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Doing Things Grandma's Way: Old-Fashioned Ways of Living

Kris Manley is a blogger, author, and speaker. She's a guest on radio in the U.S., Canada, and overseas, as well as a guest on network TV.

Grandma Was Onto Something...

Remember when Grandma used to make the whole house smell good with her cooking? She spent hours in the kitchen seasoning meats, kneading dough, and making homemade cookies from scratch. I remember those days of helping to knead the dough for biscuits and pies, peeling the potatoes for potato salad, and boiling water so she can make iced tea. When is the last time you made fresh iced tea or lemonade? I don't remember her using Comet to clean the tub, or buying 409 to clean the countertops. Grandma (or Nana, and so on) had her own ways. We used to call our Grandma "Honey."

Here are 10 old-fashioned things that remind me of Grandma's ways. Maybe some of these will jolt your memory about your own Grandma's ways.

Grandma knows how to snap those beans.

Grandma knows how to snap those beans.

1. Snapping Snap Beans

In Grandma's house, green beans—or should I say snap beans—did not come in a can. She bought them fresh and by the pound. Then we (the grandkids) had to wash and rinse them off, snap the ends off of them, then put the beans in a huge pot, all under Grandma's watchful eye. She would then make us watch her as she seasoned them, telling us how much water to put in the pot—memories, anyone?

2. Using Real Cast-Iron Pots and Pans

Grandma didn't have a Cuisinart; she had good old-fashioned cast iron pots and pans. Several had broken handles so you had to be careful handling them, but they worked just fine. I remember her frying chicken in an old large cast iron pot. Her cast-iron cookware worked well in the wood-burning fireplace, too. On cold days when there was not enough room on the stove, she'd stoke up the flames in the fireplace, put on a pot of homemade soup, and she was in business. That was the best food in the world to us.

Grandma knew how to keep her cast iron perfectly seasoned.

Grandma knew how to keep her cast iron perfectly seasoned.

3. Toasting Toast in the Oven

To toast our bread, we either put it in the oven or we used Grandma's two-sided toast holder—I bet this brings back memories for some. Because there were usually more than two people eating breakfast in the morning, the oven was our best bet for making toast. Why? Because we could fit at least ten slices of toast in the oven, although we had to watch the toast so it wouldn't burn. I don't remember Grandma having a toaster anyway.

4. Using Vaseline as Shoe Polish

When we went to church on Sunday, our shoes were so shiny from Vaseline. That's right, Grandma had us shine our shoes with Vaseline; no shoe polish for us.

5. Barbecuing in a Pit

I don't remember a grill at my Grandparents' house either. What I do remember is how my Grandfather dug a hole in the ground, lined the hole with old bricks, filled it with coal or wood, then put an old grate over it. Presto, there was our grill or BBQ pit. We'd sit around the open pit and smell that meat cook. Grandpa had a long homemade "spear" (as I called it) to turn the meat.

Rose petal tea

Rose petal tea

6. Making Homemade Flower Petal Tea

Grandma's tea was not Lipton, for sure, but it was delicious. I don't remember Grandma buying tea bags, but what I do remember is her going out into her garden and picking flowers and making tea. It sure was good during those Ohio winters and my favorites were Rose Petal Tea, Violet Petal Tea, and Lilac Petal Tea. During the winter months, she had dried flower petals. This is how I remember Grandma making her tea (per Grandma, use the flower petals ONLY):

How to make your own old-fashioned flower petal tea:

  1. Pick the flowers.
  2. Remove and shake the petals to remove the bugs and dirt.
  3. Rinse the petals and place them on a towel.
  4. Boil water in a pot.
  5. Place the petals in a teacup (about 5 to 7 petals per cup, don't quote me)
  6. Pour the boiling water over the flower petals and let it steep.
  7. Add honey to taste.

Hooray for Grandma!

7. Saving the Cooking Oil

I know some of you remember that old coffee can on the stove full of used cooking oil. I say bring that coffee can back in style. If Grandma re-used cooking oil, why can't we? We didn't know back then that it saved money. We didn't get sick from Grandma re-using cooking oil.

8. Washing Fresh Collard Greens

Collard Greens in a can? Say it ain't so! My Grandma used to use a mesh fabric bag put her collard greens in, then she'd fill the kitchen sink up with cold water and put the bag in the water to soak and wash her greens. I think it was bar soap, actually, that she used to clean the greens. My family never questioned Grandma's methods, we just couldn't wait 'till the collards were ready to eat.

Collard greens

Collard greens

9. Using Baking Soda for Many Purposes

When toothpaste was scarce at Grandma's house, there was always her old staple, baking soda, to fall back on. Yes, it was a bit salty, but it did the job. Baking soda is an excellent deodorant, as well. Grandma frowned at stinky kids. To make her laundry detergent go further, she mixed it with baking soda.

10. Using Mercurochrome on Cuts

Last, but certainly not least, is the dreaded item Grandma used to use on cuts and scrapes; the all-but-forgotten Mercurochrome. Remember the brown liquid in the small square bottle? Is it sold anymore? I think that stuff was made especially for children because I didn't see any of the adults using it.

What Are Your Grandma's Ways?

If you think of something your Grandma did (or does), please share it! Let us remember or give us a good laugh.


Lindy Caudill on March 12, 2018:

My Granny raised Me, She would be 105 now I am almost 34. I live by Her book. I hate that all this stuff is going to were you have to have a phone to do it and people think they have to have all this stuff. I am living the old way, I even make the Christmas gifts We give out every year. I say out with the new and in with the old

Sarah on December 04, 2016:

Hahaha mercurochrome isn't sold anymore because it contains mercury :)

j otoole on February 12, 2012:

Enjoyed reading your stories on how to do things the old-fashioned way...discovered your site because I was searching, and remembering how I would snap green beans with my grandmother (Nana). Thank you for sharing your memories...a joy to read. Best, Joan O'Toole

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on January 30, 2012:

nina64, I almost started to cry while reading your comments - I think we had the same Grandmother (SMILE. I remember the washer that the clothes rolled through and Grandma getting up early to cook - we all loved waking up to the smell of her cooking. I do miss both of my Grandmothers. Thank you for the memories!

Nina L James from chicago, Illinois on January 29, 2012:

What wonderful memories this hub brings to mind!!!!!! Reading your hub made me think of my grandmother. She used to get up at 4 or 5 am to do chores while everyone else was asleep. Her cooking would wake everyone up. My grandmother was an awesome cook. She would use the old washing machine with the rollers that you could push the clothes through while cranking that handle and hang the clothes on the back porch to dry on the clothesline in the summer sunshine and warm air. Sometimes, she would use a scrub board to wash her clothes. I truly miss those days!!!!!!! Great hub.

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on January 01, 2012:

Hi cclitgirl, my Grandma was a cool lady.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on December 31, 2011:

Your Grandmother sounds incredible. :) I like her style. This is a great hub. Voted up!

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 18, 2011:

Thanks midnightbliss

Haydee Anderson from Hermosa Beach on October 18, 2011:

these are what i miss about home.

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 18, 2011:

Hi Melovy, my Mom lives with me and we have cast iron pots and pans that have broken handles, but we use them. We still buy fresh green beans and snap them, and from time to time my Mom will bake fresh bread using a coffee can. You will most certainly enjoy making Rose Petal Tea.

Yvonne Spence from UK on October 18, 2011:

What a lovely hub. Next time I start feeling resentful of the time I spend cooking I’ll think of this and it’ll help me keep some perspective! Though our household is a little bit like your grandma’s - several of our pots have broken lids or handles that have been repaired, we eat fresh beans in the summer, one of my daughters likes to bake bread from scratch and the other to make cookies - and I’ve even used vaseline on shoes, though it was on patent leather ones.

I can’t wait till it’s summer again and I can try out making tea made from rose petals! Grandmas rule!

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 18, 2011:

Thank you Shawn, I still use baking soda and peroxide, sometimes, to brush my teeth.

Shawn Scarborough from The Lone Star State on October 18, 2011:

I enjoyed reading your hub. My wife uses baking soda instead of toothpaste, which she learned from her grandmother. She also mixes baking soda with laundry detergent.

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 18, 2011:

moonlake, my Grandma used to be up before the Sun too just cooking away.

Kristine Manley (author) from Atlanta, GA on October 18, 2011:

Hi Susan,

Yes, can't forget the bacon fat! I hated the cod liver oil too. You're welcome for the memories.

moonlake from America on October 18, 2011:

Enjoyed your hub so much. Your grandma reminded me of my grandma. She cooked everything freah and if you were staying the night at her house we would hear her in the kitchen at 5:00 am. She always had an apron on and she was always cooking. She lived to be 100.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on October 18, 2011:

Your hub brought back many wonderful memories from my Grandmother. Especially her saving the bacon fat and re-using it. I can remember her giving me cod liver oil all the time...YUKKK :)

Thanks for bringing back some good memories for me.