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7 Things Our Grandparents Handmade (That We Waste Money On At The Store)

7 Things Our Grandparents Handmade (That We Waste Money On At The Store)

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People say life is expensive nowadays, and I admit I would be among the first to agree. There are a few ways we could all tighten up our budgets, however.

For the answers to how we all could save money on everyday things, many of us need look no further than our own grandparents. There are plenty of items they made themselves which we routinely purchase ready-made — and that habit costs us money.

Here are seven things our grandparents (or great-grandparents) made that we waste money on at the store:

1. Food from scratch. Depending upon how long ago your grandparents lived and what kind of lifestyle they embraced, they might well have made everything from scratch — even their own sausages, hams and aged cheeses. There is a good chance most of our grandparents, or at least our great-grandparents, made bread, butter, noodles, simple dairy foods such as yogurt and soft cheeses, jams, jellies and pickles. They probably made homemade sauces from whole ingredients, like tomato sauce or white sauce or cheese sauce. Our grandparents may have made condiments and spreads such as mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup or hummus. They very likely made their own everyday foods, too, such as preparing and cooking vegetables a variety of ways, creating soups and stews out of whatever they had on hand, and turning out delectable treats such as donuts and pies and cakes and puddings and muffins.

2. Clothing. In generations past, most women, and some men, were handy with a sewing machine or a needle and thread. It is not unusual to find people today who grew up wearing clothing their mother made for them, or even people who learned to sew their own garments while in junior high or high school. From everyday skirts to slacks to Sunday suits to wedding dresses, it was not unusual for clothing to be made at home.

Many of our grandparents knit or crocheted, as well. Sweaters, vests, socks, scarves, hats, gloves and mittens were often created at home at the hands of a skilled needle worker. These accessories were often treasured by their owners, so much so that they used them until they wore out. In this way, they made one or two garments for every six or eight that we might buy at the store today, resulting in even more savings.

3. Home goods. People in our grandparents’ day often hand-crafted items for their home. Blankets, afghans, quilts, curtains, draperies, rugs, placemats and pillows were made by needlework experts. They sewed, knit, crocheted, hand-quilted, wove, cross-stitched, embroidered and needlepointed many of the textiles used in the house. Ceramic and clay vessels and decorative items were homemade in our grandparents’ day too.

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There were other home necessities created by hand. Spoons and other kitchen utensils were carved out of wood or wrought from metal. Additional home décor was created using a wide variety of materials as well, depending greatly upon their needs at the time and what they had available to them.

7 Things Our Grandparents Handmade (That We Waste Money On At The Store)

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4. Furniture. Most old-fashioned homes I have seen contain at least one piece of homemade furniture, from a crude three-legged footstool made out of a cross-section of log, to a simple straight-back chair, to works of finely crafted finish carpentry.

Our grandparents did not make all of their furniture — few of them even made the majority of it — but many people in their generation did dabble in do-it-yourself projects. Most people tried to make things themselves before running to the store for them, and it was common to find homemade items such as simple shelves, potato bins and kids’ booster seats in those days.

5. Toys and dolls. Dolls were often crafted out of fabric or yarn, as were stuffed animals, from teddy bears to bunnies. Faces were painted or embroidered, hair was made from rug yarn or unraveled rope, and clothing was knit or crocheted.

Many people in our grandparents’ era made toys out of other materials as well — wooden cars and trucks for imaginary play, carved pull-along toys for toddlers, and wagons and other ride-on toys made from a combination of wood and metal and other materials.

6. Landscaping and outdoor structures. Stone walls, rock walls and many kinds of retaining walls were handmade by people in past generations. Decorative borders were made from various kinds of wood, metal and masonry. Patios, gazebos, lawn ornaments, walkways, window boxes, grape arbors, archways and trellises were frequently made at the homes where they were used. Not only that, but kids’ swings, porch swings, and lawn gliders were sometimes homemade.

7. Home health remedies and prevention. This may be one area where our grandparents’ skill at making things for themselves shone most brightly. They could treat cold and flu symptoms with homemade medications, steams and rubs. They could soothe wounds with poultices and herbal treatments. They knew what to do for headaches and upset stomachs and general malaise. They used regular diet, plants and herbs, and creative concoctions for everything from illness prevention to toothaches to energy boosting. Pharmaceuticals, both prescription and over-the-counter, were nowhere near as plentiful even a few generations ago, and people had to make their own. It is possible that they might have done a better job using home treatments than anything we can get at the pharmacy.

By trying our hand at making some of these items ourselves, we may be able to honor the memory of our grandparents, preserve old-fashioned ways of acquiring goods, and save some money in the process.

What would you add to this list? What are your best memories of your grandparents or great-grandparents making something? Share your ideas and memories in the section below:

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  1. I am really surprised that this article did not discuss the many over-priced cleaning products that people waste money on when they can make their own for pennies.
    As for clothing, even on sale, one cannot buy fabric cheap enough to make their own clothing that would make it worthwhile.
    I’ve yet to see a homemade couch or easy chair that would rival the comfort of a store-bought chair or couch. Some things are better store-bought, and even our ancestors bought these items.

    • While I realize that this is an old article and an old reply, and I agree that we probably won’t all be making our own clothing ourselves, I believe that the need to mend the clothing available to us these days will only continue to increase as quality declines and cost to replace increases. Folks would be wise, and could save a considerable amount of money, by getting a treadle or handcrank sewing machine and learning how to use it for mending and repairs to stretch their clothing budget.

      CD in Oklahoma

      • You forgot to put in:

        Pattern making

        This includes having a measuring tape, to take the measurement of individuals, some kind of writing material and a large sheet of paper.

        On, golly,this will take us into having sharp scissors to cut out the pattern.
        ANd then, steel pins to put it together.

        And then, this goes to a weaving loom for cloth. The Old Generation made their own cloth too, still around 1890.

        And spun the cloth.

        AND thread. And made the steel needles.

        This takes us into knives. There are still people that know how to make knives from rocks, and arrow heads and arrows and even, bows from wood.

        Thank God, THank God, that in the U.S. there are STILL hobbyists (although, those hobby shops are gone now), but there are STILL individuals that KNOW how to do woodworking, making weaving looms, home sewing BY HAND (making patterns), PAPERMAKING, herbalists, small farming, animal husbandry. for the vital food. And metal smithing, there are potters for dishes and cups, and furniture makers, and all kinds of repairs, plumbers.

        And there are still First Aiders, and those that know HYGIENE, and can dig latrines (away from drinking water supplies), musicians, can read music, etc.

        And so much more.

        And those that know can teach, those who don’t know, can learn.

  2. The main reason for pharmaceuticals being less desirable or even less effective is the fact, that naturally obtained remedies have many symbiotic elements beside the “main”active ingredient, which actually help a great deal toward the “main” ingredient to be as effective as it is. The Pharma industry makes a huge mistake, when they identify an ‘active’ ingredient and “purify” it. That is why, for instance , sugar is so detrimental to health – it is too pure!

  3. I am very blessed to have known all 4 of my grandparents. Granny (Dad’s mom) taught me a lot of skills. Granny did not make mayo, etc. They did not eat it. I never saw them eat a sandwich. She always cooked meals. Granny’s father owned a gristmill and she was skilled with whole meal cooking. Only in their later years did they buy bread. Even then she made biscuits almost every day. Also, she made lye soap and it was used for everything – bathing, dishes, scrubbing, laundry, etc. I never saw store bought soaps or cleaners. She had an electric cook stove in the kitchen and a wood cook stove in the dinning room. Oh yes, the plunger type laundry washers that you see are not a ‘new’ thing, there are a remake of antiques. The originals were made of tin with wooden handles.
    There is not a chair or couch that I would buy new unless it is hand made. They understood how a chair should cradle the body. I have an 1800’s rocker that is so relaxing, even with uneven springs and rotten upholstery. Their work creed was ‘if you are going to do it, do it right. Today’s creed is ‘cheat, cut corners, lie about it, so what if it falls apart in 10 minutes, etc.’
    I can make clothing, tho I buy most of it from charity shops. I look for quality things in good shape. Frequently, I get really nice things that are missing a button or have a seam that needs mending for nearly nothing. I keep all buttons from worn out clothes. Old towels, washrags, etc are used for cleaning. All of my shorts are made from jeans and slacks. I love to use old shirts and dresses in quilts.

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