Sunday, April 13, 2008

Powdered Milk

Several weeks ago we had a combined meeting for all the adults in the relief society room. Bishop North felt we needed some instruction regarding frugality and provident living, given the state of the economy in our nation, the price of fuel, and serious problems with the housing market and etc. As usual he was right on target with an important message for the members of our ward. He asked Russell Hunter, second counselor in the bishopric, to teach the lesson.
Russell did a great job and gave many practical suggestions as to how to be more fiscally conservative and responsible in these uncertain times. However, at one point in his lesson he made the audacious and outrageous suggestion that it might be a good idea -- and a way to save some money -- to make lunch at home and take it to work as opposed to spending money unnecessarily in buying lunch each day. From my vantage point in the relief society room I could see the startled look on many of the faces of our young couples, and even noticed some eyes glazing over with disbelief and incredulity at this novel suggestion. They obviously had not been raised during the Depression or by parents who had lived through the Depression as I had. Also, I knew they had never been married to somebody as fiscally conservative as Jo Anne.
Living in Ogden, Utah shortly after we were married, Jo Anne found a source for powdered milk at a local dairy. We would buy 50 pounds sacks of the stuff and were always so proud of ourselves (at least Jo Anne was) over how much money we were saving. I can't say I really ever became fond of powdered milk, but if it had enough ice in it and you drank it really fast it wasn't so bad.
As the children came along, after they were weaned, they were raised on powdered milk as the beverage of choice in our family. Being innocent and without any prior experience, they thought powdered milk was okay. We never showed them a picture of a cow -- we didn't want to confuse them regarding the source of milk. If they thought the true source was from a sack that was fine with us. Then they got involved in the public school system which corrupted them as they learned about cows and were even given little cartons of "true" milk to drink as a snack. This created some dissatisfaction in them because for some reason they liked this "true" milk better than the powdered stuff that had done them so much good over the years, and had saved us, as their parents, so much money. It was always a hard sell after that to keep the family content and on target with drinking powdered milk.
I always took my lunch to work in a brown paper sack. It generally consisted of a tuna fish sandwich, an apple or an orange, maybe a cookie, and always a small mason jar filled with -- you guessed it -- powdered milk. I must admit I was corrupted by the world in the later years of my work life and engaged in a number of decadent and expensive -- at least to me -- lunches.
As the kids were growing up we never ate at fast food places except on special occasions like the ushering in of a new millennium. When they were very little as we would drive by the Golden Arches of McDonald's they would ask "Daddy, what is that building?" I would tell them that it was a hospital where they fixed broken bones and people that were sick. I would ask them if they had a broken bone or were sick and when they would say no, I would reply, "Well, we wouldn't want to go in there then would we?"
Our home was decorated in early "Institute of Religion" style. Whenever one of the institutes of religion in Orange County was receiving new furniture for the student lounge we would put in a bid to get the old furniture. The furniture in our family room consisted of a large couch, and two chairs made out of a "throw up" sick looking lemon colored plastic kind of material with aluminum legs. The drapes in that room were orange; the carpet was olive-green, high shag, and was beginning to come apart at the seams. I nailed a plastic runner down the center of the staircase so that the little toddlers wouldn't get their feet tangled up in the torn carpet and fall and break something.
We also tried to save money on clothing. In retrospect, I'm afraid our young boys got the worst of this. The only pants they wore, except on Sundays, were "Tough Skins" purchased at Sears for cheap. At the time I thought they were kind of ugly but you couldn't beat the price. They came in a red brick color, an ugly green, or the more normal blue jean style. They had reinforced knees and must have been made out of some steel mesh kind of material because you simply could not wear them out. If one of the boys fell off his bike he would get skinned up on various parts of his anatomy but never where the tough skins were protecting him. If the kid ran into a car the fender or bumper on the car would possibly be damaged but never the tough skins. Again, the public school system made my boys dissatisfied, and it was a hard sell to keep them in tough skins from that time on. I don't know if they have ever totally forgiven us for having adopted this fiscally conservative policy regarding their attire as young boys.
Well, I hate to report it but as the years have gone by we have become increasingly decadent. Almost every day Jo Anne and I go out to lunch. However, don't think too badly of us, or get too alarmed Bishop, because we invariably use coupons to get a "deal." Jo Anne anxiously waits for the mailman to bring her coupons with the same anticipation that little kids look forward to Christmas and Santa Claus. She clips them out and keeps them in a large envelope in our van. If we can get two for one or a dollar off something, then that's what we eat. Do we always like what we get from the coupons? I hate to report that we don't, but just think of all the money we are saving.
The telltale sign of how far we have fallen is that we actually now buy our milk at Stater Brothers in plastic containers like most "normal" people. And though I am reluctant to admit it, it really is almost as good as "powdered milk."
You will find the doctrinal underpinnings and justification for drinking powdered milk in the following Scripture:
"Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth [Stater Brothers' milk], nor your alabor for that which cannot bsatisfy... and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and cfeast upon that which perisheth not [powdered milk], neither can be corrupted ["tough skins"]..." [2 Nephi 9:51]


Dr. Paul Walker said...

I am reading your Observation while I eat a ham sandwich and crackers brought from home, something that has saved a lot of money for us, a direct lesson from my frugal parents.

Your description was exactly the Mel and Illene Walker way, except that in Monticello, they didn't have to make anything up about McDonald's because there wasn't anything like that around. I still remember the first time I ate at a non-fast-food restaurant without my parents -- I didn't even know how to pay. My mother compromised with the powdered milk -- she used it to make one gallon of regular into two. I never knew the difference, even when I had milk at school. We don't use powdered milk, but I sure pushed breast-feeding for as long as possible (the baby wasn't biting me:)) and hailed the one-year mark when we didn't have to use the hideously expensive formula as a supplement or replacement for mommy's milk.

I'm glad I was raised by your generation, and hopefully I won't let the corrupt food world prevent me from denying my kids the stuff that tastes good -- like non-concentrated orange juice.

I enjoy your Observations each week, and hope all is well.

-- Paul Walker, Murray, KY

SuzanA said...

Thank you so much for your post. I had a long tiring day & I was feeling kind of miserable it was so nice to read your post & laugh out loud. Your humor is much appreciated.

P.S. I hope you are feeling better. We missed you Sunday :)