The American Frugal Housewife

by Lydia Maria Child

Hardcover, 1989




Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1989. Facsimile reprint of the 1833 edition


Published in 1829 in Boston, The Frugal Housewife was written by one of the foremost female writers and social reformers of her time, Lydia Maria Child. The charming collection of recipes and tips for homemakers of the early 19th century emphasized frugality in the kitchen and self-reliance in the household--making this work wildly popular in its day. It had over 35 printings, and much of the content is relevant in modern times. Frugal Housewife was the first American cookbook to replace Amelia Simmons's American Cookery, still in use since publication in 1796, and it was also the first to emphasize the themes of thrift and economy in the kitchen. Considered a "must-read" for every new bride in the 19th century, The Frugal Housewife offered simple recipes such as Apple Pie, Corned Beef, Gingerbread, Indian Cakes, and Pie Crust, but also included advice on parenting, cleaning, and medical problems, plus numerous practical, Yankee-straightforward tips for saving money. Not just a collection for antiquarians, The Frugal Housewife is a fascinating work by a prolific author that will delight modern-day readers with its quaint but still usable recipes and tips. This edition of The Frugal Housewife was reproduced by permission from the volume in the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts. Founded in 1812 by Isaiah Thomas, a Revolutionary War patriot and successful printer and publisher, the society is a research library documenting the lives of Americans from the colonial era through 1876. The society collects, preserves, and makes available as complete a record as possible of the printed materials from the early American experience. The cookbook collection comprises approximately 1,100 volumes.     … (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member ThePam
Review of the free KINDLE version of "The American Frugal Housewife"

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This review is from: The American Frugal Housewife (Kindle Edition)
"The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments,
so that nothing be lost. I mean
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fragments of time as well as materials. Nothing should be
thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it. However trifling that use
may be; and whatever be the size of a family every member should be employed either in
earning or saving money."

This is for the most part, the only proper "Introduction" that the reader encounters when starting "The American Frugal Housewife, for Ms. Lydia Maria Francis Child plunges right in and begins dishing out advice left and right, providing a veritable flood of information. She advises, for example, that children not be allowed to frolic about until 13 or 14 years of age.

"This is not well. It is not well for the purses and patience of parents; and it has a
still worse effect on the morals and habits of the children. Begin early is the great
maxim for everything in education. A child of six years old can be made useful and
should be taught to consider every day lost in which some little thing has not been done
to assist others."

Other advice consists of how economize and how keep what you have in good repair. Everything from stockings to hearths, from apples to sausages. In addition, there is medical advice, and instructions on how to cook a variety of foods. Everything from porridges to cows brains, herbed wines to pies.


Stew them very gently in a small quantity of water till stones slip out. Physicians
consider them safe nourishment in fevers.


Baked beans are a very simple dish, yet few cook them well. They should be put in cold
water, and hung over the fire, the night before they are baked. In the morning, they
should be put in a colander, and rinsed two or three times; then again placed in a
kettle, with the pork you intend to bake, covered with water, and kept scalding hot, in
hour or more. A pound of pork is quite enough for a quart of beans, and that is a large
dinner for a common family. The rind of the pork should be slashed. Pieces of pork alter-
nately fat and lean, are the most suitable ; the cheeks are the best. A little pepper
sprinkled among the beans, when they are placed in the bean-pot, will render them less
unhealthy. They should be just covered with water, when put into the oven ; and the pork
should be sunk a little below the surface of the beans. Bake three or four hours.

To be perfectly honest, there is some sound advice here. Some of it inspired by Ben Franklin, and some of it coming from friends and articles read by the author.

I found this an absolutely fascinating book that gives some wonderful insight into the daily life of early American families. We get to see what the concerns of housewives were, and how life was lived amongst a class of people -- the less well-off -- that is frequently overlooked by historical studies.

Ms. Child was born in 1802. She was raised by a strict Calvinist father and later she married a lawyer who proved to be an improvident dreamer who at times was imprisoned for his debts. As a consequence she knows frugality quite well.

The American Frugal Housewife is extremely well written, and was extremely well received at the time it was first put up for sale. In fact, it was republished 27 times between 1835 and 1841.

I HIGHLY recommend this work to students of history and those who are interested in early American life.

As for the "Kindle" format, I must say that this particular version comes with 'highlights', some of which are definitions. These are easy to access or ignore. (Which is why I can't tell you what they all are.) Being a FREE book it's hard to complain, but I should note that there are images from the original book that don't appear in the Kindle copy. They pertain to the parts of animals -- rumps, chops, etc.-- and aren't particularly valuable. But if you are curious you can find them at GoogleBooks and Archive-dot-org, both of whom have their own free copies.

ASIN (Amazon's Internal ID #): B002RKTKXO

Pam T~
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LibraryThing member drinkingtea
This has some useful information that is still valid today. This also has some information that is quite dated and entertaining.
LibraryThing member Sundownr
Written in 1832 to give poor people practical methods on how to live on less by being more frugal with what they did have. There are actually some good pointers we could all use in our present economy.



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