The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday 1 December 2019

How to beat rising prices like Nana did. Skills.

Both my Nans were very capable women.  They accumulated skills.  Nana L was the youngest of thirteen children.  They lived on a farm and everyone helped.  It was inevitable you learned a lot of skills as you went along.  And she had so many older bothers and sisters to learn from.   Nana B was an accomplished florist by her teenage years and made an income from making flowers for weddings and funerals.  Later she became a a wonderful seamstress.
As a child I just took it all to be normal and under appreciated how capable they were other than enjoying the beautiful baking!  But later I realised their talent.  Nana B was featured in several books.
Nana L ran a spinners and knitters group that gathered at her house, she would take a raw fleece and comb it, spin it and dye it with natural plants from the garden then knit it up.   She fed us beautiful things all our childhood years and into adult hood.  Both Nans mended, darned, baked, preserved, hemmed and altered,  kept animals,  never wasted anything....  it was not until years alter that I understood they had been through the great depression and the wars...  they had known hardship but never talked about it.   As they had always been in good families and happy they still had not felt deprived.  Nana L had brothers go away to war though.  This was a hardship of it's own.  The stress on parents of their child going away to war is beyond what I can imagine.
I remember how Nan and Pa looked after things.  They kept things in good condition and fixed things and made them last.  The re used and recycled.    Pa's car was sold years after he passed away as it was in such mint condition a collector bought it!

With all this in mind it is no surprise Mum is very capable.  Preparedness books today don't have a patch on Mum's capabilities in a crisis,  power outage, illness,  injury...  Her pantry and stores cover everything.  First comes the families needs then helping others is high on the list too.   Like the Nans many things to Mum seem wasteful and crazy.  She saw a recent fashion magazine and was appalled to see the models looked about twelve and their dresses were thousands of dollars.   She thought it was ridiculous!

So somewhere after Nans and Mums younger times things changed dramatically.  Times were more prosperous and convenience became the big thing.  Skills were not necessarily passed on anymore.   Over time so many things that were once just the norm became specialist services.  Instead of hemming your jeans you take them to a seamstress.  Instead of washing your windows you hire professionals.  Even walking and washing the dog is something you hire someone to do.  You can pay someone to do everything and instead of live your life you work for someone else and pay others to do your stuff.   Sometimes there is a financial profit in all of this and sometimes not.

Some years ago I noticed advertising attempted to diminish any form of domestic activity.  There was an ad on TV where one older lady said to another "Oh you don't STILL make your own jam DO YOU?"  as if to let everyone know you would have to be stupid to make jam yourself and not buy it from a certain brand.  Then you have the whole "you deserve it" advertising...   go ahead you deserve it... whether you can afford it or not! haha!

I have written before too about people who will attack you for being a homemaker!  It is implied that homemaking is a waste of time, as is caring for children and surely you would want to do something else to be "fulfilled."  Most of us have experienced some of this.  I have to the extent that it seems to UPSET some people that I do all of these things and enjoy it.  My theory on this is that the devil hates  a homemaker and he has many good reasons to do so.  I have always kept Proverbs 31 in my line of sight and I do not buy the worlds view of homemakers one bit!  

We have already covered how Nana made do and would be so trendy if she was here now as she already recycled, re used and never wasted anything.   She didn't use plastic bags she used her basket.   Everything "new" now is not new at all.  It was largely how Nana did things!  You can read that post here.
Then we covered how Nana beat prices in the laundry here in  How to beat rising prices (or shortages) in the laundry like Nana did.
Then How to beat rising prices like Nana did. Cleaning.
Then How to beat rising prices like Nana did and how to make meat go further.
I have been slow as a wet week to get to a new subject just because of being busy and having had both Dad and Andy rushed off to hospital since then!

Having followed Flylady I think she nailed it in regards to one of the reasons why we have gone away from doing things ourselves.  Besides convenience there is perfectionism.  We feel if we do something ourselves it might in some way be sub standard, a failure, somehow less than perfect.  She says that housework done imperfectly still blesses your family.  Well, I can tell you a cake you make for your child does not need to be perfect.  They will think it is wonderful that YOU made them a cake.  And so will your friend. And so will your Mum...  And the same with something you have sewn, knitted, crocheted etc... your small child will love that you made it.   (Teenagers are more dangerous territory lol!)
As for a whole list of skills that need to be practiced and improved on... this is NORMAL.  No one is born a wonderful seamstress, baker or anything else.  It is usual to have a go at something, gather information on how to do it, ask someone to show you and try.  First time will likely be wonky.   We cannot improve if we don''t persist.  The number of times I have heard someone say they are no good at something amazes me.  I will ask "how many times did you try?" and the answer is usually once!   Like you fall out of bed just BEING a good cook or knowing how to do anything!?

The next objection is about no time.   Great Gran had thirteen children and no washing machine but mended.  She would probably have a good laugh over our idea of no time.   She might be amazed at how much people watch tv and drive around from one place to another, spend on their devises and the phone.  She would think she would just not have time for these things!
None of us can do everything.  And I am all for making easier ways.  But if we identify where the budget is really breaking we might be able to learn a skill to help.   A quick way to work out what these may be is to calculate the annual cost of things.  If you have five children and haircuts are costing a fortune per year then hair cutting equipment and some study might save you hundreds per year.  If taking up pants and jeans is a regular cost this is a really easy skill to learn.   If your family spend a fortune on yoghurt this might be a good one to study.

I am mortified to share this but here goes.  We once spent $50 a week on pizzas.  It was a Friday night thing from a fancy pizza place.  They were divine I admit.   But that is a whopping $2,600 a year!
Learning to make a decent pizza base (and later a good gluten free one)  and yummy toppings reduced this to well under $10 a week. And it was easy.   And saved over $2000.   Nan would have said I needed my head read to ever have paid that.    Anyway now I don't and I routinely price the cost of things annually.   This is always amazing and you realise that it is absolutely worth doing it yourself, finding an alternative, making do or learning how...

We are so blessed to be able to study any skill for free online.  If you are lucky enough to still have your Nan or Mum and can ask her to show you how to do something that would help your household then do!  It will be a beautiful time together!   If not then you have an endless choice of free tutorials, you tube, the library...    It is exciting to learn a new skill.  It might save you a fortune.

A couple of years ago I learned soap making. I had a fear of caustic soda I had to overcome first.  Today I saw homemade soap is selling for $10 a bar.   Knowing how to make soap is something I am so glad I learned.

My friend Laine decided early on that with four children she would need a lot of birthday and celebration cakes.  So she took a short course in cake decorating.  She long ago lost count of how many cakes she made and how much that saved her.   But it would be a fortune.  What a good investment that class was!

Here on the farm I have learned to take good care of leather boots.   It has reminded me how Pa always polished his shoes.  Shoes were expensive and you took good care of them.  Leather boots are an investment and I take care of mine.  Then I learned how to keep them waterproofed.

Knowing how to make bone broth and stock is a skill that means you can feed your family nutritious food very cheaply.   Soups and stocks are very economical.   Stocks can be made from things you normally would throw out!

If you develop skills you may also have an alternative income stream or ability to trade.  These could come in very handy!

What skills do you use that save you the most?
Do you have something you would like to learn that could save you a lot?
Are there any jobs that you could do that are not so much skill just time and mess?  Mine was windows.  I thought I was really bad at windows.  Now I use the cheats method.... for outside windows I hose everything down.   Then I use a window washer dipped into a bucket of a few drops of dish washing liquid and half a bottle of Finish Rinse Aid.  I give them a rub with this.  Then I hose them down well and walk away.  They dry practically perfect!    My neighbour in Adelaide paid $300 to have the windows all done.  I timed it and I could do all mine in under an hour.  Not perfect but still wonderful. I gave up perfectionism for good shiny windows!

Approaching Christmas things are busy!  But now I really start to think over the year and about next year too.  My presents are all made and wrapped.  This is largely because of The Tuesday Afternoon Club.  We encouraged each other, shared skills and ideas and started in January!

Now I will think about what skills I should learn that will help us in the future.  It is not only money saving but it is fun!  And good for us!   Have faith in yourself as you can save a fortune taking things on yourself.



  1. Thank you for the window cleaning tip! I see that Rinse Aid is half price at Woolworths, too! I’d like to learn to clean windows like a pro!


    1. Thanks Rachel! Any rinse aid should work. It causes the water to come away and leave no spots. Its amazing! xxx

  2. How do you make the Waterproof Leather Treatment. I am very interested in making this to use on our shoes.

    1. This is very good! I got the recipe and instructions from Prepsteaders on You tube. If you look up Prepsteaders, waterproofing boot treatment you will find the video. It is easy and I make it in my soap pot on the stove... then poured it into tins and it sets. I made a stack to give to the farm boys and my niece who is also a farmer... and for our own boots. xxx

  3. I so enjoyed this post, Annabel. Any skill acquired is a savings in the home. My paternal grandmother taught me to cook, bake, sew, and properly shop for fabric. She was a very industrious house cleaner. I remember her paste waxing her hardwood floors on her hands and knees. However, even though she was an amazing homemaker, my grandmother and grandfather had purchased a grocery store and she worked there and kept all the books.
    Your window washing tip will, definitely, be one we try. It sounds thorough, quick, and easy.
    Have a wonderful and blessed week, Bluebirds.
    Love to all,

    1. My Mom waxed our hard wood floors with Johnson's paste wax on her hands and knees. It was a real labor of love for our family home.

    2. Dear Glenda,
      Your Grandmother was wonderful teaching you so much. This proves how long our own influence goes with our own Grandchildren. Now we are passing on what our Nanas taught us. So wonderful.
      Thank you Glenda, with love

  4. Annabel, this post is lovely. And very encouraging. You are so right about imperfect things still being appreciated. I always make my children birthday cakes. And I don't particularly love decorating them, but I do love their reactions when they see them. I also love that choosing a cake becomes a major life decision in the week leading up to their birthday lol.

    We have a family near us who have been amazingly generous since we moved, and never want anything in return. Last Christmas I baked them a big tin of shortbread, made some granola and chocolate truffles and packaged them a up nicely. I honestly don't think any amount of money I could have spent would have caused the same reaction. They were so grateful for home baking, and that I'd taken the time to do it. It made me realise that although I might know that making gifts is a money-saver, that's not what the recipients feel when they receive the gifts.

    I love these posts, they they remind me of the value in staying home for my family.

    Thanks for the time you spend writing them.

    Jen in NZ

    1. Dear Jen,
      Sorry to be slow with my reply! When the girls were little I did some crazy cakes. They were far from professional but like your kids they just loved them!
      It is so nice you have lovely people near by. And that they loved your gifts! You do have me wondering what you will make them this year? I just did my big coconut ice day. I give this to a lot of people.
      Thank you Jen! With love

  5. I love this series Annabel! It's so true that having a collection of skills can be so useful in life. My mom and I have been putting our skills to work this year...she has quite a collection of craft stores that she gets after holidays for 70-90% off some of the stuff she has had for years! I talked her into making things and selling them at bazaars this year, we have our last one next weekend. Most of our items sell for $3-$25 and so far with the 3 bazaars have done we have earned over $800US!!!We have had loads of fun creating things and spending time together. Some of the skills we used were sewing, crotchet, floral arranging, and jelly making. This next year I would like to try soap making will let you know how it all turns out...thank you for the great post!! Love Gaila in the NW USA

    1. Thank you Gaila! It is just fantastic what you have done with your Mum. I am sure she is loving it too! As you say this is also great time together. I always say about putting things to good use and you have! I hope you might continue next year!
      You will love soap making. It is like an addiction! You did so well! With love

  6. Thank you for taking your time to write these. The window washing idea sounds like a winner! Is your recipe for gluten free pizza crust on one of the blogs? Nancy

    1. Dear Nancy, Thank you! I just did the windows. A good scrub with the mixture then a good rinse... they are really good. The GF pizza base is really just like you would make with sour dough or with yeast only use GF flour. As long as you know the consistency of dough you will be ok. Alternatively mix plain yoghurt with GF flour to make a dough and press it out. That is not too bad. Or use a GF flat bread even. Another would be to buy a GF bread mix and make it up and roll it out as pizza bases. You could even freeze some balls of dough or make extra bases and freeze those. To me a pizza is a good meal for using up all kinds of leftovers! With love

  7. Like you, I am thankful to have grown up in a family who had skills and learned new ones when they needed them. Being able to look things up on line has saved us thousands over the years. That would amaze our ancestors! My grandfather's Dad died when he was in 8th grade and since he was the oldest and male he became the one to earn money to support his family of nine. Thank goodness he had some skills!

    I saw 24 ounce jars of bone broth at the grocery store for $6.49 each! That is a great indicator of the sorry state we are in with skills now. Coming up on Thanksgiving here one restaurant was offering side dishes that served 10 for $34.95 each! These were simple foods like mashed potatoes and vegetables but I am sure they sold plenty of them. Basic cooking skills like browning meats to add flavor are being lost because recipes have to be quick and easy. To add flavor a quart of store bought broth is required and this really ups the cost.

    I have been reading comments online that cooking and cleaning up meals is too much trouble and the advertising here is that you deserve more time with your family. This means that the drive through lines are long at every restaurant after work hours for great expense and food that does not nourish our bodies. We used to spend time in the kitchen with Mom when she was cooking and this is how we learned those basic skills. My children were in the kitchen because they were hungry! They are all good cooks now. They used to clean up the kitchen after meals here because they need to learn those skills and be involved in the work that it takes to be a family. We used to take our out of town grown children out to breakfast when they were visiting but I have noticed that we don't interact with each other when we are not in our own home and the grandchildren are in constant trouble for something. We brought those meals back home and they are slow and enjoyable besides all the money we are saving. I wonder what this lack of interaction is doing to families who rarely eat at home.

    We are really struggling with the windows cleaning now as we age. Our windows are high and have a lot of little panes of glass that have to be cleaned by hand or they are all grimy in the corners. We also have storm windows over them and screens that all have to be removed. Hubby can no longer get up on a ladder with his brain injury and I would die of fright up that high. We have not come up with a solution for this yet other than moving but that has not happened yet.

    I love this series and look forward to more!

    1. Dear Lana, Well also stock is in all the supermarkets and usually salty as anything. Really stock and bone broth are practically free to make.
      I notice that of all the fancy things to eat people love mashed potatoes, simple home cooking like biscuits (scones for us) good gravy, roast dinners and so on!
      Family meals are so important. And passing on skills and recipes. Even the ability to take a few basic ingredients and make them into a meal is a skill.
      It would not be a good idea for your hubby to use a ladder at all. I know the kind of windows you are talking about. They are difficult! You have to pick your battles sometimes. My windows are big and plain glass. No tricky bits. I can do this fairly easily. Also I have a one level house nothing high up.
      Your essential oil knowledge is something I hope you can teach your Grandchildren as they grow. I think the skill of preventing illness where possible or heading it off with early intervention to be one of the best things ever!
      Thanks so much Lana, With love

  8. Thank you for your encouraging post. I have been subject to much negativity and criticism about the things I make and do. Frankly I now know that my jam tastes so much better other stuff. I have learned to knit socks, baby jackets and crochet blankets. These things I enjoy making and often use them as gifts. I had knitted my granddaughter a jacket and I was never happy with it. Her other grandparents were amazed that I took the jacket home to recycle the yarn. This yarn was merino, silk and cashmere. I do try to do things at home. However, I admit to being obsessive about buy huge numbers of craft supplies. Once I recognised this I have managed to reduce my spending and am working at using up those stashes.

    Thank you for your encouragement.

    1. Dear Susan, I would have recycled that beautiful yarn too. I think the other Grandparents have no idea of the price of quality yarn!
      Please do not be discouraged. After a while I started to wonder why did it bother people if I am happy working at home? Why would it upset them? Isnt that odd? I have said it too "why would it bother you what I do?" Being here on the farm I have been able to make more friends who love to cook and craft and veggie garden and so on. And through the blog and groups online I have found so many like mined friends.I am amazed there is actually so much talent around too from quilters to bakers. It is wonderful. So dont let the anti everything grumps worry you. It is their problem.
      As for craft supplies... next year as part of the Tuesday Club I am having a use tit up challenge. So the idea will be using what supplies we have to make as many gifts and useful things for the home as we can. This might be right up your alley! Supplies are assets! Craft supplies are expensive so you might be sitting on a fortune. This is good! Thank you for commenting. With love,

  9. What a wonderful post! It really makes one think about all the areas for potential savings if we do things ourselves. Thank you!

    1. Dear Carolyn, Thank you! I have gradually tackled things I never thought to and felt really good when successful. Google and you tube are awesome for instructions on anything. They are such a help! With love

  10. Annabel, you are a smart and savy lady! I learn so much from you. I think about what you say. So many great ideas, and a lot to think about..things I never have a lot of thought about until you say them.I never knew the window washing trick. I love that tip.
    You are a wonderful woman. I appreciate you so much. You just inspire me so much.

    1. Dear Dots, This is the kindest comment. Thank you. I am using the window washing trick this week. Things come up so nicely with it. It is not prefect but it is good! It makes a world of difference having clean windows and screens. I just hose the screens too. And I stained my door steps and they look nice so I cant wait to get this done... I was just waiting as it was windy and rainy. This will be nice for Christmas. I hope your week is going well! With love and thanks,

  11. I don't have a dog, but I find it mind-boggling that anyone would pay good money for someone to wash their dog for them. It isn't exactly rocket science, is it? We have actually been mocked for washing our own car, but once again I find it strange that anyone would pay someone to do such as a basic job if they are fit enough to do it for themselves.

    1. Tracy it is funny sometimes. The same person who gives you a hard time about washing your car is just as likely to be the person telling you later how they "wish they were as lucky as you to be debt free" or similar conversations. I look at it this way...earning money or saving money equals the same thing... money in your purse. Except saved money isn't taxed and earned money is. So you earn more from saving. If I work out I saved ten dollars a week by doing something for myself then I earned over $500 a year on that one thing. When you start adding them together it will be a lot! The other thing I think is weird is paying a series of people to do all your physical work then paying to go to the gym to get some exercise. This one cracks me up. Thank you for commenting! xxx

  12. Great post Annabel! It really annoys me when other people don't value homemaking and the skills we use to produce food/ preserves/ sewing etc for our loved ones. I took early retirement / redundancy last year and often when I meet people they ask what I'm doing now. When I say I enjoy being at home and preserving/ baking/ gardening etc their eyes often glaze over - they think it's boring and I don't have a worthwhile occupation. Not everyone can be climbing Everest or writing a bestseller! If they take that attitude I don't extend the conversation because I don't need their approval and my husband and I are happy with our choices.
    Skills- I'm excited because one of the ladies at our sewing group is going to teach us how to crochet at our January meeting - can't wait!

    1. Dear Penny, Contentment and happiness are great things. Such a blessing. Being happy in your own home is the ultimate happiness. Everything you are doing sounds wonderful to me. I think you all love crochet. It is quite addictive. So helpful having someone to get you going. It is enjoyable and relaxing and portable!
      Penny continue building your skills and homemaking with pride. With love,

  13. Annabel I was thinking as I read your post, what skills were taught to me. I was taught by my paternal Grandmother and my own mother how to sew, crochet and knit. I think I got the gardening bug from my paternal Grandfather. He used to grow the most amazing passionfruit.
    My Mum can bake beautifully but her meals, bar a good roast dinner, are not much at all. However we all grew up healthy and have all ended up with a passion to be able to cook food well and with flavour. My parents both passed on the ability to problem solve and to look for another pathway. When I was so itchy I was scratching until I bled, I decided I needed to look at the 'why?'. This led to me learning how to make my own laundry liquid and soap. My skin no longer itched and the rashes went away.
    My next set of skills that I want to develop all lead on from the Spinning I learnt to do this year. I want to be able to knit socks from the yarn I have spun. I am going to set this aside sock knitting as a whole skill in itself. I then want to learn felting to make my own panama style hats. I do love a good hat. Weaving will follow this. I am thinking Weaving might end up a 2021 skill.
    I like to learn something and develop and hone that skill. My spinning is beginning to meet my own expectations. I am only at the beginning of this but I am a lot further along than I was in May when I started. Each step taken is a step in the right direction.

    1. Dear Jane,
      I think we have been very lucky with Mums and Nans that taught us these skills! You have really done so much with your skills too plus you keep on learning!
      We do have to be our own detectives and advocates. That is a good point as it is a skill. Research I think is a good skill.
      I think you came so far fast with spinning. I will really look forward to you making hats! I hope to follow in your footsteps with the spinning. My next skill is canning... just decided it is time! With love


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