Monday, October 4, 2010

Interview::The Prudent Homemaker

Homemaking Interview::The Prudent Homemaker

I stumbled upon Brandy's site The Prudent Homemaker one day and was , put simply, quite impressed by her homemaking knowledge and pluck. Her story is inspiring. I wrote to her and wanted to know what made her "tick". Here I share my questions with you , dear readers, may you be inspired by her story as I was. This interview is thee most viewed post to date with over 4,000 views! The comment section is still available if you wish to read the Q&A.~Suzanne


Suzanne:  From reading your site The Prudent Homemaker one would naturally assume you’re an older keeper at home. Yet, the reader discovers you’re a pretty young mom. Where did you come by all your homemaking knowledge?

Brandy:  I plunged right in and learned as I went along! And I’m still learning.

Suzanne:  What advice would you give to the young mom just embarking on her keeper at home journey?

Brandy:  Just because you don’t know how to do something now, doesn’t mean you can’t learn! I have learned how to do SO MUCH since I got married. I took gardening classes, learned how to really sew, learned how to bake, how to be a better cook, how to be a parent, how to take photos, and more! Be open to learning new things; it’s what makes life fun!

Suzanne:  With a large family and the extra work that comes with cooking and baking from scratch, how do you avoid burnout and keep yourself motivated to keep on keeping on and not call out for pizza?

Brandy:  There are always busy days, when things don’t go according to schedule; when it’s 6:00, and I’ve been nursing the baby and helping everyone with all the things they need. I’ll chuck my planned meal and opt instead for a quick meal, like spaghetti, burritos, tacos, or stir fry. I also like to make big batches of soup, so I can keep leftover soup in the fridge for a few days, to be served at lunch or dinner.

Suzanne:   Alright, do you ever call out for pizza or Chinese? Inquiring minds wish to know?:-)

Brandy:  I don’t have money to buy groceries most of the year , so I don’t know where I would get the money for takeout. Takeout is not an option for us. If I want pizza or Chinese , I’ll make it at home.

{Brandy's stir fry made very frugally}

Suzanne:  How do you balance the demands of home schooling with the gardening, cooking and baking that must be done?

Brandy:  Two secrets: Get up early, and have naptime for everyone! If they’re not tired, they can read. Also, I have a regular schedule that really helps me to stay focused.

Suzanne:  You have a lot of inspirational quotes on your site, which one inspires you the most and why?

Brandy:  Wow, that’s a hard question. I love them all! However, the one that keeps me going most of all is this one:

"Homemaking is the highest, most noble profession
to which a woman might aspire."
~Flora Benson, quoted by her husband, Ezra Taft Benson, October 1986

I think we tend to forget how important our role as a homemaker is. I love the term “homemaker”. To me, a “housewife” sounds like she is married to the house, but a “homemaker” makes a house into a home by all that she does. Our home is a place of refuge, safety, love, and learning. That’s a pretty important place. It’s the place want to be, and it’s what we make of it.

Suzanne:   What is it that inspires you to continue the creative process?

Brandy:  There’s always something that needs to be made! Whether it’s new clothes, dinner using just what we have in the pantry, or birthday presents made only using what we have on hand, there’s always something to create.

Suzanne:   Where would you suggest the homemaker who has absolutely no food storage and little funds start?

Brandy:  Buy rice and beans in bulk. Both of these items can be had for a small amount, and if you suddenly had to start living on what you had stored, you could live on just these two immediately.

Rice and beans are inexpensive, and when you buy them in bulk, they’re even less expensive. Walmart had beans for $1.12 a pound the last time I looked. However, if you buy 25 pounds of pinto beans, you can get them for .56 a pound. It makes a cheap meal even cheaper, plus, it’s good for you. Sam’s Club carries rice and pinto beans in bulk, or you can check out my Grains page for more places that sell in bulk.

Suzanne:  You talk about setting a beautiful table and keeping a lovely home. What advice would you give to the woman who has zero decorating skills and funds or lacks the ambition to keep a lovely home atmosphere?

Brandy:  If you’re completely lacking in funds, it’s hard to do much in the way of decorating. You will need to use what you already have. If you have a tiny amount to spend, garage sales and thrift stores are a good way to go.

I’ve been blessed that a lot of what I have in my kitchen has come from someone much older than I am, who no longer needed it. My baking pans came from a woman who was moving. My Kitchen Aid mixer used to belong to my husband’s grandfather. My cloth napkins came from an older woman who rarely used them. The pretty glass pieces that are in many of my photos came from my grandmother, who bought them at garage sales for .25 and .50 each!

You can make several napkins from a large piece of fabric (bought at a thrift shop or a garage sale, or 50% off at the fabric store) for a very small price. Also, don’t be afraid to embroider napkins and linens yourself!

{Gorgeous roses from Brandy's garden}

Flowers can be grown from seed and from cuttings. Last year I read a story about a man who would take cuttings from each bouquet of roses that his daughter won during piano competitions during the Great Depression. He grew roses from each of these, and was able to bless his whole neighborhood with flowers for graduations, weddings, and other events for years. I love to grow lots of flowers for as little as possible. Right now, I have vincas blooming that reseeded themselves, and Johnny jump-ups, larkspur, stock, and hollyhocks are starting to grow again, all from reseeding themselves. These annuals grow for me every year, as long as I water them!

Years ago, I met a young mother who was making quilts for her 4 daughters. This woman really inspired me. She didn’t have the money to buy blankets. She had fabric that had been given to her by several older women who had shared fabric from their fabric supplies with her. Using what she had, this woman was planning something beautiful and practical with what she had.

Look for less expensive, simple ways to make your home beautiful, using what is available to you.

If you feel like you don’t have any decorating skills, do a search for decorating blogs. Study the ones you like for good ideas. Many decorating blogs have great tutorials to help you create the same look, and many are looking to do it for a lot less than the original idea.

If you feel lacking in ambition, invite a family over for dinner. The deadline might just be all you need to motivate yourself to do something different in your home, whether it’s changing out the pictures of your family with new ones that you’ve just taken and printed on regular paper from your computer, or cutting some simple flowers from your garden and marching them down the center of the table in several canning jars.

Suzanne:   If you could pick one Bible verse to sum up how important the home keeper's role is , which would it be and why?

Brandy:  Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he is old, he will not depart from it.”

If we teach our children what is right and good, they will learn to choose the good. All that we do at home centers around this. Harold B. Lee said, “The most important work we will ever do is within the walls of our own home.”

Suzanne:   You have a lot of links to making holidays and celebrations frugal, could you share a few of your favorites that you have actually used to accomplish a frugal celebration while keeping it fun and memorable?

Brandy:  I’ve used several of the links that you see on my Sewing For Less page and my Frugal Gifts page  to make gifts for my children for their birthdays and for Christmas. For the past several years, I’ve needed to use what we already have on hand to make gifts. Whether I’m making clothes over, printing some fun paper toys, or making decorations using what I already have, I’ve found it’s still possible to have a wonderful celebration without going shopping.

Here are some things that I recently did for my daughter’s 4th birthday party.

{Birthday Table}

The banner was made from an old pillowcase and an old sheet that were given to me by someone who was moving, and from leftover sewing scraps that I had. The ribbon was a gift from a friend (who bought it on clearance for .50). I can use this banner for birthdays in the future for all of my daughters. If I host a baby shower in the future, I can use the banner then as well. My 8-year old made the large paper decorations from previously used tissue paper and packing paper (I ironed the paper to make it look nicer). The centerpiece was a table runner that I already had, and we just put her presents on that. The boxes were the ones I used to keep hair ribbons and barrettes in for my girls; I dumped them out and put the presents inside; they’re about 20 years old.


Presents were simple. I made her a nightgown from a top sheet that was given to me by the same friend mentioned above (she gave me several bags of non-matching sheets and pillowcases. Usually bottom sheets wear out before top sheets. Keep the non-worn sheets and pillowcases for sewing projects!)

{Birthday gifts}

I made her a bracelet using beading elastic that I bought a long time ago, and repurposed beads from an old dress-up crown that was falling apart. I also made her a rose barrette, using some ribbon that I bought years ago on closeout that I had been saving for just the right project. I also gave her a vintage handkerchief and a brand-new hat, both which were found at garage sales.

{Siblings gift of a handmade puppet}

Her siblings also made her gifts using what we had on hand; they made finger puppets and paper dolls for her.

In our family, we keep birthdays simple by just inviting grandparents over. Sometimes we have dinner and dessert, and sometimes we just have dessert.

Several years ago, my husband and I discussed how we would do birthdays at our home. He grew up without celebrating birthdays. I grew up having a few parties with children from school, and a few parties with just my immediate family, or with family and 1friend. When I thought about my happiest birthdays as a child, I realized that my favorite birthdays were the ones I spent with just my own family. So, we decided to do family-only parties. Since we live near grandparents, we invite grandparents to come over as well. We also allow our children to choose their favorite meals for the entire day, which they love. You can have a great birthday celebration without spending much at all.

Suzanne:  What advice or suggestions would you give to the family that has little money for big vacations, but wishes to make family memories?

Brandy:  Vacations are a luxury that have never been in the budget for us. We happen to live in an unusual place, making many frugal ideas for vacations impossible for us; we live in the middle of the desert, several hours (and at least a tank of gas) from anything in any direction. Our city has very few free attractions, and even something as simple as camping is out of our price range. Consequently, most of our memory making takes place at home.

We’ve spent time teaching new skills to our children, including sewing, painting, cooking, and gardening. These simple activities have given us great conversations with our children as well as helped them to learn to enjoy something new.

Since going out on a date only happens for my husband and I once a year on our anniversary (when my parents babysit for us and treat us to a date out), our dates are at home.

We’ve recently started having dates nights with our children at home. We take turns letting our children stay up one night a month, where they can do an activity of their choice with mom or dad. We’ll watch a movie that we already have and eat popcorn, play a game, or cook something together. The children enjoy our undivided attention, and we enjoy that time with each child.

Suzanne:  Where do you get your inspiration for your beautiful gardens?

Brandy:  Years of reading Victoria magazine. You can learn a lot as an armchair traveler.

Suzanne:   Are you raising your children with the frugal mindset and if so , how do you teach them this philosophy?

Brandy:  I think so. We’re pretty open and honest about our financial situation with our children. Consequently, they know that if there is something that they want for Christmas or their birthdays, that it will most likely be something that I can make, and they ask accordingly.

We also explain why we do the things that we do, with dollar amounts to back it up. (l recently explained to my 7-year-old that I could spend $8 for a brand-new shirt for him, or I could buy 32 shirts for him for .25 each at a garage sale, or 16 if they were marked at .50. That really amazed him, and helped him to see why his “new” clothes don’t come from the store.)

My children also believe I can fix anything! I also teach them how to mend items. Recently, when my 8-year-old daughter needed two buttons fixed on her dress, she was able to find the needle, thread, and scissors, and sew them back on by herself.

Last week, I showed my daughter how using a reusable baking mat saves me from having to spray the cookie sheet each time I bake. Though it might cost me a little more in the beginning, it saves me money in the long run.

I think it’s important to teach our children how to be wise stewards of what we have, both by teaching them to not be wasteful and how to make what we do have go as far as possible. We teach a lot of skills to our children to help them be better adults. Frugality should be one of them.

Suzanne:  Do you have any plans to travel and take your talks on the road?

Brandy:  I’d love to travel, but gas costs money! Right now I limit my speaking engagements to about 45 minutes away.

Suzanne:  Brandy, I can't thank you enough for opening up your home and your homemaking knowledge to me and to all the readers who frequent Blueberry Cottage. Your truly an inpiration for not only your own generation, but many others as well. I am sure your story will encourage and bless the homemakers of this world!

Brandy also gives tours of her gardens, if your lucky enough to live in her area. I hope you can attend--and if you do pleas send me a postcard!!!


Brandy Simper is the mother of 7 small children, she recently had another little blessing, a girl, Ivory. Her website has been redesigned to navigate easier.  She writes at The Prudent Homemaker.


  1. Thank you, Suzanne, for introducing Brandy to us. I think I am going to have to add another blog to my site and blog roll! :)
    Have a wonderful week!

  2. As soon as I finish this comment, I'm going to head over and take a look at her blog. She seems to exemplify what being a Christian wife, mother, and homemaker means.

  3. It was such a pleasure to "meet" Brandy! I know I will be adding her blog to my list and also recommending it to my daughter as well!
    Thank you Suzanne! : )

  4. I just recently found her site as well and found a wealth of information and inspiration!

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. I truly enjoyed this. What an amazing young homemaker she is. She is probably what might have been considered normal about 100 years ago.

    I'll pay her a visit.

    Thanks so much,

    Sharon Lovejoy Writes from Sunflower House and a Little Green Island

  6. I'm so glad you shared Brandy's story with your readers. I too, will be visiting her blog.

  7. Suzanne dear,

    We just went to the Armitt Museum in Ambleside and Charlotte Mason was featured. Also two great portraits of her. She was so before her time.



  8. What a precious spirit! You find the most wonderful people! I have been browsing her blog and find myself enchanted. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Suzanne,
    Thank you for this introduction!
    I look forward to learning more - so inspiring.
    Warm wishes,

  10. What an excellent interview Suzanne...I really enjoyed reading it and I will be visiting her blog next!


  11. I loved reading your interview! I love reading your blog and am happy to have a new one to check out :)

  12. I found Brandy's website not long after I started blogging. I was very inspired by her website and touched by her story. I was amazed to receive an email from her asking about reading books I had reviewed so she had obviously visited my blog. It was lovely to exchange a couple of emails and talk about what we can grow in our climates. Isn't her garden amazing when you consider she lives in the desert?
    I loved what she shared in this interview and to find someone else who also celebrates family birthdays with just family. There is such pressure on parents to throw bigger and better parties each and every year and invite every child of a similar age from your neighbourhood, church or school. Expensive and stressful!
    Thank you so much for this Suzanne - so much inspiration in one post I'm going to have to read it several times over.

  13. I love The Prudent Homemaker. I have used several of her recipes and enjoyed them all!

  14. Your welcome Ann, I am so glad you and the many others have been blessed by this. I know what you mean by stressful birthdays. I have been to parties at Chuck-E-Cheese, McD's and other big buck places and watched many parents get stressed and kids cry from being so overwhelmed. This is fun! I like family parties and that is what we do too:-)

  15. Wonderful interview and a true inspiration. I have recently recommited to living a Christian lifestyle, living simply and below our means and this has helped me know that my decision is the right one. God is good and I pray he blesses Brandy and her family not just spiritually but also financially. She has been faithful and so will the Lord! What a great blog and so is Blueberry Cottage's!

  16. Karen that is wonderful news! I am sure the angels are dancing in heaven:-) I just prayed that your new journey be a blessed one.

  17. I have been reading the prudent homemaker for several years and love it. I am around the same age as her and feel like it's hard to find people my age who thinks like me and loves to do all the homemaking skills that seem to almost be a thing of the past. Brandy, I know you have mentioned several times that you get a lot done because of your schedule. I would love to see it. Do you have a cleaning schedule? I know you mention Managers of their Homes by the Maxwells. I think this would benefit many. Also, I would love to hear an update on your husbands job. Is it getting any better? Are you still living on your food storage? I just love to look at pictures of your pantry. Truly amazing!

  18. I stumbled upon Brandy's blog a few months ago and have been hooked ever since.
    Let me just say she is just such and inspiration to me!!

    I would love to win a package of her hollyhock seeds!!

    Thanks so much!! Now I am off to read more on your blog.

  19. What a lovely and inspiring post. I will surely visit her blog, Suzanne :) xo xo Cat

  20. I was just reading at Brandy's website & saw the link to her interview here. Her gardens are gorgeous! I would love a chance to win some of her Hollyhock seeds. :)

  21. I have been following Brandi for a while also, and am always blessed by the treasure I find there.

  22. What a wealth of wisdom she shares! It's nice to be reminded that I'm not too old to learn new skills!

  23. Enjoyed reading this interview and getting some ideas for being more frugal in my daily life, while still trying to make a lovely home! :)

  24. I will be fortunate enough to attend Brandy's upcoming garden tour. And I am lucky to have stumbled upon this site as well. Thank you to everyone for inspiring me! And Brandy, I can pick up those Hollyhock seeds when I travel your way on Saturday! :) (Just think, no shipping!)

  25. Thank you all for your kind comments.


    I have been working on a schedule page for about 18 months, but my schedule keeps changing! New babies, more children starting school, etc. change things up every year :)

    The best cleaning schedule we have comes in chores, which we change on a regular basis. Cheri Logan (whose wesbite is hilarious! She is a mother of 11) has a saying that I love: "If you have children of school age and you’re still doing the housework, YOU’VE MISSED YOUR PROMOTION!” Reed Benson, who wrote the first doctrinal dissertation on homeschooling (and told his wife to pull all of their 9 children out of school at once to homeschool them) said, in a speech in 1998, "How about household management? How will I ever manage with the children home all day during the week? I can't handle it! One home schooler said that "There are those who tell me they can't teach their children and keep house too. I tell them 'can't' is a ridiculous word and merely signifies a person's unwillingness to make the necessary sacrifice... the whole family messes the place up, the whole family can clean it up." That's about where our "cleaning schedule" is at right now. :) Managers of Thier Chores (by the Maxwells) is excellent; it really opened my eyes to teaching our children how to help. (After all, it certainly wasn't me who dumped those crayons on the floor today--twice!) Just last week I read of another book that goes even further in teaching certain jobs at a young age; I think the children of the past were better skilled than we imagine, and we do a disservice to our own children when we fail to teach them all that they can do to help.

    As far as living on our food storage:

    I am learning to think of the way things are as the "new normal." We've done this for 4 years, with some chances to stock up during 2009. I had about 9 months of shopping in 2009, which was such a blessing. It was not regular, go buy milk and lettuce and whatevr you like shopping. I bought oats, beans, oil, flour, sugar, canning lids, etc. I restocked my pantry where I could. In mid-December of 2009, I stopped shopping again. Towards the end of February this year, I was able to do a litle shopping again.

    I have had limited funds since then, and so, when I have something, I look to what we're lowest on: oil, tomato sauce, etc., and when I have a little to spend, I buy pantry items.

    Technically, our income this year is half of what we made in 2007 (when we had 8 months of no income) and yet my husband is still working 10-14 hour days. There's work, but commissions are down, and the market has changed a lot (especially here).

    God is so good to us, though. We have seen manna from heaven almost every day since this last baby has been born. The blessings have been overflowing, and miraculous.

    Just last week, my my was going door to door, promoting her business. She knocked on thedoor of an older couple, who invited her in. She told them why she was there, and noticed that they had moving boxes all over. She asked if they were moving in or out. They said they were moving out their sister's things; it was their sister's house. The doctors had given her a year to live, an theye came to visit. She died 4 days later. They offered my mom the contents of her pantry, which she brought to me. There was even a blender--and wouldn't you know, mine was broken.

    This woman had things in her pantry that only God knew I wanted and needed egg noddles, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and more.

    I have seen this happen in so many ways this year (and over the past 4 years, but especially this year). Blessings have fallen from heaven. Our pantry continues to get fuller, even if I'm not shopping.

  26. Wow! Thank you Suzanne for the great tips from Brandy! I can't wait to read more. I'm following. ;)
    Stopping by from Raising Homemakers link up.

    Jennifer @

  27. Thanks sooo much for this interview. I am inspired and will head over to her blog.

  28. I have enjoyed this very much. thank you for introducing her...what an inspiration...i am definitly going to work on this...Hugs,Mica

  29. Suzanne,
    Thank U so much for stopping by my blog today!
    You did a great job on this Q&A!
    You asked so many things that lots of ladies would love to ask Brandy! Thanks so much for your work on it! Brandy has been such a blessing to me. She has so much to offer other homemakers.

  30. Brandy,
    Along the same lines as your comment-
    I often say to my kids "we all live here and make messes here, so we all have to clean here". :-)

    You did a great job here. What a blessing, for others to get to know a little more about you and what the Lord has taught you!

    Great job! Keep encouraging!

  31. Wow...what a blessing Suzanne, thank you! I look forward to planting these seeds in my garden!


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  33. I really enjoyed it! Will definately check out her sight!

  34. Your blog is amazing! I found it on the Ultimate Party Blog and I am new a blogger! Please follow me on mine at! Any suggestions, comments, etc. are always welcome!!! Have a blessed day!


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