I’ve been reading a lot lately about 50’s era housewives, including a couple of blogs that feature modern women who take on living as though they were still in that era: creating elaborate dinners that often feature gelatin and liver, getting dressed up complete with lipstick before they greet their husband’s good morning, and boiling laundry at the kitchen sink.
While I am not quite ready to give up my modern appliances or attitude, there is one thing that I do appreciate about that time period. Everything got used and only disposed of when absolutely necessary.
For example, a 50’s housewife might walk to the store each day and pick up just enough food to last for a day or two, and all of the food was consumed during that time. She would also use whatever packaging came with the food. For example, a box of crackers or cereal would yield a box that could be used to store rags and a waxed bag that could be cut open and used to wrap her husband’s sandwich for his take away lunch.
There were no disposable baggies, paper towels, or other disposable conveniences. There was no running out to Target or Walmart, and the fact that the family probably only had one car that was used to get the mister to and from work meant that purchases had to be carefully planned. Spontaneous shopping was probably limited to whether she should purchase the canned peas or the canned corn, and a feel-good luxury purchase might be a red lipstick.
Spending little and making what you had last was the motto of the day. The 50s housewife viewed whatever came into her home as her responsibility, and her goal was to make good use out of it and economize, so her husband’s paycheck would go further. (Yes, some women did have their own careers at the time, but we are just talking about the 50s housewife.)
So, if a 50s housewife suddenly appeared in my kitchen, she could probably teach me a few things about spending less and making things last. Of course, I could probably teach her that a side dish consisting of sweet potatoes mashed with cups of brown sugar, covered in pools of butter and topped with marshmallows was probably not the best way to feed her family a nutritious dinner.