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9 Forgotten ‘Everyday Survival Skills’ From Grandma

Grandma's 'Everyday Survival Skills’

Our grandparents didn’t spend their spare time watching TV or playing video games. The truth is they didn’t have spare time. Keeping the family fed, fields tended, livestock healthy and a roof over their heads kept them busy from dawn to dusk. They did whatever it took to survive and thrive.

While grandma and grandpa each had everyday skills that all homesteaders and survivalists should learn, today we’ll focus on Grandma’s day.

Grandma was a dynamo. She rose before dawn with a mile-long to-do list in her head. Feeding the family a hearty breakfast and sending them on their way was first priority. She then could get to her own busy day. Housework, fixing a fence with grandpa, helping the cow give birth, making pies to trade, fixing lunch, canning peaches and pulling weeds were checked off the list. Then it was time to make dinner and send everyone off to bed.

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Here are some of the skills that helped her succeed at all of these tasks.

Feeding the Family

Grandma didn’t just run to a drive-thru to grab dinner after work. She planned ahead and made meals from scratch. She knew the night before what she would make for dinner. To accomplish this, she knew how to do these things:

1. Cooking from scratch – When grandma made dinner, she created masterpieces with no help from any cardboard box mix. Her meals were nutritious, tasty and far less expensive than any of the quick foods today. Love and care for her family were the special ingredients in every meal.

2. Cast iron cooking – It is amazing how many different dishes grandma made in her cast iron cookware. An entire meal, from soup to dessert, can be made with just one cast iron pot or skillet.

3. Preserving foods – Many of us remember coming home with jars of jelly, apple butter and pickles from grandma’s. Her cellar or pantry was always lined with shelves full of preserved goodness. Learning to preserve food via canning, pressure cooking or other methods is a wise investment in your own future.

Growing or Raising Food

Running to the grocery store each day was not an option to grandma. She essentially could shop every day in her own pantry or backyard.

skills grandmother4. The kitchen garden – No matter what grandpa grew in the fields, grandma always had a kitchen garden. She could walk out back and pick fresh dinner fixings. She often had fruit and nut trees, as well as her herbs and vegetables.

5. Animal husbandry – Grandma tended to be the one who cared for the livestock — a cow or goat for milk, a steer or pig for meat and then, the chickens. It was hard to find a homestead that didn’t have at least a few chickens – if not more. Aside from eggs, many times an old hen or rooster ended up as Sunday dinner. Which leads us to the next set of skills …

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6. Butchering livestock – Although it was more often grandpa who killed the large animals, grandma was the one who usually cut up or butchered them. Her skills with the butcher knife were admirable. She also could efficiently wring the neck of that old hen for the stew pot.

‘Jill of All Trades’

Our ancestors did as much as they could for themselves. Things were made to last, and those that didn’t were repurposed. Here are just a few more things that grandma did in caring for her family and home:

7. Crafty creations – Grandma needed basic sewing skills to keep her family clothed. She might even be talented enough to make clothing in addition to repairs. Quilting and weaving were other abilities which could provide additional income, as well as add to her family’s warmth and comfort.

8. Stretching a dollar – Being thrifty came naturally to grandma, as nothing went to waste. She reused, repurposed and recycled everything. She often was a skilled negotiator and bartered goods or her skills for things she needed or wanted.

9. Medical care – Doctors and hospitals weren’t readily available. Grandma was required to have basic medical skills and more. She even might doctor animals as well as people. Her familiarity with medicinal herbs and plants came in very handy.

So, how did your day compare to grandma’s? Did it seem a bit lacking? It’s not too late to start learning some of these skills that she used on an almost daily basis. So put down the remote and game controller and invest your time in useful endeavors. These skills could even save your life and those of your loved ones.

What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Julie Dees is a freelance writer from Central California who also happens to be a real, lifelong cowgirl. She enjoys writing about her animals, her interest in homesteading and anything related to the outdoor life. Visit her website,

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