My Hard Times Cookbooks

Before leaving for the mission field, we had to pare our belongings down a great deal. But I decided to bring along three essential books. A medical book and what I call my hard times cookbooks.

These cookbooks, especially in our early years here, were life savers for me! Reading recipes was beyond me until I learned the language. And the medical book because medical terms were impossible!

What makes them special?

They differ from more modern cookbooks in that they take cooking back to the basics. They don’t call for ready-made soups, mixes, or expensive ingredients. You also do not need the latest gadgets or electric appliances. And packed with money-saving kitchen tips, they can help stretch a limited budget.

Over time I stopped using those cookbooks as much. We cook and eat less now that there are only two of us. But during the pandemic and all the lockdowns, I decided to dust them off.

Now we’re facing widespread drought, surging inflation, and possible food shortages. So tools like these become even more useful.

Now is the time to get back to the wisdom of old-fashioned ways. To learn new skills, and discover effective ways of stretching a dollar. I would have said pinch a penny, but high inflation has eliminated our one and two cent Euro coins. (Inflation here has reached 8.5%.)

Check these books out. In these tough times, they could help cut your food budget. And teach you to make do when ingredients become unavailable.

1. The Jungle Camp Cook Book

Designed for jungle missionaries, it’s chockfull of simple but tasty recipes. And it shows how to cook over an open fire and build a clay oven! Skills I’d prefer to never need, but in case I do, I know where to turn! Plus check out the many charts and tips that are useful in any context.

  • Measurement equivalents
  • Food substitutions, and how to make your own
  • Cooking on a budget
  • Retaining food nutrition and value
  • How to make your own sauces and baking mixes
  • Using herbs and spices, cooking tips and terms
  • Preserving foods with no refrigeration
  • Health precautions
  • Nutrition and special diets for sick and elderly people
  • Cooking over an open fire and constructing your own adobe oven
  • Baking in a skillet
  • Cleaning and sterilizing

This 495-page cookbook from The Summer Institute of Linguistics is no longer in print. But Abe and carry used copies. Or you could try the Wycliffe Cook Book which I haven’t seen, but sounds quite similar.

2. The Settlement Cook Book

The Settlement Cook Book is also unique among cookbooks. Milwaukee’s Settlement House published it to help poor, newly-arrived immigrants.

As a social aid center, the Settlement House assisted young women raising families. They offered services such as daycare and healthcare. Plus classes in English, cooking, sewing, and citizenship. This 757-page book also contains many special sections.

  • Budget and meal planning
  • Food substitutions and equivalents
  • Cooking tips and terms
  • Using herbs and spices
  • Cooking on a budget
  • Emergency housekeeping and improvising
  • Cooking on a wood stove
  • Stain removal
  • Pickling and preserving
  • Cooking for kids
  • Ideas and menus for entertaining

This book by Lizzie Black Kander is also sadly out of print, but you can find used copies at Amazon and Abe Or go to Internet Archive and borrow the book online.

Are you among the many people who never mastered the art of cooking? Then these cookbooks are for you because they start with the basics. Or they can help you hone your management skills like shopping and cooking on a budget.

Hard times cookbooks can help us get back to living like many wiser generations did. Back to a simple life of living within our means. Of learning to make do and becoming more self-sufficient.

The right tools can help us survive these hard times – and live well while doing so!

Cook book by Bru-nO | Waffles by Yoori Koo | Spoons by padrinan.

20 thoughts on “My Hard Times Cookbooks

  1. I cook most things from scratch, for both health and savings, and I think you are right that simple cooking is a needed skill, especially as inflation continues to rise everywhere. These cookbooks look very interesting! Thank you.


    1. We cook mostly from scratch too, Linda. I find that it’s not only cheaper and healthier, but takes better too! They’re intereting cookbooks, and the recipes are good. Especially in The Settlement cook book!


  2. Thank you for the helpful recommendation, Sheila. I too love the story behind the Settlement Cookbook, and using historic recipes would add to the pleasure of cooking. (I need lots of encouragement, since cooking isn’t one of my favorite things to do! Thankfully my husband enjoys it; he’s been the family chef for years now! I’ll have to show him this post!)


    1. Ha, same in our family, Nancy. When younger I enjoyed cooking more, but Mario has been chief cook for some time now. And since my bad fall, also chief bottle washer. But the story of the Settlement Cook Book is inspiring. Especially because all the workers moved into the neighborhoods they were serving! They left their middle or upper class areas to live with and serve the new immigrants. Awesome!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Those look very interesting. When my honey is away visiting family, I pull out our Amish cookbooks. They prescribe huge serving sizes for their big families, but they stick to the ingredients that even men can recognize!


    1. That’s what we need to get back to, Pete. Some of what passes for food these days is scary. Words that only scientists can understand. Which means it’s what I call “test tube” food. An Amish cookbook would be great to have too. They, more than many, know about sticking to the basics!!


  4. Brilliant for such a time as this! We’ve gotten so used to “convenience” that paring down and making things work better is rarely something we think about. I’m going to check out the Settlement Cookbook. It’s always a great time to be a steward of our resources.


    1. Yes, is is, Dayle. The Settlement Cook Book is my go to resource (other than my Italian cookbook). The recipes are delicious and I love the story behind the Settlement House! Hope you find the book useful!


    1. For sure! I know they were a huge help to me in our early years here. 30 years ago Italy was a fairly backward place, and we lived on next to nothing. Making-do was a normal way of life and a necessity.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Reading your post reminded me of my mom. She loved and collected cookbooks. It was her hobby, along with cooking. She would have enjoyed the cookbooks that you referenced. I like the idea of living simply. It gives us a sense of accomplishment knowing that we made something from scratch😊 Stay safe!


    1. Your mom sounds like a special lady! Actually I’m not overly fond of cooking or cookbooks, but I do like learning to live more simply. Partially out of necessity, and paritally because I think it’s wise. But you’re right, there is great accomplishment in doing something all on our own! You stay safe too!!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! I think we’ve lost a lot of good old-fashioned tools and have become too dependent on getting things ready-made. I hope these times we’re in will at least help us to reclaim some of these lost treasures!

      Liked by 2 people

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