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.
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.
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: