My New Hobby: Watching Depression Era Cooking with Clara Cannucciari

Do you have fond memories of listening to your grandma telling stories of her childhood?

I do.  My grandma was born in 1913 and lived through the Great Depression.  That experience changed her, and even into her 80s she was washing aluminum foil to reuse as well as plastic baggies.  She passed away 9 years ago, and I still miss her.  I would love to talk with her again, especially since I became a mom after she passed away.

Recently I was looking for ways to save on groceries and yet still feed my family healthy meals when I stumbled upon the book, Clara’s Kitchen, in the library.  Clara is now a 97 year old grandmother.  Her grandson, Christopher Cannucciari, is a photographer and videographer, so he created Depression Era Cooking on You Tube.  In each episode, Clara shows how to make one of the meals her family ate in the Great Depression and interspersed throughout the video are her stories of her childhood.

I feel like I am sitting with my grandma (even though my grandma was Irish, not Italian :)).

Clara’s father was out of work for several years in the 1930s, so he made a huge garden, and his family survived on what the garden produced.  Clara says, “Where there’s dirt, there’s food–healthy, nutritious food.”

My own uncles talked about sometimes bringing lard sandwiches to school because they were so poor they had nothing else to put between the bread.  Clara shares that some of her friends also brought lard sandwiches to school.  But she brought aspargus sandwiches or pepper and egg sandwiches.

Reading this book and watching her videos has changed my way of thinking.  We are trained to think that a sandwich is comprise of bread, lunch meat and cheese.  Lunch meat is expensive and not particularly healthful.  If you don’t have lunch meat, then you have something like peanut butter and jelly.  I never would have thought of making an asparagus sandwich, but why not?  If the vegetables are in season, you are saving money and eating a nutritious lunch.

Her videos also make me realize just how blessed we are now.  We have so much food.  Even if we don’t have much money or are funneling money to debt repayment, we still have an abundance, but don’t realize it.

For instance, Clara shares a “Poorman’s Feast.”  What is the feast?  Maybe 1/4 pound of thin beef, a salad and lentils and rice.  Most of us eat more of a feast than that each night for dinner.

Most of us have more than we need, more than we realize.  Reading Clara’s stories of life during the Depression or watching her videos can make us more appreciative of all we have.

Have you watched Clara’s videos?  What do you think of them?


Freezer Cooking for One or Two

Why didn’t I think of this before? 

I love to cook up batches of meals and throw them in the freezer to enjoy later.  It used to be that I would freeze the food in meal size portions for dinner, and inevitably there would be leftovers that I would use for my lunch the next day.  However, in the last 6 months or so, as my children have grown and so have their appetites, there are no longer any leftovers.  That leaves me scrambling to come up with a lunch for myself and my daughter.  (My other daughter will contentedly eat peanut butter and jelly every day if I let her.)

When I had little freezer cooking sessions over the last few weeks, I decided to freeze the food in family meal size portions and in smaller bags for me and the girls for lunches.  This works like a charm, and I now have a nice rotation of meals for us for lunch time.  It is a bit like having my own frozen meal from the store, but this one is much cheaper, healthier and tastier.  Works for me!

Creating and Implementing a Sack Lunch Chart

Last year toward the end of the year, my son fell into a lunch rut.  He only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  While there is no arguing that peanut butter and jelly is a tasty, fairly nutritious sandwich, eating it every day leaves a bit to be desired.

Recently, Kiwi Magazine (one of those great magazines I got for only a few bucks thanks to a Mamasource deal) featured a chart for children’s lunches.  Simply list 5 to 10 main meals your child can choose from daily and then list two sides.  My son and I filled out his chart this weekend and came up with main meals such as peanut butter and jelly sandwich (of course!), tuna salad and crackers, hard boiled eggs, egg salad sandwiches, tortilla wrap sandwiches and spaghetti.  We bought a decorated thermos through another Mamasource deal, so he will now be able to take hot foods to school.

For snacks, we ended up with some homemade choices such as granola bars, homemade fruit leather and veggie sticks and some store bought ones such as veggie stick chips and pita crisps from Costco.  The other side is fruit, and I made sure to ask him what his favorites are.  We ended up with grapes, apples, strawberries and blueberries making the cut. 

Even though evenings are crazy around our house, I plan to have him help me make his lunch each night.  I am hoping having him further invested in his lunch will help ensure that he will actually eat it all and fill his body with the nutrition he needs to make it through the day.

I plan to bring back last year’s series, What’s For Lunch next week.  Meanwhile, for more lunch inspiration, feel free to look through last year’s What’s for Lunch series.

What’s your favorite food to pack the kids for lunch?  How do you keep kids excited about their sack lunches?

Get $12 off Eco Friendly Lunchboxes at Mamasource

Mamasource is offering a voucher for $12 off a $24 purchase on eco friendly lunchboxes from One Small Step.  This cute bento lunchbox is selling for $25 and offers a variety of compartments to hold different foods.  (They also have a super cute version of this for smaller kids with a little face on the lid.)

This deal does not include sales tax or shipping ($5.99).


What’s In Our Lunch Today – Dreaming of Spring

The calendar shows it is spring, but our weather has been anything but spring-like.  We have been enduring endless rainy days and temps in the 40s and 50s.  I can’t wait for sunshine and warm breezes.

So, today’s lunch has a decidedly spring feel to it.  We have Cola BBQ tortilla wraps with lettuce along with strawberries and cheese bunny crackers.  I absolutely love strawberries as does my entire family.  There is just something about them that feels like summer; I wish the season wasn’t so short!  Now, if only the weather would make it feel like spring.

For great lunch box ideas, visit What’s For Lunch Wednesday.