When I was growing up, my parents kept a cow in the freezer. Well, really just the edible parts. My father raised cattle and at least once a year he took one cow to the slaughterhouse. A couple of days later he would bring it back home, in small, neatly wrapped and labeled packages, ready to take up residence in the huge upright freezer with the cases of Blue Bonnet margarine and Whole Sun orange juice.
The large quantities of margarine and juice were my mother’s doing. She did most of her grocery shopping at a place called Waremart, which was like a low-tech Sam’s Club or Costco. At Waremart, we pushed (climbed on, jumped off of, ran around, and were run over by) large flatbed carts and loaded them up with whole cases of canned tuna and evaporated milk, tomato and cream of mushroom soup, and Spaghettios if we could talk Mom into it. There was a bucket of black grease pens at the front of the store by the carts, which we used to mark the prices on each case. Waremart saved money by just stacking the boxes on shelves and posting the prices above them. Then they passed on the savings to their customers.
Our family also had a garden; a very LARGE garden. With 9 children, my parents had a lot of cheap (free) labor. After endless hours of hoeing, raking, planting, watering, weeding and weeding and weeding, came the harvesting. And canning. We picked and shelled and snapped and washed and chopped for hours. Once when I was a teenager Dad came home from work and after cleaning up he decided to help cut corn off the cob. He helped so enthusiastically that we later found corn kernels all the way into the next room on Mom’s piano.
For breakfast we ate cracked wheat cereal made from the grain my father planted and harvested on the farm, or pancakes with chokecherry syrup made from the fruit we had picked, juiced and bottled. A typical lunch was sandwiches made with my mother’s homemade bread, tuna from the storage shelves and home canned pickles. Dinner frequently involved parts of that cow in the freezer and the vegetables we had grown. Dad sometimes commented on the personality traits of the particular cow we were eating.
My parents grew up during the Depression and were a young married couple during World War II. As Dad put it, during the Depression there were things to buy, but nobody had money, and during the war they had money, but there was nothing to buy. Like Joseph of Egypt, my parents understood the wisdom of storing up in times of plenty to carry them through times of hardship. But instead of just keeping piles of grain in a bin, they stored food our family really would eat, and we really did eat from our food storage.
For those of us who don’t have the wisdom gained from living through the Depression and World War II, it seems easier to save time and think of pizza as the staff of life and McDonald’s as our personal caterer. But even when we have more money than time, it would be wise to remember the lessons of the past. Whether the crisis is national, worldwide, or just personal, there may be times when there are things to buy and we have no money, or we have money to spend but nothing to spend it on.