We live in such a fast paced world. Everyone is busy no matter whether you’re a parent, single, married, a man or a woman. Everyone is busy. When I think back to my grandmother, or even my own mother’s advice, I know why grandmother’s ways are even more relevant in today’s world. Here’s why.
I’m a child of the 60’s born in 1964. I don’t know what life was like before then except for what my parents and grandparents told me. They also used to talk of the days when they were children and how hard times were back then. My grandparents lived through the depression and my Mum and Dad were born in the early 1930s. I’ve always admired the women in my life for how they got through hard times but when times were good, in my opinion, it was still really hard. I really can’t compare my life because we’ve got it so good today.
Days on the Farm
My mother was raised on a dairy farm so her and her family would get up at sunrise to milk the cows. Nanna would’ve probably been up earlier getting things organised for the day. This could’ve been any time from about 4am onwards. They worked hard back in those days without much automation around for milking. Mum, her sister and her brother all pitched in without even blinking an eyelid. It was their Mum and Dad’s only income. They also did other farming and cleaning chores besides those in the house and went to school, on foot or horseback.
Nanna (and probably Mum, being the eldest), were back early to the house after milking to start preparing a hearty breakfast and other cooking and baking. There were no drive throughs. There was no corner store to run out for bread or milk. Everything had to be planned to have enough food on hand at all times. This is one bit of advice I learnt early on from my mother.
Back in those days, they were busy too. Right up until my mother passed away in March 2012, she was always working even if it was in the garden or the house. The only time I remember her doing ‘paid’ work was when we were young and she’d take in babysitting. The children were quite young and we always resented them being there because we were always getting in trouble but they weren’t. (By the way, we’ve grown up with these ‘children’ and some of them have become ‘adopted’ sisters. In fact, one was the Matron of Honour at my recent wedding.) Mum also took in washing, ironing and even cooked an early breakfast at the local horse stables for jockeys and strappers. It wasn’t until we were at high school that Mum did a couple days house cleaning for people but she was still always home by the time we got home from school.
Even when she gave all that away, she was busy. She was still up at 4am, watering her precious orchids and garden, washing, cleaning or onto a job that needed to be done.
My point is, we all say we’re busy but busy doing what? Are we busy contributing to being more house proud? Are we busy thinking about how we can streamline our meal planning to get the most out of the food we buy? Are we busy keeping on top of washing curtains, cleaning windows, cleaning the tracks on sliding windows and doors? I can tell you I’m busy on Facebook and Instagram every day. I can tell you I’m busy working out how I can make money from my website. I can also tell you I’m absolutely flat out trying to schedule and plan everything little thing that my children are doing in and out of school.
So when do we get time to do those things that matter a whole lot more to our ‘home’ and our families? I can tell you now that my children aren’t going to notice, for a second, whether or not I’ve cleaned the sliding door tracks or washed the curtains but I do. Before children I was onto those jobs every couple of months. Since my children came along I was flat out washing my floors once a week. At the end of the day, the people in your home matter more than whether your grout is sparkling white or your tracks are clean but eventually finding the time to clean these seemingly unimportant parts of your home are relatively still important.
So, how do we fit it all in. Let’s face it (no pun intended), Facebook is here to stay and if you are trying to get your business moving, it needs to be done. You also keep in touch with family members who aren’t nearby and other things that are going on in your community. What we need to realise is that we have it so much better than back in our parent’s or grandparent’s day with the modern conveniences we are blessed with compared to their day. It’s all about prioritising and making do with what you have.
I can remember my Nanna saying water had to be carted back from a local water source and heated in a ‘copper’ to do the washing. Both my Mother and Grandmother were very particular with their washing and my Mum’s whites were always ‘whiter than white’. We all have an automatic washing machine and/or a clothes dryer. (Just as a side note, I still have my grandmother’s clothes dryer that she bought in the 1970s. I don’t think she used it once and that’s why it’s lasted so long.)
I don’t want to sound like I’m ‘dirty’ or anything but I usually wear the same ‘house’ clothes for a couple days. If it’s really hot and humid, like it normally is in my part of the world, I’ll change my t-shirt daily but other than my underwear, I wear my clothes for a couple days. My grandparent’s and parent’s wardrobes didn’t contain anywhere near as much clothing as what ours do. If the clothes aren’t there, you don’t have to wash them.
My children are shocking for wearing new play clothes every day. As much as I try to monitor it, they’ve gone and put a new outfit on every day after school. Our mothers and grandmothers would wear aprons when they were doing the cooking or cleaning. This protected their clothes. I have a few aprons that I wear when cooking and it saves me having to wash an entire outfit instead of just one apron which I will also try to wear a few times before I put it in the wash.
Same as towels and sheets. You’re clean when you get out of the shower (except in the case of my children) so your towel is only wiping off water. If you have a shower before bed, your sheets will be clean too. I know we shed skin after washing but do we really need to wash our linen often? I couldn’t imagine if I had to cart water every second day just so I kept on top of the washing and someone suggested that you should wash those things once or twice a week. For the record, my washing days are Wednesday and Saturday and that’s been working wonderfully for me.
There was no need for purchasing laundry soakers, stain removers or ‘super dooper’ laundry liquids and powders. The only thing my grandmother used was plain old laundry soap and maybe a bit of whitener in the rinse water. Their clothes were impeccably clean. A good scrub with a brush and soap on any stains should get them out plus you’ve got the added advantage of good agitation in today’s modern washing machines to remove most dirt and grime from the clothing.
Everything was ironed back in those days too because of the natural fibres that were used to make clothes. They hadn’t even invented half the fabrics we have today. I hang most of my clothes on hangers when they’re washed so they can go straight into the wardrobe. I don’t mind ironing though and love my linen tea towels and pillow cases ironed but that’s just a personal preference. If you fold it as soon as it comes out of the clothes dryer or off the clothesline, there’s really no need for ironing these days. A huge time saver.
We have electric or gas stoves and ovens, slow cookers, microwaves, toaster ovens, electric frypans, Thermomixes (heaven forbid) that we can use to prepare our food. Takeaway wasn’t even an option in my grandparent’s day and I was 15 years old before I set foot inside a fast food chain hamburger joint.
Imagine if we spent just 15 mins once a week or fortnight (however often you do a grocery shop) and looked at what was in our pantry and added what we needed to our grocery list, just how much more food we could buy for less instead of buying what was on special in the supermarket catalogues and then still buying takeaway because we didn’t plan ahead?
Take that little bit of time to make use of the time saving appliances you do have in your kitchen cupboards and plan ahead what food you’ll be cooking.
If I think of how many supermarkets I have access to within about a 10km radius from my home, you’d just about die laughing. It’s crazy. My grandmother had to go to ‘town’ to buy any pantry staples. And when I say pantry staples, I mean huge bags of flour, sugar, coffee, tea, etc. They had their own chickens for food and eggs. They were lucky in that they were on a working dairy farm so had access to milk, cream and therefore their own homemade butter.
They had cattle and pigs for meat plus grew their own fruit and vegetables that thrived in their area. I can vaguely remember seeing a ‘bread delivery’ truck arrive when I was very young on my Nanna’s farm. That was probably about the only other thing they bought if Nanna didn’t have time to bake bread that day. No deep freezers or fridges in those days either. Everything had to be baked fresh every couple of days and meat was cured so that it would last longer and not go off before use.
Think about the time we waste ‘ducking’ out to the supermarket for that one ingredient. Forget it. Use that time more wisely by using up what you already have. So many ingredients can be substituted for so many things. Forget that recipe altogether and just cook something you have ingredients for. I see a lot of recipes using chocolate candy bars or chocolate coated biscuits, for example. Seriously, I’ve never made them once. A bit of cocoa powder to flavour your cookies or cake with a chocolate flavour or even a few squares of a block of cheap chocolate will suffice. Plain old chocolate and peanut butter can be substituted for Reece’s Peanut Butter cups without you having to buy a whole packet of them just so you can make a Reece’s Peanut Butter Pie that you saw on the internet. Remember, use that time more wisely by using what you already have and save money.
Both my grandmother and mother never learnt to drive. There was need to back in those days but I’m sure Mum would agree (if she were still alive) that she regrets not learning. I don’t know how she coordinated it all but we never missed a softball training session because she somehow wrangled other people’s Mums to collect us for training if my Dad was at work. If she did drive it would’ve meant having to buy a second car anyway which my Mum and Dad wouldn’t have been able to afford.
In the early days of my previous marriage, we only had one car. I can remember taking the bus to my local shopping centre with my baby girl and doing the grocery shopping. That was also before the days of online grocery shopping. I was lucky that they did offer a $5 delivery service to the elderly and new Mums about 13 years back which I was grateful for. I would also have to walk my daughter, with my son in tow, to Kindy in those days too. We’re very lucky that we live close to both schools and my daughter has no trouble walking to and from high school.
Just remember the extra expense there is with a second car. There’s insurance, maintenance, petrol etc plus the time going out when you really could be at home doing one extra chore that takes about 30 minutes. Don’t get me wrong. The day I turned 17, I was down at the local police station getting my learner’s permit and about 8 weeks later had my driver’s licence and soon after, my first car. You didn’t see me for dust. Now, some weeks I barely go out. It’s been over a week since I was out in my car and even though my husband and I can afford to keep two cars, if you’re struggling there are ways around it.
It amazes me that people say they get bored being at home, that they need to get out. Look around the house, feel proud of your home and try to make it the most comfortable, tidy, warm and inviting home you can. You don’t need to fill it with cheap Asian imported products to do that. Just give it a good, deep clean. And don’t forget, we’ve got all those time saving appliances our grandmothers never had like bagless vacuum cleaners and microfiber cloths.
I mentioned previously that social media has it’s place in our modern society but do we really need all that information? I know I can sometimes overwhelm myself with the number of webinars or courses I’d like to watch. I could spend a whole week watching webinar after webinar, back to back, but is it all really necessary?
Same as all those recipes and crafts. Thank goodness for Pinterest that I can just store it all in there but I don’t think I would ever cook those recipes in my entire lifetime. Thinking back to our grandmother’s days, they had one recipe book and it was usually an exercise book that belonged to their mother or a new one that had all the favourite, most used recipes handed down from generation to generation. That’s all they ate, so that’s all they cooked. If the recipe called for ‘apple’ but all they had were ‘pears’, they used pears. That’s how they learnt to substitute ingredients by using what they had.
Right now I’m looking at the large collection of cookbooks I have and I can guarantee about 75% of them I’ve never cooked a recipe from. I don’t really know why I hold onto them. (In fact, I’m going to be having a huge cookbook cull very soon.) Get yourself a good cookbook with all the basics and add ingredients that are in season and use up what you have. Cookbooks used in high school are the very best and I still have mine and use it often. Spend time with your grandmother and mother writing down some of those favourite recipes from your childhood so you can cook them then pass it down to your children. Ask any of the famous chefs of the world what their favourite recipes are and I’ll guarantee they’ll say it was their Mum’s Sunday roast dinner or their Nanna’s apple pie etc.
Games & Toys
I don’t need to tell those of you with kids what a headache it is to try and encourage your children to get outside and off the handheld devices and video games. I’ve implemented some strict rules of late with great results but it’s been a long road. When I was a child in the 70’s, my mother would save any small tins or cardboard packaging for us to use in a play shop or pretend play house. We spent days, weeks, if not years playing with this stuff.
I can remember my mother telling me that when they killed a cow, they used the stomach lining as a ball that my grandmother would stuff with something or other. I know, a bit gross but it goes to show how ingenious they were at coming up with games and toys for their children to play with instead of just buying something.
Some of the greatest toys my children played with were my saucepans and a wooden spoon. They would sit on the floor and clang away happily while I cooked dinner. What I’m trying to say that don’t feel like you need to buy the latest craze for your children every single time. I also wanted a Barbie doll when I was young. I loved them. My youngest sister got one and I was so envious. I only ever had a “Sindy” doll, which I loved, but it didn’t bother me. I made the most of what I did have and didn’t feel any worse off (well, maybe just a little).
All the kids in the street would get a bike. We didn’t get a bike until we were at least 12 years old. Now most kids have had about 3 or 4 bikes by the time they get to that age. If you’re really interested in saving money, spending quality time with your family and not having a lot of clutter around your home, this is definitely the way to go. There are so many ideas on the internet for making games and toys out of everyday household objects, just like our grandparents did, your children will feel like they’ve got a new toy all the time. You’re saving your hip pocket as well as the environment by doing this. You’ll also have a lot of extra money to save towards an exciting family holiday for example.
I can also remember my Nanna would save a piece of cardboard from something and glue a pretty picture torn out of a magazine and make a jigsaw puzzle out of it by cutting up the pieces for us to play with when we visited her. I have great memories of those times plus just running around her beautiful garden. She also had an old suitcase she brought out when we were a bit younger. It only ever had lids and plastic jars with a few other household items. Mum eventually got that suitcase when my grandmother passed away and I can remember my children playing with those things. There was always something unusual or interesting to try and put together from that suitcase.
Honestly, your children won’t have memories of every single video game you bought them or plastic Littlest Pet Shop or Ninja Turtle toy that comes on the market. What they’ll remember is the time you spent with them, caring for them and providing that nurturing home environment.
These are just a few of the ways my grandmother and mother had such a huge influence in my life and how I can save so much time and money in today’s busy world. Sure, I’m still going to be spending more time on social media than they would have listening to the radio (in my grandmother’s day) or watching TV (in my mother’s day), but I bet they were doing something else while they were doing that. They would’ve been mending, crocheting, knitting, darning socks, shelling peas or planning tomorrow’s meal.
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