Biggest Kitchen Table - Home Production

9 July 2009

One of the things I really enjoy about my simple life is that I've taught myself to make many things I used to buy. I'm pleased that most of what I make is really good and that inspires me to keep up the home production of as many things as I can. So today's kitchen table discussion is about just that, the home production of goods - there is no category for these things, it's just making whatever we can at home.

There seems to be a certain mindset that goes with this. Sometimes we start off awkwardly , not sure if our skill level is sufficient, but with one or two projects under your belt, you realise it's just a matter of trial and error and the more you do it, the less error there is.

Some of the things I've taught myself, or improved upon the skills I had, are bread making, soap making, sewing - aprons, napkins, tote bags, skirts, knitting - scarves, mittens, bags; seed saving, composting, worm farming, aquaponics, preserving/canning, stockpiling, budgeting, slowing down, quilting, embroidery, mending, reading electricity and water meters, and probably a lot of other things I can't remember now.

Learning or improving skills like these will support your simple life but also save you money, greenhouse gases and help you live to your true potential. There is nothing like a difficult task to teach you things like patience, persistence, observation and awareness. Life long learning keeps you on your toes and sharpens your mind - a thing I'm acutely aware of as I move further into my 60s. It also slows you down and makes you focus on the task at hand. That is always a good thing.

Look around your home to see what you need that you might be able to make yourself. It could be anything from a dishcloth to a home made wedding - I am here to tell you anything is possible. Believe in yourself, go slowly, plan, read as much as you can or find a mentor and then set to work. Don't believe you can do it? I think you might surprise yourself.

Our changes
  1. I am still working on my oil candle lamp.
  2. And making liquid soap.

Things to think about
  • Since the 1950s, we've been lured into buying convenience at the store. That is fine for many things but not for others. For instance, I saw an advert the other day for cheese pieces cut the right size for a cracker! Most of us don't need that sort of convenience. For most of us it's better to buy a block of cheese at a reasonable price and cut it, or shred it, ourselves. Why pay for someone else to do something we can do ourselves.
  • Buying that convenience, makes us more and more dependent on others for our needs. Take back your independence and do for yourself and teach your children to do the same.
  • Many things you do in your day to day life build character. Instead of working for the money to buy what you need, invest time in yourself and think about making some things at home. It will pay off in more ways than one.
  • Test yourself.

If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.
Henry Ford


  1. I love this topic. I have been more of the things that we would normally buy. I try to consider which items cost the most and try and make them. So far I have made maple syrup, laundry soap, CP soap, bulk oatmeal pancakes, rolls, preserving, stockpiling, conserving power and water. I also try to repurpose things that normally would go to the thrift store. For example, I am making some of the cute fabric baskets on Pink Penguin and for the batting I am using an old mattress pad. Thanks for the great topics this week and always.
    Kim in Maryland, USA

  2. I totally agree about "convenience" foods; not that I never buy them; we have a busy, exhausting 3 days coming up and I may decide to buy convenience foods to help us through them; more frugal than take away food. But I do know how to make stuff and I have the power to balance out time, money and my small store of energy because I know how to make things myself. It gives me great consolation to know I have that knowledge and it gives me great self respect; I'm grateful to my parents, older friends and an education system that still, when I was at school, still taught practical skills.

  3. What a breath of fresh air! Thank you for the motivation to do these things. It's nice to come somewhere to reaffirm my beliefs after a day of being surrounded by things and others which and who often do not follow the same or similar path.

  4. Good Morning Rhonda Jean!
    I've been enjoying reading here this week, but haven't had much chance to comment, or blog. In spite of it being school holidays, my days have been quite busy and full. But I've been encouraged by your blogs, because I'm starting to see how much I have 'slowed down' and am doing things for ourselves, rather than just going out and buying. The no spend week is going great for me - I haven't broken it, and my husband has just asked if we could leave the grocery shopping another week, (we shop every 2 weeks), because we're all out of sync with his pay week and the food shopping, so that means diving into the stock pile and making meals stretch a bit further. I think we can do it!
    During these school holidays I've been enjoying hand-making a few baby toys (a rattle and fabric blocks and a stuffed toy), and my older children are keen to make their own as well. I hope to blog about that later today or tomorrow.
    Thanks again for your daily encouragement!
    Rachel L from NZ

  5. I posted today about the sin of over consumerism! Getting back to basics and saving big bucks by making a few changes.

  6. I honestly think the very best thing we can do for our families is to learn how to make as much of what we consume as possible. Should push come to shove, you're in a much better position to feed and clothe those you love.

    In the past I've sewn clothing and curtains, crocheted dish cloths, brewed beer, and have made candles, soap and a few pieces of furniture. My goals this year are to master canning and breadmaking, and get reacquainted with my brewing skills. Learning to knit would be a plus!

    Thanks again, Rhonda Jean, for being such an example to us.

  7. I couldn't agree more with this post.
    Our society has gotten too spoiled.
    I remember when I saw a television commercial for new "pre made" peanut butter and jelly sandwiches by smuckers I think. I thought you have GOT to be kidding me.

  8. I will (test myself) and I have allready done it. I've learned myself sewing, stitching, quilting and make homemade bread and pizza's. I also made my little boy (as he was a little baby) an every day (baby)meal, not the ones from the store. Even less spending is one of the things I learned myself.
    Everything with (a little) help from family, friends and the internet by people just like you.

    I think your a big inspiration to may, many people. Thanks!

  9. I do a lot of things myself from sewing, embroidery, knitting, soap making, canning, gardening a little to doing my own home improvements.
    Tools are not hard to learn to use and most things are fairly easy if you just plan it out on paper first. I just finished opening a wall up and putting shelves in a storage closet in the spare room (who puts a 28 inch door on a 6 foot long closet??? I also made a wooden sleeping bench to replace an uncomfortable cot. Neither took long and were simple to make and all I needed in tools was a circular saw and power drill. If you don't own one, borrow one! I learned a lot from watching my Dad do stuff around the house as I grew up. If you like working with your hands, remodeling and constructing is just a natural progression, it's just a bigger scale.
    I also started a new blog about how I do things to save money and be green in the process. Writing it helps keep me on track as well.

  10. I'm probably a very rare sight these days, as a 21 year old who wholeheartedly agrees with what you said in this post! The art of homemaking, if we can call it that, has been almost entirely lost. Anything I've learned has not been from my mother or aunts and uncles or other friends, but some from my grandma in my formative years -- basics of sewing, knitting, and baking -- and the rest has been trial and error with my determination in my heart.

    This motivates me even more to keep pursuing what I love, even though friends my age tell me I'm a 55-year-old woman in a 21-year-old's body. But what do they know! :-)

  11. Great post! We stopped buying convenience foods quite awhile ago. Who needs all those added chemicals and preservatives? I make all our bread,pizza crusts,cookies and cakes from scratch. I discovered that I love baking in the process of saving money!I can and freeze veggies from our garden and I make my son's baby food instead of buying them premade. I also embroider,crochet and knit. I haven't tried making my own soaps yet. There are so many more skills I want to learn. Rhonda,you have really inspired me. Thank you! The simple life sure isn't simple but I wouldn't want to live any other way.

  12. I just want to say that your blog is one of encouragement to me, everytime I come here I go away with something lasting! Thanks again!

  13. The pre-cut cheese slices for crackers you mentioned Rhonda, reminded me of the latest potato convenience being advertised at the moment... potato slices for potato bake dishes! I assume people must buy them. Even if you do not grow your own spuds, it doesn't take that long to slice up potatoes, especially if you have a mandolin which produces perfect thin slices in minutes!

  14. great quote
    I had to do the stock pile this week I had gone several weeks without much shopping at all.
    Got apx $600 worth for $280. very well set now for several months on many things.

    I love my napkins of cloth. So much nicer. Tip I mad some 8x8 for the kids and they are just perfect size.

    Pot scrubbies of netting made simply I'll do a post I need to make another batch of them

    One thing that I do is make home made mixes
    taco seasoning for example a large batch in a jar and your set to open one jar and add a little water and tomato sauce...
    baking mix (backing power base)
    Cookie mix (base recipe) then add to make different items
    Although I do not like using shortening this can be a real ease of effort on a busy night

  15. Hello Rhonda,
    I wake up excited about the days post...this is all so great. I really appreciate what you are providing here. Thank you so much.
    Now for a question and hopefully some information....we have been working toward making our house more efficient for several years now. Most projects take time and money and labor so it goes....but sometimes slowly, or seasonally. We are just getting to the place where we need to decide on appliances and I think I want to change...I have never used propane and know only that it is cheaper than electricity and cleaner. Do you have any experience with heating and cooking with propane?
    We wonder if the conversion to propane would be more costly than staying with the natural gas and electric combination we have now?
    Also I have started using the crock pot and my pressure cooker more to cut down on the use of the energy consuming range.
    Thanks again for this wonderful and inspiring blog.
    And as always I am still taking advantage of the very reasonably ($10.00) classes at the local extension. Learning to cook things like yeast breads ( mine were never consistent) and I have been using the skills I learned at the water canning and pressure canning classes. Having someone with experience to guide me through has been a real confidence booster.
    Have a great day.

  16. I've pretty much mastered the art of canning food/making preserves. (all self-taught, mind you! lol) I need to get on the ball with making homemade cleaners, soaps, laundry soap, etc. Over the next few days I'm going to compile recipes for them and then when I do my next big shop I will purchase the ingredients. My husband and I both agree that these things will save us money and reduce our footprint on the environment. We also agreed that we need to do a big mucking out, so to speak, of closets, cupboards, basement, and garage. We have been acting like packrats lately and need to free up some space to store the foods we preserve this summer, etc. Basically we need to become more oranized in order to produce more from home a little more easily. We are also going to be giving homemade gifts as much as possible from now on. I'd like to learn to sew/quilt and how to knit and crochet. Thanks for such great ideas/topics this week! Blessings to you!

    Kristina in Nebraska, USA

  17. Great quote by Ford. Thanks for the posts this week, they have meaning and value in this hectic world.

  18. I just wanted to say that I'm still following along...what wonderful posts! I haven't had the time to read all of the comments, I hope I will later on.
    We haven't been able to do the no spend this week, it's the time of the month that we do most of our spending. But we always record what we spend, and budget we're still on track!
    I love your little olive oil candle! I can't wait to see the finished product :)
    -Melanie in Canada

  19. I enjoy this topic a great deal. Thank you for the inspiration. :)

    Just recently I was looking at the refrigerator section of my favorite grocery store (which is in a very upscale college town where a lot of families have two career parents).

    I was appalled at what people were paying for "convenience" that didn't make sense, like buying those pre-sliced cheeses that fit perfectly on a cracker.

    Thankfully, this store has the best sales on basics like meat, canned tomatoes, veggies, etc.

  20. your post reminded me of some recipies I saw the other day. Not one of the ingredients in the recipie was a real fresh food. The vegies were all frozen or canned, with pre-made sauces added, yuck. That's not really cooking I thought. It doesn't actually take much longer to chop up fresh stuff, especially if it's picked straight from the garden. Yes it may take a little longer for your vegies to grow but think of all the time you'll save not going to the shops.

  21. I just have to share this story.
    Our 3 year old granddaughter and 5 year old grandson were visiting and for supper I was cutting potatoes for french fries. The 3 yr old G'daughter asked what I was doing I replied making "french fries",she said quite surprised " from potatoes"?
    When supper was served she informed her brother " Grandma made these french fries from potatoes" which he then looked at me and asked if it were true.
    DH and I educated them on where foods come from during rest of meal.
    Funny and Sad at the same time.

  22. always enjoy your posts, but don't get over to visit as often as I'd like.
    Over here in the states it has been in the news recently that Monsanto and Dole are pairing up on a 5 yr. contract to modify such things as lettuce, broccoli, and to create an apple with no spots..ahhh! As you can imagine I have been even more gung ho on saving heirloom seeds.Folks may think I'm silly to do so(as I have quite a container full of seeds stashed under the kitchen sink in an air tight container,but we will be moving to a new home soon as this one sells and I intend to grow as much as we can in our yard.And yes, I totally agree with you about convenience foods.
    on a different note I am having my 500th post give away over on my blog if you'd like to stop by.
    inviting you over to my 500th post give away

  23. One of the strangest things is that often the families woh could least afford them buy the most convenient foods. I used to volunteer at a local foodbank, and we always had lots of flour, potatoes etc left. Instead, people asked for french fries, complained that the bread was always a day old, and wanted scrambled eggs in a tetrapack, a thing I never had heard of.

  24. Hello Rhonda!

    I was wondering if you (or anyone else) had some good ideas for simple activities/entertainment for children? My nephew is staying with us for the summer (his dad is in Iraq) and we're a little lost about what to do with a 5yo boy who's far away from home and has no idea about our lifestyle. We're planning to teach him to ride a bike (I got him one for his birthday) and swim but other than that we can't think of many things that don't involve a television.

    Thank you for any advice!


  25. You have inspired me into knowing that I can save money, that doing things from scratch is doable and not so hard.

    I made the decision this week to follow in your footsteps and began stockpiling, using less meat in meals, carefully freezing leftovers for lunches or other dinners.

    Because of you I know that I can dig ourselves out of our tax debt, without having to take out a loan to do it.

    thank you.

  26. One thing I learned how to make is pudding. (Do you call it that in Australia?). Someone gave me cookbook that had recipes for making many of the store bought conveniences. Making pudding from scratch takes a long time with lost of stirring. But it tastes so much better than store bought. On a cold evening I rather enjoy the process.

  27. Great topic! I learned to sew and cook from my mother but over the years I've taught myself to knit, can, and make my own bread (although I do buy bread at the local thrift bakery to keep on hand in the freezer for those super busy weeks). My two "do it yourself" projects for this summer are making cloth napkins and making some of my own cleaners.

    I appreciate your tutorials and encouragement to live more simply and deliberately.

    Joy (VA)

  28. You made me think of something... You made me think of listening to music, someone else's music, and in contrast of the joy it brings to me if I sing myself. Mybe somewhere at a campfire. Or in church. With friends. It may not be the best singing in the world, and it may not be the best song. But it is good.

  29. I often times hear people complain about the younger generation of kids these days. This generation is simply an example of what they has seen from our generation. If they haven't been taught or shown the skills that have been mentioned then how can they implement them into their own lives? So, I feel this topic is not only motivation to be brave enough to try something new and learn a new skill & save $$ but also to pass on to the next generation. My own daughter is now getting such a sense of satisfaction when she havests green beans from her garden to feed her little guys. That makes me feel proud as well.
    I am going to start my list of new things to try myself. I am very stuck inside my comfort zone but you have inspired me to try some new and different thigs!!! I really want to learn to sew(I do know the basics) & do some of the home improvements myself. Guess that will be a good place to start!!
    Thanks again for this blog...always inspries me!!
    Debbie, central Illinois

  30. I like how you mentioned character building--it's so true. I'm still learning lots of DIY tings, and one thing is for sure, the sense of pride and accomplishment you get with something homemade is a wonderful feeling.

  31. Right now our biggest home production project is learning how to can and preserve. This week I did a batch of cherries, a batch of peach jam, and either today or tomorrow I'm going to be making homemade pickles.

    I would love to sew our own baby clothes, but since I only sew by hand, by the time I got finished with an outfit they'd outgrow it. =(

    And this winter we'll be working on a quilt as the big project.

    With two very young toddlers I've had a hard time finding enough hours in the day to get things done, but as they grow older surely there will be more time and opportunity to do projects, and hopefully they will see from their earliest memories on that it's normal to make things at home!

  32. Great topic!

    So far we do lots of canning and preserving, make cloth napkins, cloth toilet paper, cloth mentrual pads, dish towels, and tea towels, (all of those from recycled fabric from old clothes/blankets). We also make our own vinegar, bread, cookies, crackers, hot dog buns, granola bars, etc. We are also learning the art of scavenging from thrift stores and freecycle. We make our own cleaners, but cannot find lye in Canada for soap making. The kids and I are going to work on homemade gifts this year for Christmas (mostly canning and baking probably, but also knitted dish towels, etc).

    I have not yet found that we are saving money since we are eating exclusively local. But, I am finding that I don't spend more for local, and our pace of life is much better. We have also noticed that our son, who has ADHD, has a much better attention span - I am thinking he was too busy to allow his brain to work. He's much better now. We are a happier and more connected family because of this lifestyle. Now I just wish we could save money doing it.

    Maybe the money savings will happen once we are out of the growing season and I am no longer stockpiling for winter.

  33. I am really enjoying your blog. As I work my way toward self sufficience at 31 I find there are lots of things I knew how to do as a kid in the country that I seem to have forgotten as I rushed to get away from that Poor Life, but it was a happy life. I hadn't even heard of Disney World until I was a teenager and even then thought "so what".

    I have a recipe for sourdough bread (my fav) and will begin my breadmaking experiments at the beginning of next month.

    I had thought about home canning, and discussed it with my mother (who still has a steam canner) but I don't care for the texture of canned foods - sauces yes, and even kitchen canned tomatoes, but most things I don't care for the canned version.

    So I was reading about dehydrated foods, and it struck me, I love sun dried tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, etc. So this is a better method for me.

    The more I learn to do myself the more I save myself.

    Part of the chaos in our lives comes from trying to fit in everyone elses schedules, doing it myself means I can do it on my time, time to spend with my girls.

  34. Lauren, I'm going to make your question a post tomorrow. I have several ideas and I'm sure many others will too. Stay tuned.

    Hana, I love singing too. My mother and grandmother both sang around the home. The pleasure of singing seems to have been forgotten.

  35. Lauren,

    My kids are 7 1/2 and 9. My daughter is younger and my son is older. This is our first summer following this new way of life and I am finding that the kids are adjusting. My 7 yo is loving that she is learning new stuff. She is learning to sew, knit, can, craft, dehydrate, garden, freeze and we are also visiting farms to learn how they grow on larger scales. My 9 yo is not as excited, but we have noticed that his behaviour has improved now that we are not as busy. Both kids are behaving more like typical kids instead of today's kids (if that makes sense) and I like that.

    So, I would say that you should simply involve him in everything that you do. With his Dad gone, he probably needs a lot of quality time with those who love him. Read to him, listen to him, create puppet shows, dress-up, and do everything you normally do. However, keep in mind that he also needs the stability that comes with the familiar, and doing some of the activities that he is used to may be good for him (in small quantities).

  36. Being productive is necessary for an organized home, esp. a home that operates more like a homestead. I love reading how some newbies are trying to stretch their abilities and go further!

    With productivity comes R&R and playtime. We all love and need our down time.

    I posted some more thoughts at my blog today.

    This has been a fun week!wa

  37. I too refuse to buy convience items. I have learned alot over the past year....slowing down and enjoying what I have and what I can make on my own. It is blogs like yours Rhonda that really hit home and makes a person realize what true happiness is all thank you.


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