7 Old Fashioned Skills That Save You Money

By Ashley Marcin on 20 February 2015 2 comments

Home brew? Urban gardens? What's old is new again, and those old fashioned homemaking skills from yesteryear are often more eco-friendly, sustainable, and — yes — less expensive than modern conveniences. They're also easy once you get into a routine. (See also: 18 Awesome, Practically Free, Upcycled Craft Projects)

So, check out these important skills from yesteryear that let you live on the cheap today. You may even develop some new hobbies in the process.

1. Bread Baking

Have you paid attention to the prices in the bread aisle recently? No, really. Store bought bread is expensive and contains all sorts of strange ingredients. I've started baking most of our bread at home to save money and keep our food simple. Some of the best recipes I make require nothing more than flour, yeast, and water. The rest is in the mixing, rise time, and actual baking. Start with this ubiquitous no-knead bread recipe by master baker Jim Lahey. You'll let it rise overnight and then bake in a Dutch oven for an amazingly crisp crust. (See also: A Beginner's Guide to Homemade Bread)

2. From-Scratch Everything

In the past, most people actually made their pantry items from scratch. For example, oat flour is nothing more than rolled oats pulsed in your food processor. Same goes with almond meal. With some practice, you can blend together an amazing batch of hummus that costs half as much as its store-bought counterpart. The list goes on. And after a while, making wholesome foods in your own kitchen becomes automatic. (See also: 35 Grocery Items You Should Make at Home)

3. Food Preservation

Eating local, seasonal produce is usually the cheapest, healthiest option for feeding your family. But what about in the off season? Instead of forking over extra cash to eat tomatoes from who-knows-where in January, consider learning the re-emerging art of canning. You'll need a few tools and some know-how (I love the Food In Jars book, which breaks down the method of small batch canning into bits and pieces). I have yet to master it fully, so I choose to prep and freeze a lot of my ingredients to enjoy year round — most produce lasts a year this way. You can also pickle and dehydrate foods for unique taste and texture. (See also: How to Preserve In-Season Foods for Off-Season Feasts)

4. Gardening

Better yet, learn how to grow your own food in your backyard (or, for those of you with small outdoor spaces, on your patio). There are a number of hearty plants even beginners can cultivate and harvest with much success. Start with easy-to-grow beets, snap peas, carrots, radishes, squash, peppers, lettuce, and a variety of herbs, like dill, cilantro, and basil. Just be sure to pay attention to the soil, light, and watering suggestions on your seeds' or plant's guide. (See also: Get a Great Container Garden Started With This Guide)

5. Sewing

There was a time not so long ago when a hole in a shirt didn't mean it was fated for the donation or garbage pile. Instead, a quick stitch would fix it right up like new. By learning how to sew, you can also customize your wardrobe and even add new wearables for very little cash. Get started by picking up an inexpensive sewing kit or a needle and thread. Then learn some beginner mending techniques, like how to sew on a button, repair small holes, and fix torn seams. It's a lot of under-over-under-over and tying off to finish. (See also: 20 Cute and Frugal Clothes You Can Sew for Your Kids)

6. Cleaning Basics

There weren't a lot of brightly packaged cleaning products back in the day. Instead, people made their own cleaners and solutions at home. Here are five laundry detergent recipes to get you started. I've saved a bundle of money (and plastic) by making laundry soap at home, and my clothes are just as fresh and clean. All-purpose cleaning is also made simple with a mixture of 1:1 vinegar and water solution. Pour them together in a spray bottle and get busy cleaning. Add some alcohol to the bottle (a couple tablespoons) to make a streak-free window and mirror cleaner. (See also: How to Clean Everything With 3 All-Natural Cleaners)

7. Soap Making and More

Even the whole bath and body DIY phenomenon has its roots in the past. After all, the general store didn't carry limitless products and solutions. Of course, you can get fancy by mixing together bath bombs and homemade sunscreens. I like to stick with the basics and use coconut oil as a moisturizer. Melting together olive oil, beeswax, and essential oils makes a quick and useful vapor rub. Once you acquire the core ingredients, you can make most anything yourself. (See also: 50 Amazing DIY Bath and Body Products)

What old timey skills do you rely on?

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Guest's picture

Not "skills," exactly, but some of the old-fashioned things we enjoy doing that also save money include making our own chicken and turkey bone stocks, hanging our laundry to dry, and making our own liqueurs and infused liquors. None of these activities take more than a few minutes to start, but the results are so much better and less expensive than the doing it the "modern" way.

Ashley Marcin's picture

I’m right there with you, Elizabeth. Doing stuff the old way is just more gratifying!