13 March 2009

The Frugal Home

It seems to be agreed now, we are headed for a few shaky years ahead. Some are saying it will be the same or worse than the Great Depression, but the truth is no one knows what will happen. Some people feel secure because they have superannuation/401k plans, or stocks, but another stock market crash might wipe a lot of the value from those investments. Our governments are trying to keep us calm by offering stimulus cheques. They want us to spend those stimulus cheques on TVs, cars and other products they believe will help boost the economy. I hope anyone who gets one of these payments uses it to build a grocery stockpile, buy vegetable seeds, fruit trees and chooks, or build an organic garden, because no matter what happens, we all know we have to keep food on the table.

In hard economic times, the real currency is life skills.

I'm not sure if our economic conditions now are the same as they were during the Great Depression (GD); my parents lived through it, I didn't, but I do know that almost everything else is different. During the GD almost all women knew how to cook from scratch, make do, substitute ingredients, sew, knit, mend and live without electricity. Now very few do. During the GD, most men could do the repairs in the home, repair a bicycle, hunt, barter, kill and pluck a chicken or skin a rabbit, and would walk miles for a day of paid work. Now very few do. Most families then didn't have cars, no one had credit cards, there were no TVs or computers. The debt ordinary people carried in the GD were mortgages, other kinds of debt were uncommon.

During the Great Depression people were equipped to look after themselves using the life skills most people had then, now those skills are lost to many. They used to support each other, their extended family and the neighbourhood. If the economic conditions are the same now as in the GD, everything else is different.

If I were a young wife now, with children to raise, I would be learning everything I could about how to do the work in my home without modern appliances. I would learn to make bread by hand - good bread not just a get-by loaf; I would work out easy ways to do the family laundry - in case a time came when I didn't want to use electricity - once I worked it out, I'd go back to my washing machine; I would create a stockpile of groceries, and if I had a backyard I would learn to garden and raise chickens. I would teach myself to sew and knit. I would start mending clothes, I'd recycle and reuse everything I could. I'd start cooking from scratch with the intention of learning how to produce the most delicious and nutritious meals for the lowest cost.

If I were a young wife and mother now, I would take it upon myself to save every penny I could to pay off our debt. I would encourage my husband and children to economise, make do and learn to go without. My focus would be on the long-term health and prosperity of my family and I would hope to teach myself enough to give us the best chance in this tough economic climate.

It is often thought that the person who goes out to work has the important job in the family and will be the deciding factor in how well the family lives. And while that bread winner role is still vitally important, the stay at home partner is equally important. It is the person in the home who will feed the family, manage the money and pinch every penny until it hurts. It is an exciting time for homemakers. Our jobs have always been significant, more so than we were ever given credit for, but now we have the added responsibility of stretching our dollars to get the maximum value from them and helping our family get through the next few years while who knows what will happen. And if we come out of this quickly and unscathed, well, we'll have those skills to help us in the future. It's a win/win situation.

There has never been a better time to know how to run a home efficiently. There has never been a more pressing need to know the skills of the homemaker. If you still need to learn a few things, you'd better get cracking, because what you learn soon and what you know now might mean make or break for your family. Don't be scared, be energised by this. There are many ways to learn what you need to know. You could start by reading some of my archives, or visit the co-op, and read through any of the archives of the writers who have links to their own blogs there, or find a blog you relate to and learn from it. Books you might find helpful are Encyclopedia of Country Living, Nourishing Traditions, or (for Australia/NZ) Easy Organic Gardening,

And, as always, I'm happy to answer your questions.

I'm looking forward to a restful weekend, full of knitting and a little writing. For all the knitters in the knit-along, I've just finished my fifth square. I'll take some photos and show them on Monday. I hope you enjoy your weekend and have the chance to relax and unwind. Welcome to the new readers who arrived this week. Please drop a comment and say hello. Thank you for all the kind and generous comments left during the week. Take care, everyone.

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