Daily Archives: October 19, 2011

Guest Post:Lois Willand “The Use-It-Up Cookbook”

From Angela: Today it’s my pleasure to turn Dandilyon Fluff over to the thrifty hands of Lois Willand, author of the The Use-It-Up Cookbook A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste.  The timing for this book to be re-released couldn’t be more perfect as we all look to our finances.  Thank you Lois for this great summary!

Use-It-Up Cookbook: How It Came To Be

I wrote the Use-It-Up Cookbook in 1979.  My motivation was when our family went from two incomes to one with the birth of our first child in 1974.  I was so happy to be able to quit my job and be an at-home mom!   But with our income reduced to one half,  I felt the responsibility to do my part to stretch our income.  I started trying to find ways to run our household economically–looked at my own buying habits and did the thrifty things that people like Amy Dacyczyn wrote about.   
 
I became aware that one place where I might be more thrifty was in the kitchen; I was throwing out aging food because I didn’t know how to put it to good use.  I decided it was stupid of me to buy good food, use some but not all of it, and throw out the unused portions because I couldn’t figure out how to use it.  It felt really wasteful, even sinful to throw out stuff that had once been good.  So I started paying attention to what I threw out, and tried to figure out how to use it while it was still fresh and edible. 
 
For me, easier said than done. The cooking skills I’d learned concentrated on making tasty food from recipes–choosing the recipe, buying the food, and preparing it.  My skills for using up leftovers had not been developed, and whatever creative cooks did to use up surplus foods, dibs and dabs, and that bit of cooked whatever, had not yet impressed themselves into my thinking and my common sense at that point wasn’t much help.
 
I knew that historically homemakers had learned to make good use of the foodstuffs they raised, gathered, or acquired, that there were centuries, even millennia, of food preparation practices that use one’s foods efficiently.  I knew that during America’s early days, including the Great Depression, people had learned how to utilize what they had.  The saying “Use it up; wear it out; make it do; do without” was born of necessity.  Obviously, many cooks had learned how to use up all their food, and I could learn too!
 
So I started collecting and filing recipes that used up my “problem” foods.   I also started to look at cookbooks for leftovers, and what I found at the time were hardly any, and those that were in print were either too general or too fancy.  The ones I called general, had a bunch of all-purpose recipes for using up leftovers, but you had to read through all of the recipes to find one that used the food you wanted to use up.  Busy cooks don’t have time to browse through lots of printed material–they need answers FAST!  The cookbooks I called too fancy, called for using expensive ingredients as well as lots of time-consuming steps to fix that leftover up in gourmet style.  Frugal cooks don’t have the MONEY to turn their humble leftover into something that cost 2-3 times as much as the original ingredient!
 
So I chose recipes that were easy and quick to fix and used ordinary ingredients that I was apt to have on hand.  I filed the recipes according to the type of food that needed to be used up–meat, vegetable, fruit, dairy, etc.  Within those categories I filed them by specific food–beef, carrots, apples, dairy sour cream, etc. I  prepared the recipes for my family, using them as the taste-testers. 
 
By the time our second child had arrived and I was getting more proficient at using up our leftovers, and decided to try and make a book of the information I had compiled and filed.  I typed up the recipes on our IBM Selectric typewriter, sent them off to various publishers, and eventually was published by Scribners in 1979.  Another edition was published by Consumers Union in 1980 and a Glad edition was done in Canada in 1982.  In 1985 I regained the publishing rights to the book and started publishing it myself through my own company,  Practical Cookbooks.  
 
The book had gone out of print by 2008, but I kept getting orders from people who wanted to buy it.  Many of them were still reading about it in Amy Dacyczyn’s “Tightwad Gazette”, telling me that thrifty cooks still wanted to save money in the kitchen.  publishing Use-It-Up as an ebook seemed to be the best way to make Use-It-Up available to today’s cooks, and now in 2011 it’s available in that form
That’s basically how The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste came to be, and why it’s now available as an e-book.
 
P.S.  There’s a newer cookbook with a title similar to mine.  Catherine Kitcho’s 2003 book is titled “The Use It Up Cookbook: Creative Recipes for Frugal Cooks”.  Obviously a knock-off of my concept and title.  While I haven’t seen her book, I note in her book’s table of contents on the amazon site that she offers recipes for far fewer individual foods than you’ll find in my Use-It-Up Cookbook.  Kitcho’s book has recipes for only 25 basic foods, while my Use-It-Up has recipes for nearly 100 basic food items-breads, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and beans, vegetables, and fruits, with 200 recipes and 900 ideas for using up specific foods.   Cooks can find many more good ways to use up their food with The Use-It-Up Cookbook: A Guide for Minimizing Food Waste!