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.