My Great Grandma Alma was a young woman during the Great Depression and a young mother during WWII. Her daughter, my grandma was a housewife, my mom was a housewife and now I am too. Although all of us housewives have to make sacrifices to afford to stay home, we also save a fortune if we do it right. Great grandma taught me some of the essentials of being a great housewife when I was just a pre-teen and how she survived the Great Depression by being smart with what she had. Here are 9 things my grandma never threw away. Save money and live greener with these clever vintage housewife tips....
Never pitch fabric because you can always use it for something new. In grandma's time, ladies sewed dresses from beautifully printed feed and flour sacks or whipped up a little girl's dress from her mother's old dress. A man's suit could be cut and sewn to make one for a lady and any remaining scraps would become an heirloom quilt. Today, most of us won't be hacking up hubby's old suit to make one for ourselves but we can still apply this make-do and mend mentality. Learn basic sewing repairs to extend your family's wardrobe. I've rescued so many pairs of my husband's jeans with a new zipper or hem, darned a favorite sweater for myself and my sister and made a big stack of great dish rags with threadbare towels. Even an old sheet can be sewn into new pillow cases or a little summer dress. I used old sheets and scrap fabric to make some much loved Christmas gifts for my kids last fall and they didn't cost a penny. I made giant Nessie stuffed animals, softie dolls, furnished a dollhouse and sewed the entire 1959 Barbie wardrobe with a bunch of fabric scraps.
Depending on the first-time use, some foil may be beyond a second life but if it can be rinsed off, use it again! Re-use foil to cover left overs more than once or wad it up, stick it in a potato or onion bag and you have a great pan scrubber that you didn't have to buy. One winter, our car wouldn't start so my husband popped the hood to find that the battery terminals weren't looking so hot. He used a small wad of tin foil to scrub the corrosion off the terminals and the car fired right up and ran without any problems.
Buttons on shirts
Even in 2016, buttons are expensive! With a 50% off coupon, I'll easily spend $1 or more for a lousy pack of 4 buttons. Thanks to grandma, I never throw away worn clothes that still have their buttons. Re-use buttons on clothes you've sewn yourself or to replace lost buttons. I also take zippers from worn jeans, pants and dresses. With a good stock of buttons in a jar, you'll rarely need to buy any, which brings me to our next no-pitch item
Jars, boxes, jugs or any container
Great grandma must have been quite the jar hoarder because the jar obsession has passed down to my grandma, my mother and now me. We rarely pitch a jar, be it glass or plastic, big or small! Use jars for spices and grains in the kitchen, to hold your hair ties, q-tips and cotton balls in the bathroom. My husband has jars of screws and nails in his workshop and I use them in my sewing room, cleaning cabinet and of course, one with holes in the lid so the kids can catch critters in the summer. Decorate jars so you can keep them out in the open and no one will guess that they may have deemed them ready for the trash can. Mason jars are now selling for a pretty penny, especially the colored vintage looking ones. Color your own for a trendy look on a dime store budget. My mom made her own Moroccan inspired lanterns from old spaghetti sauce jars.
Save boxes as well. Shoe boxes are worth their weight in gold in my house. We use them for our craft supplies, snack organizers in the pantry, holiday decor storage and kids school projects. Break boxes down to store flat, if you're low on space.
Bones from a chicken or cut of meat | Veggie Scraps
My family loves a rotisserie chicken or nice roast for dinner and the left-over bones make wonderful stock. A box of chicken stock costs around $2-3 at my local grocery stores but it's easy to make your own for free. Keep a freezer bag in the freezer and toss veggie scraps and chicken carcasses in the bag. When you're ready for a great soup this winter, toss the contents in a pot of water, season with herbs, salt and pepper. In the Great Depression house, not a scrap of food was wasted.
This one won't be for everyone but the truth is, Great grandma never threw away a diaper because she used cloth. When my daughter was born, I was a stay at home mom with plenty of extra time for laundry so we decided to give it a shot and try cloth diapers to save money like grandma used to do. Just shake solids into the toilet and flush away and have enough on hand to wash about every two days. Stains are quickly bleached away by hanging in the sun. We saved a fortune and we never added a diaper to the landfills. And a fluffy cloth diapered butt is so cute! Now that my kids have outgrown their diapers, we've sold the ones in good shape on Craigslist and saved the rest for great cleaning rags.
To this day, many of my family members hang on to bacon fat. Oil and lard costs money so why pitch that flavorful, wonderful bacon grease? Keep one of those recycled glass jars in the kitchen to store bacon fat. Add it to gravy, soup, cornbread, potato salad and potato cakes. Bacon fat keeps in the fridge for a month.
My home was built in 1930 and we've found old newspaper in the walls as insulation! Grandma may have used newspaper for : gift wrap (use the funnies!) glass cleaner, storing breakables, compost, starting seeds, make a pinata, packaging material in the mail, pet cage liner or to start a fire
Those pointless little slivers from a soap bar can still be put to use. Put the scraps of bar soap in an old pantyhose leg or worn out stocking and tie it off. Stick it by the sink for kids (who, in my house use way too much liquid soap) or next to the garden sink.
If you enjoyed this post, read my other vintage housewife tips