Old Fashioned Homemaking Skills We Still Need

Modern conveniences and busy schedules have made modern housekeeping faster and less hands-on. But what important, old fashioned homemaking skills have we lost? Here are some ideas to inspire you, and tips to get you started.

1. Gardening

garden produce and flowers on blue and white tea towel

Decades ago, all homes had vegetable gardens, even city homes.  Fresh produce was expensive to buy, homes were on larger lots, and growing your vegetables just made sense.  

Today food is less expensive to buy and we have less time and space.  Gardening is currently enjoying a resurgence, but many people are likely to try it and give it up, or see it as just a hobby.

But for the old fashioned homemaker, keeping a home garden was a given.   That doesn’t mean that everyone was living off the land! Definitely not. But vegetable gardens were expected as a way to supplement the family’s diet and help save a little money.   

It is debatable whether gardening still saves money.  But as food prices increase, it seems more and more valuable, and it’s a skill that you have to build over time.  Why not start small and learn what you can? Don’t forget about cutting flowers as well, which are the perfect way to give your house charm and coziness in the spring and summer.

If you have any amount of outdoor space at all, gardening is a worthy activity.  Everyone can have a few herbs in pots at least.  

Related: how to have an old fashioned summer

More on gardening:

2. Preserving Seasonal Food

canned jalapeños on marble surface with basket in background

Hand in hand with gardening is preserving the harvest.  Canning, dehydrating, and other ways to preserve food help homemakers avoid waste and live seasonally.

Even if you don’t garden, you can preserve food.  (Remember Blueberries for Sal and the mother going foraging for wild blueberries to can?)   You can frequent farmer’s markers, ask friends for produce, and even preserve grocery store items.  This can actually be very cost effective when you buy good sale prices on foods you really eat.

Even though canning is one of the most important traditional homemaking skills, make sure you are using modern resources for canning recipes and techniques.  A lot has changed over the years in terms of best practices for canning, and many old fashioned recipes are no longer considered safe, unfortunately.

Interested in food preservation for beginners?

3. Baking Bread

old fashioned loaf of bread made at home

Baking bread is one of the best ways to revive a vintage homemaking skill, because anyone can do it.  Homemade bread is so much better than store bought and it definitely saves money.

Even though it takes quite a bit of time to bake bread, most of it is hands off time and it can easily be fit into the rhythm of your day.  Bread baking is something that has become much easier with modern inventions like bread machines and instant yeast. But it is good to know how to do it without any of these things too.  Once you get used to yeast breads, branch out into sourdough and kneading by hand. They are timeless skills that help you reduce your dependence on store bought supplies.

Baking bread is my favorite vintage skill and I have a lot of information on it here!

4. Cooking from scratch

homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese on white plate

Old fashioned homemakers did not have the luxury of any mixes or pre-made meals.  Everything was made from scratch out of necessity. But keep in mind that most meals were very simple (like beans and cornbread for dinner simple). 

When you transition to cooking everything from scratch, it’s best to get there slowly. First: stop buying things that are expensive, like fully prepared meals. Then give up boxed mixes and instant side dishes. Then work up to making even more things yourself, like mayonnaise and spice mixes (if you want to!).

Now just because cooking from scratch is an old fashioned skill doesn’t mean you can’t use modern conveniences. If you have a deep freezer, slow cooker, or pressure cooker, take advantage of them!

Tips on how to cook from scratch:

Ready to settle into a slower, simpler life at home? Download your free guide: 3 Simple Steps to a Homemaking Routine You’ll Love.

5. Planning ahead

gravel driveway with woods and white fence

Running a household has a lot of moving parts.  And often we get so caught up in the details of day to work like picking up toys and making dinner that we forget bigger picture items.

Old fashioned homemakers did not plan elaborate events or vacations, but their day-to-day life followed a routine, as did their weeks. The housekeeper was also in charge of the grocery list and meal planning. A century ago, if a family had a lot of money, this might be the only task of the homemaker, and everything else was done by servants! Think of the term “managing” the home. That’s what this is. Thinking about what is needed, ahead of time, and being ready.

Don’t forget to plan down time for yourself and your family as well.

Want to create an old fashioned homemaking routine?

6. Sewing

I have attempted sewing many a time but am absolutely terrible at it.  I’ve managed to make a few pillow covers and curtains, and there’s nothing like admiring your own handiwork (even when it isn’t perfect!).  

 Sewing does not save you much money, if any, unless you are very clever about reusing fabric and getting deals.  But it’s such a satisfying and productive hobby! And if you really think about why clothing and other fabric goods are so inexpensive, it is definitely worth the effort and expense to make nicer quality, longer lasting things.

To learn more about sewing:

  • I personally find it easier to just dive in with a project using old fabric, rather than reading incessantly about it. It doesn’t make much sense unless you actually doing it.
  • A very simple project, like this great cloth napkin tutorial, is best.
  • If you like ordering fabric online, fabric.com has a huge selection.

7. History Keeping

photo wall gallery of family pictures running up stairs

Don’t forget about this, as it is one homemaking skill that will outlive you, long after every loaf of bread is eaten!   Old fashioned homemakers were able to simply save photographs, letters, and the family Bible. Every photograph and letter was likely to be special.

But today, our homes are filled with junk papers and with so many things being digital, devoid of special photos and letters.  So it’s our job to make memories and record history more consciously. Don’t just keep your pictures trapped on your phone, get them printed and hang them up!  Consider an easy journal with a few lines a day so that you have a real memento you can pass down.

Tools for the home historian:

  • I use this little journal to write just a line a day for a memento that (I hope) my children will treasure.
  • Set aside a time every month or every quarter to print and frame photos. Photo printing website are always offering specials, so shop around
  • If you have a large amount of photos stored online, make sure your password is in a safe place that someone else could access if something happens to you.

8. Soap Making

homemade soap with bumblebee design and purple wildflower

This is one that people think is really weird! But it is so satisfying and simple that everyone should try it at least once.

Soap making saves you money and also is great way to give handmade gifts that people will really use. You can also make a small amount of money selling soap, or more money if you are willing to make it on a large scale.

Are you soap making curious?

Vintage vs. modern housekeeping

Of course, things are different today.  Many women work outside the home and even stay at home moms have a lot of expectations related to their children’s school and activities.  

These old fashioned homemaking skills are not things that we can expect everyone to know and do on a regular basis. But if you are feeling the need to look inward and pull in your sails a little, try mastering one of the things on this list.

And don’t forget to count your blessings and be content. Perhaps the most valuable skill of all.


Click here to subscribe By on November 5th, 2019

22 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Homemaking Skills We Still Need”

  1. I enjoyed reading this! A few years ago, I had a homemaking schedule much like this one. Life happened and I got away from it. This was a pleasant reminder that I want to get back to using something like this. I loved knowing basically what I was doing each day. Since then, my boys have grown up. We have adopted a girl who is now 17, about a year and a half ago, and we homeschool her too. I need to get back to doing this as I want her to know these things as well. Thank you for this!

    Reply
  2. I found so many interesting things in this post. I have been eager to turn my brown thumb into green and enjoyed the tips you provided here. I love the idea of bringing back these skills that are being lost. Thank you for inspiring me!

    Reply
  3. Sewing clothes is definitely not a money saver any more. When I started my first job, I was able to run up five simple outfits for what in today’s money would be about $15 each. With the cost of fabric, patterns and sewing accessories like zippers and buttons that would easily be $35 now. Being able to mend and alter clothes, on the other hand, can save a tiny fortune.

    Reply
    • good point about mending. I do think that it you get much higher quality clothes when you sew them though (well I don’t because I’m terrible at it, but you probably do!) 🙂

      Reply
  4. Enjoyed reading your information . Do you remember the name of a woman author who wrote about basic homemakng skills? She wrote about preserving, candel making,
    Essential oils, etc. she was very creative.
    First name might have been Prudence.
    Thanks

    Reply
    • hmm I don’t know. I do have a very old and wonderful book by a woman named Janet chapman called “how to live on nothing and have plenty”. you might enjoy that one 🙂

      Reply
  5. Thank you, Katie! This is really helpful, and I will take full advantage of all the links you added. Though I am 45 and working full time, I am doing everything on your list apart from soap making – which I really want to try some time!

    Reply
  6. I’m 65 and have done all of these things except making soap, but I can weave and knit. I wasn’t taught these things growing up but learned them on my own. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic I am truly grateful that I took the time to learn these skills. I live in the suburbs but you can still practice many of these things.

    Reply
  7. Hi Katie,
    This is a great post on vintage homemaking skills. I love the entry about making food from scratch. Many people don’t know that you can make your own mayonnaise or spice blends. Definitely a money saver. Not to mention, think how much healthier the U.S. would be if we practiced these things. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  8. Maybe because I’m 78, I have done all these things. One of my daughters’ called me a few years ago and congratulated me on how “green” I was being when she was young. I made our yogurt, ground our wheat and made bread, grew our sprouts and even used TVP (texturized vegetable protein) in place of some meat. Froze or dried extra garden produce, etc. Told her it wasn’t being “green”, it was frugal!! We had 7 kids.

    Reply
  9. Love this post Katie!! ???? I love romanticizing the past and it’s so fun to try and revive some of those lost skills. I am thankful for modern conveniences! But I really do enjoy the challenge of living a little less modern ???? I can’t wait to try more of the things on this list. I’d love to spend time on one at a time and get really good at it instead of dipping my toes and moving on. Anyways!! Such a great post and so many awesome resources. Thank you!

    Reply
  10. I love this list and your blog. I was raised by working parents in the 90s and I don’t have a lot of these homemaking skills. I’ve been home with my sons for three years now and finally feel like I’m approaching this list. The first three years at home were lived in survival mode and now I’m cooking, working out, and organizing. We live in the country-side of suburbia, where we have sidewalks but I can see a barn and a cow from the backyard.

    I’m going to try some of this list. Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration.

    Reply
    • That’s such a great point about life with very little people being all about survival mode! Thank you so much the comment. ??

      Reply

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