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

Updated on November 7, 2016
Kristine Manley profile image

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.

Remember when Grandma used to have the whole house smelling 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, had her own ways. We used to call our Grandma "Honey."

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

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. Grandma would then make us watch her as she seasoned them telling us how much water to put in the pot - memories anyone?

2. Real Pots and Pans

One of my lower kitchen drawers
One of my lower kitchen drawers

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. They 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.

3. Toast in Quantity


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 put at least 10 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. Vaseline as Shoe Polish

When we went to church on Sunday our shoes were so shiny - from Vaseline. That's right, Grandma had us to 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 my Grandfather having dug a hole in the ground, lining the hole with old bricks, filling the hole with coal or wood, then putting an old grate over the hole and 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" I called it, to turn the meat. Grandpa's and Grandma's wasn't as neat as the photo you see here, but you get the gist.


6. Homemade Flower Petal Tea

Rose Petal Tea
Rose Petal Tea | Source

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):

  • Pick flower petals
  • Shake the petals to remove the bugs and dirt
  • Rinse the flower petals
  • Separate the flower petals and place on a towel
  • Boil water in a pot
  • Place the flower petals in a tea cup (about 5 to 7 petals, don't quote me)
  • Pour the boiling water over the flower petals
  • Add honey to taste


Maxwell House Coffee Can
Maxwell House Coffee Can

7. Saving the 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.

Collard Greens
Collard Greens

8. The Way to Wash 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 fill the kitchen sink up with cold water, then put the bag filled collard greens in the kitchen sink to soak and wash her greens - somebody say, YEAH! I think it was bar soap actually that she made the soap suds to clean the greens. My family never questioned Grandma's methods, we just couldn't wait 'till the collards were ready to eat.

9. Baking Soda

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

10. Mercurochrome

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.

Final Thoughts

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


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    • profile image

      Sarah 15 months ago

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

    • profile image

      j otoole 6 years ago

      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 profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      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!

    • nina64 profile image

      nina64 6 years ago from chicago, Illinois

      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 profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi cclitgirl, my Grandma was a cool lady.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 6 years ago from Western NC

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

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks midnightbliss

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 6 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      these are what i miss about home.

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      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.

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 6 years ago from UK

      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 profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

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

    • Shawn Scarborough profile image

      Shawn Scarborough 6 years ago from The Lone Star State

      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 profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

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

    • Kristine Manley profile image

      Donna Kristine 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Hi Susan,

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

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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.