When I was a child, much of my summer holidays from the time I was six years old were spent at my grandma’s three-bedroom, one-bathroom trailer along with my four cousins and two siblings. Yes, friends, three bedrooms and one bathroom. You do the math.
My grandma was the queen of frugality. She lived through the Great Depression and World War II and could make a dollar elastic. Every Sunday after church, we would purchase the big Sunday paper that was chock full of coupons and store flyers. We’d come home, have lunch, and spend a couple hours clipping and sorting through coupons in preparation for the weekly shop. Grandma didn’t have a meticulously mapped out plan or a large binder as depicted on those extreme shopping shows, but she did keep an old cheddar box she had gussied up with floral shelf paper and separated coupons according to expiration date using neon-coloured index cards.
Every Wednesday was Triple Coupon Wednesday at our local grocery store. Shopping on this day meant bigger savings for the same coupon on the same product. It was an exceptionally good day if the product was on sale as well. We’d pile into her 1982 Pontiac powder blue station wagon and head into town. Grandma would give each of us a handful of coupons and send us off to find the products in hand. We’d race around the store as fast as we could to see who could return to the shopping cart the quickest—until my cousin dropped a large jar of pickles on the floor and screamed the place down.
I loved sorting through my pile to discover a cake mix coupon in my stash, mainly because Grandma allowed the holder of said coupon choose the flavor. Unfortunately, as exciting as it was to choose, this decision came with great responsibility: it was imperative I chose a flavor everyone would enjoy. There was zero waste in her home, so we would be forced to eat it no matter how awful it was. We learned this early on when my brother chose a horrific orange-flavoured cake mix. Let’s just say he still doesn’t live it down.
I often gravitated to the boxes of brownie mix when it was my turn to choose. They were never part of the deal as far as coupon value goes, but I still plodded back to the cart with one, hiding it under a loaf of bread or cereal box, unbeknownst to Grandma. The cashier never said a word and tripled the coupon anyway—I’m sure having seven kids in tow was worth sixty cents off one random box mix.
Brownies hold a special connotation with me. While I do enjoy the box variety, my Mom made the best brownies and would often make them for special occasions, like a co-workers party, church potluck, or her book club, while saving the corners for me. She liked to push the boundaries when it came to pairing foods and would often pair brownies with unorthodox items like pink peppercorns, mint from the garden, or coffee.
I took a page from her book and went a step further by throwing bacon into brownies. Trust me, friends—it’s total genius. Bacon gives the brownies a gratifying texture while lending an incredible flavour that is out of this world. Vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, and a handful of bacon bits atop a warm, gooey bacon brownie is almost euphoric.
My Grandma has since passed on, but those childhood memories will forever remain special to me. I can’t see a stack of coupons and not think of her.
And the brownie mix I thought I secretly got away with?
She always knew.