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(HOST) Commentator Mary Barrosse Schwartz has been pondering how to keep it simple and homemade – while buying new major appliances.

(BARROSSE) There I was, standing at the kitchen sink in a puddle of water with my socks soaked and the front of my fleece dripping wet. I was washing my big cheese pot after making seven pounds of ricotta, mozzarella, and a pleasantly mild cheese called queso blanco. The sink can’t really accommodate a 5 gallon pot, so I do my best despite the water that sloshes onto the counters, floor and me.

I love home made cheese. I don’t even mind the clean up so much. But these days our dishwasher is broken, so everything is getting washed by hand. With all the worry about the economy these days, I think twice about buying a new dishwasher. Thinking that demand must be down while consumers consider and reconsider their purchases, I’ve been waiting for a sale. Unfortunately most of what’s on sale are the super duper fancy schmancy appliances that I wouldn’t buy anyway.

My kitchen – like my life – is pretty old fashioned and won’t accommodate the new wood-paneled, massive appliances. Wood is one of my favorite things, but it doesn’t have to cover my machines. Besides, with a child in college and another getting ready to start next year, we’re watching our budget closely.

So I picked out the budget model dishwasher at a local place and got a little discount. I also looked at small refrigerators with some longing. I have a dorm fridge that now serves as what we call our "cheese cave", where I’m currently aging four wheels of cheddar and three of ricotta salata. The little unit is packed. If I bought a larger fridge, I could attach my special control that maintains a steady 50 degrees and keep adding new wheels weekly.

We’re trying to be more self-sufficient and produce our own foods. But we’re also trying to do it economically. It’s hard to be proud of making much of your food from scratch – including milking the cow to get your milk – if the cost of your cheese becomes in effect a couple hundred dollars a pound until you pay off the price of a new cheese cave.

So, what to do? I bought the dishwasher and maybe I’ll try to age more cheeses in our regular fridge in a box in the warmest part of the unit. Or, maybe I’ll decide that the refrigerator purchase is just another investment in our long term self sufficiency, and bite the bullet. I could rationalize it as good for the economy and good for the family.

Trying to live the philosophy that less is more is easy when you don’t need anything and much harder when you do. But my husband and I will work through this financial decision, just like so many other families in our country are doing these days.

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