Category Archives: simplicity

Home Economics for the 21st Century

If my Google Reader inbox today is any indication, there seems to be a movement calling for schools to reinstate Home Economics classes.

This article appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

Bring Back Home Economics Education (pdf file)

I absolutely agree that bringing back a revamped version of Home Ec is a great idea. Now, I suspect Home Ec went away as an understandable reaction to the gender role stereotypes of the 1950’s and ’60s.  There is often a fine line, however, between reaction and over-reaction. Reflexively swinging to the opposite extreme rarely solves a problem. If anything, it creates new problems.

Feminism, as I subscribe to it, is simply a state of independence– being able to take care of yourself, with or without a man. That may be oversimplifying (and probably to some, underestimating) the matter. Nevertheless, “taking care of yourself” without a doubt includes being able to feed and nourish yourself, as well as manage money responsibly. These were the two pillars of traditional home economics.

Even more than before, parents and caregivers today cannot be expected or relied on to teach children how to prepare healthy meals. Many parents never learned to cook and instead rely on restaurants, take-out food, frozen meals, and packaged food as basic fare. Many children seldom experience what a true home-cooked meal tastes like, much less see what goes into preparing it. (Alice H. Lichtenstein and David S. Ludwig)

Am I saying that feminism necessarily means malnourishing yourself and your children? Not at all.  But boasting the inability to cook as some sort of feminist merit badge strikes me as foolish, that’s all.  It is something women should think about, at the very least.

There may be other factors contributing to the widespread inability to cook healthy meals at home. In the absence of home cooking, for example, heavily processed convenience foods have stepped in to fill the void… and to fill stomachs. Far be it for me to suggest some nefarious food industry conspiracy behind this. I’ll just say that for consumerism to work as a way of life (as it has in America for some 60 years), it has been necessary to discourage responsible money management and to encourage poor eating choices.

Just think about the long-term benefits of teaching young people how to live healthy and sustainable lives:

An informed generation of children may also influence the eating habits of US families, just as tobacco education causes some students to discourage their parents from smoking. Ultimately, as this generation of school-aged children and adolescents reaches adulthood, they may serve as positive role models for their children and, through their longterm purchasing habits, ensure healthful food choices are readily available in homes, supermarkets, and restaurants
throughout the country. (Alice H. Lichtenstein and David S. Ludwig)


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Filed under budgeting, consumerism, cooking, food, frugal, menu planning, money, money management, personal responsibility, simplicity

A life with broad margins

Today’s post is closely related to yesterday’s.

When Henry David Thoreau wrote, “I love a broad margin to my life”, he was gushing over the joys of leisure time. When he so famously lived in the woods at Walden Pond, he certainly did whatever physical work was necessary for his survival, such as chopping wood and tending to his garden. He also spent countless hours enjoying the silence and solitude of the woods.

Today, it’s an insult to say that someone has “too much free time”. We all know what that means– it suggests the leisurely person doesn’t have a life, wearing that giant “L-for-Loser” sign on his or her forehead. He’s not important enough, not enough in-demand, not busy enough, not special enough.

Like Thoreau, I love the idea of having a broad margin in life. I need plenty of alone time to think and plan and recharge my energy. I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it, either. I get very anxious and stressed out if I have too many things going on at once. Some people thrive on stress; I begin to implode under stress.

On the other hand, that much-too-busy, oh-so-indispensable, ever-in-demand person running around manically from one meeting or appointment to the next is perceived as somehow “better” than me and my friend Mr. Too-Much-Free-Time.

I disagree.

Perhaps Ms. Busy-Busy needs to manage her time a little more efficiently. More accurately, she’s trying to do too much in too little time, and everything and everyone she affects will suffer for her lack of mindful attention. Maybe she needs to say “no” more often, delegate tasks to others, loosen her grip of control over a few things. Worst, she usually comes across as even more scattered and off-balance and ill-prepared than Mr. Too Much Free Time!

I’ll take the idea of living with a broad margin a little further. How about adjusting the margins within our lives, give ourselves a little more time here and there to feed the “What If” monsters? Things almost always take longer to do than we initially think they will. Stuff happens. Create a contigency plan.

I’m not saying to expect problems and emergencies, but try to allow extra time into your schedule to work around whatever “stuff” might happen.

If I estimate a 15-minute drive to an appointment, I give myself a half hour to get there. Those “What If” monsters need to be considered: What if there’s heavy traffic? What if I get lost? What if I need to go to the bathroom?  Even if none of these things happen (yay!), I’ll have a few minutes to sit and breathe and pull myself together, take a look at my notes, rehearse in my head whatever I might be planning to say. At the very least, I’ll come across as more relaxed, which always creates a better impression on others.



Filed under simplicity