Saturday, February 24, 2018

Frugal Housewifery

I would like to write about the many uses of the common and humble newspaper.

My Jim, the man of the house, doesn’t subscribe to the daily newspaper but buys one a few times a week. After he reads it, I will gather it up to save it. I throw away all the siick pages with the ads. Then I cut the sheets in half and half again so that I have sheets the size of paper towels.

I use these sheets to wash windows. Great for washing car windows, too. Just wet your sheet and you don’t need soap, as the newsprint cuts through the dirt in the windows. Just scrub with the wet paper. Then, take a dry sheet and wipe the windows dry.

Now, the cutting up of the newspaper sheets is a good project to have the children do. If you have these little sheets, all cut up and stacked in plain sight, then the family will think of many ways to use them. Leave some of the newpaper sheets uncut to lay on the table for craft projects and easy clean up. The old time Mothers made many sewing patterns out of newspaper and traded patterns with other housewives.

When I bake cookies, I have no place but the table to set my hot cookie sheets, so I set them on a newspaper on my table. I also put folded newspaper at the bottom of my potato bin to soak up any moisture from the potatoes. If you get a rotten potato, it shows up pretty quick on the white paper.

I use the newspaper in the garden to wrap the bottoms of my tomato plants and other plants, like cabbage. The smell of the newsprint keeps the bugs away. Cabbage plants, especially, get my newspaper as they need to be good and dry at the stem, so they don’t rot. The newsprint keeps each plant neat and tidy. Also, lay the newspaper down on the ground between plants as a mulch … cover with grass clippings. The newsprint will rot in the ground and, after many seasons, the dirt becomes more fluffy and full of air.

Now we can move onto paper sacks that come into the home. Save these for many uses. You can even use a sandwich bag size of a sack to bake a loaf of bread in, but make sure the sack has a flat bottom that will stand up. Balance it and make sure it won’t fall over.

Also, you can use paper sacks like seed pots for young plants. Just take your sack and fold the top down to the size you need — if you want to start a cucumber plant inside, for example. The ground has to be very warm for cukes. So you can get a good plant goin’ in the house before you plant it in your garden. When you plant the cuke, just dig a big hole in the garden, set the whole sack in the hole, and cover about it with dirt. Also, put a big stick beside the plant. This, way when the plant gets dry and bushy, you can pour water on it at the plant base, rather than watering the dirt all around it.

Save a few pans of soapy dish water each day to pour on your cuke plants. This water keeps the plant clean and the soap gets rid of bugs. The old time Mothers always saved their dishwater and their laundry water for the garden plants in the summer. If you can find an old enamel dish pan at a sale this summer, you will have a ball doin’ the dishes the old fashioned way and saving the dishwater for the garden.

But, yes, save all the good paper that comes into your home and find ways to use it. You can use at least three times before discarding it. Just wipe it off and stack it neatly in the cupboard. Also, I use the ziplock bags and wash them with the dishes after each use. When the zip part wears off, I just take a cothes pin and seal them shut. You can prop the plastic bags up in the dish drainer to dry.

In the summer and fall, I often use a thick piece of newpaper to lay fresh melons or pumpkins on to cut them up. I use the paper like a cutting board. Then, after the melon is cut, I can carry the seeds and rind out to the compost bin on the newspaper. And you can throw the newspaper in the compost bin, too.

Also, as I work at my table, I will put a sheet of newspaper down to peel potatoes on. But with all the talk about germs on the cutting boards? Just use fresh newsprint for many of your cutting board chores. When the paper gets chopped and soggy, just get a new piece of newspaper … make sure it’s about an inch thick.

Ok, and now on to the fancy seed packets that you have left over after you plant the garden. If you are careful to cut the tops off neatly with the scissors, you can use the seed packets to decorate with. Just tape some cute ones in the kitchen window to tell you it is almost spring.

Of course, here in Iowa, we have had record snow storms in April. One year, in April 1973, I had my whole garden planted — it snowed 3 ft deep over the top. The peas and onions loved it. Last summer, I planted mustard greens and they lasted into December. It took a lot of frost to kill those greens.

You could use your empty seed packets like a border above the kitchen window. Or paste some seed packets on your tin cans or glass jars, for cute country storage jars. Also, you can use the seed packets for your sewing basket. Use a packet to store special buttons in, or a little ribbon or piece of lace. You could use one for storing needles and another one for straight pins. Just tack a bit of tape at the top to seal the packets shut. Or even take the seed packet and fill it with dirt and plant a flower in it and set it in a little chipped china cup.

With old chipped dishes, I make borders in my flower and herb gardens. I have an old wooden chair that I put right in the middle of my herb garden. I put old pans here and there and catch the rain water. Then, when I go by the garden, I just water what ever plant that is crying the hardest, with the pan of rain water.

Bein’ an old stingy housewife is fun and adventuresome. As long as you are gracious and loving with things that matter. The old time housewives saved every piece of string that came into the house, and all of the white paper that wrapped her groceries. The children used the paper to color on and Mother made grocery lists on it. Nothing was ever wasted. She saved empty cocoa cans and vanilla extract bottles for houseplants.

Well, I wanted to write about the ways the Mothers used feed sacks to sew their clothes with, but that will have to be for another day.

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