11 In Suburban Homesteading

16 Vintage skills you should master

vintage skills

I find that we tend to think of ourselves, living in our modern, digital world, as so much better than the people that came before us. We think we are so “advanced” but in reality, most of us are hardly equipped to actually fend for ourselves. We rely on the internet, grocery stores, electric companies, etc for our daily survival. There are so many vintage skills that have been “lost” that were the keys to being self-sufficient and sustainable.

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These are things that our grandparents and great-grandparents would have considered common sense. There is something to be said about knowing you can handle your sh*t if the power goes out or there is some other type of emergency. There is a sense of pride in it as well, which is great for your sense of self-worth.

vintage skills

Sewing

I put this one at the top of my list as it is the first one that I learned. My mum taught me to sew when I was very young and it is something that I continue to do to this day. I have my side hustle The Honey Bagger where I let out my creative side making custom purses, makeup bags and other things. Sewing is close to my heart, I even made mine and my sister’s prom dresses from scratch on my own. I even still have the sewing kit I had when I was a kid.

There are so many things you can easily sew and loads that are handy for your suburban homestead. Here are just a few:

  • Oven mitts
  • Reusable “paper” towels
  • Dishwashing scrubbies
  • Grocery tote
  • Egg gathering apron
  • Bread storage bag

Stock a frugal pantry

What is a frugal pantry? Well by my definition it’s a pantry full of low-cost items that can be used to make or stretch recipes. They store will for long periods or time and are prefereably bought in bulk and stored in glass containers (with cute vinyl decals on them).

Things I include in my pantry (just a few of them):

  • Red lentils
  • Green lentils
  • Stocks (chicken, beef and vegetable)
  • Spices
  • Dried pasta
  • Beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Honey
  • Rice
  • Seeds
  • Things I have canned myself

Make your victory garden

A victory garden is really just a back (or front) yard garden where you grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs. The concept came out during World War I and World War II. They were a way to indirectly help with the war effort by reducing people’s reliance on the public food supply. So it was all about sustainability and self-sufficiency really. In today’s day and age it’s a way to reduce your reliance on grocery stores. Plus it helps you to know where your food is coming from, save money and basically feel good about getting your hands dirty. I just dug up a portion of my front yard to extend my growing space!

There is a new level of satisfaction in known that the food you are eating came from your own hard work and determination. It is really amazing what you can grow in a small space to feed your family and stick your pantry. In my own garden I grow….(get ready for it)…

  • Raspberries (3 kinds)
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Blackberries
  • Black currants
  • Okra
  • Cucumbers and pickles
  • Watermelons
  • Onions (4 kinds)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes (14 kinds)
  • Peppers (10 kinds)
  • Beans (3 kinds)
  • Horseradish
  • Grapes (3 kinds)
  • Rhubarb
  • Kale
  • Peas (4 kinds)
  • Potatoes (3 kinds)
  • Carrots (5 kinds)
  • Herbs (Lemon Balm, mint, sage, basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, cilantro and parsley)
vintage skills

Step up your canning and jamming game

In the last few years, I have definitely stepped up my canning game. Every year I make my own small batch tomato sauce from the heirloom tomatoes I grow in my back yard. I also make up batches of dill pickles and bread and butter pickles from my homegrown cucumbers. When my raspberries are in season I will whip up jars of homemade raspberry jam which makes everyone happy. I like to can as much as possible when everything is in season and use it to stock my pantry for the winter months.

I haven’t strayed from water-bath canning at present but I want to start learning more about pressure canning. Pressure canning opens up a whole new world of canning possibilities! It is very important to know what method of canning is appropriate for the item you are canning. This is no joke people! The wrong canning method can have very serious consequences. Also when you open something that has been canned a good rule of thumb is if you aren’t sure its good then throw it out!

vintage skills

Bake your own bread

This is something I have dabbled in but I hope to start making it on a weekly basis (daily may be a bit of a stretch for me at the moment). I’m planning to make up a few loaves and then freeze the ones I am not going to use right away. It is kind of scary if you sit down to think about how long a homemade loaf lasts vs how long a store-bought loaf lasts. I mean what do they put in that sh*t?

If you are planning to start making your bread on the daily (or weekly) then two things you may want to consider are a bread proofing bowl and making your own cloth loaf bag for storing your bread on the counter on in the freezer. I recently tried my hand at making challah bread and I’m hooked! I’m actually planning on making another two loaves tomorrow morning.

Cook from scratch

Ditch the store-bought, over-packaged food and take out. Cook what you eat at home, in your own kitchen, preferably with ingredients you grew yourself. When you cook from scratch you know exactly what you are putting in your mouth. You avoid all the chemicals that are in pre-packaged foods AND you will cut down on your sodium intake (like without even trying). Cooking with fresh ingredients is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

Picture yourself making some delicious chilli at home. You would add in meat, beans, green peppers, mushroom, tomatoes, chilli spice etc. Now on your next trip to the grocery store grab a can of chilli and read the ingredients. I guarantee you the ingredients list will include loads of “weird” scientific-sounding ingredients that you would never add into your homemade chilli!

If you don’t currently cook a lot at home don’t fret! Start small. Commit to cooking one meal from scratch a week and just go from there. If you are super busy and live out of the freezer, reliant on box meals why not set aside some time once a week to cook up a big batch of food that you can freeze in portions for the rest of the week when life gets in the way? If you want an easy and delicious recipe to start with, try my roasted red pepper and sweet potato soup. You can make it even easier by getting roasted red peppers in a jar.

Get your food locally

If you don’t have enough space for a victory garden (you really do though), or maybe you just don’t love working in the garden. That’s fine! There are loads of farmers’ markets just about everywhere. This is a great way to pick up locally grown, seasonal produce. It is also possible to get meat directly from farmers if you are willing to buy in bulk.

If you live in the city there are still usually some alternatives to getting your food from the grocery stores. Delivery services such as Mama Earth Organics or TruLocal are a great way to bring local seasonal produce, eggs and meat into your home (plus they taste better than the grocery store alternatives)

vintage skills

Make your own soap

I had wanted to try making cold-process soap for a very long time. I planned to take a course in soap-making but they were expensive. After giving it some thought I invested the money I would have spent on the course into supplies, grabbed my bestie, YouTube and jumped right in! There was a whole Breaking Bad feeling to our first attempt and we were scared sh*tless but it worked out great and nobody died so that’s a plus.

Not I make soap about once every two months. I am still experimenting with formulations and essential oil blends. If you are curious about cold-process soap making then this post should get you started.

If you think cold process soap is too big a first step then you can always get pre-made soap bases from stores like Michael’s or even Walmart. Making your own soap is another great way to eliminate weird chemicals out of your life!

Make your own cleaning supplies

There are so many chemicals that are in just about everything we use nowadays and cleaning supplies are pretty bad offenders. What with their coloured dyes and synthetical smells! This is one of the easiest vintage skills to master because it is so easy! You probably already have all the things you need already in your kitchen! The main ingredient is probably in your kitchen, possibly under the kitchen sink, just sitting there waiting for a chance to shine! I’m talking about vinegar and it’s a cleaning powerhouse!

There are so many cleaning supplies you can easily make at home! Here are just a few:

  • Reusable “paper” towels
  • All purpose cleaner
  • Window cleaning solution
  • Reusable dishwashing scrubbies
  • Wool dryer balls
  • Laundry detergent

Cut down your reliance on plastic

Plastic is a relatively recent addition to our lives but it has had a huge and mostly negative impact on us and our planet. The term “plastic” was first coined in 1907 by Leo Baekeland who developed the first fully synthetic plastic called bakelite. This technological “advancement” has helped to drive a disposable mentality that never used to exist in the past. It pollutes our oceans, bodies and basically contributes to the destruction of the planet. Too harsh? Not really, were are just so used to it in just about every aspect of our lives.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all plastic is bad or that it hasn’t greatly improved our lives. But with 8 million metric tonnes of plastic entering our oceans every year, clogging up our oceans and killing wildlife. I think it’s safe to say reducing the amount of plastic we use would be a good thing. There are many ways that you can reduce your reliance on plastic and every single one will have a small and positive effect.

Here are a few simple things you can do to reduce the amount of plastics you use:

  • Use glass instead of plastic containers
  • Make your own wax food wraps instead of using plastic wrap
  • Buy or make your own shopping tote(s) instead of using plastic bags
  • Use a reusable coffee cup
  • Buy or make your own produce bags

Make your own cheese

This is my next quest in my suburban homesteading journey. So far I have dabbled in cheesemaking just once. My neighbour and I made some mozzarella cheese, which was delicious. I used a cheesemaking kit from Sandy Leaf Farms, which was very easy to use. I don’t eat a lot of cheese but I definitely want to try my hand at making some goat cheese which is my favorite.

vintage skills

Make your own candles

I admit I was a Bath and Body Works candle junkie. As soon as the weather gets a wee bit of a chill I was checking my email daily for the notice that the 3 wick candles were on sale. But as I did more research I realized they contain paraffin wax…which is not good people. I know they smell AMAZING, but it’s just not worth it. Paraffin wax is a byproduct from the refining of lubricating oil…yuck!

So now I make my own soy candles in mason jars, using essential oils. You don’t need a lot of supplies and it isn’t very expensive, especially if you buy in bulk. It’s also fun to make your own essential oil blends to get the perfect smell for you. I’m planning out my fall and winter candles, using clove, cinnamon, orange and balsam fir essential oils. ***swoon***

Brew your coffee a home

Guilty! I will admit that I do tend to grab a coffee on the way to work. But in my attempt to get debt free (other than my mortgage) by the end of 2020, I am making a commitment to not buying coffee anymore. As an incentive, I treated myself to this cute little teakwood swell travel mug to take my coffee to work. I use only use a French press which is perfect for making a single to-go cup of coffee as I am getting ready in the morning. So making this one little change in your daily routine can save you money and its better for the planet too.

Think about it. If you get one morning coffee a day that’s about $2 if you go to Tim Hortons or like $6 if you’re a Starbucks junkie. So that’s $40 – $120 dollars a month back in your pocket and 20 coffee cups and lids that were not used. If more people made this small change think of the impact it could have on our cash flow and the planet!

vintage skills

Compost

This is a great way to reduce waste and help your garden grow better! Composting can be done literally anywhere. Even an apartment homesteader can get into the composting game with the right gear! This under the counter composter is perfect for those with little to no growing space. If you live in the suburbs as I do, then I have found a rotating composter (this is the one I have) is best as it helps keep the critters out and composts quicker.

If I had more space then I would just set up a compost pile, but I don’t want my neighbours complaining. So for now I use the rotating composter. Just make sure that you are keeping the nitrogen and carbon in balance if you want to avoid it smelling like you are hiding dead bodies in your backyard! If you want to know more about composting then here is a post on composting like a pro.

Ferment Foods

Fermenting foods are so good for your gut health as they help to feed the good gut bacteria. You probably eat things today that are fermented without realizing it. Things like kosher pickles, sauerkraut, sriracha, miso and even beer to name a few. Or maybe you are adventurous and make your own kombucha at home! Fermenting food is something that used to be much more common, with evidence of it in Egyptian times and beyond. I want to try making my own lacto-fermented soda using the berries in my backyard!

Get out of debt and stop living on credit

Getting debt-free is probably the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. In reality, it’s not so much one of those vintage skills as it was just the way they lived their lives. Credit wasn’t something you jumped on in the past. The mindset was much more about living within your means. The main (and possibly only) source of debt would have been for the mortgage.

In this digital world, we now find ourselves we have lost the tangible/physical quality of cash. There is something more real about having your money physically in your wallet. You can see it dwindling in a way that we don’t with our debit and credit cards. This and the insatiable need to keep up with The Jones’ or Instagram or whatever has left us with so much debt. One way to reduce and then eliminate your debt is to start crafting a zero-dollar budget. This is something I am working on and it’s not easy but it is worth it.

Currently I am in what I call the “learning” phase. I haven’t changed any of my behaviours but I am tracking everything using the YNAB app for a month. Then I plan to sit down and take stock of where my money is going. I really think this is an important step. If you don’t know where your money is actually going then how do you know that you are making the right changes? Looking at what you send your money on can be enlightening and uncover other issues you may not have been aware of.

So there you have it, 16 easy vintage skills that you can add to your suburban homesteading tool box. What ones do you currently use? Which one of these vintage skills do you plan to master next? As I mentioned next on my list is cheese making!

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11 Comments

  • Reply
    Jani
    August 8, 2019 at 9:43 am

    Agreed! I do most on this list but I’m definitely curious to learn more about homemade cheese!!

  • Reply
    Kathy
    August 8, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Great essential oil selection for fall candles. Soy candles rock!

  • Reply
    Jelony
    August 11, 2019 at 2:58 am

    Some of the things on this list are on my wish list. I just wish I had the time to do them.

    • Reply
      Kir
      August 15, 2019 at 9:03 am

      Hi Jelony,

      Time is definitely hard to come by! Hopefully, you get to try some of them out in the future.

      Kir

  • Reply
    Sara
    August 11, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    I love these tips! I really appreciate that you included decreasing plastic and composting. I think everyone can do better at this. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Kir
      August 15, 2019 at 8:59 am

      Hi Sara,

      Reducing plastic is so key! Baby steps sure help to make a big difference in the long run.

      Kir

  • Reply
    Rachael
    August 11, 2019 at 9:45 pm

    We don‘t really have plot big enough for a garden, but we do have blackberries and currants that we grow and my MIL turn into jam. I must rake the time to learn from her.

    • Reply
      Kir
      August 15, 2019 at 9:01 am

      Hi Rachael,

      Its surprising what you can grow in a small space! If you don’t have much room then you should check out my post on square foot gardening. It will help you get the most out of a small space!

      Kir

  • Reply
    Erin
    August 15, 2019 at 7:18 am

    I really need to add sewing to my skills. Right now my mother still helps me with all my sewing projects!

    • Reply
      Kir
      August 15, 2019 at 8:58 am

      Hi Erin,

      It’s a great skill to have! I’m thinking of trying to make some of my own clothes…so will have to see how that goes!

      Kir

  • Reply
    Britt
    August 17, 2019 at 4:08 am

    This is a great list! I can and have done most of these things, but I’ll admit that while I’m totally interested in the idea of canning, I’ve never given it a try. It’s definitely on my ‘must try’ list.

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