I have been researching some various websites and in my books, trying to get a feel for what the “staples” were in the 1950s. What did women make sure they always had in their cupboards? I’m struggling for my answer. This is what I have found, so far.
My Good Housekeeping Guide to Successful Homemaking, printed version 1956 has a chapter on “Food and Diet” with a subchapter of “Guide to Wise Eating” and a heading of “Stocking Your Shelves.” It starts out with this:
“Read your local newspaper for the best food buys – you will find the market reports an excellent guide.
“Don’t wait until you get to market to plan your meals. Plan them at least a day ahead, taking into account foods on hand in refrigerator.
“Prepare a businesslike marketing list. Avoid buying more than the family will eat by checking your recipes and amounts to buy. List alternate choices, in case foods are not available, or you find better buys.
“It is best to go to market to buy perishables. Then you can check on quality, watch for bargains, and keep up to date on new foods.
“Read descriptive labels on foods in cans, jars and packages for information on size, amount, variety, style, number of servings, kind of syrup, uses, etc. When you find a brand you like, remember the name.
“Often you can save by purchasing a large rather than a small package of a product you use often and you know will keep well.
“Get the full weight of a product for your money. Ask the price per pound, watch the scale while purchases are being weighed, and be sure to count your change. A customer’s indifference is likely to encourage carelessness, if nothing worse.”
Quite a lot of information in just the beginning. For a new bride, it’s a treasure-trove of time-honored facts to get her on her feet. How to buy, what to buy and how to make sure you do good at it. In today’s society, the scales are all electronic. We expect the deli counter to be able to read the electronic number and hand us what we asked for.
Two days ago, I asked for two pounds of smoked bacon. The first was near exactly a pound; the second was approaching a pound and a half. I noticed the gal trying to get it down to a pound and decided that I was ok with more than a pound. Thinking about it, I realized I could use it. However, I was impressed that the lady didn’t just “round up” to make a bigger sale. She did try to get what I originally asked for.
The section goes on to give some very helpful information and following that, a complete list of all foods a woman may need to feed her family. It describes what a dozen eggs should weigh, how to properly store eggs that were cracked open but not used, the best time to purchase certain fruits and vegetables and how to store them and much more. The information was clearly written to a girl first starting out on her own and needing all the help she can get while feeding her new husband.
“Stock your pantry shelves not only with staples, but with foods in packages, cans, and jars, so you always have on hand the nucleus for a delectable meal. Replenish the stock regularly (keep a pad and pencil at hand to jog your memory) before the last of a much-needed staple or special favorite is used up.
“When you make your purchases, buy the can, jar, and package sizes that suite the size of your family and your storage space.”
“Your first meals will be much easier if you start with well-stocked pantry shelves. Naturally you won’t want to buy everything at once – just those items essential to the meals for a week or two. Stock up on other things as you need them.
“The following list will guide you in stocking your shelves, not only with staples, but with foods in jars, cans and packages that fit your budget and the taste of your family. Scan your grocer’s shelves for items not included on this list.”
Everything all written up nice and tidy. And the pages that follow are so filled with necessary knowledge, it’s really quite confusing why this book is not as used, anymore. Why aren’t ladies turning 18 (or getting married) receiving this book as a gift instead of luxury vacations, cars and jewels? I digress…
So, this week, I did two things. I made a list of what I consider the “essentials” in our home. Items that we need to keep on hand at all times. I will be putting this list onto a more permanent format and placing it on the fridge. When I start to use something (or perhaps use up half, as in eggs), I will mark it as something to buy the next time I am in the store. Getting my staples caught up to full cost me about $94, yesterday. I had some things on hand and had to get others. This is my “essentials” list, as of now:
- Block Cheddar Cheese (I use Tillamook Cheddar Cheese in so much, I have to keep a block on hand!)
- Peanut Butter
- Miracle Whip (I don’t use Mayo. I use this. The flavor is amazing)
- Cold Cuts
- Sliced Cheese
- Vegetables for salad (varies with what I am making, what is available, etc)
- Vanilla Extract
- Splenda Brown Sugar
- Splenda Sugar
- Bread Flour
- All-Purpose Flour
- Italian Dressing
- Tomato Paste (I try to keep 2 cans on hand at all times – great for thickening red sauces)
- Trail Mix (A nice sized tub of this is $3.99 at my local Albertson’s. We use it when we go on road trips. The one we have right now has been used 3 times and is not empty. It’s protein (protein) with M&Ms and raisins. Gives the boys a nice snack without being “always healthy.”)
- Chocolate Chips (a bag on hand for the random cookie-making – an excellent and rare treat for the boys)
- Orange Extract (mostly purchased because of the Madeline’s I like to make – different flavors each time I make them)
- Syrup (for pancakes, stuffed french toast, etc – we buy the Splenda brand and my boys love it!)
- Tomato Sauce (I use it with various meats in the oven or crock pot, I try to keep 2 cans on hand at all times)
- Vinegar (for cleaning. also, for diabetics, a little vinegar before meals slows down the absorption of carbs to sugars, thus eliminating the high spikes)
- Parmesan Cheese (always good as a topping on salads, chicken, red sauce meals, etc and lasts forever in the fridge)
- Jar of Sweet pickles, your choice (Great as a snack and also used in deviled eggs or egg salad)
I think that about covers it. I’m sure I’ll add to it, later. This is a start on getting used to “what do I need in my home always.” Things like baking soda and powder aren’t really a “staple” in my cooking, as yet. When I start making things that require them, I’ll add them to the staples. Even my Madeline’s are made with bread flour and omitting the need for baking soda and salt.
So, I spent $94 on getting all of my “essentials” up to par. Now, to make a list that I can stick to the fridge or somewhere else handy in the kitchen.
Here’s the file I created. I’ll laminate it so I can reuse it: Shopping List. Feel free to use and abuse it. It’s not fancy but maybe later I’ll do it fancy. I want something I can take to the store – a permanent list to carry – of essential items I am going low on or out of.
Any ideas on things I may have missed?
Thank you for listening and tomorrow – the meal list,