Thursday, January 24, 2013

The lost art of family dinners

Family dinners were sometimes outside. via Shutterstock
When I was growing up, we ate dinner at 6:00 pm. We didn't have a lot of money, but whomever was in our house at the time dinner was served was invited to eat with us. My mother made a homemade (not microwaved) dinner that included a raw salad, an entree and side dishes. The drink was water. There was usually some sort of dessert, but not too much of it. There was no TV watching. There were no telephone calls. We sat together and talked.

This was the way life was. Sometimes it was a pain. I HAD to be home at a certain time. I HAD to eat with my family. I HAD to eat what my mom made.

At the time, I did not recognize the value of this daily routine. I didn't recognize the value of the dollars saved or the value of the non-material gains.

Dollars saved:
  •  The food was fresh, not processed. Local and in-season fruits and veggies will always be cheaper to buy than processed food.
  •  Processed food has more additives and less nutrients. Because our food was more nutritious, we needed less of it to get energy.
  • We were healthier. We hardly ever got sick and when we did get sick, the first step to health was a bowl of homemade chicken soup made with bones broth.
  • Because we were healthier, we didn't spend money on doctor's visits and medicines to get well.
  • Eating at home every evening meant that we didn't waste food. Menus were planned and leftovers were made into the next days meals.
Non-material gains:
  • We saw each other and talked with each other. We might not always agree on subjects, but at least there was a time that we could talk about our day and upcoming events.
  • I learned to cook because of these meals. Most days I helped to prepare these meals. Even if I wasn't the person actually making the food, I was watching how it was prepared. I am a very good cook because of this and my daughter AND my son are also learning to cook and bake. This skill will save them an enormous amount of money in the course of their lives.
  • Because we saw each other every day, we could coordinate schedules and save money and time on errands.
  • We had a sense of family and community that I took for granted at the time, but now I realize was very unique and of immeasurable value. To this day, my friends talk about what fun it was to come over to my house and what a warm hostess my mother was.  It doesn't cost a lot to share, but it adds tremendously to the value of your life.
I realize that times have changed and many families just do not have the ability to eat home cooked meals every night, but perhaps starting with just one meal, once a week would make a difference. Let's face it, restaurants and the companies that make processed food are in business to make money, so they don't use the best meats and vegetables. If you make your own foods you can use the best quality ingredients you can afford.

Do you have family dinners?

How to clean copper pots for pennies

Lemon and salt ready to tackle dirty cooper bottom pot.
I'm always amazed when I look under my sink to see how much cleaning "stuff" I have purchased when none of that toxic stuff works as well as some cooking staples that I have in my cupboard.

One of the most fun items to clean is copper pots. The change is so dramatic. So, try some of these recipes and forgo the $25 price tag of copper cleaner.

Here are four different recipes for cleaning copper:
  1. Lemon juice and cream of tartar. Not everyone has cream of tartar in their cupboard, but if you ever want sugary icing to be creamier or beaten eggs to be fluffier, then you need some cream of tartar. In this copper cleaning recipe, you mix it with lemon juice (enough juice to make a paste) and slather it on your copper. Leave for 5 minutes and wash off with warm water.
  2. Worcestershire sauce. Pour the sauce onto a sponge and then sponge onto the copper surface. Just a couple of minutes wait should do the trick. Rinse off.
  3. Salt and Vinegar. Three tablespoons of salt mixed in a spray bottle of vinegar. Spritz onto the copper. Let sit 10-15 minutes. Scrub.
  4. Lemon and salt. Sprinkle the lemon on the pot or on the cut lemon. Scrub.
The reason that these recipes work is because the discoloration of copper is caused by copper atoms combining with oxygen to become copper oxide. Copper oxide dissolves in a weak acid and salt liquid. There are lots of cool experiments you can do with this concept.

Cleaning is really the application of the chemistry class you took in high school. The more you know about the material you are trying to clean, the more effective and easy your cleaning will be.

For more cleaning tips, check out my post on magic erasers.