Here's hoping 2024 is a little easier on us!
This morning, I got up and found a pretty good article on CBC's site, Loss of cooking skills has hurt our ability to adapt to rising food prices, experts say. Yep! I'd agree with that!
Over the past couple years, at our house, we've had to modify our consumer habits in response to higher prices. And really, isn't that exactly how things are supposed to work in a free market economy? (Now, that's not to say that I don't think there's any gouging going on. But I do think it's spread out, industry wide, so a small bit of greed, here and there, adds up to a big impact on consumers. And maybe there is some role there for government intervention. But I'd hate to see us do that, unless and until we've had a chance to flex our atrophied little consumer market muscles.)
But rarely do you see anything in the media about why we're so often caught flat-footed in the face of the challenges presented to us today.
I agree with the article that having better cooking/food prep/food storage skills would help us all weather inflation right now, BUT I don't know what they're on about with that home economics stuff. I'm 66. I took home ec in junior high. Did I learn any skills there? No. I mostly did the dishes. We only made cookies, maybe a couple other silly things, and the girls who did the actual prep and cooking didn't learn these skills in a class. They learned them at home from their mothers.
My mom wasn't a great cook, but she was the Queen of Take Out. She didn't have a cookbook. She had a little black book of take-away numbers. But this wasn't the case in most families when Mr JoyfulC and I were growing up. Most homes had a full-time, stay-at-home homemaker.
The dilemma we're in right now shows just how vulnerable we are for having lost that. It's not just food budgets! Families today pay for so many things that, when I was growing up, were performed by the homemaker (childcare, elder care, housekeeping, cooking, budgeting/bookkeeping, gardening, laundry, childhood education, basic medical care/nursing, entertaining, tutoring, decorating, community service, just to name a few 😏). In fact, with the exception of the very wealthy, the quality of the homemaker was often even more important than the breadwinner's income in determining the quality of life of the family.*
Learning some cooking skills today might help families get better bang for their buck at the grocery store, however, to get your best results, you'd need to invest in various supplies, tools and equipment, which won't help with your overall budget in the shortrun. It's a lot easier to buy produce in season, if you can put it up. Baking your own breads and such is easier when you have a chest freezer to store them in. And it's nice to be able to portion up larger meals like a turkey dinner or lasagna into meal-sized bags that you can pull out and toss in the nuker for home-made fast food.
So yes, I think there are things we can do to help ourselves down the road. In the moment, obviously, before we start demanding government intervention (which, if you haven't been watching, often winds up benefiting industries at the expense of consumers), we should first flex our consumer muscles.
We were lucky, at my house, to be a little better prepared to deal with food inflation (although it still involves modifying our buying habits). Mr JoyfulC (the hard-headed old Kraut), has this principle: make what you eat and eat what you make. Not only has this helped us be a little more mindful of our choices, it goes a long way to reducing food waste.
At these prices, it's too expensive to be throwing away perfectly good food.
(Obviously, not all families would choose to return to a single-income model. And I remember too well the insecurity that women faced as their children were nearly grown and their marriages were nearly exhausted, but their resumes had huge holes. In the 1970s, it wasn't uncommon for divorce to result in a surge of lifestyle for the former breadwinner and a plunge for the former homemaker. (Although a decade or more after the divorce, fates were often reversed.) Maybe we need to return to the alimony model. It wasn't popular at the time, but today, with homemakers and breadwinners no longer being decided along gender lines, it could be viewed as a better solution.
Other solutions, to help us move back towards a more family-oriented culture, might be universal basic income, tax-free homemaker savings accounts, or... paying homemakers!! Yes, I said it. How would it work? I dunno! But I love the idea, and let's face it: an economy based on labour doesn't work if we don't include all the labour in the equation. Here's a neat video of a cover of a Peggy Seeger song you can enjoy while you ponder that: