Mother Fran’s Tips to Stretch The Food Budget

A few weeks ago I posted Money Lessons From Mother Fran and that got me thinking how much of my personality and how I approach life is rooted in lessons I learned as a kid. My parents grew up during the depression and saving, scrimping, re-using, and repurposing are second nature to them. I know I inherited this mindset as did my siblings although we don’t all apply the lessons in the same way.

I remember my brother (child #9) calling me once to tell me he was turning into Mom. I asked what he did and he said he had started washing out tin foil so he could use it again. I just laughed and told him not to be concerned until he started washing out ziplock bags. I was way ahead of him in terms of turning into Mother Fran! Child #1 shakes her head  at me for reusing ziplock bags and I chuckle at her for stockpiling salad dressing and pasta sauce.  Child #7 has perfected buying in bulk whatever is on sale and freezing it in meals for 2 in order to feed her and Mother Fran.

Mother Fran needed to feed 11 people on a Police Officer’s salary. Can you imagine feeding 11 people 3 meals a day? Talk about buying and cooking in bulk!  This was before bulk food stores and giant superstores. I remember her clipping coupons and creating grocery lists for 3 different stores. Then comparing what was on sale at each store to her coupons on hand.  Items that were on sale were purchased in bulk and meals for that week would feature those items. It was a common for Mom to fill up the freezer, the cabinets and the pantry with whatever was on sale that week.

Between the need to feed 11 people, the tight budget and the frugal nature of Mother Fran eating in our home was an adventure!

Child #1 recalls her friends sitting and counting how many bottles of ketchup were on our shelves. Personally I remember counting 18 cans of tuna stacked in the cabinet. Just a few weeks ago I bought the family pack of tuna for my household of 2 adults!

We used to joke that she could make at least 6 sandwiches out of 1 can of tuna fish. The tuna was chunk light and full of onion and celery! Child #2 tells me she remembers bread crumbs being added to that tuna salad to stretch it a bit further.

I bet all of her kids remember how she could get 11 servings out of a ½ gallon of ice cream and still have leftovers that were mysteriously gone in the morning!

Early in the afternoon on Sunday’s we would often have a big meal.  After dinner it was a treat in our house to have white bread and gravy. How on earth did our parents convince us having gravy on bread was exciting? Getting the steak bones was also a treat says Child #1. Leftovers from this meal would appear in various forms for the next several days. Leftover boiled potatoes would turn into hash browns for breakfast. Leftover meat and vegetables would reappear in stew, soup and sauce.

What leftovers will appear?
What leftovers will appear?

I remember going to a friends house for lunch one day. Her mom pulled out the bologna, cheese and bread so we could make lunch. I dutifully took 1 piece of bologna and 1 piece of cheese and slapped them between 2 pieces of bread just like I did at home. Her mom smiled and said I could use more than 1 piece. She broke out laughing when I asked… Really?? It had honestly never occurred to me to add more meat or cheese; that was simply not done in our household.

Child #2 tells me she remembers teaching a friend how to make spaghetti sauce from scratch. Her friend didn’t know you could make homemade sauce.  My sister says she didn’t know you could buy it in a jar! Sauce (like tuna) was chock full of vegetables in our house. It is common for onions, peppers and garlic to be in sauce.  In our house it was common for carrots, greens and other vegetables to appear as well! My sister-in-law once swore to me she saw eggshells going into the sauce but Mother Fran denies it! Child #3 remembers fresh tomatoes from Dad’s garden going into that sauce.

Child #9 tells me he didn’t know chili wasn’t supposed to have elbow macaroni in it until he was in his 20’s!

The water from boiling vegetables and potatoes would go into a 2 quart pitcher in the fridge to be turned into soup stock. I learned the hard way never to simply pour and take a drink from any container in the refrigerator. In our household soup contained lots of leftovers including refried beans and mashed potatoes.

Everything but the kitchen sink is in here!
Everything but the kitchen sink is in here!

We used to race each other to the car to get to the whole milk before Mom got to it to water it down with powdered milk.

Mother Fran has instilled in her children the concept that food like money should never be wasted and can easily be stretched.  I love that this concept is trickling down to the next generation in our family! One of my nephews recalls taking Mother Fran grocery shopping with her coupons, the store advertisements and her grocery lists in hand. She left the store with a cart full of groceries and more money then when she entered!

Thanks to my siblings for sharing their memories and thank you Mom and Dad for great life lessons!

7 thoughts on “Mother Fran’s Tips to Stretch The Food Budget”

  1. Just love this and seeing it through #1-#9’s perspective.
    Yes, your parents made things seem exotic. I remember Uncle Jack serving up chile “con carne”. We had no idea what con carne was, but he made it very exciting.

  2. I stockpile foodstuff too….a product of my mother growing up during the Depression….
    My family also truly believes I can make something out of anything; leftover we have, staples in the pantry, extras in the frig.
    I do remember an interesting meal at your house with bulgar…lmbo….

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