Focus Like Grandma – In the Kitchen

This past weekend, we celebrated my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  She is a joyful, feisty woman with a servant’s heart and a contagious laugh – all packed in a 5 foot frame.  I absolutely adore her.

I have been thinking a lot lately about how different our child-rearing time of life is from those of our grandparents, or even our parents.  My grandmother’s “command central” in her kitchen contained:   a telephone hung on the wall and tethered by a cord, an address book, a bulletin board with a few lists and scraps of paper, and a calendar from their insurance agent.  The calendar had maybe 5-6 items written on it including church meetings and a doctor’s appointments or two.   What would happen if I spent a month using just these tools?  Would my world as I know it end?  Would I learn something?

How did Grandma make dinner WITHOUT THE INTERNET?

Over the past year, I have also been thinking about how I could use a more minimalist approach to cooking and meal planning.  Am I the only one who is overwhelmed by all of my recipes scattered in books, online bookmarks, Pinterest boards, emails, and texts?

There are just too many choices and it makes me want to shut down and head to Chic-fil-a.

For a while I was planning meals once a month but what a task that is!  And the shopping list.  Oh, the shopping list!  Even with my beloved Wal-Mart grocery pickup service, it can get very time consuming and complicated to cook from recipes every night of the week.

My grandmother didn’t have any of these things.  She had a few recipes in a handful of books.  But mostly she had about 10 “recipes” in her head for dinners that she cooked most frequently.  And most of them could be made with what she kept on hand:  meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs.

How did she decide what’s to have for dinner without a meal plan?

I can still clearly hear her voice in my head when, at around 5:00, she would say to my grandfather, “Honey, what do you feel like for supper?”  She would then give him some options from what she had on hand.  Amazing.  Not only did she not write out a meal plan, she didn’t even decide what to cook until late afternoon each day!

Mostly I remember how she seemed to truly enjoy cooking those meals.  She didn’t constantly refer to a recipe, performing orchestrated, surgery-precise operations.  She just pulled out the meat and veggies and prepared them.

While she cooked, she would often hold a welcoming conversation with a guest seated at her kitchen table.  And she made it look easy.

Could we learn some lessons from how our grandmothers worked in the kitchen?

Perhaps we can take some lessons from our grandmothers.  Is it possible that we have made this work in the kitchen overly complicated?  Come back next week and we’ll talk in more detail about how our grandmothers got a wholesome dinner on the table without the internet but with a smile on their face.

Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear what you remember about your grandmother in the kitchen!



  1. I just have to say, “Amen and Amen.”
    I feel liberated by this post and am definitely looking forward to the follow up. Just last night, I was telling James how overwhelming the whole process of feeding our family can feel. Perhaps it’s because I’m trying to run a restaurant where everyone’s happy instead of simply putting something healthy on the table. Thank you Jeni for starting this conversation.
    P.S. My grandmother kept a can of bacon grease on her kitchen counter. Her green beans were the best!

    1. Great point about the restaurant. I have a tendency to do that too.
      And my grandmother also kept a jar of grease on the counter! They didn’t have access to expensive imported olive, avocado, or coconut oil, did they? An idea for Anna’s scrub? Everyone loves the smell of bacon!

  2. Love the idea of simplifying meal planning! I also often feel I have become an “over-planner” and over-complicate this process. If I spent more time cooking and less time planning, we would probably eat a lot healthier. Can’t wait to read about more ideas about how to keep it simple!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Melinda. This is my goal too…to spend more time just preparing simple food and less time thinking about it!

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