Thursday, August 17, 2017

Life Before Grocery Stores

Here is something to ponder.  The first major grocery stores in America didn't show up until 1946!  That was definitely BC (before Cheryl!),  but not by much!  I was born in the 50's.
We had a couple small family owned 'grocery' stores in our area and both were in walking distance.  Those continued to last for several years (into my teen years).

I remember going to Standard grocery and once in a while the A&P.  Green stamps were given at the store and those were saved and used to make special purchases with.  I loved the job of licking them!  I felt so grown up.  LOL

Prior to the major grocery chains opening up, there were the small family stores and general stores in more remote areas.  It is crazy to think you couldn't just run in somewhere every block or so, and buy anything and everything you could imagine.

Most families were like mine.  We grew so much food and preserved it.  Daddy had a quarter acre in garden, and poor Momma had to preserve it all.  We had apple trees, a cherry tree, rhubarb, raspberries, 2 huge grape arbors, strawberries,  and the neighbors had a peach tree.  Apples were bartered and traded for peaches.

Before I arrived on the scene, there were chickens, both for meat and eggs (and selling).  There were goats for milk.  Daddy raised rabbits for years for eating and selling.
He fished and fished when he had free time (mostly in winter and ice fished), as did my brothers.  They hunted squirrel.  I don't remember ever hunting anything larger, as we weren't real close to the woods.
We had a milkman after I arrived, who delivered milk and milk products.
Mom and Daddy would save and save and every few years, they would purchase half a cow or hog from someone they knew.  That was a huge big deal.  Meat was a side like everything else in the meal.  You got a piece of meat with your dinner - no one got to make pigs of themselves! 
Leftovers were used for another meal of some sort.
Absolutely nothing was wasted.  If there were scraps of something, that is what fed the pets.

Mom made all sorts of snacks - cookies, candy, cakes, pies, donuts, you name it.  I don't remember how old I was when I first ate sliced bread from the store!  I do remember it was disappointing!
Never in my Moms house was a store bought noodle ever served - up until her death at almost 91 years old.  I was an adult and married, before I had a store bought noodle - and I was the one who bought them.
Still to this day, store bought cookies just don't satisfy me.  Of course there is nothing like Mom's cooking!

I do remember going to my grandmas, and she lived about 65 miles away - which took forever to get to.  There were NO interstates! 
On the way home, it was an adventure to forage for nuts, pears, mushrooms, persimmons, or whatever was 'in season'.  Sometimes the farmers who were about done with their season would let folks glean corn, field tomatoes, pumpkins, etc.  That was a huge find.

Daddy not only grew every kind of veggie you could imagine, and some I still am not sure about, but he also grew popcorn and melons of all sort.
He made wine as a hobby (much to my Mom's horror) from green tomatoes, dandelions, grapes, elderberries, mulberries (we collected those too), etc.
Mom made jellies and jams from all different types of berries.

Soups were homemade -  NEVER  from a can.  All meals were from scratch.  We did drink tea, water, milk, and the folks had coffee.  Once I came along - soda pop was a once a year treat.  Daddy would take me to the hardware store up the street, and let me pick out a case of Nehi flavors.  It took me forever to decide!!  It lasted all summer/fall and was considered a real treat!  That day would be the highlight of my summer!!!!  LOL
At Christmas we would sometimes get a six pack of those little Cokes because Daddy thought "Santa" might want a change from milk!!!

Never did any of us go hungry (there were 5 older than me) - never did we feel a want for something.  We were happy and didn't really know any different.  Life was simple (albeit hard work).

DID ANY OF YOU have this type of life?
Do you REMEBER  life before big grocery stores?

How many folks could survive today - if trucking stopped, gasoline was short, railways stopped, disaster happened?
We all now grocery stores would be empty within a week or less, so we would be on our own.

I think we definitely could - if for no other reason, than the lessons I learned from my parents growing up.
If we ran out of meat, it would be ok.  That is not something we HAVE to have on a daily basis.  I know how to grow, can, and preserve and we have a nice, nice stockpile built up.  I know people I could barter and trade with, and I could glean and forage.  We would be ok for a long haul., although life would be different.

This sure is something to think about.  I know not everyone would know what to do.  Young folks today would probably die simply for lack of knowledge!
This is why so many of prepare for whatever.

I would love to hear your stories, as I am sure others would.


  1. I love this post. Thank you for sharing your memories!
    I remember walking to Piggly Wiggly with my Mom. She would save those green stamps to buy something special for Christmas. I think we had some of those glasses out of the oatmeal canisters, and a set of dishes from points from the grocery store.
    Daddy would plant a huge garden and Mom would freeze and can it all. We surely ate well since Mom was the best cook. Daddy could fix most anything, and he didn't waste or throw away anything if he could use it. Oh Daddy tried making wine one time, and Mom said "lips that touch wine, will never touch mine." :D I don't think his wine turned out very well.
    I think we would be ok for a while if we had to, thanks for the things I learned from my parents and blogs like yours. I would like to increase my stockpile, and I try to add something each week.
    Thanks for the memories!

    1. Kathy it sounds like you have many fond memories as well. I am so thankful God gave us that capability!!!
      I still have some juice glasses and dessert bowls that came in laundry detergent back when. We used to also get kitchen towels in something - I don't remember what.

      Mom was totally against drinking and was furious Dad made wine. After he passed away - she did let us all have some bottles he made. it was vinegar by then!!!! I still have it.

      Stock up a little at a time and you will be set.
      THANK YOU for sharing!

  2. When I was teenager, I remember getting a 45 record in a bag of potato chips one time. The name of the song was "Cast Your Fate to the Wind."

    1. Oh how cool. I think we got a lot of things in groceries, but don't remember getting a record.
      That's neat.
      Thanks for sharing

    2. I remember getting a 45 from the gas station, the full service station where they filled your gas tank, checked your oil, washed your windows and checked your tire pressure.

  3. My early years were spent in the suburbs. Mum shopped at a supermarket for all our foods. She was not, and still isn't, a good cook but she could bake delicious cookies and cakes. Actually when I think about it she made sultana cookies, Anzac cookies, fruit cake and banana cake. We never went hungry but food wasn't very interesting.
    I wasn't much of a cook until I met Bluey who is a fantastic cook. He showed me ways to make ordinary ingredients into something special. I began experimenting with growing veg and then preserving this when I was in my 20's. We lived a long way out of the nearest town and I had to learn how to cook from scratch using what we had. With Bluey's guidance, I got quite good at it.
    We must have done OK as both our grown children are good cooks and can make a lovely meal out of basic items.
    I think we would be OK for a while. we live 150m(about the same distance in yards) from the beach and both of us are reasonable at fishing. The daughters boyfriend and family are great at fishing and crabbing. I think we would be able to swap fruit and veg for their excess fish.
    My concern, is how would we replace flour. Wheat is not a grain that grows in our area, or even close by. This is something I will have to research.
    Bluey and I have lots of 'old fashioned' skills, I think these skills would see us being able to barter for things we might need.
    This is quite a thought provoking post. Thank you Cheryl.

    1. Have you ever tried oat flour Jane Allen? It's just ground up oats. I used my blender to make it. That would be a great substitute if you have oats. I've looked into nut flours too. Harder to work with though!

    2. Jane it sounds like you were really lucky in finding Bluey as a partner. A good pair for sure.
      Living so close the beach would definitely be a blessing in the meat/protein dept. Old fashioned skills would definitely be a must to know if things got bad.
      It is apparent you have skills and have taught your children well.
      I like Vickies idea about grinding oats into flour. That would surely work.
      I guess that is why it is always good to have large supplies of flour, sugar, and oats on hand.

      Thank you for sharing.

  4. My parents moved from the South to Michigan so my Dad could have a job in the auto factories. Others came with him but not all stayed of course they missed their homes and families. One of our aunts and uncles came and the culture shock was just a bit too much. I remember Mom talking about her going to our local grocery store and she couldn't find her way out. She was just too overwhelmed. He quit General Motors and they went back south soon after. So many memories!

    1. That is funny. I guess there have been some places I have been in that were so large that I felt lost. I can surely imagine going into a place like that for the first time - it would be over whelming!!
      City life was not for everyone. I guess if we had been born and raised in the country, then went into a major city we would be so flustered.
      I have lived in city/suburbs all my life - but have no desire to go some where like NYC. I can't even imagine all those people/traffic.
      Thank you for a great story!

  5. Loved this post! My parents weren't rich, as i remember, we were quite poor. But we grew up drinking RC cola or pepsi in bottles with our meals. Tea was served only when we were out of soda. lol and I hated it. To this day, I prefer soda with my meals. I do remember the green back stamps and looking through the little catalog, hoping to pick out something that Mama would agree to purchase. I want to think we got a round wooden magazine holder as a stamp purchase. When I used to work in home health, I visited a few people who lived near a large river in the area. I was amazed that they ate fried fish for breakfast with their eggs. However, after thinking about it, I decided 'why not?' I haven't done it yet, but I do think I could!!

    1. WOW you would have been considered rich at my house - soda pop with your meals!!!! LOL tea was our staple - and it still is at my house.

      Living close to a body of water would be a blessing in hard times for sure. I will eat anything at any time. Not a stickler of meal protocol!!

      Great memories. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I am a child of the 60's and I remember "Green Stamps", in fact my Grandmother saved hers to get me a card table for my birthday one year. I still have it and use it often. My MIL has went through 5 card tables since I've had mine - they just don't make things like they used too. My mom still uses dishes that we got in detergent boxes. I have a decent stockpile but I know there are things that I am slack on - like water. Just gotta keep working on that. Thanks again for another wonderful blog post. Cindy Jane

    1. My grandfather grew his own popcorn. I can remember him popping it over the fire in wire basket that I think he had made. I thought it was the greatest thing ever! In the summer when we visited, I got a bath in the evening in the rinse water tub from that day's clothes washing. Water was not wasted since it was drawn up by buckets from the well. It was sun warmed by the end of the day. These memories are special to me, but might not have been if I did it all the time.

    2. Christine, That is amazing on the card table. You are so right, that nothing is made like it used to be. I have my Moms card table and chairs and I am sure it is from the 60's or 70's. Still use it once in a while.

      How cool she is still using those dishes.
      Water is my downfall too. I try, but just hate buying plastic bottles of water!
      Thanks for sharing.

    3. Sorry the above post was for CINDY!!!

    4. CHRISTINE - Nothing like fresh popcorn over a fire!
      Oh my goodness I forgot all about the wringer washer and baths in a wash tub.
      In the summer my bath tub was at the back door to catch a breeze, in the winter it was by the big coal stove. THANK YOU for letting me remember that!

      The days of old, may not have seemed special back then, but you are so right - they are great memories now.
      Glad you have such fond ones.
      Thanks for sharing.

  7. Hi Cheryl, I was born in the early 60's and we moved to Hawaii when I was 3. There were many little mom and pop type grocery stores on the island where I lived. We shopped at some of them but the big shopping trips were always to the bigger grocery stores where the prices were lower. I do remember the green stamps. My parents bought a stereo with all the ones they saved over the years. I remember that day so clearly because we walked into the little store where you could redeem your green stamps and got that stereo. My parents were so proud!

    1. Debbie, I bet Hawaii was a neat place to live. I bet the prices were much lower at the big stores.
      WOW that took a lot of saving to get a stereo. I bet that was just a tremendous thrill for all involved. They should have been proud.

      Thanks for sharing.

  8. These were things my grandparents did, and my father knew how to do, but few skills were passed to me. I know how to do some canning, but I am unsuccessful in gardening. My husband plants every year, but we get very little produce from what he plants. It would be cheaper to just buy the things.

    I vaguely remember corner stores from when I was young, but they were going out at the time as the big players were growing in popularity.

    Much has been lost over the years.

    When I am finished fighting this cancer, I hope to make some big changes in the way I live. I think I want to live with a lot less.

    Be blessed,
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

    1. Laura, yes, so many of the old ways are disappearing. It is up to those of us who remember, to try to instill them into the younger folks.
      If you are having no luck - maybe try farm markets for fresh produce. fresh foods would be so good for you in your fight. Lot's of vitamins and minerals.

      Living with less stuff is a constant struggle with me. I try to get rid of things all the time. Slow and steady.
      Less just seems to make life easier. We all need tranquility in our lives. Less stuff, less offensive people, less stress.........

      Take care sweet lady - knowing God has this! Health and happiness to you.

  9. I love your blog post, Cheryl. My grandparents were this way. My grandpa, who was born in 1923, said they had cornbread made with water with times because there was no milk for them during the depression. He grew BIG gardens and they canned and preserved all of it. My grandmother was the greatest cook ever and she could make something out of nothing or so it seemed, but you are right it is hard work, but it's a very good kind of hard work. :)

    1. Thanks Belinda. They sure had to do everything they could to survive. I remember some of my older siblings talking about cornbread and milk was at times dinner. That was what they had.

      You know what? I have made cornbread with water years ago when I had little money. Nothing wrong with that.

      Good hard work is good for the body, mind and soul.
      Thanks for sharing your story.

  10. I was born in 1961 so grocery stores were the norm, except in my family we had a huge garden with both fruit and veggies, My dad hunted anything and everything. My mother used powdered milk, I remember if she did go to a store once in awhile she would buy ground beef we thought that was a huge treat.