Never a Waste: Why Homemade is Best

Dirty Thirties
Try Not to Breathe

Have you ever bought a bag of something because it was a better deal, only to throw half of it away later because you couldn’t use it all in time? This morning I saw that the rest of the apples I’d bought last week were about to go rotten. Luckily, I remembered that years ago my Mother-in-law had given me a contraption that squishes cooked apples to make applesauce. I put it to good use and now have some tasty homemade applesauce. Not wasting the apples and being able to create something delicious from what most people would toss out is a source of happiness for me. In this simple act I became, once again, a rebel.

Apparently this contraption is called a chinois with stand and pestle and retails for some $88 online.  I think you could do better at a thrift store or garage sale. Or just asking an older person who used to be a homemaker if she still has one kicking around the basement. (A great way to get a canner and jars, too, if you’re super bad-ass.)

One a Day

Dirty Thirties

It was my Mother-in-law who taught me how to be an old-fashioned homemaker by growing a garden, canning and preserving everything from the garden, and sewing or patching clothing among other things. For her, this was all born out of necessity. She was able to make one income stretch far enough to raise eight kids. Both of my in-laws were excellent at “making do” as they’d come from the prairies and were raised during the dust bowl of the 30s. The lessons they learned about how to avoid debt and stay out of poverty remained with them for life. 

Dirty Thirties
Try Not to Breathe

They had an eager pupil in me, whose parents were typical 70s Boomer-era parents who prized a great record collection and cable TV above a garden or do-it-yourself project around the house. (Admittedly, my parents’ parties were a helluva lot more fun.)

Staying Home Instead

Unlike most people, I love homemaking and find “making do” a challenge. I also loved raising my kids and used to make a case for staying home to anyone who would listen. Not just for all the money you could save by growing and cooking food yourself, but for the peace and ease of yours and your kids’ lives.

After all, when you don’t have to rush off anywhere in the morning, making eggs or waffles for breakfast every day is no trouble. How much easier is it to cook something when you have a well-stocked pantry because the grocery shopping is done regularly and meals are planned in advance – usually around what’s on sale?

Likewise, cooking a homemade supper every night was not difficult because I had all the ingredients and knew what I was going to make, more often than not. The kids were happy, most of the time, and eager to show their Dad what they’d been working on that day: various paintings, drawings, baking, worm composting, or seed sprouting.

Not everyone would take it as a challenge to cook as cheaply as possible in order to be able to make mortgage payments when their husband was laid off every year as a seasonal worker. For me, I thought of it as my job to make sure we didn’t have to eat out at restaurants. I also made and brought most of our food from home for every hockey trip as my son got older and we had to travel for tournaments. It was my chosen profession and I took it seriously.

Just Call Me Wonder Woman

It was me who purchased or made, and wrapped all Christmas and birthday gifts, planned and cooked every special meal with a homemade, decorated cake and invited both sets of grandparents over for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and kids birthdays. Most years I’d plan a kid’s birthday party, too, as a separate event, complete with games, prizes, and goodie bags for everyone. My Easter egg hunts were legendary, no Valentine’s Day went by without special homemade cards and treats, and I would go all out for my women’s gatherings when it was my turn to host. In addition, I was a volunteer for a mothering group and led meetings once a month with my best friend.

It was idyllic, as well as a lot of work. It was also a partnership with an unwritten agreement between my former husband and I. I’m grateful I found someone that shared my vision. Behind every happy family, there is at least one hard working person keeping everything together, I reckon. Money is the way we usually show appreciation to someone. The parent who stays home is often never really appreciated and must be rock solid in the belief that they are doing something worth more than mere money.

The Lost Art of Homemaking

Picture this: You get home after a long day at work, are greeted by happy kids, and have nothing to do but sit back with your favourite freshly poured beverage and enjoy the smell of dinner cooking. The house is clean and organized, your reading glasses are beside your book on the end table by your favourite chair. Your clothes are all washed and put away neatly or picked up at the cleaners, the dog is bathed and clipped, bills are paid and accounts balanced, insurance arranged, kids activities scheduled….

Who IS this guy?

How many marriages would be saved if women could have come home without starting their “second job”? Cooking dinner, doing laundry, or getting the kids here, there, and everywhere? How much further ahead in your career would you be if you could golf with coworkers after work? Maybe go to the pub with the work team whenever you like?

Missing Volunteers

Look at all the worthy charitable causes who are suffering. From the Salvation Army, Red Cross or clubs like Rotary, the Elks, or the Lions – almost all are struggling to find volunteers. The lack of homemakers can be seen in every school and felt by every elderly shut-in neighbour, too. Volunteers everywhere have declined and now paid positions are created through programs funded by taxpayers. All the things women used to do for free must now be paid for by every working person. Many things, we are finding out, are irreplaceable.

Yet, in staying home and doing all of the things I did, I found a deep sense of purpose and joy. Yeah, the money was sh*t, but the experience and the sense of purpose I felt were priceless. I wouldn’t have traded it to be the working parent, no matter how much I was paid or how important I was.

What Does Real Life Look Like?

I read a piece by Charles Eisentein talking about doing things from scratch instead of getting Artificial Intelligence (AI) to do it. He went so far as to list travelling by car or airplane as things we also now give up doing for ourselves. What is lost when we take the modern, “easy” way? We miss the messiness of the journey. We find ourselves magically transported and expelled somewhere foreign, without the work of actually getting there. Is this why tourists behave so badly? They don’t understand that they’ve been magically moved to a new environment where their old behaviour is inappropriate?

We are supposedly so much “richer” than our predecessors yet cannot even stay home to bake a pie when the huckleberries are ripe or watch our child take their first steps. Parenthood is not appreciated because it holds only intrinsic value. Right now, our society only values money or things that can be valued by that measure.

No wonder most young people don’t want kids. They see parenthood as an expensive luxury that they won’t even be able to enjoy. You’ll be forced to pay someone else who will experience the most wonderful aspects of your child. Having children becomes worse than meaningless: it becomes a burden.

Just Be Like Everybody Else

I cannot recommend the lifestyle I enjoyed anymore. Modern life is not conducive to child rearing or homemaking – by either partner. You’d have to be made of pretty stern stuff to attempt it. There is a kind of stubborn, rebel-like spirit required to go against what everyone else is doing. A level of sacrifice, too – materially, personally.

I saw during the pandemic how much of an outsider I truly am. (A sample post to remember my mood. Conform or Be Cast Out.) I was continually amazed at the willingness of people to accept and even embrace the heavy-handed mandates imposed by the government. Punishing a few of us was enough to get most people to comply in silence.


To stay home and raise your own kids is an act of defiance and requires emotional fortitude. Even back twenty and thirty years ago when I did it, it had lost any respectability and was considered “backward.” The underlying theme was, “anyone can raise kids, therefore it is worth less.” Worthless. The thing is, to do it whole-heartedly and well is a priceless gift. For your kids, your immediate family for sure but also to anyone your kids come into contact with in the future. And maybe even their kids, if they have any.

But how can you measure what a Mother is worth?

I remember going to a protest once with the kids. We’d made homemade signs to carry and I wanted them to learn about how to bring about local change. There was a woman there who was a physician and well-known women’s health advocate. I was excited to see her as she had signed a copy of her book for me a few years before. When I got my chance to speak to her, she asked me what I did for a living. I stammered that I was a stay-at-home Mom and she literally turned away from me in disdain.

Where is the Value?

Financially, it’s a bloody disaster for the person who stays home. Your career takes a hit from which it is unlikely ever to recover. This means that no matter how good your homemade bread was, how patient or how kind you were to your kids, you could find yourself in your 50’s working at a convenience store for minimum wage.

You are vulnerable, too, when you don’t have a paying job. If your partner is abusive or controlling, you could find yourself in a really difficult situation. It takes a level of trust that only the naïve can really attain to go into this arrangement. Or the naturally wealthy, I guess.

What You Do vs. What the Machines Do

Do I regret it? No. Having children – and raising them myself – was a dream of mine. It is hands-down the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Consequently, it’s the thing in my life I’m most proud of.

This is something that we miss when anyone or any-thing does the work for us. A canned birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s doesn’t fool any discerning kid. A painting created by AI or a gift picked out for us by the Google algorithm has little, if any, meaning at all. These are the things that are worth less. Worthless.

How much better is the taste, let alone the experience, of homemade applesauce? Sauce made from apples grown in a local orchard, harvested and cooked just for you to enjoy by someone who loves you? How can an anonymous store-bought jarred or tinned applesauce even compare? It’s made from apples grown not for flavour but durability. They’ve been obtained as cheaply as possible and processed only to maximize profit.

Home Grown & Homemade

The way Charles and I both see it is that the coming of AI and the computer generation of everything will only make real experiences – things we do ourselves or for others – more valuable and worth more. I think society will grow to value home grown and homemade.

The sameness of computer-made….the hollowness of generated experiences… Once the novelty wears off, they be seen for the cheap fakes they are. We will see through the corporations who seek to enslave our minds and whose only priority is making money. We will tire of making Bezos and his mixed-up girlfriend even richer by buying Amazon stuff.

Will we honour what nature creates by stop trying to change it all the time? Can we learn to revere slow, human creation and the indescribable satisfaction that comes from doing things for ourselves?

I hope so.


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