Saturday, 18 May 2019

40 vintage ways to cut costs

Vintage living is renowned for having a life-style based on frugality. Adapting the rules from a no-nonsense era can stretch today’s dollar and cut household costs. 
As I continue the year of living like 1939, I can hardly be anything less than a careful housekeeper. The suggestions that follow are all I have learnt so far.

1. Grow as much food as possible to lower the food bill, and freeze or can what you can’t use immediately. Even tomatoes can be frozen and used in soups and stews.

2. Save leftovers to make potato scones, soups, stews or fried vegetables.

3. Sheets can be reversed to extend their wear, putting the top border at the bottom end of the bed.

4. A sheet that’s worn in the centre can be put “sides-to-middle.” Cut it in half lengthways, seams the sides together and hem the raw edges.

5. Turn back bedding in the morning to help keep sheets to stay fresh longer. Which will cut back on frequent laundering. 

6. Cleaners should be bought in the most economical size (not always the largest) and decanted into spray bottles. Use just a squirt instead of pouring out a large amount.

7. Don’t use more laundry detergent than you need. If you don’t have a measuring cup, use a 470g jam jar (fill it halfway for a cup measure).

8. A slightly soiled wash may not need as much detergent as the manufacturer recommends.

9. Towels need watching. At the first sign of weakening along the edge, take bias tape and sew it with strong thread on both sides. 

10. A ripped towel can be cut into squares for use as washcloths.

11. Worn-out towels, cut into squares and bound together in four or five thicknesses, make good washable pot holders. Hem with binding tape and leave a piece at the end to make a little loop of tape to hang them up.

12. Wash blue towels, sheets, pillowcases with your whites to brighten up the white wash. Of course, any new coloured items should be washed separately for a few times.

13. Camouflage unremovable stains on children’s clothes with embroidery. Paint, rust spots, small rips can all be concealed with stitched flowers, a butterfly or a fish, using washable beads or old pearls for centres and eyes.

14. Soap is said to harden with keeping. Buy it six months ahead and store. unwrapped, in the linen cupboard. It smells good too.

15. Use soap holders to prevent soap being wasted.

16. If your bath oil label suggests using two capfuls, then half a cap is probably just as good.

17. You can get rid of paper table napkins, too. An inexpensive bangle for a serviette ring for everyone in the family and a hemmed square from a worn-out towel make free substitutes.

20. Scrub the dirtiest spots on clothes first to cut down on the washing time.

21. Boil only enough water for the cups of tea or coffee needed.

22. Have everything ready before the kettle comes to the boil, turning off the heat as soon as the water is boiling.

23. Use the minimum amount of water to cook vegetables. Add a tablespoon of water and a dab of butter to the vegetables, shake to coat, then cover and cook slowly.

24. A properly insulated oven retains heat. Turn it off before dishes such as casseroles are quite ready.

25. If the oven is already on, cook frozen vegetables in it. Put them in a covered casserole with a little water, butter, and salt, and cook for 39 minutes.

26. Keep your mending up-to-date, or that pair of ripped pyjama pants will sit in the mending box until it’s been out-grown. Organise a mending or sewing circle among your neighbours, for one or two afternoons a month.

27. Worn-out clothes should have zips, buttons and binding tape removed. The old binding is more suitable for mending older clothes, since new tape is stronger and causes more stress. 

28. A patchwork quilt uses up old clothes. Make a cardboard template about 20cm square, and cut squares from the better parts of old garments. Back the quilt with an old flannelette sheet and interline with an old swollen blanket. Pillow slips can be fashioned in the same way.

29. Short dresses can still be used by buying or making a wrap skirt in a complementary colour to wear over the dress.

30. Lengthen accordion-pleated skirts using a remnant of fabric lining. Unpick the waist. Make a circle from the lining by seaming together a strip 17 cm wide and hop measurement plus 5cm long. Stitch the circle tot he top of the skirt - this portion will be hidden by an overblouse or seeker - and make an elasticised waist.

31. Hand-knitted sweaters are warmer and can be unravelled when outworn or outgrown. Wind the yarn loosely around a large book, tie the skein in several place and hand-wash.

32. Sometimes there is enough fabric in a pleated skirt to make into another garment by unpicking and pressing out the pleats. The material can then be reassembled.

33. Carry a notebook with your family’s current measurements. If you see an unexpected sale, you’ll be prepared.

34. Jot down metres or wool requirements for a pattern. That way you won’t buy too much or too little.

35. Thermal cot blankets can be saved and seamed together to make a bedsize blanket when the cot is outgrown.

36. Bean sprouts are an excellent and cheap source of vitamin C. 

37. Worn-out sheets cut into handkerchief-chief size pieces are softer on the nose than tissues.

38. Conserve heating oil or gas by keeping the thermostat about 19 deg C (66 deg F) during the day and turning it down at night. Better still, turn the heat off.

39. Cook roast beef slowly to minimise shrinkage. Rub it with oil but no salt, and place on a rack in a shallow pan fat side up. Do no sear or add water. Cook, uncovered, in a preheated 150 deg C (300deg F) oven for 32 to 34 minutes per 500g (1lb) for medium.

40. A clothes dryer can use up to 100 kilowatt hours a month; drying clothes on a line is free. Clothes can be partly dried in the dryer, then hung on a line under cover.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Friday, 10 May 2019


In the Southern Hemisphere, Australia is in autumn heading into winter, and the winter chill is very much here. For the garden the newspapers of 1939 say it is time to sow beds where plants such as quick-growing annuals are needed. Popular flowers during the era for planting now, include:

* Virginia stocks (for ribbon borders)
*Dwarf nasturtiums
*Shirley poppies
Nemesia, snapdragons, and sweet peas.

Hardy annuals should be sown in boxes or seedbeds for late flowering seeds. 

Now is a good time to make speciality of bedding out pansies, violas, stocks, Iceland poppies, carnations, lobelias, linaria, English daisies and calendula. All root cutting of pelargoniums should be done now.

In the vegetable plot sow or plant cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohl-rabi, parsnips, turnips, silver beet, herbs and broad beans.

Strawberries should be planted out in proper containers or beds.


Every vegetable planted needs ample room to be able to grow into flourishing plants. Carrots, turnips, parsnips, and red beet should be planted from four to five inches apart. Seeds need to be thinned out from six to ten inches apart with a foot between rows. For general purposes onions will do well with four inches apart, with ten inches separating the rows; lettuce will need a foot apart and twenty inches will do for cabbages in rows two feet apart.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Friday, 3 May 2019

From Kitchen Left Overs

From Kitchen Left Overs.

It’s May and Autumn is starting to appear here with plenty of foggy days, crisp mornings, and a hit of frost on the ground during early morning times. The weather has been very foggy and rainy. The rain is nice for the garden. There have been fine days too and the days are cooler in temperature but not very cold, making  most days really pleasant. The weather makes it a good time to be indoors pottering around.

During May of 1939 there's articles for dishes from ‘left overs’.  The articles all suggests it worth having patience and a love for making something from nothing to make sure not a scrap is wasted in the kitchen so that pennies can be saved. Below are just some of the tips from those articles for using your kitchen left overs.

When The Food Overflows.

It’s worth while for a cook to make use of using left overs as it helps with savings in the weekly account. Left overs can be used - not every other day, but often enough to make a savings. In the first place, it pays to get into the habit of planning meals so there isn’t really any left-overs to be had. Over time this can be managed and when scraps do appear obviously know what to keep and what not to keep. 

Hoard The Gravy and The Sauce.

Cupfuls of gravy and white sauce from dinner, can be reheated with pieces of cold meat like chicken and the sauce is easily season well and served up with crips bits of toast sprinkled with parsley makes an easily made meal.

Chicken heated in left over brown gravy: to the gravy add a little curry powder and spoon-full of chutney, and it makes for a nice breakfast dish. Boil up some rice and the left over becomes something more substantial.

Hasty Curried Eggs.

Eggs are always a good standby for any left over dish for dinner or breakfast. If there’s white sauce or gravy on hand, curried eggs are a few minutes and can be made up easily when you don’t have time. Heat the sauce or gravy, thin it if necessary, and flavour to taste with curry, a tiny pinch of sugar, and just before serving squeeze some lemon in it. Hard-boil and egg, shell them, and halve them, and smother with the prepared curry sauce. Serve with toast. A variation is simply poach an egg, serve on toast and coat with the curry gravy. The same can be done with poached egg on a bed of rice and the sauce over that.

A Spoonful of Gravy.

* Try poaching eggs boiled in brown gravy. 
* Place an egg in a small greased ramekin dish, cover with gravy, and bake until the egg is set. If you have white sauce left over you can add breadcrumbs on the surface and grated cheese, and brown as the egg sets.
* A rissole mixture can be moisten with left over gravy.
* White sauce is good for mixing in with salmon patties.
* And both gravies can enrich a stew or soup.

The Potato Goes a Long Way Here.

Everyone knows scraps of mashed potato are some-how always in the kitchen left-overs. They can be fried and made into covering fish pie. Left over mashed potato is also good for padding rissoles or fish patties. Add left over potato to a shepherds pie for a good family meal.

You can make some potato puffs as well if you have dry cheese that can be grated. Mash a cupful of potato with 2 or 4 tablespoons of cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. You can include a spoonful fo chopped parsley as well. Then add about 1 cup fo self-raising flour, and mix the whole together with two beaten eggs and a little milk if necessary. At the end it should be like a cavelike mixture that you will drop from the spoon. Fry in very hot oil until puffy and golden brown all over. Drain well. Serve with bacon and tomatoes.

Try Potato Scones.

When you are making up some sweet scones, try making up a batch of potato scones (biscuit) which can be made quickly with scraps of cold potato. Sift 2 cups flour with a good pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons of baking powder, and then rub into it a heaped tablespoon of butter. Thoroughly mash 2 cups cold potato and blend it thoroughly with the flour. Mix to a soft, scone-line paste with a beaten egg and milk, or with the milk alone. Roll and cut in the usual way. Bake for 10 minutes in a very hot oven. You can add some grated cheese to this as well.

Cauliflower left over?

When you buy cheese in blocks there’s always unavoidable scraps and the ends are always dry. Those ends are easy to grate, and really useful to have on hand. They can be grated into macaroni cheese. If you have cauliflower, cheese blends very well with it. Place the left over cauliflower in a greased pie dish and cover it with a white sauce, well flavoured with grated cheese, pepper, and salt. Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese then dot with a few bits of butter on top.  Bake until brown. 

Odds And Ends

* Rice left from curry will make a rice custard with the addition of eggs and milk. It won’t be as creamy as the usual rice custard but still tasty.
* Use ends of jam in the bottom of the basin that holds steamed pudding.
* An odd spoonful of jam goes well in a curry.
* Any old tomatoes, onions, or scraps of meat can be added to a damper.

* Think twice before throwing out dry ends of bread. Bake them instead in a slow oven until pale brown and crisp right through, or lightly toast them. Then either roll them finely with a rolling pin in a bag and store them in an airtight jar where they will keep for several weeks, and always be available for coating fried foods, and other purposes. 

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Thursday, 25 April 2019


The newspaper articles of 1939 had sections which appeared regularly in the pages. There was always front-page news headlines, sections for husbandry, sports, and one of the longest regular section is the ‘Of Interest To Women’ section and the Dear Eleanor letters. Women from around Australia wrote to Eleanor telling of their home-life whether happy or sad and giving recipes as well as useful tips. Eleanor ‘wrote back’ at the top of the article writing about her adventures of the time and giving advice to the homemakers. The articles are really a good look at the true living standards of the era and as time progress Eleanor encouraged all homemakers to prepare for war.

In the garden, I’ve been planting out what the garden articles of 1939 suggest for the Autumn season. Pansies, snapdragons, and English cottage garden favourites are being mentioned as popular plants to plant out now. I’ve also planted out the winter vegetable crop such as cabbage. 

In the kitchen, the recipes are changing for the seasons with hearty stews and soups. A lot of the herbs from the garden such as bay, sage, and thyme are coming in handy to add flavour to the meals.

In the home, ‘make do’ is being put to good use as always. I’m making an apron from my scrap bag and the crayon tinted flowers I did previously will become the pocket for the apron. I’ve never made an apron, so this will be interesting learning curve. I’m also working on a Grandmother’s flower garden quilt using up scraps from the scrap bag and I’ve recycled a lot of old Christmas cards to make up the hexagon templates for the quilt. Of course, the crazy quilt continues. 

The weather is changing for the seasons and it’s been quite nice weather for Autumn. The colder weather will likely come in and the home-front will have to adjust to the seasonal change once again. 

No doubt, in the up coming articles from Eleanor Barbour and her readers will give plenty of tips on how to make the changes. Change is never easy but if you take little steps to prepare it does make the transition easier. Living a vintage life is all about changes, it’s not easy, but it is a better way to be. At least I think so.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Is it frugal living or is it vintage living?

There has been a short pause in blog posts for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons for the length between posting was to cut back on my internet time. I’m still a heavy Internet user and separation anxiety is real, but my phone isn’t like a third arm extension any more. Cutting back gave me some experience in what was do-able with Internet expenses.

Other ways I’ve cut right back on household expenditure: 

Using the library for books, magazines and such. I also find the cheapest books I can through the thrift stores and I very rarely have anything new on my bookshelves. The thrift stores are also my go to place for all craft material and home goods. 

I rarely use the dryer and only on days where it has been raining consecutively making it difficult to hang out clothes to line dry. We do have an indoor hanging rack for clothes but towels and sheets need a larger space.

I’ve started to plant what I can to bring food in the kitchen. Now that it is going into early Autumn here, I don’t need to water as much but I do have to find a way to use less water. I’ve currently gone back to using a watering can and using house water that doesn’t have any food scraps in it to water the garden. 

In the garden I plant vegetables to season and what I know will be eaten in the kitchen.  I also tried planting out some very old seeds to see if they will sprout and have some varying success with those seeds. I plant flowers, both edible and ones for show. The bees need both and the garden needs the bees.  I also make sure to have a good supply of herbs to make plain meals a little more tasty. Basil, Chives, Mint, Parsley, Sage, Thyme are all good  herbs to have on hand.

When I am out and about I now bring a small lunch box and pack lunches anytime I cannot be home to have a meal. I avoid going to get take aways as much as I can.  And I bring my own water.

I recycle everything I can. If I think I can find a use for it I try to do something with the item. In the craft room I make junk journals and I cut up old clothes for crafting with. I re-use old shopping bags and don’t buy shopping bags.

In the kitchen I use small cooking portions and eat leftovers the next day. This may mean making a second meal such as bubble and squeak.

There’s so much more I do to cut back to save the pennies. This all sounds similar to the way of living frugal during days of hard times in modern life. Even as modern as this sounds, many of the articles in the newspapers and women’s magazines of 1939 discuss similar saving ideas. While the internet savings obviously wasn’t a part of those times, all other suggestions to cut back and save with in the homefront are part of the time.  

The 1939 timeline I am studying is carefree and without worries. It is late April, there’s articles for soups, autumn fruits, buying woollens, along with cold and flu remedies. But there’s a dark cloud hanging over the era with articles in the news of Germany’s advances and possible war. In 5 months time, war will be announced and the need to be ‘Frugal’ has a new urgency. 

Living within your means is both frugal living and living vintage. Importantly, this way of living is a means to be prepared for hard times and it is a wise way to be.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Monday, 18 February 2019

The Well Dressed House

In 1939 the home was featured a lot in the woman’s articles of the day. Many tips were given on how to go about making the home attractive. One woman dressed her home in the same materials as she dressed her-self! She kept the background as simple and inexpensive as possible. Then changed accessories in the home. 

Articles also talked about the benefits of changing the home view by moving furniture around. This is something I’ve been doing for years. It seems, ‘move-itis’ isn’t a new condition of the modern era. Accessories were the main feature of the articles and using what you had was an important part of making attractive changes to dress the home. 

Lamps during the time were a popular feature and the writing suggested placing lamps where a person reads and try dividing lamps around the room at intervals to spread the light around. A lamp at the end of the lounge suite could be put on a tall stand, so light would cast down on the occupants of the lounge. if the stand has a lower shelf, a vase at the bottom or fancy pottery was suggested to make the arrangement attractive. At the time, there was a trend to break away from central lighting and scatter it as much as possible around the room.

 Cushions were considered a must for a well dressed home, as they are today. They brighten up the home, and at the time they were available in many designs and colours to add cheer. Home advice of the time suggested it best to match or contrast with curtains. Make or buy them from rich variety of silks, velvets, or other fabrics, according to taste. The rule during 1939 for cushion fabric was: don’t put cotton and silk fabric cushions in the same room as ‘One laughed at the other’.

New table mats of the time were also put in place to make for an attractive home. Hand-Embroidered mats tucked away should be starched and brought out to add a new change.

Other ways to dress up the home during the era was to buy new nick-nacks, because they were inexpensive way to making the room bright and fresh.

For the well dressed home, the changing of accessories and furniture in the home is as important today for the wise homemaker as it was then. The main emphasis is not to put out a lot of expense when making the changes but simply use what you have.  

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Changing seasons

The corn from the garden has been harvested and used in the kitchen. This is a sign summer is over and it will be time to consider what to grow for early autumn.

As I continue to study the year of 1939 it makes sense a lot of their recipes are seasonal and the newspaper and magazine articles follow the changes of the season. The housewives would do the same in their homes depending on where they lived and what their local season was like. Almost everyone had a hot summer and the menus of the time suited the heat. Nobody wanted to be in the kitchen cooking in the heat which introduced many salads and request for cold cuts recipes.

The study of 1939 seems an odd place to start. The depression of 1930 was still in effect and war on Germany had not been declared yet. People were living comfortably for the most part and there was no talk of being careful with waste or watching the ‘pennies’. I choose this time to see how people lived in a mostly quieter time before the war and when the depression seemed to be lessening. It is still early in the year with this study. I haven’t fully implemented a lot of what I have researched. This is more a start to making changes towards living more vintage.

As the year moves on there is more planning now to grow as many vegetables as possible in the small space I do have. As I study more of gardening habits of the time I will also be looking at how to preserve the harvest. I’ve invested in a dehydrator and a waterbath canner. Next purchase for preserving the harvest is going to be a pressure canner. They did have both back then. The dehydrator they used the oven or had a drying screen which is something I’ll consider making as well.

This study isn’t about wearing the clothes of the time or looking like they did back then. I’m trying to remove the distractions of our modern era and make a more old fashioned life for myself. 

The small steps I am doing now may not look like much, in the end they will add up and help me live more like they did in the past. 

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Aubergine or Egg plant

The garden section from a newspaper article in early November of 1939 wrote: Those who like variety in their vegetables and home gardeners who like to grow uncommon vegetables should take an interest in growing the egg-plant or Aubergine. 

I took up the suggestion and planted out a couple of plants. This can be done by planting out seedlings, which I did. Or sowing direct in the open ground, three or four seeds to the site and afterwards thinning to one plant. The plant likes warm temperatures and the seeds germinate in hotter weather and flourish better when the weather is warmer. I planted my egg plants next to tomato plants as they are of the same family and require the same cultivation methods. The plants produce a lot of fruit and it is best to keep the crop to five or six per plant. Any garden work around the plant should be very shallow as the roots of the plant are at the surface and can be easily damaging to the plant. 

The above recipe for Aubergine tomatoes reads:
Wash large ripe tomatoes and cut in half cross wise. Melt 2 tablespoons butter or oil in skillet, place the tomatoes in the cut side up and sprinkle with the following seasonings, 2 cloves of farce finely minced, 2 teaspoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and finely minced (chopped) parsley. Cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Garnish with sprigs of parsley and serve immediately with any kind of fish (or meat) course.

Egg-plant fruits are ready for uses as soon as they reach a good size, and while they have a glossy appearance. If dull, they are over-mature and seedy, and not very good for cooking with. To prepare for cooking, simply wipe with damp cloth and remove stem and calyx. It can be peeled or left unpeeled. Egg plant is a watery vegetable; if cut into thick slices, salted, and covered with plate with weight on top, some of the excess moisture will drain away.
When frying egg plant do not cover the pan - slices should be crisp.

Cut unpeeled egg plant crosswise in thin slices. Coat light with seasoned flour, fry in hot butter until pale golden brown. Serve pipping hot as vegetable accompaniment with meat, fish, etc. 

For the right seasoning egg plant is best with: Basil, dill, garlic, marjoram, oregano, rosemary.

Growing the plant was no more difficult than growing tomatoes and I will keep adding the plant to my kitchen garden now I know how easy an egg plant is to grow and how versatile it can be in the kitchen.

Thank you to all who have left comments. I have read the replies but I just haven't had time to respond to them. 

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Happy Road

The 1939 lifestyle is moving into early February. The kitchen garden is slowly producing for the home with harvested vegetables and cut flowers from the cutting garden. The blooms don't have scent or not much scent but they are showy and remind me of the flowers seen in the embroidery of lazy daisy flower gardens with crinoline ladies and sunbonnet gals.

The newspaper articles continue to give advice for the kitchen garden and what should be planted for this time of year in Australia.

Living like it is 1939 and following the newspapers of the day is now a part of how I go about my daily home routine. I try to do a little of how they lived back then and keep to the old fashioned ways of the time even though the articles say how homes are now very 'modern' to help the housewife in her home making. 

The modern home of the 1939, especially the kitchen, allowed the homemaker more leisure time and the only thing that was considered missing was the dishwasher! Articles from the newspapers give plenty of leisure time instructions for crocheting, knitting, sewing, and embroidery. There is also a lot of advertising for movies to go to and radio programs to listen to. 

The 1939 lifestyle is really about slowing down. Taking time to place a tablecloth on the table and preparing dinners for the table. 

The older home economic skills gives a wealth of knowledge that is still usable today and is still used either as it was originally done or more updated to suit today. The methods are practical, sound advice, and makes sense to use them when possible. 

One of the practical methods was to follow a cleaning routine. It may take some time to pause and clean, or fold up items taken off the clothes line, or take out a dusting rag. But it really isn't any more time than scrolling through facebook or youtube. A few minutes of unplugging and slowing down to do the home chores is a step towards making a house a home and not just a place to live in.

For me, I'll continue down the road of learning what I can to unplug, slow down, and use ways which seem to make better sense to me.  I'm only just starting but now I'm down this road towards a more vintage life I feel this is the right way.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.