How many of you remember shopping lists like this?


I came across this photo of an old-fashioned metal shopping list on Gab yesterday.  Click the image for a larger view.

It brought back many memories, because my mother had one like it in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  It hung over the counter in the kitchen where she prepared our meals.  She’d flip one of the little metal indicators when she ran short (or out) of something, so she could prepare her shopping list more easily.  If it was urgently required, I might find myself sent down to the shops to buy whatever she needed;  otherwise, it waited for a big shopping run once per week.

The thing that struck me is, there is no provision for “fast” or pre-prepared food in that device at all.  Everything consists of the raw materials that a cook will use to make a meal from scratch.  There are no TV dinners, no “heat-‘n-eat” meals, no pre-cooked sausages or pre-prepared salads or anything like that.  It was simply assumed that “food” meant raw materials, that would be prepared, cooked and served by someone in a domestic kitchen.  Compare that to today’s shopping list.  How many of us buy “minute” rice (already partly cooked) instead of “raw” rice?  How many of us buy “microwave-in-bag” vegetables, instead of the older varieties that still required boiling or baking – never mind buying raw vegetables and peeling, dicing and preparing them from the beginning?  How many of us buy cooking sauces or seasonings (e.g. Gochujang, or pre-mixed curries, or Old Bay) instead of making our own, the way most old-time cookbooks assumed we would?

(Speaking of old-time cookbooks, I always giggled at the recipe for jugged hare in my mother’s well-worn copy of Mrs. Beeton.  “First, catch your hare.”  Quite so!)

I’m sure we’ve gained immensely in convenience and time-saving short-cuts in the kitchen through the advent of modern food processing.  However, I suspect our meals are over-processed compared to those of our parents and grandparents, giving us a lot less nutrition and a lot more “filler” materials.  I’d like to know how much of our current obesity epidemic can be attributed to that.

(Of course, another facet of that is the enormous growth of fast-food outlets and family dining restaurants.  When I was growing up, it was a rare and expensive treat to eat at a Wimpy Bar or a drive-in restaurant [how many former Capetonians remember the Spotted Dog in Mouille Point?], or to have Mom or Dad bring home a bucket of take-out chicken pieces.  Nowadays, that’s routine for most families.  Pizza was never bought outside the home and eaten by hand – it was always made at home (including the dough), baked in the oven, and eaten around the table, with knives and forks.  Yes, I think I’m a food dinosaur . . . )



  1. My wife and I tend to have mix of lot of raw and some pre-made foods on hand. Raw food is for when we have at least a tiny bit of time, pre-made is for when we're really short on time or exhausted.

  2. When I was pretty little, my family's goto dinner out was a Big Boy Eatin' Park. I can even remember when they had server girls on rollerskates delivering the food to us in our car on trays that attached to the windows.

  3. Yep, I also remember one of those. I 'think' Deli was the 'key' for pre prepared food… I think…

  4. Point taken, but…I think "frozen food" includes things like tv dinners or "microwave in bag" vegetables (usually simply flash-frozen veggies like green beans, etc), doesn't it?

    Sorry, I just read the post, then looked at the contraption and was surprised to see "frozen food" there.

    Too many people don't know, and don't care to learn, how to cook even the simplest foods anymore. But then, when people stopped caring about raising their kids, or even allowing them to live, why would they continue to care about feeding them? Careers are important, yanno.
    That's getting better with the younger generations, thankfully. It started improving with gen-x, and many of my fellow millennials (and older gen-z) have continued to wake up to the evils of public schooling, and letting other people raise your children for you. Many haven't, but far more have. They just don't get the megaphone that the idiots are given. The silent evidence is things like, the abortion rate dropping to pre-Roe-v-Wade levels, homeschooling skyrocketing in popularity, the divorce rate among non-boomers being a fraction of the rate when Boomers are included, etc. God works in mysterious ways, and perhaps it's too late, but family is becoming important again.

    Back on topic…how did that contraption actually work? Were the little arrows loose, with detents at either side, or did you have to bend the copper back and forth every time? I'd think the latter possibility would result in swiftly work-hardening the arrows, causing them to inevitably snap…

  5. The arrows were semi-loose, and stuck in either direction. To use, you flip the arrow pointing towards what you need to buy. When you got it, you flipped the arrow away.

    Funny, I have much the same thing in my stupid smart phone, with 'check boxes' replacing the arrows in front of the standard items I always seem to buy (veggies, milk, bread, etc.) and then special items go below to be deleted as I get them (if I remember to do it.)

    As to prepared foods, due to my wife's food allergies and issues, I went to fixing just about everything from scratch. And life is so much better. Yes, I buy pasta and prepared sauces and frozen vegetables because I don't have the space, inside or out, to make pasta or grow vegetables or can vegetables and sauces. But everything else? Fresh or frozen, or bought fresh and then frozen (like chicken or beef, portioned out and frozen ahead of time.)

    As to rice… minute rice just sucks and almost takes the same amount of time as real rice. And you can get a 50lb bag from Sam's for $19.00. That's a lot of rice.

    No fast food. And, boy, does it show in the amount of money I have left over for things like meds and rent and gas.

    Living in a lower-income area, I see the money-wasting that goes into the lower-income lifestyle. Booze, drugs, tobacco, fast food and then the people complain they don't have enough money. Then again, I saw that in the middle class or 'upper scale' areas, too.

    Amazing how much money you can save by not buying prepared foods, for the most part.

  6. I'm pushing 78, but I don't remember my mother having one of those. Of course, my memory ain't what it never was…

  7. The TV dinner wasn't invented till 1953 and was a luxury item well into the 80's. We weren't well off so we ate them a handful of times.

    What subbed in is leftovers

    The modern quick food culture is a product of women deciding traditional roles were not something they wanted and entering the workforce in such numbers that meal prep was not a thing.

  8. Some of us still home-cook everthing possible. I'm am 80-year-old widower who had to learn (my wife used to chase me out of the kitchen, except for frying eggs or making omelettes). But I learnt quickly, and now I only buy 'ready meals' for sruff that's too hard to make as a single portion – and I have a growing repertoire of dishes I've modified to my own taste after finding a recipe with ingredients that I dislike,

  9. Interesting how many basic food prices are nearly the same as last year (yes I keep receipts) but the cost of processed foods like (Cough) Frozen Pizza has really gotten out of hand.

    Even the ones that are the "Same Price" are Smaller Packages or lighter weight portions.

    A slow cooker mess of beans is a pretty nice way to save money. You can add cooked white beans into many dishes, save the pintos and kidneys for spicy dishes as their earthy flavor doesn't meld well with chicken Alfredo for example.

    Basics cooking "That's For Dinner". Adapt your taste buds and skills NOW while you have time to work around errors.

  10. Beans in the slow cooker is what is in the kitchen right now at my house! Slow cook beans with smoked meat in it such as turkey or chicken over rice is cheap but it doesn’t taste cheap, it’s good solid eating, that’s what it is.

  11. I admit to not buying any premade food now-a-days. My wife's low sodium diet precludes virtually anything not from scratch.

    Sadly, something, like a pot of beans, are pretty bad without salt so our menu tends towards food where portions can be seasoned separately. Started some carnitas this morning.

  12. So, between food allergies,(Wheat, Soy, Almond, Oatmeal, and Egg), sensitivity to meat, (nothing with with growth hormones or antibiotics or has been fed on soy), a type 1 and type 2 diabetics, and one removed gall bladder (sensitivity too fat), everything we make is cooked from scratch.
    Two-Three separate meals are made each night, allowing for the various allergy problems.
    Fortunately, we were already foodies, so it hasn't been an enormous shift in cooking habits.
    Preventing cross contamination is a pain, but the money we save by cooking this way allows us to get the more expensive alternatives when dealing with allergies.
    They still haven't created a good alternative for bread. Some sourdoughs come close, but that's the best you can do.

  13. Prof. Baddassness.

    Wife suffers from Celiac's so no wheat. So I often make a basic meal without meat and then I'll eat whatever wheat goes with it and I'll make gluten-free for her.

    So like pasta. I buy what's on sale for me, and I buy Tinkajoy brand for her (so far, they are the best.)

    Pizza? I'll make a good dough for her and use half of it to make a pizza crust and half to make 'rolls' for her to have for sandwiches and such. Best 'flours' are Pamela's Products.

    But sometimes it isn't possible, so I will fix lasagna with gluten-free noodles. Or pies.

    Very rarely do I fix a completely different meal than what she eats.

    It is what it is. Food is love, and special food is special love.

  14. My fav thing (whilst the food is cooking away in the saucepan) is to do the washing up instead of staring at the stove. Amazing how you can get it all done in the time it takes to cook a meal.

  15. Now that you mention it, I must learn to make my own curry sauces. It's just too easy, and too tasty, to dump a bottle of Trader Joe's Yellow Thai curry on a pan full of diced chicken and vegetables.

    We're finally in the season when everything we eat except meat and bread comes from the garden. One of next year's goals is to have at least half the meat come from our farm, too.

  16. I was born in 1952. We rarely ate out; maybe 2-3 times per year.

    I moved out and ended up eating a lot of poorly cooked meals. Once in a while I'd completely ruin something and end up with pizza. Then I learned to cook. Then I invited my current migraine over for dinner, complete with candles and background music. Let me conclude by saying that the benefits of being a good cook are not limited to eating a decent meal.

    Discounting addictive illegal drugs, the money wasted by poor folks is fast food, cigarettes, and shopping at Dollar General. They rarely cook; they drop trash everywhere, and the noise pollution is constant. Quiet is unknown to them.

  17. Every so often in the comments I remember I'm one of the younger guys. We had one of those in the farm when I was little, as a decoration. I think it was my great grandparent's. I always thought it was cool, but we just used a chalkboard board (and later when we moved a marker board) to write what we were low on. Nowadays, my wife and I use a notepad and our phones.

    And as far as nobody knowing how to cook anymore, a large part of that would be the 80's/90's where both parents had to work, so 'convenience' won out. And 'Home Ec' classes were long gone in my rural school by the time I hit high school in '01. What my wife and I know we picked up either from parents when they were able to teach us, grandparents, or a lot of trashed mistakes.

  18. I've seen those metal grocery lists before, but we never had one. These days, I just keep a list in the notepad app on my phone.

    Going out for a burger was rare when I was growing up. Usually, the only times we ate in restaurants was during a move (Dad was Air Force). Once I was old enough to babysit my siblings, my parents would go out sometimes, but it was usually for a cocktail or dinner party at a friend's house. I can remember creeping to the stairs sometimes when they hosted one, trying to see what was going on.

    Mom made sure we all knew how to cook at least a few things (along with knowing how to knit, crochet, sew, and darn, most of which I've forgotten). I cooked a lot while in the Navy (an electric wok and a toaster oven let you do a lot). These days, because I'm getting old enough to want things easier, I buy a number of things that reduce my effort, such as pre-made meatballs, but most of what I buy are the simple ingredients. I'm having to relearn portions since my girlfriend died, but I still eat well, because when you fix it yourself, even expensive ingredients don't mean expensive meals.

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