of credit is, for instance, only 1 1⁄2 percent after thirty days. But did you realize that that means 1 1⁄2 percent a month? That is at least 18 percent a year. This is no way to defeat the rising cost of living.
I recall a TV commercial that purred generosity as it promised to loan the viewer $5,000, payable over a thirty-month period at only 16 percent interest. Do you realize, though, that the borrower could be required to return as much as $7,000 at that rate? Is it not much wiser to avoid buying on credit when possible?
A FAMILY Attack on High Prices
An important way of coping with high prices is to develop a family attitude toward the problem. How can you accomplish that?
Perhaps in your family, as in many North American homes, the children perform household chores for which they receive an allowance. However, must they be paid for helping out in the household? Is that in their best interest? Some youths also have employment outside of the home. But what motivates the children to do their work? Is it solely to have “their own” money to buy things for themselves? Such a self-oriented motive brings little benefit to the family as a whole. Parents may even consider it necessary to insist that the youths contribute to the welfare of the family, resulting in strained relations.
How much better for family members to develop an attitude based upon the time-tested Bible principle: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Cor. 10:24) Following this principle, parents will not expect children to give up all their wages; and children will not wish to keep them all for themselves. What benefits result when family members work together for the benefit of one another! It makes for close-knit family life.
Coping with rising prices today indeed presents a challenge. But it is one that you can meet successfully if you are willing to make some adjustments in your way of life.—Contributed.