Living on less: 'How to Feed Your Family' by Cynthia Hillson reviewed

casserole in the oven
casserole in the oven

Back in the early nineties, "Food Stamp menus" were en vogue, and the newsgroups and early web sites were full of ideas (of course it wouldn't hurt to pay a few dollars for the knowledge!). Cynthia Hillson, then a mother of five living outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, was one of the first to happen upon this concept: that feeding a large family could be cheaper, if you'd only plan carefully and follow a list of rules. The Hillbilly Housewife is just one similar concept that has sprouted into web being since.

In the time since the late 1980s, when Cynthia's husband lost his job and took one making less than $30,000 a year, she's birthed one more child and the cost of groceries has risen immensely. Instead of attaching a weekly cost to feeding a family (in 1991, it was $45), now Cynthia is just focused on the process, and her self-published book is called "How to Feed Your Family." She sells it for $8.00 and encourages readers to make photocopies to share with their friends and church groups. She sent me a review copy and, after reading her perky, practical advice I've decided to send her a check; her advice is way undersold. Were she vastly more polished and a bit more savvy with sustainability, she'd be travelling the country with Michael Pollan.

In this slim stack of three-hole-punched pages, Hillson sets forth strategies right out of In Defense of Food (without any of the science, most of the background, nor the elegance). Sure, she skips some of the parts I find important in my family food plan (she dismisses organic food as too expensive and gives up on gardening as not worth the effort), but many of the vital strategies are there.