November 26, 2010

Three Books That Have Impacted my Life

Before we got married, back into my childhood, I dreamed of some day being a wife and mother.  I longed for the day when I would be married, have children and take care of my own home.  After we were married, our financial situation was such that it was impossible to consider being a stay at home wife.  It was put off to a future date and since it was just the two of us, it made sense for me to work.  Even with two paychecks, we were barely able to pay our bills.

It was hard to find any books on homemaking in the early 1980's.  We had just come through the 1970's when the Women's Movement was at its highpoint.  Women were working and I knew very few that were home full time.  In those early years I came across three books that I read from cover to cover multiple times.  They affirmed the pull at my heart to be home.  There was no internet and with few women that were at home, it was the norm to be working full time.  There were no Tightwad Gazette books, there was nothing out there to show how you could live on one income, scale back and do radical things to live on one income.  Even though the ingredients were available back then, no one had ever heard of making your own laundry soap.  Hanging clothes on the line - well - it took too long for working women.

Fast forward to 2010 and downsizing, living on less and whatever else you want to call it, is "in style" and it is pursued.  I didn't have that back in the 1980's.  Back then I dreamed of being a full time homemaker on the weekends. 

The books I read are More with Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre copyrighted 1976, Homemaker's Response to Inflation by Judy Hammersmark copyrighted 1980 and Free to Stay at Home by Marilee Horton copyrighted 1982. 
 First - More with Less.

I heard about this book in college when I was taking a Nutrition class.  I attended a small junior college in Kansas, in Mennonite country as I would come to know it.  Recognizing that there was overconsumption in our area of the world (being North America), this cookbook was written by a Mennonite in response to her church's call to reduce food consumption by 10%.  The author was a dietitian and she drew from her experience.  The recipes in this book are simple and healthy recipes that use basic ingredients and avoids processed food.  It is about building a simpler and more nutritious diet, on less.

I had never heard about incomplete proteins until I attended that nutrition class and this cookbook uses incomplete proteins in recipes to combine to make a complete protein.  Examples are eating milk products with grains - such as cheese with macaroni, milk with rice.  Combining legumes with grains - such as beans with rice.  The cookbook uses less meat proteins and more plant proteins.  It was a radical way of cooking back then, but when you read the book it is all about eating very healthy without a lot of meat consumption and obviously eating cheaper. 

Some of the recipes in this book include:  Soybean Hamburger Casserole which is really, really good.  I do substitute other beans for this casserole as my family doesn't really like soybeans.  It contains some meat, onion, celery, green pepper, beans, tomato sauce, beef bouillon and rice.  It really is delicious.  Back in the 1980's this would have been a really strange meal to serve a family, but it isn't strange now.  There are meat recipes for stews and meat loaves.  There are several great recipes for healthy breads and such. 

If you look at this book in today's economy, it contains recipes and guidelines that fall in line with everything that is being preached on frugal cooking.  This book is still available on Amazon and has been re-printed over and over.  I have considered buying a new copy as my copy is worn and it is an old paperback where the printing appears to be getting smaller and smaller or is that just me getting older and older?  I have decided that I like my old copy with my written comments from years ago in it, so I will just have to get a magnifying glass.

Book Two:  Homemaker's Response to Inflation

I bought this book at a Christian bookstore in the women's section and frankly, it was the only one of it's kind in that section.  The rest were Bible study books as I recall.  The introduction starts out as "Let's face it.  We live in difficult times."  Some things don't change and the advice the author gives in saving money when the economy is not doing well, is true to this day.  This book has a couple of recipes for her homemade soup made from scraps and her bread recipe.  It is not a cookbook but a book about staying home and being proud to be a homemaker.  It is a small book but is full of a lot of advice such as "Homemakers Take a Bow," "Our Hurry-Scurry, Throwaway Society," "By Bread Alone," and "God's Gift of Natural Health."  The author writes about cooking, shopping and how to stretch your dollars.  She even gives tips for home maintenance and health care. 

I remember reading this book in one sitting and gleaning the advice that this woman gave.  She had worked before and was now home and had learned to live on less and enjoy her life more.  This book is a small paperback book that can fit in your purse. 

She also wrote another book "Occupation, Nestbuilder" which she describes how she used to work at a job she liked, but quit to be home. It is a great book also.

If you need books to affirm being a stay at home wife/mom, get these two books.
The third book, "Free to Stay at Home" was purchased around the time I was pregnant with our oldest son.  It was written as a women's alternative to working full time and transitioning to being home full time. 

Again, this book is still available on Amazon as a used book.  There is a comment that she makes in the book that really hit home then and now "If your working means putting food before your children, I would agree that is what you must do.  But, if you are yearning for a color tv or an extra car or even just to get away from the zoo (home), I pray you will seek God's will."

The book starts out with her working full time and then going to church to hear a sermon on Titus 2 in the Bible.  She felt that after hearing that sermon she really needed to quit her job to stay home and care for her children.  Yes, this is a book written by a Christian author, but I am a Christian so I would naturally gravitate towards such an author.  There are some elements in this book of "preaching" but the basic premise is the same:  staying home is good for the nuclear family.  Whether you agree with that statement or not, it doesn't matter to me.  What does matter is that at that point in my life, someone had finally written a book advocating being a stay at home wife and mother.  I read it when I so desperately wanted to be home full time and even though we needed me to work to put food on the table, I knew that some day I could be free to stay at home. 

These books can be purchased at Amazon and other book sites for a small sum.

Again, back when I was first married there were few books on the subject of homemaking or frugal living.  We have moved several times over the years and these books have always moved with us.  I have pulled them out again and again and over the next few weeks I will be re-reading them as a way of remembering those early years of our marriage and to also re-affirm what I am doing today.  I am feeling a bit of nostalgia as on Monday, November 29th we will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary.


Lyn said...

Thank you for sharing about these books and about staying at home in general. I often find it uncomfortable to talk about the fact that I am a full-time homemaker because responses come from jealousy, defensiveness, or with many saying that they can't do it (my husband makes a very modest wage, so it is possible). Better yet, we have no debt (which takes a lot of sacrifice, work and denial). I've been home for almost 18 years now, and I wouldn't trade it for anything, including money.

We may not have had much and even still don't - but I'm very happy to have time. There is nothing material-wise in this world that would make me sacrifice that for. We have a lower-cost home, a very old car, and don't have the latest and greatest, but I do have a lot of peace. My time is my own and doesn't belong to anyone else. I loved the quote you shared in the book because sometimes it is a choice - and I believe that many out there choose the money to have nicer things in life - a nicer car, home, vacations, stuff in general. Some of course do not have such a choice (like single moms) but I've read even some who stay home and have businesses from home. So it can be possible.

Thanks again for sharing, as I don't feel I have to keep inside what is important to me, just so I don't have to feel I offend women who work. I share these things to help, not to hurt other women, because maybe they could be home too. I say instead of saying one can't be home - really look into what you can do to make it happen. Perhaps it will be downsizing your life in many ways. In the end, is time or stuff more important?

I'm proud of what I do as a full-time homemaker, and I'm sure you are too.

Lyn said...

Oh, and Happy Anniversary! Thirty years is a wonderful accomplishment. God bless you both.

Maureen said...

Happy 30th anniversary on Monday, I am only 6 months away from my Fortieth, doesn,t time fly ??

Martha have you ever given any thought to writing your own book, I always find your posts so helpful and motivating.

Martha said...


I know what you mean about being uncomfortable about sharing about being home full time as I get tired of the responses I get sometimes too. But that is who we are and we should never be ashamed to share.


A book -- me? Hmm, maybe some day. I like to be an encourager to others. Perhaps it is a gift, but I do like to lift people up. Maybe it is because there have been times in my life when I was down and I have had a friend call me up and make me feel so much better.

And yes - time does fly by (except during the potty training phase of child rearing).

Debs said...

Happy almost anniversary.

My mum has the more with less cookbook and 'more with less'. As a teenager I read both endlessly and I'm sure that they have shaped the way I think.

This post challenged me not to talk away the fact that I've chosen not to go back to work after having a baby (small pay cheque and high childcare costs mean it's not worth it....) when my real reason is that I think it's the most valuable thing I can do with my time - to raise my own daughter and look after my husband.

I'm so glad I came across your blog, I've been really enjoying having an insight into your thoughts as you share your life with us.

Lyn said...

I hope I didn't come across the wrong way as surely I am not ashamed to be at home full-time or be a homemaker. I'm delighted that I am home! It comes at a price, a price I'd gladly pay any day because "stuff" is not important to me.

I think because I know very few women who are home (one is a relative) and honestly I don't think I know of anyone else (that is not online), so the majority of women I know do work out of the home and thus I don't feel I can relate to them (nor them to me). I do wish I knew more women who are full-time homemakers, especially that are mature in years. I have worked full-time out of the home as a single woman and as a married woman (part-time). When I had my child, I quit my part-time job and come home. I couldn't bear to be away. This was my 1st marriage and we lived on a small military pay. Fast forward and I am a wife at home who doesn't live on a lot more than what my 1st husband did all those years ago. What I love about this is that it shows that one can often be home on a smaller budget (as many don't believe that is possible).

To own what you choose to do is a good thing - for women at home and women who work. I've learned over the years to make no apologies for what I choose and I'm not affected by what others think. The point I was trying to make is that I find it awkward to share about my choices when many women don't understand or think that they can do the same (which you have shared you experienced too). I have found there to be great value for a woman to be home at any season of her life.

Lyn said...

Debs, how wonderful. I don't think you will have regrets about your choice. There will be challenging times for sure, but it will be worthwhile. Best wishes.

Paula said...

I read "Free to Stay at Home" back when it was first published. Maybe it was in that book that I read the concept that if you are employed outside the home, you are forced to give your best to the one who is paying you, and that makes it hard to give your best to your husband or children.