55 Things Your Grandparents Lived Without — Can You?

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55 Things Your Grandparents Lived Without -- Can You?

I once heard a story about a young woman proudly showing off her new kitchen to her grandmother.  The kitchen had the latest and greatest of everything—high-end range, refrigerator with water and ice through the door, gentle-glide drawers, and granite countertops.

As the older woman admired the kitchen, her granddaughter asked her, “Grandma, what is the thing you like most about it?”

“Running water,” the grandmother replied.

For me, that story has always reminded me to keep my blessings and challenges in perspective. Many of our grandparents grew up with what we would likely consider privation by today’s standards. Depending upon the ages of you and your grandparents, and on your family’s geography and lifestyle, it’s possible there is a wide gap between that which you take for granted and what your grandparents once lived without.

Assuming your grandparents were born somewhere between the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th, here are a few of the things many of us consider to be necessities today that our grandparents probably lived some or all of their lives without.

  1. Personal computers. Actually, most people old enough to be parents today have lived at least part of their lives without home computers.
  2. Laptops. There’s a good chance that anyone born before the year 2000 has not always had one.
  3. Smart phones. We all remember life without smart phones.
  4. Tablets and other modern devices. Most of us remember when the word “device” didn’t have anything to do with communication.
  5. Voice-activated devices. Hey Alexa, how long ago were you invented?
  6. Mobile phones of any kind. Lots of us grew up without one.
  7. The Internet. Our grandparents probably grew up using encyclopedias, if they were lucky.
  8. Google. Most of us remember the teacher telling us to look words up in the dictionary.
  9. Cloud storage. Some of our grandparents might have thought humanity had gone ‘round the bend if someone told them they were storing photos in a cloud.
  10. YouTube. Mindblowing, when you think about it.
  11. Credit cards. The rule of thumb was once that if you didn’t have the money today, you didn’t buy it today.
  12. Debit cards. Our grandparents probably grew up on just cash and checks.
  13. Big houses. Homes are much larger than they once were.
  14. Multiple bathrooms in one home. Your grandparents likely got by with just one bathroom for the whole family to share.
  15. Indoor plumbing. Your grandparents might have even had to use an outdoor privy and lug water for washing.
  16. Electricity. Although urban areas had electricity for most of the last century, it was not available to many rural residents until decades later.
  17. Central heating and air conditioning. Many of our grandparents might consider this a real luxury.
  18. Online shopping. Once upon a time, in a galaxy not all that far away, people had two choices:  they bought from the local store, or else they pored over a print catalog and filled out forms with pens and put money in an envelope and waited for weeks for the thing they ordered to arrive.  Now, we can lie on the couch in our pajamas and buy just about anything—the world of shopping is literally at the tip of our fingers.
  19. Cheap airfare. Buying an airplane ticket was once a really big deal, mostly reserved for very special occasions or for wealthy people.
  20. Uber rides. Call some stranger and ask them to come pick you up?  Sure, strangers helped people out in the good old days.  But it wasn’t Uber.
  21. Online financing and mortgages. For most of our grandparents, seeking a loan was a lot harder process than it is today.  It included a long paper application, at least one face-to-face interview, and a multiday wait.   The last time I took out a mortgage, I entered a few facts and figures on my home computer and got an answer within minutes.
  22. Medical test results available almost immediately. In the old days, people got blood drawn at the hospital and waited for two weeks for the results to arrive in the mail.  Nowadays, your doctor often gets the results later the same day.
  23. Huge closets full of clothing, shoes, and accessories. I don’t know how many purses or pairs of shoes my grandmother had, but I bet I have more.  Way more.
  24. Dishwashers. Many of us alive today have lived part or all of our lives hand-washing dishes.
  25. Kitchen electrics. Our grandparents might have had a toaster or a stand mixer, but probably didn’t have the wide range of small electrical appliances available to us today, from smoothie machines to stick blenders to juicers to expresso makers to spiralizers.
  26. Automatic icemakers. Filling ice cube trays and setting them in the freezer without spilling them and then busting the ice out of them is hard.  Especially if they’re those old-fashioned aluminum kind. Reaching into the freezer and grabbing a few ice cubes that your freezer made and dumped into a container for you is easy.
  27. Overnight mail delivery. Some of our grandparents lived in a time when a letter took several days just to cross a few state lines, and people spent extra on “air mail” when it was urgent.  But even air mail didn’t arrive the next day.
  28. Reliable weather forecasts. Meteorology wasn’t as precise as it is today.  They didn’t have access to radar and other modern tools, and it was often a guess at best.
  29. Warnings for natural disasters. Scientists and officials still don’t get it right all the time, but warnings for blizzards, tsunamis, and floods are far more efficient than they were in our grandparents’ day.
  30. Comfortable passenger cars. Some of our grandparents could never even have imagined the creature comforts in modern cars.  Power windows and mirrors, heated seats, air conditioning, state-of-the-art sound systems, cruise control, lumbar support, navigation systems—wow!
  31. Fast food. The ability to zip in, order, pick up, and zip out with a bag of food in your hand is a relatively modern concept.
  32. Drive-up windows. We can do a lot without getting out of our cars these days.  We can buy food, do our banking, pick up prescription meds, grab a few groceries, and in some regions even do convenience-store shopping.
  33. Live-saving vaccinations. A world where diseases like polio, diphtheria, pertussis, influenza, tuberculosis, and smallpox threatened lives and caused irreparable disability existed in many of our grandparents’ lifetimes.
  34. Life-changing medications. From antibiotics to statins to antipsychotic drugs to hormone replacements to synthetic insulin to pain relief to cancer chemotherapy, our grandparents had far fewer choices.
  35. Surgeries and other medical advancements. Our grandparents might not have had the option of knee- or hip-replacement, or prosthetic limbs, or cataract surgery, or even cutting-edge diagnostic procedures like MRIs and mammograms.
  36. Food imported from all over the globe. Our grandparents probably couldn’t walk into the produce section and choose from hundreds of different fresh vegetables and fruits 365 days a year.  Buying local is important, but it’s nice to be able to occasionally indulge in fresh produce on a cold winter day.
  37. Replacement formula for babies. Our grandparents had far fewer choices when it came to infant nutrition.  Mother’s milk is not always possible, and cow’s milk by itself is incomplete.
  38. Television. Many of our grandparents grew up without TV.  And even those who did have a television often had just one, in the living room, with just black-and-white pictures and limited selections.
  39. TV on demand. Today’s viewers can choose between cable, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and dozens of other channel choices.  Our grandparents?  Not so much.
  40. Remote controls. I have one for my TV, one for my Roku box, and one for my internet radio.   That’s not a lot of remote controls by today’s standards, but it’s three more than my grandparents had.
  41. Power tools. Anyone who has ever used a cordless impact driver or a table saw or a belt sander can testify to how much easier and faster and more efficient they are than their manual counterparts.  Our grandparents did it the hard way.
  42. Plastic. The amount of plastic most of us use in our everyday lives is staggering.  Very little of our lives is untouched by plastic, from sandwich bags to house siding to toothbrush handles to storage totes to snow sleds to rakes to water buckets to trash bags to lawn furniture to car dashboards to dishware to children’s toys to zippers.  Our grandparents had products made out of wood, pottery, glass, metal, and natural materials.  But they might not have grown up with much plastic.
  43. Disposable diapers. Many people alive today spent their early years in cloth diapers, or possibly even used them for their own children.  The convenient remove-and-toss method was not an option a few generations ago.
  44. Disposable tissues. Many of our grandparents used reusable handkerchiefs.
  45. Paper towels and napkins. People used reusable cloth for cleanup jobs far more often in our grandparents’ day.
  46. Disposable tableware. Plates, cups, and flatware were items which our grandparents bought once, used every day, and washed over and over.
  47. Microwave ovens. When I told my young children that I had not had a microwave in my childhood home, they asked me in hushed astonished tones, “How did you live?!” I got by, it turns out.  Just like most of our grandparents did.
  48. Synthetic fabrics. A lot of garment labels today list fibers I’ve never even heard of.  Our grandparents had far fewer choices of materials for clothing, outerwear, accessories, and home décor.
  49. Ready-made foods at the grocery store. In our grandparents’ day, the grocery store carried mostly whole foods.  Heat-and-eat options are a relatively recent phenomenon.
  50. Ready-made coffee. Our grandparents made their own coffee at home.  Without a Keurig machine, and possibly even without an electric drip coffeemaker.  Going out to the local coffee shop, or even the corner gas station, for a cup of coffee, hasn’t always been a thing people do.
  51. Automatic laundry machines. Many of our grandparents didn’t have dryers.  And if they had a washer, it was probably a lot less user-friendly than the ones we have today.
  52. If our grandparents did have refrigerators, they were not like the ones we have today.
  53. Riding lawn equipment. Our grandparents probably used a walk-behind mower, with or without a gas-powered engine, to mow their small lawn.
  54. Electric heating pads and chemical heating patches. Our grandparents probably used hot water bottles and poultices instead.
  55. Paid time off work. Paid vacations have not always been common, and maternity/paternity leave didn’t always exist.

This list could truly go on forever, and I have barely scratched the surface. Such a lot has changed in just a few generations that it must be difficult for some of our grandparents to even recognize the planet we inhabit today as the same one they grew up on. Some of the changes truly represent advancement, while others make us all wonder if modern-day goods and services might have gone too far. But most of us embrace the things we’ve grown accustomed to, and we may find it challenging to live without the things our grandparents didn’t have.

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

10 Ways Your Grandparents Stayed In Shape Without A Gym

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10 Ways Your Grandparents Stayed In Shape Without A Gym

If you are anything like me, you tend to go to the gym a few times a year. Usually right around New Year’s Day, so you can look good at the beach, and then again about September, when you realize you didn’t look good at the beach, but you want to look good for the holidays.

This got me thinking the other day: How was it that my grandparents, and even my parents, stayed in such good shape all year without ever going to the gym or running a marathon?

A close look at their lives told me a great deal. We have too many distractions and too many conveniences to do the everyday things our ancestors did to stay in shape naturally.

I want to share with you the simple lifestyle changes that can help you stay strong and slim your entire life. It has nothing to do with diet; my father ate anything and everything, but he remained slim right up until the last few years of his life. It’s all about exercise, friends, and I don’t mean spin classes.

1. Walking

When I say walking, I do mean walking … everywhere! My grandmother never knew how to drive and didn’t even know how to ride a bicycle, but she literally walked everywhere! She made sure that everything was in walking distance, which for her meant about two miles. She carried bags of groceries to and from the store, had a pharmacy down the street, and walked to visit her children by walking there. My mother, also, walked everywhere. She even took a (temporary) cut in pay to take a position at a company she worked for because the new office was about four blocks from home! Get a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps every single day.

2. Sunlight

Our ancestors often had to work (or walk) outdoors. Everything from hanging laundry in the sun to picking vegetables, our ancestors knew and appreciated the sun. They had no idea, at the time, that they were getting healthy doses of vitamin D and vitamin E. Exposure to natural sunlight (in reasonable amounts) strengthens the bones, uplifts the spirits, and gives you a healthy-looking glow.

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Some studies even suggest that higher levels of vitamin D can prevent some types of cancer. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not talking about spending two hours a week in a tanning booth, but in our world of UV-resistant clothing, commuting in cars, and working at desks, very few of us get the natural vitamin D and E that the sun provides. Best of all? It’s completely free.

3. Outdoor fun

Some of my best memories are times when my grandmother, my brothers, and I would play games of hide and seek or Red Rover, Red Rover out in the backyard. Even though she was in her 70s at that time, she had very little trouble keeping up with us and playing games. Find ways to play with your children or grandchildren that involve moving and motion, not screens and sitting.

4. Standing, not sitting

Every time I hear the theme song from “The Twilight Zone,” I can picture my mother, ironing or folding clothes. My mother never sat if she could stand. She was known to pace the floor for an hour, talking to my grandmother, on the phone. Remember those super -long phone cords?! I realize now that she was getting exercise and keeping her metabolism revved up, simply by doing the simple things mentioned above.

5. Doing things by hand

10 Ways Your Grandparents Stayed In Shape Without A GymI really do appreciate not having to do laundry by hand (if you have ever tried to wash a blanket or a pair of jeans by hand, you know what I’m talking about), but the fact is that we have so many “modern conveniences” that we don’t get up off the sofa anymore! Follow your grandparents’ lifestyle and hang laundry outside whenever possible, wash those few dishes by hand, walk to the store rather than order online, wash your car yourself, cook from scratch, rather than order delivery service, and don’t forget to walk the dog!

6. Cleaning one room each day

This is a trick passed down from my great grandmother. Every day, clean at least one room. My mother used to do two rooms: the bathroom and one other room. She had a little list memorized and I knew it by heart. In addition to the bathroom, the bedrooms were cleaned on Mondays, the living room on Tuesday, the kitchen on Wednesday (because we went grocery shopping Wednesdays) and the dining room on Thursday. Fridays were a general “what didn’t get done” day, laundry day was Saturday and my mother “rested” on Sunday (which means she didn’t cook). I have adopted a similar cleaning plan, with bigger cleaning jobs squeezed in here and there. Sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, dusting, changing sheets and other types of housework equals a good workout!

7. Grow a garden

Many families had gardens to help cut their grocery bills. I’m not saying you need to get out and plow the lower 40 acres, but even a few pots of vegetables on your patio will help increase the amount of nutrition at your table, while burning a few calories as you pull weeds, water the vegetables, and pinch off excess flowers.

8. Sports and fun

Almost everyone has a hobby of some sort, including my father. He was a bit of a strange man as he didn’t like typical sports the way most men do. He did, however, love fishing and hunting. My dad was famous for eating just about anything, except what he called “rabbit food” (salad). Many people wondered how he managed to stay so slim all his life, but I knew the answer. He went fishing or hunting probably twice a month. This involved walking for miles or standing for hours. My father would have NEVER considered going walking for “exercise,” but he would walk all day in hopes of catching a pheasant. Both of my parents loved to dance, and we used to dance to the music on the radio either on the patio or in the living room. Time flies when you’re having fun and you never noticed that you got some serious exercise.

9. Old-fashioned calisthenics

My mother would often spend 30 minutes out of her day (before she went back to work) with a kitchen chair and Jack LaLanne on the TV. (Google him if you don’t know who he is). Plain old isometric exercises, occasionally a few books to use as weights, and a chair for balance was all it took to keep my mother feeling and looking good. You don’t need an expensive gym membership to keep muscles taut and strong.

10. Don’t say no

Although many of us have very busy schedules, one of the things I loved about my grandmother was that she rarely said no. No matter if we wanted to walk to the store to get a popsicle or play hide and seek, or if a friend called and they wanted her to walk over and have coffee, my grandmother almost always said yes. This kept her active and involved right up until her last two or three years of life. Don’t be so quick to say no because you might miss that marathon of your favorite show; say YES and enjoy life!

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

7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive Winter

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7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive Winter

Life was hard for our ancestors — much harder than it is for us today. Most of them didn’t have running water and electricity to make their lives easier. These modern conveniences have changed our way of life, to the point where we often forget what people had to do throughout history in order to survive.

We look at survival today as something needed in a time of emergency, but to many of them, survival stared them in the face every day of their lives. That was especially true in the wintertime, when it wasn’t possible to glean what you needed from nature. Basically, if you weren’t ready for winter, you didn’t survive.

So our ancestors all became experts in stockpiling. They’d spend the warmer months preparing, so that when the cold winter months came around, they’d be ready. You could tell a lot about a family’s wealth and industry by that, as there were those who struggled through the winter and those who didn’t.

I remember my grandmother, who lived though the Great Depression. She was a hoarder if you ever saw one. While her home wasn’t one you’d expect to find on one of those reality shows where they dig through a house filled with junk, she didn’t let things go to waste. If there was any utility she could get out of something, it didn’t go to the trash; it was saved for that proverbial rainy day.

Not everyone saved all the things that my grandmother did, but I imagine a fair percentage of those who lived through the Depression did. Even those who didn’t knew the importance of stockpiling for winter. The idea of “saving up for a rainy day” wasn’t just a figure of speech — it was a way of life.

So, what did they stockpile? Let’s take a look.

1. Food

Of course, the most important thing to stockpile for winter was food. Everyone would “put up” food — canning, smoking and drying it. The modern grocery store is actually rather new, with the first real supermarkets opening exactly a century ago. Before that, you could buy foodstuffs from the general store, a local butcher or a local greengrocer (produce only). But there weren’t grocery stores as we know them.

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The majority of the population at the time was involved in agriculture. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that the vast majority of the population shifted to the cities. And while people who lived in the cities have always had to depend on store or market-bought food, before that time, they were in the minority.

2. Feed

Feeding yourself wasn’t enough in those days. You needed to be able to feed your livestock, as well. Even people living in the city had to take this into consideration, as many had horses and wagons.

Early garages weren’t attached to homes, because they were converted barns and stables. Before the automobile became common, that’s how people moved around. So, they’d have a stable behind the home and had to make sure the loft was filled with hay and grain to feed their horses. Granted, they always didn’t harvest that themselves, but they still had to buy it and stockpile it to take care of their horses.

If that hay and feed was the “fuel” for their transportation back then, and they stockpiled it to get through the winter, perhaps we should follow suit. While our modern cars won’t run well off of hay, few of us have enough fuel to keep them running for more than a day or two. In a blizzard or power outage, that could prove to be a costly mistake. (Click here to learn how to stockpile gasoline.)

3. Firewood

7 Things Our Ancestors Stockpiled To Survive WinterCutting wood for the fire in the wintertime is much more difficult than it is in the summertime. So our ancestors needed to take advantage of the warmer weather to cut their wood and stack it for winter. Granted, living in the city made that hard for some, but cities were smaller back then. They could still take a wagon out to the country to cut wood, if they didn’t want to pay someone for it.

It would take several cords of wood to make it through the average winter, and – prior to electricity — there wasn’t any other option. That is, unless you happened to live in an area where you could heat with coal. Coal produced much more heat per ton than firewood did, making it a great improvement; but you couldn’t cut or mine it yourself.

In addition to the firewood, our ancestors always made sure they had a good stock of tinder. It’s all but impossible to find anything that can be used as tinder in the wintertime. So, most families filled up their home’s tinderbox to overflowing during the warmer months. That way, they could always start a fire if it went out.

4. Extra blankets

Keeping a home warm was difficult, especially a larger home with lots of rooms. Few actually could afford a fireplace in every room, even if they wanted one. So they’d heat the main living area of the home and leave the doors open to the bedrooms. Whatever heat managed to make its way in there was all that they’d get.

Since they didn’t have much heat in the bedrooms, they counted on body heat to keep them warm at night. That was part of the reason why kids would sleep together — so that they could keep each other warm.

But the other thing they did was pile blankets high upon the beds. It wasn’t uncommon to have a chest at the foot of the bed, which was used to store these extra blankets in warmer weather. Then, in the wintertime, they’d be brought out and piled on the bed. A good quilt was laid on top to make it all look good.

That’s part of why goose down quilts were so popular. Not only are they warm, but they don’t weigh a ton. It’s much nicer to bury yourself under a couple of goose down quilts than to have the weight of six wool blankets on you all night long. So save those goose feathers; it’s time to make another quilt.

5. Medicine

Most people kept a pretty good supply of medicines in the home — not the medicines that you can buy over the counter in the drug store, but home remedies. Doctors weren’t all that common. Some communities only had a visiting doctor come by a couple of times a year when he was making his circuit. So, they needed to be ready to take care of themselves. That’s why home remedies were so important. When that’s all you’ve got, you want to make sure you don’t run out.

6. Candles

Candle making was a summertime activity. You had to make them when the bees were active, collecting pollen and making honey. That meant you made them during the warmer months, when there were lots of flowers in the fields and on the trees. In the winter, bees stay in their hives, living off the honey they stored up in summer.

Harvesting honey, for those who had hives, also meant harvesting the beeswax. That meant it was time to make candles. While some were made by professional candle makers, it wasn’t uncommon for people to make their own, especially those in rural communities. Those candles would have to be enough to get them through the winter.

7. Reading material

Wintertime was a time to stay indoors as much as possible. The harvest was in and it was too early to think about plowing for spring. So, people would work inside the home, repairing harnesses, sewing clothes and reading. Few had time to read during warm weather, as the work on the farm kept them going from “can see” to “can’t see,” but in the wintertime, gathered around the warmth of the fire, reading was common.

People would literally save magazines and newspapers for months, waiting until wintertime to read them. While that would make the news a bit out of date, life didn’t move as fast back then. News was slow to get to rural communities anyway, especially out West. So, winter made a good time to catch up.

What would you add to our list? Share your winter stockpiling tips in the section below:

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9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

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9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Chances are pretty good that you know someone who lived through the Great Depression. Some of the stories they tell are almost unbelievable.

My mother, for example, was a child during the Great Depression and World War II. She always kept some type of snack in her purse, even though she was well off. She used to tell me that growing up in Michigan, she and her sisters would eat corn meal mush for breakfast while my grandmother heated potatoes inside a wood-burning stove. In the winter months, those potatoes would go inside their coats to keep them warm on the walk to school, and believe it or not, that’s what they had for lunch. A cold baked potato. It’s hard to imagine.

Let’s take a look at 10 ways our Great Depression-era ancestors reused or upcycled common items:

1. Flour sacks

Especially in rural and farm areas, flour sacks were literally reused as clothing. Patches were applied to pants and shirts, socks were mended, youngsters wore hand-me-downs, and flour sacks, which were large cotton bags, were washed, cut, and sewn into just about anything, including aprons, dresses, boys shirts, and underwear

2. Rabbits

While we might not think of rabbits as something you can “upcycle,” they really were versatile animals that helped many families live through the depression. A breeding pair of rabbits could be fed just about any type of produce scraps you could find, or for just a few handfuls of alfalfa. They reproduced quickly and could be used for meat or sold to others for cash or other goods. The fur also could be used to line boots or make blankets and clothing.

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My mother says that her father once spent the weekly meat money on a pair of breeding rabbits. My grandmother was really angry with him at first for spending grocery money on something she had to feed, but within a year, the family was making money or exchanging rabbits for things such as milk or eggs from other families.

3. Washtubs

Large, galvanized washtubs were used for just about everything: washing clothes, washing dishes, even as bathtubs or water heaters. One summer (fortunately it was summer!) my grandmother’s water heater broke and there was no money for another one. My grandfather put a few old sheets in a washtub and would leave it filled with water on the back porch, which got a great deal of sun. By the end of the day the water was warm enough that someone could take a bath.

4. Presents

9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Most children received fruit and nuts as a Christmas present, or if they were very lucky, a few pieces of hard candy. My mother used to tell me that she would make all of her presents from leftover material she would collect. Broken shoelaces became woven key or watch fobs, scraps of paper (she collected a great deal from school) were cut into small notepad sizes. The tops would have two holes punched in it, and then tied with an old piece of string for notebooks or drawing books.

5. Sheets, towels and blankets

These valuable items were never, ever thrown away until they were literally just threads in your hands. Sheets were mended and patched until they couldn’t be used anymore, and then cut up into dresses, curtains or more patches for other sheets or pillowcases. Sometimes, sheets were cut into long strips and woven into lightweight blankets or rag rugs. The same was true of blankets. Towels were mended until you could literally see through them. Even then, they were cut into washcloths, cleaning clothes, or used for patches for pants and shirts.

6. Chickens

Since we spoke about how rabbits could be used, chickens were also versatile. My father grew up on a small farm where they kept about 100 chickens. Chickens that didn’t lay eggs for a few days became dinner. Feathers from chickens were used to make or repair pillows, blankets, sometimes even saggy mattresses! While geese had better feathers, my father said that their geese were often eaten by local wildlife, so they relied on chicken feathers instead.

7. Old clothing

Some of the creative ways people dealt with clothing during the Great Depression were simply amazing. A knit sweater, for example, could be used in the winter, and then the sleeves removed for the summer. If the sweater was still good, the sleeves were sewn back on. My mother tells me that she once had a pair of shorts and a blouse that were fairly worn out. She and my grandmother took them apart and sewed the material so my mother had a “new” bathing suit.

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Dresses could be cut into blouses or skirts, depending on where the wear or damage was. Pants were made into shorts, overalls made into pants. My uncle John would tell me that he was embarrassed to wear a pair of his father’s patched-up work pants, until he saw his friends wearing the same things.

8. Tires and inner tubes

9 Mind-Blowing Ways Our Grandparents Recycled Stuff During The Great Depression

Image source: Flickr

Although most tires today do not use inner tubes, they were common during the Great Depression. Tires from cars and bicycles were patched over and over, until they simply could not be used any longer. Some tires were burned as a means of heating, but the smoke is so terrible that you had to be pretty desperate to do that. Tires were often cut and used to replace shoe bottoms or were used to make swings for the kids. Inner tubes were usually cut up to make patches for other inner tubes or tires, but they also could be used to make waterproof boots by simply covering them with pieces of inner tubes cut to fit.

9. Driftwood, string and other things

My mother says that she and her brothers spent many weekends in search of anything they could find either to use or sell. Even things like old tree branches and driftwood were collected, cut and bundled either to be sold or used. Every rubber band and piece of string was kept or collected to be reused when the need arose. Every paper bag was folded and saved, every cord cut off of every un-repairable appliance, and every scrap of soap was saved in a jar to melt later and be reformed into a “new” bar of soap.

Final Thoughts

Many stories about the Great Depression are filled with acts of kindness between people experiencing great hardship. Those are the stories that fill me with the hope that we all could survive something this terrible.

Do you know of other ways our ancestors reused items during the Great Depression? Share your tips in the section below:

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8 Obvious-But-Overlooked Ways Our Grandparents Survived Tough Times

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8 Obvious-But-Overlooked Ways Our Grandparents Survived Tough Times

Image source: Mast General Store

Hard times are nothing new. They have come and gone throughout the centuries, and people have dealt with difficulties as best they can.

Amid catastrophic weather, crop failures, job loss and personal injuries—all of which often lead to economic disaster—our ancestors made it through some of the worst of times. Here are a few money-saving tips our grandparents might give us for getting through hard times.

1. Work harder. It might seem laughably obvious at first glance, but hard work really is the answer to a lot of struggles. If you have a job, ramp up your efforts. If you do not have a job, make it your full-time endeavor to look for one. Either way, consider devoting some of your free time to per diem work such as raking leaves and shoveling roofs and walking dogs. Money is out there, just waiting for you to earn it.

2. Tighten your belt. This is another tip that is so obvious that it can be overlooked. Meals out, new clothes, new vehicles, furniture, accessories for both the home and for personal use, and many other luxuries which people routinely purchase can be forgone during hard times. If it isn’t truly necessary, you can do without it until your cash flow improves.

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3. Limit entertainment. If you are spending your time working hard, you will have less time and energy for entertainment. And tightening your belt means saying no thanks to things like cable television, the latest electronic gadget, a hobby upgrade such as a new cycle or camera or snowmobile, or a vacation trip. This is not to suggest it is healthy to go without entertainment and leisure for a lifetime, but focusing instead on work and thriftiness for a period of time to get you over a rough patch is wise.

4. Buy second-hand. Even if your livelihood requires that you dress in brand names and drive a nice car, you can still do it wisely by purchasing pre-owned. Consider shopping at thrift shops, online resale outlets, and social media buy/sell groups, not only in lean spells but also in times of plenty. It is a great way to support local businesses and help out your friends and neighbors who may need the cash your purchase brings in.

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5. Have a yard sale. Selling your unnecessary goods can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you scoop up a little cash from the sale, but you will help declutter your home and garage in the process. Having things clean and organized can be energizing, which helps you stay focused and get other things done.

6. Fix items instead of replacing them. In this world of disposable everything, it feels almost automatic to toss stuff in the trash and go buy another one. But in our grandparents’ youth, goods were thrown out less and repaired more. Consider having jacket zippers replaced at a repair shop instead of buying a whole new garment, or sewing on buttons and stitching up seams yourself. Glue broken knickknacks, tighten window blind strings, and don’t be afraid to tinker with tools and equipment to get them back into smooth running condition. Buy parts and replace them yourself or pay a professional—which is still less costly than buying new.

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7. Grow your own food. Backyard gardening is never completely free, but it is always a better value in the long run than buying less healthy and more chemical-laden foods in the store. During hard times, even a few patio pots filled with tomatoes and summer squash can ease up a straining budget, and a couple of laying hens can make a real difference.

8. Shop wisely. If chicken is on sale, buy chicken. Even if that was not what you had in mind for your current menu or if it comes in packages bigger than you need, you can always repackage and freeze it for later. Buy seasonal items on clearance and store them for next year. Buy in bulk for items you use a lot. Avoid brand names when it does not make a difference, and use coupons for the brand names you prefer when it does matter.

By following these few simple tips all the time, you will be able to build money-saving habits so that when hard times come around, you will be better prepared. It may be possible to become so skilled at pinching pennies that your practices will either help deflect economic difficulties in the first place or will help you glide right through them with barely a hiccup in your routine. Either way, engaging in money-saving behavior is always a win-win.

What advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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10 Food Storage Tips Your Great-Grandparents Would Want You To Know

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10 Food Storage Tips Your Great-Grandparents Would Want You To Know

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There was not a fully-stocked food store on every corner when our great-grandparents were alive, and most of them did not have access to anything resembling modern supermarkets.

Selection and availability were limited during days of old, and much of their food was either homegrown or locally sourced. Our ancestors probably had a few tricks up their sleeves when it came to keeping food at home, and might be able to offer some guidance to those of us who manage food today.

Here is some of the advice our great-grandparents might share with us today:

1. Storage does not improve food. If the quality is marginal when it goes into the freezer, the Mason jar, or the bulk storage container, then it will still be marginal—at best—when it comes out. It is a good idea to select the finest products for storing and preserving, and eat the blemished foods fresh.

2. The above tip notwithstanding, do not waste food. If it’s the best you have, or all you have, and you need or want some for later—then by all means store it! Food storage, like most things to do with homesteading, is all about doing the very best you can with what you have.

3. Store only what you will eat. It sounds simple, but it is all too easy to get lulled into preserving food just because you can, and without questioning whether or not you should. I got so carried away with canning one season that I put up foods my husband and I don’t even like. I gave a little away to friends and relatives, but it didn’t appeal to them, either. The steers got most of it and were appreciative, but it was an expensive and labor-intensive livestock feed that I will make sure never to repeat.

4. Go for the easiest way first. Choose the food storage method which requires the least effort, the least cost, the least equipment, and the least supplies. If storing dry beans in a glass jar works for you, do that instead of going to the trouble of using long-term storage buckets with the air removed. If root-cellaring works in your situation, do that instead of canning.

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If freezing is easier for you than canning and you have what you need to do it, freeze on! You can always upgrade later—for example, if your root-cellared carrots or jars of homemade fruit leather start to look iffy, freeze them before you lose them.

10 Food Storage Tips Your Great-Grandparents Would Want You To Know

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5. Store enough to tide you over a shortage. Unexpected events happen, from tomato blight to drought to livestock loss. Commercial foods are sometimes suddenly and inexplicably unavailable, as well. For example, it was hard to find bottled lemon juice in any of the stores one summer season, leaving home food preservers scrambling to find it wherever they could. Since then, I have always made sure I tuck away a little extra of all my essentials in addition to what I need for the current season.

6. Do not get too hung up on fancy items. Sure, maple sweetened carrots and complicated chutneys are great for special occasions, but make sure you remember the basics. Most people won’t find a place on their table for fancy foods every day, but will need plenty of plain pumpkins and dry beans and their favorite varieties of rice. Balance the everyday foods with the special ones and you will hit it just about right.

7. Keep an eye on the environment around your food. Is it hot, cold, dry or humid? The conditions may have been right for your food when you placed it into storage, but can change with the seasons. Avoid frozen Mason jars and hard-caked sugar and moldy squash by regularly monitoring your food storage environment.

8. Guard against pests. Make no mistake—everything out there is looking for a free lunch! Mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels, voles, rabbits, birds and foxes, along with all manner of beetles and bugs, will gladly avail themselves of your hard-won foodstores if given the opportunity. Do your best not to give them the chance. Use a combination of hardware cloth, plastic and metal containers with well-fitted lids, deterrent and diligence to keep them out of your food.

9. Rotate your stock. Be sure to use up the oldest first. This practice, along with buying and preserving only those foods which will get eaten in your home, will prevent foods from getting too old to be safe or palatable.

10. Keep organized. Loss and frustration can occur from being unable to locate or access items. A scattered messy pantry might look unappealing, too, resulting in less efficient use of stored food.

Follow this time-tested food storage advice, and enjoy the successful bounty of growing and preserving your own food, stocking up at the store, and managing it all at home.

What food storage advice would you add? Share it in the section below:

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

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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)

Image source: Wikimedia

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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Landrace Gardening: The Forgotten (And Better Way) Your Ancestors Grew Vegetables

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Landrace Gardening: The Forgotten (And Better Way) Your Ancestors Grew Vegetables

Farming food for the homestead is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process, and you can’t afford to get it wrong.

The truth, though, is that every region has its own challenges to which those plants may not be perfectly adapted.

The solution? Annually selecting and saving seeds to breed a locally adapted landrace for the crops you want to grow can significantly increase your yields. This traditional method for growing food – used by our ancestors — establishes better food security and easier production. Plants that are adapted for the local growing season, local sunlight and precipitation patterns, and local pest and disease resistance will produce more food.

The seeds for landrace gardening come from the “survival of the fittest” – that is, the best-producing individual plants which also possess other desired qualities (like a good flavor!).  Landrace varieties are adapted to thrive in a very local region; in fact, they’ll do best on the property where they are developed.

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Developing the landrace variety takes a few generations, but is well worth the effort. Follow these steps to start the process of breeding locally adapted landrace crops:

1. Plant several varieties of a crop close to one another. This ensures genetic diversity among the plants that grow, which will make a more sustainable landrace variety. Seeds from neighbors, if you can get any, already will be partially adapted, so plant them if you can.

2. Do not pamper your plants, but offer them mainly benign neglect. The plants that fare best despite weeds, local pests, and dry, wet, hot, or cold spells are the ones you want the most. The more you care for the plants, the harder it becomes to see which are really the fittest. That being said, some equal-opportunity watering or weeding to ensure you have a yield in early years is not a problem.

Landrace Gardening: The Forgotten (And Better Way) Your Ancestors Grew Vegetables3. Eat your fruits and vegetables and save seeds from the best plants. Make notes of why they were chosen and what the conditions were in your garden. Save seeds from multiple plants to preserve a variety of adaptations.

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4. Maintain the genetic diversity of your plants in the following year by planting saved seeds alongside seeds from other sources. Even after landrace gardening is well-established, maintaining the garden in this way can ensure you don’t wind up with a single-allele crop (i.e. no diversity) which could result in a total crop failure if conditions change.

5. Continue to plant and save seeds yearly and update your records. It is crucial to understand the process by which you develop your landrace varieties, in case you need to go back a step and add the genetics of a different variety into the mix.

There’s a bit of the scientific method in landrace gardening, but don’t get intimidated. Continuous experimentation and careful selection will mean a sustainable future for your food crops. Within two to three years you will begin to notice the hardiness, resistance and productivity of your locally adapted varieties. Your garden will be easier to tend and will produce more. How can you argue with that?

What advice would you add on landrace gardening? Share your ideas in the section below:

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10 Survival Tips That Kept Your Great-Grandparents Alive

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10 Time-Tested Survival Tips, Straight From Your Great-Grandparents

Unless you are fairly young, chances are your great-grandparents already have passed on. But if they were around in today’s tenuous times, our great-grandparents might have a few words of advice for us.

Survival was something most of our ancestors did well, and a few tips from their success could make a real difference in our lives today.

Our great-grandparents probably survived hard times due to a combination of the right skills and knowledge, the right priorities, and the right attitudes. Here is what they might say to us if they could:

Skills and Knowledge

1. Be able to acquire food by multiple means. Learn to grow vegetables, tend fruit and berry orchards, milk dairy cattle and goats, keep laying hens, raise meat animals, and hunt for wild game.

2. Know how to preserve food for leaner seasons by way of canning, smoking, drying and root-cellaring.

3. Learn to make all of your food from scratch, from bread to butter to noodles to jerky to cheese. Even if you do not do all of it annually, develop and keep up the skills.

4. Be able to repair and maintain what you use. Furniture, buildings, engines, equipment, shoes, toys, kitchen utensils—you name it. It is important to take meticulous care of your belongings and fix whatever needs fixing until it is beyond repair. Buy less, fix more.

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5. Know how to treat minor injuries and illnesses at home. Sometimes seeking professional medical advice is the best course, but in a survival situation it is valuable to be able to assess and treat problems yourself if needed.

10 Time-Tested Survival Tips, Straight From Your Great-Grandparents6. Learn to provide as many of your own basic needs as you can. Hiring a pro might be the most sensible way to go nowadays, but it does not need to be the only option. If tough times come along, knowing how to clothe yourself and your family, heat your home, care for sick animals, provide home defense, and use alternative means for transportation will be useful skills.


7. On most days, put work before play. There is one caveat: It works well to combine work and socializing. In days of old, people worked together with their households and communities on projects like construction, food preservation, quilting and livestock management. Putting work first in a way that builds, creates and nurtures camaraderie is still a great idea.

8. Focus on goals that make a tangible difference in your life and in the lives of those around you. Remember that in a survival scenario it will be more useful to be able to feed, shelter and protect your loved ones than it will be to chase imaginary electronic characters.


9. Develop mental toughness. Tell yourself you can do what you have to do to get by. Even when you want to curl up in a corner and let the world pass by without you, know that it is not an option.

10. Be independent. Do not rely upon the government or wait for some other entity to take care of you. Do not let others make decisions for you about whether or not a place or activity is safe — but do not assume that there will always be someone to rescue you if you make poor decisions. Be smart, and be in charge of yourself.

Whether or not your great-grandparents are still around to cheer you on, use these words of advice along with your own image of what they were like to live a life that would make your ancestors proud of you every day. And if you ever find yourself in a survival situation that may or may not be similar to what they went through, remember to heed their sage words to help you survive and pass along the wisdom to another generation.

What time-tested survival advice would you add to our list? Share it in the section below:   

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Our Great-Grandparents Were Less Stressed. Here’s 10 Reasons Why.

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Our Great-Grandparents Were Less Stressed. Here’s 10 Reasons Why.

“Family Grace.” Norman Rockwell

Life in the 21st century can get pretty hectic. Most people fill their days to the overflowing with jobs, commuting, kids’ activities, fitness goals, food preparation, home and garden maintenance, house chores, and more. Sometimes it almost feels like there is barely any time left to enjoy our families, and that can feel like a real loss.

If you are like me, you might wish you could just take a deep breath and slow things down a little. I am often inspired by the kind of life depicted in books and movies set in days gone by, and by stories told aloud about generations past – our grandparents and great-grandparents.

It seems that family life simply was different in the days of our ancestors, and that they even were less stressed. There are plenty of things they did back then that we do not do anymore, but maybe we should.

Let’s take a look:

1. Families ate meals together. Today’s helter-skelter schedules often make family mealtimes difficult to achieve, but just imagine the benefits of doing so. Spending time together, practicing social and conversational skills, and learning about one another’s passions and challenges might strengthen family bonds and help members grow as individuals.

2. Reading was a common pastime. Consider the benefits of reading — literature, pulp fiction, how-tos, classics, non-fiction, newspapers, westerns, mysteries, romances, memoirs and biographies — as an alternative to other forms of entertainment. Reading almost anything is useful for developing and maintaining language and critical thinking skills.

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3. Neighbors got to know neighbors. The people next door, down the block, the next farm over, and around the corner all have distinct personalities, strengths and quirks. We might become lifelong friends or we might keep them at arm’s length. They could turn out to be courteous and neighborly, or thorns in our side. But whatever they are like, we will never know if we do not give them more consideration than a cursory nod while we’re setting trash out by the curb once a week.

4. Families and friends played games together. A game of Monopoly, chess or crazy eights is a rewarding way to spend time with a loved one. Children learn about strategy, good sportsmanship and decision-making. Adults of all ages keep their wits sharp and their focusing abilities strong. And games are just plain fun!

5. People spent time with extended family. Getting to know a great aunt or a second cousin once removed is a great way to learn about family history and feel a sense of belongingness. Connecting with family members old and young enhances connectedness, instills familial pride, and creates valuable memories. Families are more geographically scattered than they were in days gone by, but that challenge can be offset by the ready accessibility of modern transportation.

Artist: Gerrit ter Borch

Artist: Gerrit ter Borch

6. People wrote and received letters. Letter-writers of all ages could benefit from the practice of language arts, from spelling to composition to story-telling. How uplifting it would be to find something besides bills and junk mail in the mailbox, and what joyous anticipation in awaiting a reply from a cherished friend!

7. Families worked together. Group endeavors like raking leaves, tending a garden, washing dishes, cleaning the house, preparing meals, washing cars, caring for pets and livestock, and even doing errands all can turn into a win-win situation. Shared effort and goals can teach kids about the satisfaction of achievement and can give parents and older siblings the opportunity to serve as partners, leaders and mentors.

8. Active outdoor recreation took place in backyards and neighborhood parks. Long-distance destinations and cruise ships and theme parks are enjoyable. But in between those opportunities, it is an excellent idea to throw a ball or a Frisbee around on the lawn, play hopscotch on the sidewalk out front, ride bikes, play tag, fly kites and swing at badminton birdies.

9. Families were friends with whole families. When my mother and father went visiting, I went along. Sometimes the kids there were older or younger than me, but I made do. Looking back, I realize that the adults had to make do when their spouse’s best friend wasn’t married to their ideal friend, either. Of course, every family member should have the opportunity to spend time with their own choices of friends, but the social flexibility learned from spending time with a wide variety of people can be an enriching experience.

10. People talked face-to-face. In this day of social media and texting, imagine how refreshing a sit-down conversation now and then would be. Taking the time to focus on the person or people in the room, hearing their unique voices and accents and manners of speaking, seeing their body language, and sharing a physical presence, all adds up to a deeply personal method of communication with others.

We live in the modern age and cannot return to the days of old. Perhaps we would not even want to. But it might not be a bad idea to pull over into the slow lane every once in a while, try doing some of the things we do not do anymore, and enjoy life the way our ancestors once did.

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

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5 Money-Saving Ways Our Great-Grandparents Were ‘Sustainable’ Before It Was Even Cool

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5 Money-Saving Ways Our Great-Grandparents Were ‘Sustainable’ Before It Was Even Cool

Source: Farmtina.com


It is cool in our modern-day society to be “green.” Who doesn’t like to pat themselves on the back for embracing the cutting-edge ideas of local foods and frugal living? I sure do. But is the concept of being green really as avant-garde as we like to think it is?

The answer is probably not. Our great-grandparents supported many of the same sustainable principles we do today, and may have even done them better back then than we do now. Their practices in food, household goods, clothing, homes and landscapes all offered fine examples of sustainability – which they perhaps would have called common sense. They also saved money along the way.

1. Food. Some of the food choices our great-grandparents made that society calls green include:

  • They cooked from scratch. Breads, cakes, meatballs, stews and confections were made from whole foods bought in bulk, in contrast to today’s mixes and pre-made convenience foods which include lots of packaging.
  • They ate foods that were local and in season. Instead of Granny Smith apples being shipped from Argentina and fresh summer squash in January, they relied primarily on what was available from nearby. They had fresh fare in season, and stored or preserved food the rest of the year.
  • They grew much of their own ingredients. Vegetables, fruit, dairy, eggs and meat were often raised right in their backyards. It does not get much greener than stepping out the back door to harvest fresh vegetables and eggs for a homemade meal.
  • Organic food was the norm. Instead of going out of their way to buy groceries that were free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and non-food additives, they lived in a world where it was safe to assume most foods did not contain those things.
5 Money-Saving Ways Our Great-Grandparents Were ‘Sustainable’ Before It Was Even Cool

Source: healthy-holistic-living.com

2. Household goods. Our ancestors chose well when it came to everyday use items in their lives. Some of their more notable sustainable practices were:

  • There were not a lot of single-use or disposable goods in those days. Coffee singles, individual yogurt containers, blister-packed lunches, and Styrofoam cups of microwave soups were not on the market. Instead, our great-grandparents had more practical and reusable options.
  • They homemade a lot of items, from tools to toys to accessories.
  • What belongings they could not make themselves, they often repaired and modified as needed. Their go-to option was making the most of what they already had. Buying new was the last resort.
  • Items were repurposed as much as possible. String was saved for reuse. Purchases and gifts were carefully unwrapped so that the paper could be used again. Containers were washed out and upcycled.
  • They just plain needed less goods. Great-grandma and great-grandpa did not own smart phones, video games, electric fingernail buffers or paper shredders. They spent much of their time doing the work required to provide for their needs. What spare time they had was devoted more to simple pleasures and less to being entertained.

3. Clothing. Except for those belonging to the wealthiest people, wardrobes were modest. Clothing was kept until it wore out. Sweaters were sometimes pulled apart and re-knit into a new garment. Children changed into play clothes and shoes when they got home, in order to make their more valuable garments designated for school and church last longer.

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5 Money-Saving Ways Our Great-Grandparents Were ‘Sustainable’ Before It Was Even Cool

Source: historyonthefox.wordpress.com

New clothing was often purchased strictly for church and special occasions. When good clothing began to show wear, it was reassigned to everyday use. When it became tattered and torn and needed patching, it would be demoted again to farm and outdoor wear. When clothing items were no longer wearable at all, they would continue to serve as rags for cleaning.

4. Homes. People in our great-grandparents’ day observed “green living” in their homes by using less energy and more renewable materials and fuels. Some of the ways they did so are as follows:

  • They used natural cycles to regulate heat and cold in their homes. During summer months, they opened windows in the evening to allow the cool air in, and kept blinds and draperies closed to the sun during the day.
  • They adjusted themselves to the weather instead of the other way around. People wore sweaters in the winter and took care to stay cool in summer.
  • They planned their cooking so as to use the stove minimally. Rather than heat the oven for bread in the morning, cookies at midday, and a roast in the evening, it made more sense to bake items back-to-back for maximum efficiency.
  • They used the coolest water possible when washing clothes, and hung the wash outside to dry.
  • They were diligent about using energy only when necessary. Leaving lights on during the day or in an empty room was a no-no.
  • Homes were of sensible size. McMansions with over 4,000 square feet and four bathrooms were unheard of.

5. Landscapes. Like the homes themselves, yards were moderate in size and purpose. Just think about some of our lawns today. We add fertilizer to make the grass grow, herbicides to kill off the dandelions, and pesticides to eliminate the insects. Then the kids and pets need to avoid being on the grass because of all the toxic additives, so the only person who has any contact with the four-acre lawn is the dad mowing it on a lawn tractor while his kids are inside playing video games. Our great-grandparents did it differently.

I plan to continue doing my best to live “green,” and hope you do as well. But in doing so, let us all remember to thank our ancestors who paved the way by practicing common-sense strategies in their generation.

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

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Special Needs Preppers: The Elderly

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elderly preppersWhen it comes to prepping, age-related needs come at both ends of the spectrum. Small children and elderly parents can have very specific needs because their bodies just aren’t able to self-regulate the way a healthy adult in the prime of their life does. Elderly preppers have unique needs to take into consideration.

Even when the needs are the same, such as pureed food or diapering, they have to be approached differently when it’s an elderly person with a lifetime of being independent, or even an adult who has been dependent their entire life. They either have memories of not being this way, or they know other adults are not like this. It’s important to never make them feel like they are being made fun of for something that is beyond their control, whether that is a physical or mental attribute.  

First Steps for Elderly Preppers

Most people can retire when they are sixty or sixty-five and that’s a reasonable time to start asking more questions and thinking about putting some preps in place for your parents and other older relatives, although many are still quite healthy and spry well into their 60’s and beyond. Initially, simple steps like having a copy of their will, medical Advance Directives, such as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate), and other basic forms and information is probably sufficient. As time goes on and takes more and more of a toll, you will need to take more steps to help them, but this is normally a gradual process over a period of a decade or more.

The key items to do in advance are primarily paperwork. In addition to a will and DNR, try to have copies of these documents:

  • Medical and financial powers of attorney
  • The front page of their passport
  • Copies of drivers licenses, insurance, and other basic IDs

The truth is, that these are good to have on hand largely in case something happens and they lose their wallet or purse, especially while traveling. (It would be a good idea for you to leave a complete set of all your IDS and basic legal documents with them for the same reason.)

In addition to Advanced Directives/DNR for the state they live in, it’s a good idea to have one for any state you reasonably expect the to visit or travel through. (DNRs are different in different states and specify what should be done in a medical emergency in terms of pain medication, feeding, and life-extending measures.) Of course, also have copies of any prescriptions and diagnoses they have, and a complete list of all their doctors’ names, addresses, emails, and phone numbers.

A HELPFUL TIP: Create a Grab-n-Go Binder for your elderly loved one. It should be stored in an easy-to-find location and you should have copies of its contents scanned and stored in the Cloud or on a thumb drive OR have hard copies in your own binder.

Single family home

Just because your elderly prepper is well enough to stay in their own home, doesn’t mean they will take care of emergency preparedness items. After all, most young people don’t either. Even small amounts of mental deterioration may make it hard for them to realize how dangerous certain situations are and what they need to do to be prepared, and sheer stubbornness may lead them to deny obvious danger signs.

There are certain emergencies most people are prepared for. Almost everyone knows the importance of smoke detectors and being prepared for a fire. Depending on the location, preparing for earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural hazards may be nearly as common place. These familiar events are a good place to start if the idea of prepping is new to them. Let’s face it. It’s a lot easier to talk about preparing for a tornado than bringing up topics like bug out bags and how they can handle two weeks without access to medical care or their prescriptions.

Smoke detectors are very nearly universal in all homes. Some, like the one linked in the last sentence, play a recorded message so you can direct family members what to do and where to go in a fire. Forgetting to check batteries in smoke detectors is almost as universal as owning them, so go ahead and do this when you visit elderly loved ones. They may find them hard to reach on their own, and testing the detector is also a good way to be sure they can still hear it. If they can’t, it’s time to switch to one with a strobe light.

We have emergency ladders to get out of every bedroom in our house in a fire. If your parents have one, can they still safely climb down it? If they fall, how hard is the surface they will land on? Even if they can still safely climb down, you need to make sure they have a safe area under their window in case they fall to minimize the chance of breaking a hip or other bones.

Once you have reviewed the preps that are in place, talk to them about any improvements you think they could use. As dull as it sounds, those might make a good gift. (Do you think they really want another coffee mug or dust collector?) A few suggestions for those are:

  • A bucket of just-add-water meals to provide food for a week or more. These meals are very lightweight and as long as your loved one can heat water to boiling, this food will provide the nourishment they need.
  • Large print road map. If the are still able to drive, this will be a huge help.
  • A “Panic Alert” emergency dialer
  • Waist pack, formerly “fanny pack”, to make sure they always have certain items with them, no matter what.
  • Small LED flashlights in each room. Velcro these to tabletops or other handy locations to make sure they don’t easily get lost.
  • Fashionable reading glasses, for the ladies.
  • A Kindle loaded with books, both for entertainment and reference. It’s easy to change the font size, so this really is a must-have for anyone with vision issues.

You can also talk about the need to improve their tornado/hurricane/earthquake/whatever preps. Even if they aren’t open to all your suggestions, they are still adults and you need to respect their choices, even ones you know aren’t smart, as long as they aren’t endangering anyone else.

Apartment living

Once your relatives can no longer care for a yard or remove snow from the driveway and sidewalk, it is probably time for them to move into a senior apartment, particularly if no one lives close enough to help. Their emergency preparedness needs will change when this happens. For example, even if they can still use an emergency ladder, it is time to replace it with something less physically taxing.

Part of moving from a home to an apartment is downsizing. They will have to get rid of a lot of stuff, some of which may be useful to you in your preps. Items I bought from an elderly woman moving into assisted living included wool throw blankets, high-quality hand-powered kitchen gadgets, cigarette lighters from back when they were daily use items, and really good gardening tools.

We all collect more stuff than we need, and your loved one may need help in sorting through their own household goods. If possible, and if there’s an urgent need for cash, help them organize and hold a yard sale.

With downsizing, it’s a good time to review their paperwork. Some of their doctors may change when they move, so be sure to check their list of doctors both right after they move and a few months later, when they have settled in a bit more. It’s possible you may be the one to seek out new doctors, so be ready to ask for referrals and do some research in order to find the best care in this new location. Sometimes transportation can become an issue at this stage, and that is something to keep in mind as new doctors are found.

In an emergency, elderly loved ones who are living on their own, should be able to pack for an evacuation, but will almost certainly need a list to work from. Create a list with them (in a large font!), post 1 or 2 copies in handy locations, then review it with them every six months or so to keep up with their health. You don’t want to have their cane on the packing list, only to end up at your destination and find that they are struggling without their walker. Put the list inside a plastic sheet protector with a dry erase pen and a facial tissue. The dry erase pen can write on the sheet protector, and the tissue can be used to wipe it off, making the packing list reusable.

TIP: The Survival Mom has written an entire, easy to read manual on the subject of Emergency Evacuations.

Assisted Living

When their condition deteriorates to the point that they can’t live on their own any more, they will need to move into assisted living. This option is for people with most of their abilities to live independently intact, just not enough to be on their own, to those with no ability to care for their daily needs. This move will also lead to another round of down-sizing.

Whatever their condition, an elderly person should be able to pack their own bag, or direct someone else to pack it. Some may need to have a very detailed checklist to follow while others may only need to be told “pack enough clothing for at least a week” and they will have everything they need, including toiletries, spare shoes, and sunscreen. You need to evaluate your loved one’s condition and give them the support they need to successfully pack themselves.

You should already have copies of all their prescriptions and diagnoses. Now it’s time to find out what medical equipment, if any, they will need. In this move, they shouldn’t need anything too large or expensive. The largest thing someone in assisted living is likely to need is an oxygen tank or wheelchair and keeping one or two spare tanks of oxygen handy. These don’t take a lot of space. Honestly, I have that much space dedicated to shoes I rarely wear.

Assisted living residents can also have their own bug out bags assembled and ready to go. These should contain copies of all the paperwork discussed in the last paragraph.

Nursing Home

By the time your elderly loved one is in a nursing home, you can’t count on them doing anything to help themselves in an emergency. At most, they will be able to pick up and carry their own emergency bag. Realistically, most people in a nursing home will be hard pressed to hold onto a bag while someone else pushes their wheelchair to the exit. You will need to have everything ready for them.

Unlike a person in their own home, their room will contain very few personal items. They will have downsized as much as they possibly can and are unlikely to have anything substantial beyond clothing, toiletries, and a few small items. You won’t need to have clothing pre-packed because you can take a bag and empty their drawers/closet into that bag as you are getting ready to leave. You can clear out the medicine cabinet/bathroom sink into a toiletries bag, making sure you have all their key medicines. The upside of having few belongings is that it takes only a few minutes to pack them up.

TIP: Prior to this move, be sure you have had discussions regarding personal belongings, real estate, and finances.

You should already have copies of their key paperwork and medications (discussed above). At this stage in their lives, you should ask their doctors and the nurses who oversee them on a day-to-day basis to find out what else they need. Will they need a bedpan, catheters, IVs, or other medical equipment? If so, you can buy those and have them ready in an emergency or at least be prepared to make arrangements as soon as possible after leaving the facility. Check frequently with facility administrators, nurses, and orderlies to keep up with any deterioration in their condition.


An elderly woman I help care for complained of “some leaking” when she woke up in the mornings. When we eventually moved her out of her apartment, her mattress showed how much she had been in denial about her incontinence problems. This is something no adult wants to admit, but it’s all too common among the elderly. If there is a chance you will be evacuating or otherwise in the car for a long time, you should pack disposable incontinence underwear for them, especially if there won’t be easy access to bathrooms.

Incontinence issues affect many people of all ages.

Before an emergency evacuation, tell the truth: You will be in the car for a long time and may not be able to get to a bathroom quickly. You have Depends, or some other brand, handy and let them make the choice whether or not to use them. If they are having problems, they will probably go ahead and use the Depends IF they can do it without being made to feel embarrassed or shamed. If they won’t do it for this reason, they probably won’t wear one for any other reason.

If you are concerned about a possible incontinence problem and they won’t use Depends, cover your seats with bed sheeting fabric. It’s about $4/yard at the fabric store, is waterproof, and feels like flannel. (It’s also great as a diaper changing pad for toddlers.)

“Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.”

Special Needs Preppers is a complete series of articles for every family with loved ones whose needs have been overlooked by most other survival and prepper blogs and websites. Most of us can’t fathom leaving behind a pet — how much more important is a grandmother, autistic child, or a bed-ridden loved one?

If you have other, helpful suggestions for any of these special needs preppers, please leave your comments.

elderly preppers

The Politics Of Our Great-Grandparents: What We Can (And Should) Learn From The Past

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The Politics Of Our Great-Grandparents: What We Can (And Should) Learn From The Past

“The votes were written on slips of paper brought from home—no sense in wasting the tax-payers’ money on printed ballots—and a straggling procession started for the ballot box, over which the moderator and clerk stood to insure an honest vote. The town half-wit cast his ballot with the rest, and as soon as his back was turned the clerk fished it out and pocketed it, a flagrantly illegal act condoned by everyone present on the premise that there warn’t no need to hurt his feelings.”

The above quote was taken from Louise Dickinson Rich’s memoir entitled “We Took to the Woods” (pp 303-304). Published in 1946, the book describes the author’s life in the remote mountains of western Maine around the time of the Great Depression.

The ballot event took place at the annual Town Meeting, a democratic process by which citizens of small municipalities dealt with matters of the town’s elections, budget, ordinances and other business. Town Meetings still take place today across much of New England, and much remains the same.

The Politics Of Our Great-Grandparents: What We Can (And Should) Learn From The PastA board of selectmen, best described as something like a town or city council, is still elected to be more or less in charge of the town’s overall operations. Warrants are still voted upon to determine such things as how much will be spent on road repair and how generous the town’s donations to various non-profits will be. Reports from various officials are given.

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There was no shortage of hotly contested issues back then, just like now. Rich describes the one that would inevitably crop up every year as “The Fighting Warrant,” about which people get all hot under the collars and sometimes even hurl personal attacks at people they would otherwise treat cordially.

Some of the similarities between then and now can be applied to a lot of other governing bodies of the 21st century, as well, from that of the tiniest hamlet right on up those in our nation’s capital.

But what of dismissing the ballot cast by a man with intellectual disabilities? And of referring to him by a term considered offensive and inappropriate by today’s standards? The rest of the section about the Town Meeting describes other interactions that would never fly in today’s world, too. Women sat apart from the men and largely ignored the proceedings, and were expected to slip out of the room before lunchtime to prepare and set out the food.

While we might be off put by the behavior and terminology that was considered acceptable back in the days of our great-grandparents, they may feel the same about some of the goings-on now if they could somehow transport into the present-day world. While it is true that some of what we now consider to be politically or socially taboo was acceptable in their world, it is probably also true that much of what is now acceptable would have been off-limits to them.

Like humanity of every era and every setting, our great-grandparents were imperfect beings.  Like people in politics before and since, they likely harbored prejudices, broke rules, acted irresponsibly, and embarrassed their loved ones from time to time. Just like folks of every generation do, they made disastrous laws and fell for the false promises of ill-intentioned public figures.

However, as a person who grew up immersed in conservative rural culture, my memory of yesteryear’s people and politics is an overall positive one. Despite inherent flaws, people in my past held political views which were often uncomplicated and gently moderate.

The Politics Of Our Great-Grandparents: What We Can (And Should) Learn From The PastOur great-grandparents could not even have imagined the concept of plastering memes to an electronic timeline touting the virtues of compassion, but they existed in a time when compassion was something people lived every day. I cannot picture anyone talking about it, but I remember plenty of people doing it.

They practiced inclusiveness, too. It looked different on the outside back then than it does today. It might have been better or worse than we do it now, but it was probably more peaceful.

People of that generation often aimed for being reasonable. They met in the middle when they could, instead of demanding to have things their way, giving the impression that they were interested in making things as many things right as possible for as wide a cross-section of people as they could.

Most people I knew kept a clear head about their political views, even if all of the subsequent actions were not always tranquil. They were often practical, accepting what had to be done and believing what made the most sense.

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It was important to folks in those days to be both respectful of others and respected by others. They acted in a manner which allowed them to hold their heads high, and allowed sufficient latitude to others that they might do likewise.

Genuine service to others was held in high esteem. It was not about grandstanding or making an appearance; it was about making a difference in one’s community and government.

Perhaps most importantly was the way our great-grandparents’ penchant for independence spilled over into their political views. They read the newspapers, they attended political speeches of substance, they mulled over the pros and cons, and they made their decisions on their own.

Nowadays, every ballot counts, women are a vital piece of the decision-making landscape, and gender does not dictate seating arrangements or work responsibilities. Those are all great things. But I cannot help but wonder if we might do well to take a page from the political book of our great-grandparents and use it to wipe away some of the ugliness of the current government scene. An old-fashioned blend of simplicity, balance, levelheadedness and individuality might be just the ticket for today’s politics.

Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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How To Make Butter At Home, Just Like Your Great-Grandparents Did

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How To Make Butter At Home, Just Like Your Great-Grandparents Did

Back in the day, your great-grandparents grew their own fruits and vegetables, raised their own livestock, and made their own foods.

One of the things that most everyone made in the kitchen was butter. The reason is simple: Most people had a few cows that they were milking and so, making your own butter was just a natural byproduct of that type of farm life.

So, how do you make your own butter just like your great-grandparents did?

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Read below to find out just how easy it really is.

Here are the tools you’ll need to make butter:

1. A butter churn with a glass bottom if possible. Small table-top churns will quite often use one- or two-quart mason jars as their container or bottom element and will work just fine.

2. A fine wire mesh strainer.

3. A wooden spoon.

4. A bowl to collect the buttermilk.

5. Wax paper.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

1. Two pints of heavy cream or whipping cream.

2. Really high quality flake salt. Flake salt is different than regular salt. Its shape resembles crystal flakes instead of being granular. This will impart the best flavor, and it mixes with the cold butter so much easier than the granular version.


How To Make Butter At Home, Just Like Your Great-Grandparents Did

Image source: Wikipedia

Making butter is quite simple. Here’s how you do it:

1. Let your two pints of cream sit out at room temperature, with the lid closed for 2 1/2 to 3 hours to ripen. This temperature increase will allow the butter to separate so much easier.

2. Pour both pints of cream into your butter churn.

3. Start turning the hand crank of your butter churn to begin the process. This will take 40 to 45 minutes for the butter really to separate. It will go through a few stages along the way and at one point will appear like it’s not working very well. Trust the process; all is going as planned. Now when you open it up you can see that the butter will now be separated from the buttermilk.

4. Strain the butter and buttermilk over the bowl we mentioned in the tools section. The great byproduct: You now also have buttermilk that you can use for many things such as biscuits, pancakes or just plain old drinking buttermilk. Be sure to use a wooden spoon and move the butter around in the strainer to get all the buttermilk off of it that you possibly can.

5. This next step is important. You need to rinse the butter with cold running water while it’s still in the strainer thoroughly. If you don’t, the buttermilk will sour and you’ll have bad butter. (If you ever have had bad butter that has soured, it’s nearly always because all the buttermilk wasn’t rinsed out.) As you’re rinsing it, massage the butter and move it around under the running cold water. This rinsing process should take at least five minutes to get all the buttermilk out.

6. Add a 1/4 teaspoon of your flake salt and blend that in. Taste your butter. If it’s not salty enough, add just a little more salt. Then, thoroughly re-mix and taste again.

Put your butter into wax paper and roll it into a log shape (easiest). Twist the paper ends tight and refrigerate.

Use and serve your newly made butter just as you would any other butter.

Final Thoughts

The big difference is that since you made it yourself, you know what went into it. There are some companies out there that are using chemicals to aid in the separation process and cut down on churning time. You know your butter is chemical-free.

The taste of homemade real cream butter is amazing. You’ll love it.


What butter-making tips would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

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9 (More) Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That We’ve All Forgotten)

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9 (More) Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That We’ve All Forgotten)

A while back, I wrote an article called “Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew.” It turns out that it was one of the most popular articles that has appeared in Off The Grid News, which got me thinking. What other skills have we lost — skills that were part of our ancestors’ day-to-day lives?

Personally, I think we’ve got to hand it to our grandparents and great-grandparents. They managed to do everything they needed, and they did it without smartphones, YouTube and Google. They were much more prepared to survive than you and I are, simply because life demanded it of them.

Here’s a few more skills that were common years ago:

1. Hitching a team

What are you planning on doing for transportation if there’s a disaster and the gas pumps are down? For a large part of our country’s history, the horse was the main motive power used. Not only did people ride them, but they hitched them to wagons, carriages and plows.

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Of course, the first problem is finding the horses, but even then, how do you put that horse to work? I seriously doubt you’ve got a set of harnesses hanging up in the garage, and even if you did, would you know how to put them on the horses? We’ve lost the art of saddle making, harness making and even the knowledge of how to hitch a team up to a wagon.

2. Shoeing a horse

9 (More) Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That We’ve All Forgotten)We tend to think of taking a horse to the blacksmith to get it shod. Blacksmiths, or more correctly, farriers, did shoe people’s horses in town. But on the farm or ranch most people did their own. It took too long to ride into town just to get your horse’s shoes shod. Considering that it needed to be done about every six weeks, it was easier to learn how to do it yourself than to keep interrupting your work.

Shoeing really isn’t all that hard and only takes a couple of specialty tools. Most farriers use factory-made shoes. The first automatic horseshoe-making machine was invented in 1835, but factory-made shoes predated that. Shoes could be bought at the local feed store and most horse owners kept a couple of sets on hand.

3. Birthing a calf

Most animals give birth pretty well on their own. After all, when a baby decides it’s time to come out there’s not much you can do to stop it. But what happens when the baby isn’t coming out correctly? Just like with people, calves and colts can be turned the wrong way, causing the equivalent of a breach birth.

When that happens, you’ve got to know how to go in and turn the calf or colt around, and you’ve got to do it quickly. If the baby isn’t turned, it may not be able to come out, causing it to die in the mother’s uterus. That usually causes the death of the mother, too.

4. Felling a tree

There’s a true art to properly felling a tree. If it’s not done correctly, that tree can end up landing on your chicken coop or your newly restored ’57 Chevy. Not only that, but you want to do the job in such a way that you waste as little wood as possible. Felling a tree incorrectly can actually cause the tree to split, damaging much of the wood you were hoping to harvest.

5. Turning that tree into boards

Felling the tree is one thing, but turning it into usable lumber is a whole other thing. If all you want is firewood, that’s not such a big deal. But if you want building material, you’ll want to be able to turn it into boards.

Today, just like 100 or even 300 years ago, it’s the job of a sawmill to turn those logs into boards. Before sawmills or in areas where sawmills weren’t available, people used wedges to split the tree’s trunk, making boards out of it. The boards could then be cleaned up with an adze. The adze also was useful for squaring logs into beams or flattening the top and bottom surfaces of logs, making a tighter log cabin.

6. Milking a cow

This one might not seem like a big deal, but it’s amazing how many people today don’t know the right way to milk a cow. It takes more than just pulling on the nipples. You’ve actually got to first close off the nipple with the thumb and forefinger to keep the milk from flowing up into the udder, and then squeeze the nipple to force out the milk.

7. Making butter and cheese

9 (More) Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That We’ve All Forgotten)Fresh milk is great, but it doesn’t keep long. Our forefathers and especially our foremothers solved this problem by turning the milk into butter and cheese. Since one cow gives more milk than the average family can use, this was a great way of preserving that milk in other forms.

It was not uncommon for families who owned a milk cow to churn butter once a month and have cheese aging pretty much all the time. Both are fairly easy to make and retain nutrients from the milk. Butter and cheese can both keep for an extended time without refrigeration, although keeping them cool does help them to last longer.

8. Wearing fabric

What are you going to do when your clothes run out? Make more, right? But what if you can’t find fabric? Can you weave it? For that matter, can you make thread or yarn from natural fibers so you have something to weave?

Few people have any idea of how to use a spinning wheel or a loom. Even fewer know how to build these machines.

9. Sewing clothing

Sewing clothes – or even making repairs to clothing – is fast becoming a lost art. A generation ago, all girls grew up learning how to sew. Today, few people even have a sewing machine, let alone know what to do with it.

When you consider how fast children grow and how many clothes they go through, the ability to make your own is a valuable skill.

What skills would you add to this list? Share your ideas in the section below:

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10 Things Our Grandparents Wish We All Knew

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10 Things Our Grandparents Wish We All Knew

The world we live in is certainly different from the one our grandparents were born into. Our resources, challenges, technology and opportunities have changed dramatically. But one thing has remained the same — we are still people. In our hearts, we remain the same kind of creatures our ancestors were.

Following are 10 things our grandparents – if they were around – probably wish we knew.

1. How to cook one’s own food from scratch. In the days of yesteryear, people cooked whole foods and ate at home. For most people in their generation, eating out was a treat, and buying a lot of ready-made food at a supermarket was unheard of.

2. How to fully commit. Past generations believed in marrying for life, devoting themselves to families forever, clinging to their ideals, and always keeping their word. They didn’t discard relationships or ideals when they ceased to be convenient. It was common in our predecessors’ day to devote oneself to a vocation, a lifestyle and a religion.

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Our older relatives grew up to understand that commitment is a gift.

10 Things Our Grandparents Wish We All Knew3. How to not quit. Our grandparents did not give up. They did what they had to do, because they had to do it. The old adage about trying and trying again rang true in their day, and it led to accomplishment, satisfaction and pride.

4. How to work hard. A strong work ethic was a cornerstone of our grandparents’ lives. They knew that even though a person might be lacking in education, luck, talent, connections, good looks, intellect or money — it could be made up for with hard work. They put their nose to the grindstone and made astonishing things happen.

Even if we can’t dance, don’t understand calculus, got rejected by Harvard, have a big nose, or weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouth, our grandparents may wish we knew that none of those things matters as much as hard work.

5. How to write thank-you letters. People who gave gifts to our grandparents never had to wonder whether or not they received it or if it was appreciated. Rules about thank-you letters were strict. Children in some households were not allowed to play with the new toys that came in the mail from relatives until they had written a proper thank-you. Most of our grandparents were brought up to consider it rude and ungrateful to accept a gift without sending a formal expression of gratitude.

There are probably a few grandparents out there today who would love to receive a sincere note of thanks.

6. How to pay attention and truly listen. Once upon a time, orators delivered very long speeches. Ordinary people would pack up the kids and a picnic lunch and listen for hours. Attention spans have gradually diminished over generations. In addition to orations, lectures, concerts and political debates, our elders were able to open their ears and their hearts and hear what was being said in person.

If they were alive, our grandparents would probably like to see us let go of entertainment-seeking behavior and make the effort to pay attention to that which is likely to be of consequence and meaning. Their personal stories might not ever become as popular as kitten videos on social media, but could turn out to be worth our while.

7. How to make do. Our grandparents grew up not demanding to have the best of everything. Instead of replacing their belongings when they became scuffed or unfashionable or showing signs of wear or no longer matching, they tried to use them as long as they could. They purchased the best quality they could afford, and made the best use of it as possible.

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If our grandparents could talk to us about consumerism, they might want us to know that having fancy new stuff is overrated. In the end, it’s just stuff.

10 Things Our Grandparents Wish We All Knew8. How to fix things. Calling a repairman was not always the first option, and throwing it out was always the last resort. Grandpa could string a few wires together and shore up a loose part to keep a portable radio or lawn mower running. Grandma could fix holes in mittens and rig up a splint on the dog’s leg if she had to.

The older generation may like to see people today learning repair skills. There is a lot of ingenuity and creativity in the world that can be put to good use in this way.

9. How to make and supply our own goods. Our grandparents’ generation prided itself on self-sufficiency. Many of them made laundry soap, cut firewood, butchered hogs, knit mittens, built wooden furniture, hand-tied animal halters, sewed clothing, quilted blankets, dug wells, constructed toys, put up fences and created décor.

We are probably not going to do as much for ourselves nowadays as our ancestors did. But they likely would wish we were a little more adept at making our own.

10. How to focus on what matters most. Our grandparents could prioritize.

To paraphrase an illustration used by life coach Stephen Covey, try filling a bucket with large rocks, small rocks, gravel and sand.

Imagine the big chunks are the important things in life — family, health, faith and values. The smaller the pieces of rock and particles, the less important.

If you start by filling the bucket with sand and gravel, there won’t be room for the large rocks. But if you place the big chunks into the bucket first, the smaller pieces can fill in the spaces around them.

Our grandparents would want that for us.

We all stand the chance of improving our lives by incorporating some lessons from the lives of our elders. Their wisdom and time-proven successes are of great value. By trying some of these things that they would wish we knew, we might well improve our lives, enhance the lives of those around us, and make our predecessors proud.


7 Reasons Your Great-Grandparents Were Happier Than You  

What would you add to this list? Share your suggestions in the section below:

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5 Everyday Items Your Great-Grandparents Repurposed (That You Should, Too)

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5 Everyday Items Your Great-Grandparents Repurposed (That You Should, Too)

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It’s a shame how wasteful the average American is today. Fortunately, for those who want to save some money or limit their contribution to the landfill, there are ways to reuse almost any common household object – just like our grandparents and great-grandparents did. Here are five things that you should really think twice about before throwing out:

1. Empty jars and bottles

Empty jars, bottles, food containers, etc. are all very useful. If you’re already inclined to repurpose things, your cabinets may be home to glass jars that were once used for jams, pickles and sauces, but now are sturdy drinking glasses. Mason jars also can be cleaned out and reused for canning.

Keeping nice glass jars is a no-brainer. But don’t forget about plastic containers as well. Food tubs can be thoroughly cleaned out and used for numerous things while saving you from having to buy Tupperware.

Very large plastic bottles or jugs can be used to store water for emergencies or cut to make handy scoops for pet food. Glass bottles with necks, like wine bottles, can be decorated and reused as vases or for other craft projects. These types of bottles and beer bottles also can be turned into drinking cups if the neck is cut off and you sand down the edge.

2. Old clothing and linen

Even heavily stained clothes or those with holes can be given new life. The most common way is to turn them into rags. Old shirts can be turned into DIY rugs or a throw blanket. Old denim can be reused that way as well.

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Don’t forget that clothing that is still in pretty good shape can just be patched up –  something our grandparents did far more often than we do today.

Aside from clothing you also can repurpose old linens. Sheets that are still in good shape can be turned into curtains. Worn-out sheets can be used as drop clothes for projects, turned into pet beds, or kept in your car as picnic blankets. Towels can be cut into rags or turned into braided rugs like the T-shirt project above.

3. Soap slivers

Image source: soapcinch.com

Image source: soapcinch.com

When you use up a bar of soap until it’s no longer easy to use or just breaks up into slivers in your hand, don’t throw it away. You can collect soap slivers and eventually make a whole new bar of soap.

Aside from using soap slivers to make a new bar you also can use them in a few other ways. Some sewing pros find that a small, hard sliver of white soap makes a perfect marker for drawing lines on fabric that will wash right out. You can put dried pieces of soap slivers in a small mesh or breathable bag and put them in dresser drawers, bags or the car to keep things smelling fresh.

4. Candle stubs

Similar to soap slivers, saving old candlewax is a good idea. Keep old candle stubs and scrape out old wax from jars. You can melt the wax from old candles if you are worried about breaking the jar. Once you have enough wax you can melt it all together to create a new candle (although you will need to buy or make a wick). Learn how to do it here.

Old wax also can be used to coat pine cones for homemade potpourri or used as a fire-starter if you layer some melted wax over an old egg carton or toilet paper tube. Some people keep leftover birthday candles to use for lubricating “sticky” zippers and for emergency fire-starters.

5. Old wood and furniture

Probably one thing that many people keep is old lumber, and for good reason. Scrap wood can easily be turned into awesome DIY projects.

Old furniture doesn’t need to be sent to the dump. You can salvage parts to create new furniture or to use in other projects around the homestead. Headboards can easily be turned into benches, coat racks or shelves. Dressers can be turned into kitchen islands or storage benches, and the drawers alone can be used for flower boxes, among other things.

Repurposing furniture can be really fun and is going to be a lot easier than starting from scratch with lumber. Turning old furniture into something new also is a great way of keeping a part of a loved piece of furniture in your home without sacrificing space.

What are some of your favorite ways of reusing or repurposing things around your home? Share your ideas in the section below:

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12 Off-Grid Ways Your Grandparents Re-Used Old Newspapers (That You Should Try)

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12 Off-Grid Ways Your Grandparents Re-Used Old Newspapers

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Over the past couple of decades, Americans has gone crazy for recycling. Most communities have a recycling program, and we feel good about saving our cans, bottles, boxes and newspapers and putting them at our curbs for a weekly pick-up.

But long before the phrase “reduce, reuse and recycle” was ever coined, your grandparents used their old newspapers for a wide variety of tasks.

As you develop a more frugal lifestyle, it is time to think of all the many ways you can repurpose newspapers in your own home and garden. Here are 12:

1. Glass and window cleaner. Crimple up some newspaper and then dip it into a mixture of one part white vinegar and three parts water. You will get streak-free results that are much better than with any chemical-laden commercial window cleaner and cloth. Hint: Wear rubber gloves. The newsprint will not transfer to your windows, but it might get on your hands if you’re not careful.

2. Fire starter. Try tightly rolled pieces of newspaper as fire starters for your fireplace, bonfire or outdoor grill.

3. Seed pots. You can make your own seed pots by following these easy steps:

  • Cut sheets of newspaper in halves or thirds, depending on the size of seed pot you want. Avoid pages with color because the ink contains heavy metals.
  • Roll the newspaper so that it circles a glass jar or aluminum can with a few inches of paper, also extending above the opening of the container.
  • Push the paper that is above the container opening inside, so that the pieces are securely wrapped around the lip of the jar or can.
  • Turn the container over and gently remove the jar or cup.
  • Use the bottom of the jar or can to tamp down the inverted ends, so the bottom of the newspaper pot is secure.
  • Add soil and seeds, and the seed pot is ready to plant. The newspaper holds moisture so that your growing plant will not be over- or under-watered.

4. Weed barrier. Use newsprint to block weeds out of a raised bed. Simply cover the bed with layers of newspaper and water the paper before you fill the bed with dirt and other organic matter. The newsprint will help keep weeds out and moisture in.

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5. Gift wrap. Forget store-bought wrapping paper. Newsprint works great. You can even customize your gifts by using the sports sections for sports fans, the fashion section for the fashionistas on your gift list or the Sunday comics for kids. Shredded newspaper also makes for a great filling for gift baskets or gift bags.

6. Packing. You can use your newspaper to wrap your valuables when you are moving or shipping items. It is lightweight, effective and you can’t beat the cost.

12 Off-Grid Ways Your Grandparents Re-Used Old Newspapers

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7. Liner paper. Use your newspaper to line drawers and shelves in your pantry or in your refrigerator. It will help absorb spills and odors.

8. Fruit ripener. Did you know you could hasten the ripening process along of certain fruits by wrapping them in newspaper? The next time you have under-ripe avocadoes, peaches or other fruit, give this trick a try.

9. Compost. Add strips of newspaper into your worm bin and mix well with your grass clippings. The paper helps absorb odors and makes a great bedding for your worms.

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10. Kitty litter box. Use newspaper to line you litter box. It is cheap and effective. You also can use layers of newspaper to housetrain your new puppy.

11. Shoe and boot shaper. Use rolls of newspaper in your shoes, boots and handbags to help them keep their shape between wearing or using.

12. Furniture and counter protector. Do you have a messy cooking or cleaning job to do? Place sheets of newspaper down on your work surface before you begin. It not only protects your floors and furniture from damage, but it makes clean-up a breeze.

Newspapers are printed on uncoated ground wood paper (called newsprint), which is made by grinding wood pulp without removing the lignin and other components of wood pulp.

By weight and volume, newspapers are the largest part of most curbside recycling program. Before you throw this Sunday’s paper in the recycling pile, why not first think about all the jobs you can do with it yourself?

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5 ‘Forgotten Foods’ Your Grandparents Ate That You Should, Too

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5 ‘Forgotten Foods’ Your Grandparents Ate That You Should, Too

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It seems as though our grandparents and great-grandparents were overall much healthier, despite having lived off of a diet high in fat, meat and carbs. There is a lot of debate and varying opinions about why past generations seemed healthier. Regardless of what you believe, you can’t deny that diet is a major factor in health.

Here are 5 foods that were common on the dinner plate that you may want to add to your diet.

1. Homemade butter

If you’ve never had homemade butter, you’re really missing out. Butter made from grass-fed raw milk is absolutely delicious and loaded with nutrients to boot. Fat is nothing to fear when it’s from a source like this.

The benefits of homemade butter are numerous, including:

  • Is a high source of easily absorbable vitamin A.
  • Is loaded with antioxidants which protect against free radicals and fortify arteries.
  • Is rich in vitamins E, K and D.
  • Helps reduce stiffness in those with arthritis.
  • Helps keep the brain and nervous system performing well.
  • Helps protects and heals gastrointestinal infections.

Making homemade butter isn’t difficult and you don’t need a churn. All you will need is milk, a little salt and either a mixer or a simple jar.

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2. Organs

In past generations organs were certainly not wasted and often relished as a tasty, nutritious meal. Even though not everyone is a fan, it is well-worth it to add them to your diet every now and then.

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Some of the best types of organs include:

  • Heart (beef, lamb and chicken) – technically a muscle.
  • Liver (beef).
  • Brain (any).
  • Kidney (beef).

Other options are tripe and tongue.

Organs tend to be an acquired taste, and generally beef organs are a little milder compared to lamb, mutton, pig, etc. Organs are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fats and amino acids. Liver is particularly nutritionally powerful and actually has the highest amount of vitamin A of any foods. An added bonus of these organs is how inexpensive they tend to be.

3. Bone broth

5 ‘Forgotten Foods’ Your Grandparents Ate That You Should, TooBone broth or bone stock is another food item that many people pass up, instead buying a premade stock from the grocery store. This is a real shame, since homemade bone broth isn’t just more delicious but also very healthy. Plus, it reduces waste by using up those leftover beef or chicken bones.

Bone broth can be made from really any bones, even fish (which is quite popular in Asian cuisine). This protein-packed elixir is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Even studies have proven that chicken bone broth truly does help get rid of a cold! Read this article to learn how to make it.

You can use your bone broth in a soup or simply drink a mug of it.

4 Fermented foods

While some cultures still eat a lot of fermented foods, most Americans don’t — save perhaps for pickles. Since most people don’t rely on canning to preserve their foods, the use of fermentation isn’t really common. For past generations, fermentation was used more often to increase the longevity of food. The fermentation process also gives different nutrition.

Some of the most common fermented foods include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Kimchi
  • Salsa

While some of the above fermented foods are from different cultures, they are still a healthy food you can enjoy. Properly fermented foods are filled with vitamins, minerals and probiotics. These will, of course, vary depending on the vegetables you use. There are also different methods for fermenting produce.

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Some recipes require a brine, like pickles, while other foods, such as sauerkraut, can be lacto-fermented. Lacto-fermentation simply uses salt and spices, along with water. Some sauerkraut and kimchi recipes use no water. Instead, the salt naturally pulls moisture from the produce.

You can find tons of at-home pickle and other fermented food recipes online. I highly recommend you give them a try. Aside from health benefits, it is also a great way to ensure you don’t waste extra produce from your garden.

5. Wild game

Hunting is still a popular hobby in many parts of the US, but it’s safe to say that most of our grandparents or great-grandparents ate wild game much more often. Wild game, both large and small, offer health benefits that many normal meats from livestock don’t.

As a whole, wild game is far leaner than beef, pork or lamb. The meat is also believed to be nutritionally superior, because the animals ate what they were supposed to eat. Rather than consuming grains and hay, deer and elk eat a variety of fresh foods. Compared to most commercial livestock, meat from wild game is much higher in omega-3 fatty acids.

As mentioned before, it isn’t just big game like deer, elk or antelope that is good for us. Don’t forget about small game like rabbits and even squirrel. If you live in a rural area but don’t hunt, ask your neighbors or friends that do hunt if you could buy off a portion of their deer or other animal from them. Most wild game takes a little getting used to for some people, while others find that they taste delicious. It is definitely worth a try!

Please share your favorite meals and/or recipes your grandparents may have passed down to you in the comment section below!

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7 Items Your Great-Grandparents Stockpiled That You Should, Too

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7 Items Your Great-Grandparents Stockpiled That You Should, Too

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It’s easy to think that the modern preparedness movement is a unique phenomenon. Most of us grew up during a time when the economy was growing, the government seemed to be more responsive to the will of the people, and everyone was busy chasing the American Dream.

But if we go back farther, to the time of our grandparents or great-grandparents, we find that what some call “prepping,” they called life. They didn’t have a movement, they had a lifestyle. And that lifestyle assumed that bad things would happen, so they’d better be ready.

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So it is useful to understand what others did before. After all, they had generations of experience backing up their actions, not just the voices of a few survival instructors and writers. Many of the things they did came out of years of experience, as generation after generation faced calamity and learned from it. So, when we learn from our grandparents, we learn from that accumulated knowledge.

1. Heating fuel

Anyone who heated with wood learned to start stockpiling it early. Felling, bucking, hauling and splitting trees for firewood is a long, difficult process. They couldn’t get by with having just a little on hand, either; they needed a lot. When wood is your only way to heat, you want to make sure you’ve got enough.

Working on the firewood pile was something that was done whenever there was time. Once the spring crops were in and there was a break in the farm’s schedule, they’d start cutting. That would continue, as their work schedule allowed. The earlier the pile could be built, the better, as the wood needed time to season and dry before it could be used.

This meant that they always had an ample supply of firewood available for their cooking and heating. It was rare to find a home without a stack of firewood behind it, and that stack was often piled up to the eaves of the home.

2. Candles

candlesWhen your only light is coming from the fireplace or from candles, you don’t want to run out. Past generations largely relied on sunlight and went to bed earlier. And people slept more in the cold winter, simply because of the shorter days and lack of light. But there was still the need for additional light, and candles were important.

Candle making, like cutting wood for the fire, was something that was done whenever there was an opportunity. You never knew how many candles you needed. So in a sense, there were never enough. When you had the necessary materials, you’d look for an available opportunity to set aside time to build up your candle stock.

Some people would actually set aside a candle-making area, keeping their wax melted so that they could dip them every couple of hours, throughout the day. Dipped candles take time and by interspersing that task with others, they would get more out of their day.

3. Tools

This may not seem much like a stockpiling item, but it is. In our modern society, we are used to having other people do things for us. We call a plumber when we need one and hire a carpenter when the screen door is broken. And few of us know how to change the oil in our cars, instead asking a mechanic to do it for us.

In the generation of our grandparents, people did more for themselves. While there were plumbers and mechanics around, they were hired by the wealthy, not by the average person. They would try and do it themselves, unless the job was more than they could handle. Hence the joke among plumbers about charging a higher hourly rate for jobs where the person tried it themselves first.

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It was normal for a boy to grow up learning a little bit of plumbing, a little bit of carpentry and a little bit of auto mechanics from his dad. By the time he reached adulthood, the average American boy had his own tool kit built, ready to tackle those jobs on his own. Then, when disaster struck, he was ready.

4. Scraps of stuff

I clearly remember my grandma and other women of her generation being hoarders. They would save all sorts of things, from scraps of fabric to candle stubs. It wasn’t so much that they wanted to have those things, but that they could still see value in them. That old shirt could be cut up and the good parts used in making a quilt, while the rest could be used for a rag. The candle stubs could be melted down and used to help make new candles.

Throwing containers away was almost unheard of. Few people bothered buying plastic storage containers for their kitchens. Instead, they would use a container that something else came in. Everything from barrels to burlap sacks had a use, making the containers almost as valuable as what had come inside them.

This also greatly eliminated the pollution caused by throwing things away. When old things can be turned into useful things, there’s no reason to throw them away.

5. Money

spend money without being trackedMaybe you’re not old enough to say this, but my grandparents lived through the Great Depression. They were children then, but nevertheless it impacted them greatly. They knew what it was to be without and they knew how hard it was to live without money. So they were careful with its use, never wasting.

The idea of spending seven dollars for a cup of coffee would probably give most people of that era a heart attack. Even the dollar and a half or two dollars they charge in a restaurant for a normal cup of coffee is a lot. They’d order water and enjoy that, having their coffee when they got back home.

While this attitude of frugalness may seem a bit strange to people today, there was good reason for it. There also was great benefit from it. Those people always had money. Maybe they didn’t make a lot and maybe they didn’t live like kings, but they always had money. When a need came up, they had the money in the bank to pay for it. I’ve seen those people buy cars and pay cash for them.

6. Food

The idea of stockpiling food is probably older than civilization itself. As long as mankind has been able, we have stockpiled food to get through the winter. In many parts of the world, one’s very survival depended upon having enough food stockpiled to make it through the cold and snow of the winter months, until game animals were out in abundance again.

All of our food preservation techniques were developed as part of this annual challenge. Food that couldn’t be kept was just about as bad as food that had never been found. While preserved foods may not be as tasty as fresh foods, they will keep people alive.

As far back as ancient Egypt we find evidence of people preserving food. The tombs of the pharaohs always contained food for them to consume in the afterlife. The Bible records this, showing how Joseph was promoted to Prime Minister of Egypt for interpreting the Pharaoh’s dream and his wisdom in knowing what to do to prepare for the oncoming disaster.

At a minimum, canning food was common in our grandparents’ day. They would can produce from their garden or produce that they had purchased at the store. Many also would smoke meats as well as making their own sausage. These were all means of preparing foods, so that they would have enough to make it through the winter or whatever else came.

7. Goodwill

Finally, the most important thing I remember my grandparent’s generation stockpiling was goodwill. What? That doesn’t sound like something to stockpile to you? Well it is. You see, when you stockpile goodwill, it’s like money in the bank. Then, when you befall a calamity, people run to help.

As a society, we have become more self-centered in general. We don’t bother ourselves with other people’s problems. We leave them to take care of themselves. Oh, occasionally we hear a story of a community gathering around someone who is hurting, but those stories are too rare. In my grandparent’s generation, that was common. When one person was hurting, everyone who could lent a hand.

Lending a hand like that is how you stockpile goodwill. Then, when you have a need, others remember what you’ve done for them. They are more likely to help you out, simply because you have done so for them.

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