Did you ever take a home economics class? At school here in Ontario it was called Family Studies and it started in Grade 7. Classes focused on cooking, sewing and basic budgeting. The classroom had a kitchen, sewing machines and posters of the four food groups. In all honesty, it wasn’t my favourite class – I never did end up wearing that ugly blue velour track suit I had to make. But the lessons I learned in class have stuck with me. The basics skills of frugal living are taught in Family Studies. Here are three lessons that are still valuable today:
Any assignment, whether it was cooking or sewing, started with a budget. If you spent too much on your groceries or craft material, you immediately lost points. It meant we had to be flexible with the meals we planned (pasta not steak), and we had to compare prices between retailers to make sure we were always within budget.
2. Cooking from scratch
Prepared foods were off-limits in the Family Studies kitchen. You had to cook everything with just a few basic ingredients. Cooking from scratch is not only cheaper – it’s healthier for you, too. In class, we learned basic cooking techniques to create meals.
3. How to make stuff
I was never great with a sewing machine, but I did learn how to repair holes in clothes and to patch jeans — skills that have come in handy, especially now that I have kids. For those who are comfortable working a sewing machine, you can make your own clothes following simple patterns you can use again and again.
Right now, schools in Ontario and British Columbia are getting ready to introduce a mandatory curriculum in financial literacy. Hopefully, it’s a trend that will extend across all the provinces. Training students to make sound money decisions is key — but in addition, I think it’s important that educators keep Home Economics in the mix. Teaching Canadians how to live sustainably is fundamental to our success as a country — and personal spending habits is part of that.
Money expert Caroline Cakebread has been writing for Chatelaine.com since 2006. She is a recovering academic and the mother of two small kids. She lives in Toronto where she writes and reads about all things financial. Follow Caroline at Twitter.com/ccakebread.