In the middle years of the nineteenth century, many Canadian households still relied on the traditional systems of trading or bartering goods to procure household necessities. In smaller communities, systems of credit between merchant and consumer allowed items such as animal feed, seeds, and farm equipment to be purchased, in the hopes that the cost would be paid back. In many cases, this created a treadmill of debt and a network of dependency.
By the later nineteenth century, many Canadians desired to purchase household goods rather than toil to produce their own. Only farmers and owners of significance acreages of land could produce enough food to feed their families and sell the excess at a local market.
As cities and towns expanded, a variety of stores existed to meet Canadians’ needs, including grocers, butchers, bakers, apothecaries, and confectioners. Except in the smallest of settlements, one-stop shopping was replaced by stores catering to the family’s diverse culinary needs. However, many Canadian families still struggled to find the means to purchase even the most basic of goods, so thriftiness was key. To help Canadians with this endeavour, the genre of “economical cookbooks” became popular.