When I left home at 18 I could cook spaghetti and scramble eggs. I could sew on a button and “kind of hem” pants. I could balance a checkbook. And I could change a tire. Other than that, I didn’t have many homemaking skills – notice making a bed is not on the list of things I knew how to do. Just to be clear, I didn’t have many homemaking skills because I didn’t choose to learn them from my mom and granny and I didn’t see any value in taking a Home Ec class in high school. Vintage skills weren’t in style in the 80’s.
Once I was completely responsible for myself I had to learn how do things, like cook, if I wanted to survive financially. Over the years I’ve learned many more “vintage” skills that have helped us thrive on a small income. Unfortunately, I’ve not had very many real life mentors so I’ve mainly learned by reading books and then trying things.
The last few years there has been an explosion of online resources for learning whatever skill you want to learn. It’s pretty amazing. Of course, there’s nothing that compares to face to face instructions and learning but that’s not always available.
Here are some skills you can learn online in the comfort of your own home without breaking the bank.
Learn How to Sew
I’m a firm believer that everyone should have basic sewing skills. Nothing fancy, just the basics like sewing on button and mending clothes. I can’t tell you the number of fantastic pieces of clothing I’ve found at thrift stores that were missing a button and had replacement buttons on the inside of the garment. If you don’t know how to sew and need help learning a few basic hand stitches then this course is for you. In this course you’ll learn how to thread a needle and tie a knot, sew the running stitch, back stitch, whip stitch, and blanket stitch.
If you’re looking to up your sewing game, Creative Bug offers quite a few sewing classes and they offer a 14 day free trial. They have a lot of other courses too and charge by the month instead of by the course. So, you can take as many classes per month that you want.
Another place to learn sewing skills is Craftsy. Craftsy has all kinds of classes and often have sales on their classes. I’ve taken sewing and photography classes and my husband has taken woodworking classes from Craftsy. Once you buy the class, it’s available in your account and you can refer back to it over and over. They just started doing a monthly membership called Craftsy Unlimited and you can get a free 7 day trial. You can take as many classes as you want each month but once you cancel your membership you don’t have access to the courses.
Learn to Cook from Scratch
Learning to cook from scratch is the single most important thing you can do to improve your health and your finances. My goal is always to serve simple healthy meals. I’ve found that for the most part, the simple meals are the healthiest.
If your life is super busy then you have to be very diligent about planning your meals and having easy back up meals. I use a 14 day meal plan rotation during really busy seasons. Also, I don’t believe that every meal needs to be amazing, good is fine. Honestly, my family just wants food and a lot of it, I bet yours does too so let go of some of the pressure you’ve put on yourself about food.
If you’re new to cooking from scratch and it all feels overwhelming this free ecourse is a really great place to start. My best advice for starting is to keep it simple and don’t try to revamp your entire diet in one week. This truly is a lifestyle choice and if you want it to be sustainable for you, just try to cook from scratch more this week than you did last week.
Learn How to Grow Food
I’m not a the-sky-is-falling or the-world-as-we-know-it-is-collapsing type person at all, however, I do think knowing how to grow food is a skill everyone should know – because you just never know what will happen. You could be going along living your life and then become unemployed and not be able to find a full-time job and have to work several part-time jobs to support your family….for four years. Yep, this happened to us from 2008-2012, and knowing we could grow some of our food was one less stressful thing we had to worry about.
Gardening isn’t super difficult, after all seeds want to sprout and plants want to produce. What you’re able to grow will somewhat depend on your climate. If you need help understanding things like frost dates, chill hours, gardening zones (both cold and heat) and how these effect your garden then this short ecourse is for you.
Most things can be grow from seed. There’s a lot of information on the back of the seed packets so be sure to read those. I like to use a soil block builder to start our seeds before our last frost date. Then when the soil warms up I can transplant the seedlings into the garden. I keep track of everything in our gardening notebook so we can learn from previous years….I really hate learning the same lesson twice because I didn’t take notes. I’ve used those notes to write most of our gardening posts.
If you need planning sheets for determining how much to plant to feed your family just fill out the form below and they’ll be emailed to you.
Learn to Preserve the Harvest
Learning to preserve the food you grow is a great way to make the most of your gardening. How you preserve the harvest will depend on what you’re growing and what your family likes to eat. If your’re growing cucumbers and your family likes pickles then by make pickles (my granny’s bread and butter pickles recipe is pretty wonderful). But if you’re growing cucumbers and your family doesn’t like pickles, you can still preserve cucumbers for later by freezing and dehydrating them.
Most fruits can be canned using the water bath canning method but most vegetables will need to be canned in a pressure canner. Canning isn’t just for preserving your harvest though, I like to can full meals like chili con carne and store bought dried beans too. These things are great to have on hand when the day gets away from me and the drive thru is calling my name.
Pretty much anything can be frozen but some foods lose their texture during the freezing process and then some foods can be frozen if you prepare them a certain way, like eggs. The same goes for dehydrating foods. If you know how you’re going to use the dehydrated foods then you can decide it dehydrating is the right choice for you for a certain food.
Just like you really need to only grow what your family will eat, you also should only preserve what your family will eat. My family isn’t big on fermented foods so even though I know they are super great for your gut, I don’t ferment much.
If you feel like you need some step by step video instruction, Melissa Norris has a Home Canning with Confidence ecourse is a good place to look.
Learn to use Natural Remedies
We spend very little money on traditional health care and instead do our own thing. No one in our family has any ongoing medical issues and no one takes medication on a regular basis. As a result, the traditional health insurance option isn’t the right option for us so we’ve opted out. We’re still within the law of coverage for the Affordable Heath Care Act, but we’ve chosen to use a health care sharing plan instead of traditional health insurance. This is not the right choice for everyone but if you’re healthy and don’t have any chronic conditions, AND you’re willing to be totally responsible for setting aside money to pay for your own doctor bills then this might be a good option for you.
One of the benefits of using a less expensive health care plan is that we’re able to invest in learning and trying new things. One of the things I’ve learned is that not “all” natural remedies that are touted online work. Apple cider vinegar is not a cure all… just in case you were wondering. In fact, there’s no such thing as a cure all.
However, there are some time honored, simple remedies that can help your family get through the cold and flu season without having to run to the drug store. There are also reputable online schools to learn how to effectively use herbs and essential oils as part of your health care plan, The Herbal Academy is one of those places.
Learn How to Do Basic Home and Auto Repairs
One of the silliest radio commercials I’ve ever heard is on ladder safety. It’s not silly because ladders can’t be dangerous, they can be. It’s silly because it encourages you to hire a “professional” to do things that require a ladder – like cleaning your gutters – instead of telling you how to use a ladder safely. Yes, ladders can be dangerous but so can pencils, butter knives, and many other things if used incorrectly.
Here are a few basic home repairs you should learn…
- change a light bulb
- unclog a sink pipe
- unclog a toilet
- unclog a tub (this simple gadget will keep your tub from getting clogged)
- fix a leaky sink pipe
- replace a toilet leaver
- patch a hole in a wall
- replace sink fixtures
- replace a light switch
- maintain your appliances (RepairClinic is a great starting place to learn)
- change a tire on a car
- change oil in a car
- fix a frozen pipe
- repair tools
- repair a ceiling fan
If you live where it gets pretty cold, these home maintenance tips will help you get your house ready for winter each year.
Learn to Make Cheese
I’m a novice cheese maker, in that ricotta is the only cheese I can make. However, I want to learn how to make other cheeses and Marblemount Farms has a cheese making ecourse I’m taking. They also have a fermentation course.
We don’t have goats or cows so you might be wondering why I want to learn to make cheese. So does my husband. We get our milk from a local dairy and their cheese is wonderful but expensive. So that’s one reason for wanting to learn to make cheese. But honestly, it’s just another step in my journey of learning and it’s one of those random things that I want to learn to do. (Kind of like Ma Ingall’s hat making)
Learn to Make Soap
Like my cheese making skills, my soap making skills are at a novice level but I’m finally at a place where soap making has moved on up the priority list. And that’s a important point, things like cheese making and soap making shouldn’t take priority over things like cooking from scratch for both health and financial reason.
If you’re a beginner, this free Soap Making for Beginners ecourse from The Nerdy Farm Wife is a great place to start. If you’ve been making soap for a while and want to go deeper in your soap making skills then you should check out her Soap Making Success ecourse.
Slow and Steady
Learning something new takes time so give yourself grace and time. Also, you don’t have to be an expert at all of these things, you get to decide how deep your learning needs to be for you and your family. What are some skills you’re learning right now?