Here's an interesting question for you all to ponder.
How do we learn to be frugal?
I learned from my own mother. She did not drive. We lived out in the middle of no where. My father worked long hours at the steel mill and she had four kids. She knew how to stretch the food dollar.
The lessons of those days were invaluable to me, first when I was a young mother staying home with my own children, I had a garden. I canned and I cooked from scratch. I learned how to make the most of those food dollars. Later, when I was on my own with three children, it did not feel like a deprivation. We were living like we always had. I remember once when my youngest daughter said, astonished, "Wait! We were poor?!!"
Anyways, one thing that I remember from those days is this: There were two boys the same age as my two oldest who used to hang out at our house. I could generally count on them to be there for supper. I am the queen of soups and casseroles, so it wasn't really a problem. Just put some bread on the table with some jam, and everyone dug in. We rarely had left overs, but nobody went hungry.
After a week, the mother of the boys called me. She told me that I did not have to feed her boys. I told her it was fine, it wasn't a problem. She said, "I don't know how you make your food stamps last until the end of the month. I can't."
She was astounded that I did not get food stamps. "I don't know how you do it," she said once again.
So I told her. I told her about my well used crock pot, about soups, about looking at what was on sale and planning your meals around that, and about the beauty of beans and pasta, how one chicken breast could feed a family once it was rounded out with beans or pasta and lots and lots of vegetables...
She interrupted to say, "No, no, no. I do not cook."
How does a woman with two boys make that decision? I didn't understand that kind of thinking at all.
But do you think that her boys grew up to be thrifty people who knew how to live within their means?
We have a generation of kids who did not learn the lessons that I learned growing up.
We have a food pantry at our church, and it is full of staples, most of it prepackaged and high in salt and carbohydrates, instant stuff.
You know how these food kits are so popular nowadays? Blue Apron, Freshly, Dinnerly, etc? They send you the meal ingredients, with recipe cards, and you assemble the meals. People really like these kits. They're also pretty expensive.
But what if we could come up with these 'kits' for our food pantry folks? There are plenty of economical crockpot meals. What if we started out with a simple minestrone soup. And I sat down with it and broke it all down. We could put together a kit for six meals costing no more than $5.00 a family. Every week we could add a soup, with its recipe card. In the summer, we could switch it over to lighter things. There are plenty of casseroles that can be done in a crockpot.
I was unprepared for the blowback. "They won't cook." "They will not eat beans." "Too much work." "What if they don't have a crockpot?" Even a comment that I was playing 'lady of the manor' trying to teach the peasants how to make a better life for themselves.
Now, I've heard that kind of talk coming from conservative people, about how "I work hard so millions of people on welfare don't have to" or people will go on about how they made it on their own (except most of them have had a helping hand on the way up). The assumption that every poor person is poor due to their own poor choices. Anything to point out that the poor don't deserve help.
I don't get that.
But I also didn't expect to hear that from people in my own crowd.
We have a diaper ministry at our church, where people can stop in a couple times a month to pick up extra diapers in an emergency situation.
"What if we start small?" I said. "Use those folks as a test group. Offer it to them. If someone says they don't have a crock pot, we can pull one out of the closet and give it to them. Try it out for a couple months. Encourage people to tell others, to bring them along. See what happens. I might be dead wrong. It might crash and burn. But what if it doesn't? What if we are teaching people to fish instead of giving them a fish?"
Remember that cherry tomato my friend had? The plant grew five feet tall. Mary gave me 6 quarts of cherry tomatoes because they was heartily sick of them. I saved the seeds. What if this summer, I sent people home with a cherry tomato plant that went nuts for them? What if they got the bug to plant small gardens of their own.
What if one thing led to another? What if we had people learning new skills?
Yes. this idea could crash and burn.
But what if it doesn't?