5 January 2010

From the archives - The Frugal Home (March 2009)

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. So 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.


  1. Oh, how I wish I could go back in time and change the way we lived when our kids were little! We "saw the light" about 10 years ago and have been working ever since to build a little house in the country where we can retire and pay off our debts from our wasteful years. If even one person changes their wasteful ways after reading your blog, that's a wonderful thing.

  2. country girl at heartJanuary 05, 2010 7:49 am

    I could really relate to this posting. I ventured into simple living in the last ten years. I also felt like I wished I had started my marriage and child raising years knowing what I know now. I try not to reget the past but focus on the fact that even though things didn't start out this way, my husband and I have still been able to now pass on many self-reliant skills to our three children. They will be better off and will be able to eventually pass on these skill to their children.

  3. I agree with you in this post! :) How truly valuable your words are! I am an old fashioned gal and we raise chickens, I make bread from scratch and love to hang clothes out on the line during the spring/summer/fall. (I have seen the Amish do it in the winter too...but I don't see how that could work..? Wouldn't the clothes just freeze so when you take them inside they will thaw and still be wet?)
    I make my own laundry soap and can sew (although I need to get better at it) and I enjoy knitting. We garden and can and I Hope to do more of that this summer as well. I would like to think my family and I could make-do if we needed to...I think it would be difficult...but definitely doable.
    Thankfully...we have no debt but our mortgage and our outdoor woodstove (which takes the place of our used-to-be huge gas bill payment). Your post has inspired me to work harder at pinching pennies and really put my heart into learning how to sew more accurately! I have a true desire to live as naturally as possible!
    I suppose I have just rambled...i'm sorry, I tend to do that! ;) But again...thank you for your post! I enjoyed it!

  4. Good morning Rhonda, I hope you are enjoying your holiday. These archive posts have been a pleasure to read and I hope you are enjoying your well deserved break. It's back to work for us today but, with the tennis and cricket still on, it feels like we are only half going back. I had a massively productive day yesterday: one loaf, two dozen sweet rolls, five jars of apricot jam, yoghurt and mature sprouts. It's a lovely feeling of quiet achievement, isn't it?

  5. My parents were older than most of my friend's parents, they were also children of the depression and as their child I was raised with knowledge of how it used to be for them. My mother taught me to cook from scratch at a very young age and I was taught to make do. My husband was raised by a single mother with 3 siblings and he learned from a young age how to take care of himself. I feel confident that we could make the adjustment to living without electricity for example, although it would be hard to adjust to. But we would survive, we have enough experience and have made it a point to get what experience we can in case it's ever needed. We have also raised our daughter to be able to take care of herself. I'm not kidding myself, I know it would be hard to adjust to certain situations but I also feel like we are better prepared than most of our generation. Life skills are very important, and so many people my age don't seem to realize it. If there were a natural disaster or other situation, I think a lot of people would probably starve to death. We're working on reducing our debt load at the moment, and trying to live a less wasteful life.

  6. I was very frugal when we were first married by necessity, but now by choice. We have been able to come through the reccession we had to have to pay of our home, build a bussiness and purchase two investment homes. All with one wage comming in.
    It was hard, but being able to do the things you mentioned has helped alot and I continue on this journey so that my retirement years will be easy and to be able to help the kids as much as we can.

  7. Good morning ladies. :- )

    Rose, my my, you've been busy! I'm hoping to find some apricots or peaches at the market on Sunday. I went to work for half a day yesterday so I could be there in case anyone needed food. Well, I was rushed off my feet all morning and emptied our stockpile of food.
    All the best for the coming year.

  8. Oh, I feel so silly. I didn't realize when I found your website that I wasn't on the main page.

    You must think I am living in the stone age. But my husband is the real techie in the family. I get along with what I know how to do.

    Great website! Sorry for the confusion on the other page.

  9. I think that it won't be long, maybe a decade before things start to get harder, with less and less things coming from overseas. My partner and I are working to accumulate money now, so at some point we can get a property and afford to make it sustainable. I hope we have enough time before things get too bad.

  10. Ijust found your blog. I find it very interesting!

  11. I really enjoy your blog. For me the secret to life is "homemade and handmade". I've always loved making things from scratch and growing my own food and do as much as I have time and energy for. It's comforting to know that there are so many other people out there who are also trying to live more simply and look after our world and our families.

  12. Hi Rhonda,

    The homemaker has tremendous influence in determining how 'well' the family live. Thanks for putting into words, that are shared, what is important for so many of us to know.

    I have lived simply, probably for most of my life really (with intermittent forays in the opposite direction!). I live this way simply because it is how I enjoy living. Living simply and humbly is part of the recipe for a happy life.

    Kind regards,

    (I don't have a blog because I am not very proficient at all this technology, and would probably spend way too much time on it if I did!)

  13. I totally agree and I'm working on it.

  14. Hi there Rhonda,
    Me and my family live much like you mentioned. We have only the house to pay off. No cridit cards.
    I stay at home,breastfeed,cloth diaper,sew,garden,have chickens,make my bread daily, cook heathly meals....I love my crock pot! I will be making my first batch of laundry soap this week!
    I homeschool a few of my 6 kiddos and teach them the way!

    Great post! Heres to simple livin'


  15. I agree, it's a very important time to be focusing on this stuff.

  16. Hallo! This is my first time here. My, what a great blog you have. At home, I've been doing bits of gardening too, mostly herbs as I found paying almost $4 for a bunch of basil or coriander that goes bad the next day is utterly ridiculous. Would come by more often now.

  17. Rhona,
    I have been reading your blog for a while now. I am coming outta hiding! I loved this post!! I sooo agree wtih everything that you said. We have gotten out of debt ourselves.
    I will admit that I struggle with baking bread. I can't see that it is a cost saver so I feel justified in not doing it...but then I got to thinking what if we couldn't get bread??
    I have also felt the same way about sewing but I have started doing a few things and supplement with yard sale buys and thrift stores.
    I sure wish I could knit!!
    I think that our "thinking" has to change how we few "things and conveinces"
    I guess since I live in town and not in the country(which our home is paid for and rural property is outrageous) I dont think I can implement alot of things like self sufficency....
    I will let you know if I master breakmaking!!
    Thanks for your honest and wake-up posts!!

  18. Hi Rhonda,I just found your blog about 2 weeks ago from a link on an Aussie friend's web-site. I am a displaced American with 6 children living in Northern Israel.Not only out of neccessity but also out of choice we live a perma-culture way of life.With such a large family it can be overwhelming at times and I just wanted to say finding you has been like finding an understanding friend,Now as soon as the kids leave for school I pop in to see you . From the moment I see your beautiful kind face and start to read I feel the days challenges turn into insprations.Thankyou so much for being there and providijng inspiration,learning compassion and kindness. Lynn

  19. I can relate to all of this. We never have had much so making do is second nature. I'm thinking of trying the soap thing as that is something that hasn't come my way yet.

    Tomorrow I will unpull a large green jersey, wash the wool and knit some socks with the result. Hopefully there will be enough for several pairs as our old ones are getting past it and I hate the artificial kind. They don't last well and don't breathe properly.

    viv in nz

  20. My grandparents were Amish, but broke away from the colony. They were married at the start of the GD. I am 51 yrs old, but I grew up with this ideal way of life. Though my grandpa was a brilliant electrician, and he knew the future of electricity in rural areas enough to break away from traditional Amish living to bring electricity to rural Nebraska, he still embraced his Amish roots. I started going back to simple living 24 yrs ago after moving from Denver Colorado, usa, back to Nebraska, as I could not take the city any more. I am trying to pay off debt, and get a handle on everything. I do yogurt, bread, garden, sew, can and what ever else I can do. What is scary is I run into multitudes of very young women who have no idea of anything, I have even tried to teach welfare women how to handle household and food choices,cooking healthy meals, but I have had no sucess what so ever in teaching. It is drugs, and booze, and running the streets chasing the wrong men who they want support from, when the men do the same crazy thing. So I just take care of my family, and watch the world go by. I do not know what will happen when everything may crash into one large mess, and these women cannot support kids when they lose welfare. It is sad.
    I live in a very small trailer park, and produce 80% of my food on this small lot, I run a container and top soil bag garden,and it looks like a forest here, so basically I urban garden and homestead.
    Sometime this year, we will be installing a wood burner, and I pretty much have everything else, so, I am ready for whatever comes.
    Love your site, and the beautiful photos of your homestead. It helps me get through the -30 to-40 below windchills we get in Nebraska.

  21. "pinch those pennies 'til they hurt" Oh YES! I think that this will be my motto for 2010 - I love it!

    Thanks for a great blog, wishing you and yours all the best for a peaceful, simple year


  22. I am loving your reposts!! Thanks for visits back to the archives! Just love the ideas and thoughts you lay out to make our homes 'homey'.

  23. Happy New Year Rhonda Jean, Thank you again for posting great things from your archives. They are a great review. I love reading the comments too and hearing what other people are doing. I think of all the ways my life has changed over the past 2 year and even in the past year. I see big changes in the past 9 months after "finding" blogs and reading and learning wonderful new skills. One of the most recent is making quark after you posted about it a few months ago. The first time I made the quark I bought the yogurt, now I make the yogurt to make the quark. Fabulous. AND use the drained off whey in the bread that I make. The one thing that is hard, is that I rely on the grocery store for the milk. Can't have a cow where I live, but will still keep asking around for someone that has one and sells fresh milk. I am happy for these new skills (just wish I could complete the circle and have the cow too!). I look forward to the spring and planting new things. Thank you again for all that share. Emily in So. Texas

  24. Thanks for the encouraging post!! I already have the Ency. of Country Living and Nourishing Traditions... you've inspired me to start reading through them again! They really are great guides!


Blogger Template by pipdig