Homemaking in Hard Times

by Hannah on September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

Years ago on a road trip south, my family and I enjoyed listening to The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew.  If you didn’t read this beautiful book as a child, I recommend it as a great read aloud (or listen together) for you and your family.

The Pepper family, of whom the book examines, has many hard times and difficulties in life but lives out a beautiful life centered around the home with home as the means of supplying their monetary needs.  It is a work of fiction which will inspire lovely practical application.

Home is where my thoughts are falling these days, and the necessity of home in hard times in the economy.  My family has been riding the rollercoaster of self-employment for almost a decade, and so we are perhaps more used to the fluctuation and changes of economy and I don’t shudder at them anymore.  At times it was so tempting to linger over my nursing license tucked away in the drawer and think of what it *might* mean to put it to use again.  At times it could have meant healthcare coverage, at times a thicker grocery budget, less oatmeal and pasta and potatoes…  But always I ended up leaving my license in the drawer because my husband and I agreed that the need of a mama in the home was more than the need of her coming home exhausted with a paycheck in hand.

Now, some mothers *must* work outside the home, I understand, as my own mother did.  With my husband’s support I scrounged up and pinched and squeezed the smallest drop from each penny that went through our hands.

At nap time, I listed items on ebay, learning to pick out at the thrift store items that I could turn at a profit.  I did this for many years.  I altered prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses in the evenings and watched children in my home for moms who had to work outside their homes.  We made payment plans on medical bills in the seasons we were without coverage, asked our physicians to adjust our bills to what the insurance companies would pay, and saw God miraculously provide for all of our needs.  We brought all our needs before the Lord, not viewing Him as a santa clause, but as a good Father who cares about His children.  Our children have grown up praying alongside us.

We made it a game to see how cheaply and well we could feed our growing  family and involved our children, seeking out recipes from housewives of the Great Depression era, volunteering time at a food warehouse in exchange for product, and planned our weekly menu around the least expensive and healthiest foods I could find.  We were happy and well fed, even if it was a simple potato dish or fresh green beans bought at a steal and served for the third night in a row over a pretty tablecloth with a flickering candle to give semblance of warmth.

When the kids needed clothing, I learned that the quickest way to see that need met was to give away what we had.  It was inevitable that as soon as I packed up a bag of nice clothing and passed it on, another would come our way and somehow contain just what was needed.  This rang true for each need we had.  The more we opened our home and shared the little we had, the more we were blessed with … well, more! I can’t explain it any other way then to say God receives the glory and provided for many needs this way.

This was the years before blogging came about and the internet was a source of marketplace and income for mothers.

A few years ago, at the drop of the housing market, our income also dropped by a drastic and devastating three quarters. We were back off of comfortable living and into the land of penny pinching.  I soon realized I didn’t mind it much and that our lifestyle wasn’t changed or altered significantly.  What I realized was that by always choosing to live content with little and tuck the extra away into savings or pay off a vehicle, that when lean times struck we weren’t thrown into a panic.  There wasn’t a huge credit card bill to fret over, the van and truck were paid off and we could sell the truck at a good price to keep our mortgage paid, or buy the tractor that was needed for enlarging our little homestead.  By investing in relationships and family and building up those things which cannot be bought, though our income was laughable (or cryable), all the things that really mattered remained stable.

When I remember The Five Little Peppers and wonder if I am teaching my daughters and sons about contentment in little, or wisdom in finances, I again see that these lessons are more caught than taught.  When I see them count their quarters several times and weigh a purchase in their minds, or ask for a “job” to earn some extra money, or give from their little, I am reassured that we are on the right path.  It was not always so, a job loss brought me a panic, heat turned low in winter made me grumpy and miserable, humbling myself to ask for a reduction in a bill was embarrassing…. and so I share this to encourage.  It may take time; it may be a road to begin traveling on. Life can be beautifully lived around the centrality of home in even the hardest of times.


Hannah is an ordinary woman, saved by an extraordinary grace. Married for fourteen years, she and her husband have a house of joyful mayhem with three sons and three daughters. Hannah loves lattes, re-arranging furniture, thrifting, handcrafts, and writing and counts falling into bed exhausted as a sign of a really good day. She blogs at Cultivating Home.

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Melissa September 26, 2011

Thank you for this well-written commentary on your financial struggle. It was like reading my own page. I, too, am a nurse. I am a home maker and homeschool the kids (3). I have done the beans and rice dinners, had renters and stood in those pantry lines. That was my humbling years, but I asked God to teach me how to bless him in it. I asked Him to help me make homemaking my hobby – I learned to love it! I learned recipes I would otherwise never considered. I learned empty pantries are a blessing – it means two things – God’s plan for supply will surprise, and my family was fed!

His ways are not our ways!!

Rhonda Oliver September 26, 2011

many of the Little Pepper books are available free at Amazon.com in Kindle version, which can also be read on a PC or fancy phone.

Suzanne September 26, 2011

What a timely post for me! Yesterday I was with a friend who is a cardiac nurse and she was telling me how her pay is now $60 .oo per hour. I came home and opened my jewelry box and saw my little name tag with my credentials and thought how much easier it might be if I put the scrubs on again and pinned the tag on. I do believe God used your post to “set me straight” 🙂

Cheryl @Treasures from a Shoebox September 26, 2011

Love this!

Susie September 26, 2011

Great and needed article! Thank you for sharing. This is definitely something I need to work on. Teaching ourselves and our children to be content with little and to use our money wisely. ☺

Rhonda September 26, 2011

I love this, Hannah–we are living right there with you–my husband, too has run his own business for over 25 years and we have taken a hard hit since 2008, but the Lord has graciously shown us ways to get by and thrive without having to give up on my being home. I hope this will be an inspiration to women who are struggling right now as many are. We are finding having several multiple streams of income to be a lifesaver in the hard economy.
Haven’t read that book–but my mother-in-law said she really liked that book as a child–I’m going to have to read that one out loud:)

Amy September 26, 2011

I remember enjoying Five Little Peppers when I was a child! Somehow the warmth of home in that book stuck with me much more than their finances. And so I suspect it will be with children in real life as well.

Christie September 26, 2011

I LOVED that book when I was little! Beautiful post!

Carolyn W. September 26, 2011

I really appreciated this story! I am so right there right now….stretching that dollar as far as it will go without jeopardizing my family’s health…it isn’t easy, but totally doable! Thanks for your story!

Diane September 26, 2011

Awesome article and wonderful reminder. We really should take nothing for granted and be thankful for every blessing He bestows our way. :O)

Jennifer September 26, 2011

I really love the five little peppers! And I was so amazed that something so little as raisins was such a wonderful treat for them. It really makes me realize just how much we take for granted. Thank you for this wonderful reminder to be content with “just enough”.

Jenn Welch September 27, 2011

Excellent and Really Encouraging!
When we have hard times now, I really love it when The Lord reminds me of what our Moms and Grandmothers did back then.

Kim September 27, 2011

Thank you for this excellent post! I have 2 friends who have “come home” from very nice careers in the last 2 years. Both are so grateful that God laid it not only on their hearts, but also on their
husband’s. They have both been so blessed to see God’s hand provide for their every need when they stepped out in faith to forsake the income they contributed to the family in order to stay home and be a full time wife and mommy. I, too, can testify that through these tough economic times, (slow work or no work), God has truly been our provider as well. We have learned to stretch our dollars in ways we never knew were possible. I marvel at the lessons we have learned (which we never would have otherwise) and the growth we have experienced in our hearts at seeing God work in truly mysterious ways on our behalf! His word is true, He can be trusted to meet our every need when we ask Him.

Christine September 27, 2011

I am an ICU nurse who just began working again after a year off. I admire your willingness to do without, but it was a constant source of frustration for us. We have never gone hungry, Thank You, God! However, the stress was such a burden for our family that I am JOYFULLY at work again. We are blessed now to not struggle financially. I can make the meals I could only read about in cookbooks and pay for the flute lessons my daughter has begged for. I don’t have to pump up my son’s bike tire every day because I can afford to replace it. My husband is so relieved to have the extra help. (just a different perspective…and I love being a nurse!)

Christy December 13, 2011

I am a stay at home mom with a desire to get my nursing degree to help my family out. When my husband lost his job in the past couple years and could only find low-paying work, the stress on him trying to provide for us and the stress on our family in general is almost too much to take. I am glad to hear that you enjoy being a nurse because I am determined to get my nursing degree to help my husband out. Right now he is working 70-80 hours a week just to make enough to get by. I don’t think it’s fair that I get all this time with the children and he doesn’t ever get to see them at all, hardly. Three 12 hour shifts as a nurse will give my children enough time with both of us!

Sarah Coller September 27, 2011

This is so good…thank you!

Erin@TheHumbledHomemaker September 27, 2011

Great post! We are IN those penny-pinching years, as my husband is a high school teacher in a state with lots of cutbacks. God always provides! Thanks for the reminder!

April September 27, 2011

I can relate to this post, my husband is self employed as a real estate agent and our income was drastically reduced a couple of years back as well. I work hard to keep positive and know that the Lord will provide, and he always does 🙂 I look forward to looking at The Five Little Peppers- sounds very interesting!! I also look forward to checking out your blog. 🙂

Everyday Mom September 27, 2011

Isn’t it amazing how we are so happy when we live so simply? It seems like the “keeping with the Jones” people can’t find contentment.

Joy @ Artful Homemaking September 28, 2011

Excellent article, Hannah! Oh, I can relate to so much of it! My husband has been self-employed for almost seven years now. We love having him home, but the drastic reduction in pay, the loss of paid vacations, paid sick leave, insurance, etc. all required an adjustment in our thinking and living. It has been an amazing journey of learning to live more simply.

Thank you so much for the encouragement and inspiration, and thanks for mentioning “The Five Little Peppers.” I have never read it, but you’ve made me want to find it! 🙂

kathryn December 10, 2011

thank you, thank you, thank you. so encouraging…

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