5 Homemaking Skills Everyone Should Know

Why You Need to Know This

Homemaking isn’t just something you do on the weekends; for some of us it is our occupation. There is a very specific skill set needed to succeed and I have found that many people, from children to grown adults don’t know many of them.

In this post I’m going to go over the 5 homemaking skills I have seen most often lacking from individuals who should have learned them growing up. These skills aren’t just for setting up and maintaining a home. Most of them relate directly to one’s ability to be self-sufficient and go into the world with the confidence that they are able to tend to their own needs and wants.

The 5 Most Commonly Missed Homemaking Skills in Home Ec.

When my parents took Home Economics, it was a class that taught you how to cook, clean and do general maintenance around the home, along with basic home budgeting. Essentially teaching you the basic skills needed to take care of yourself once you moved away from home. This, sadly isn’t the case anymore.

When I was in high school I didn’t even bother taking Home Ec because I already knew more than the teacher did, no exaggeration. The teacher geared the class toward people who had never been taught anything about cooking and/or sewing and since I already learned these skills during my homeschooling years, I didn’t need the help. However, there were several classmates of mine who could have benefited from this class in the old days (when my parents took it), but didn’t get taught the basic skills I knew when I was 6-years-old even when they did take the class.

You see, Home Economics is one of those dying skills and it has become one of those classes people take in high school to hangout with their friends and get an easy grade to boost their GPA. As someone who was raised to be independent on almost every level, it saddened me when I got to college and several incoming freshmen couldn’t even do their laundry because they were never taught how. When I asked them if they took Home Ec, a majority of them said yes, but it was just a basic cooking class, so why would they learn how to do laundry? *face palm*

At this point, I began to lose all hope in the public education system and society as a whole, and considering that I was going to school for Social Studies Education, this was a bad state of mind to be in. I decided then that I was going to help these poor souls and take mercy on them, teaching them the basics they should have been taught as a child. I would regularly cook in the communal kitchen in my dorm and teach people how to cook and do dishes and other things they would need to know when they left home. Looking back I should have charged them for the semester with everything they learned, haha!

Here are the 5 basic homemaking skills you should know:

  1. How to shop for groceries on any budget
  2. Sorting and doing laundry
  3. Sorting and doing dishes
  4. How to use and maintain a vacuum cleaner
  5. How to sew on a button

Now, to many of us in the homemaking community these might make your head explode, but trust me, these are the skills that are most lacking in today’s society when it comes to taking care of one’s self. So, lets dig into each of these and explain what it is and why it’s important for everyone to know.

1. Shopping for Groceries on Any Budget

The first skill every homemaker NEEDS to know is how to shop on a budget. This goes for anyone in any income bracket and for all items, but especially food.

When I was in college, my parents gave me $50 every 2 weeks to buy what I needed outside of academic necessities and housing. This included food. When Josh and I met, he didn’t believe that I survived on $50 worth of food for 2 weeks until he came shopping with me when visiting 1 week.

His mouth literally dropped open when the total was just under the $50 mark for a cart full of items, and he began asking a battery of questions on our way back to my apartment about how I knew how to do that and how I was able to keep such close track of the total in my cart. I laughed and answered as best as I could.

When Josh was growing up, his family used to go to the store almost every day to get what they wanted for meals for 2-3 days. They simply paid the price listed and didn’t thing twice about it. Our first few years together were a learning experience for him to say the least.

After quite a few months of shopping with me, he began teaching the techniques I used to the people in his life, and they were amazed at how much money they were able to save when they implemented just a few of these tips.

For most people in the area I live there are only a few options for groceries; either you go to the often overpriced regional grocer or the big multi-national chain store that shall not be named but starts with a W. This means you either have enough money to buy whatever you want without the cost being an issue or you have to shop for processed foods that don’t do anything for the health of you and your family, right?

Wrong! Shopping for groceries should be a game: how much good quality can I get for the least amount of money. If this were a sport, I would be a professional. I’m going to be writing a series on this topic soon and will link it here when it is published, but for now, lets look at the basics of how to feed your family well on a modest budget.

Tips for getting good quality food at good prices:

  • Learn to cook from scratch
    • The less processed the food is, the more ways you can use it and the more money you will save in the long run.
      • Convenience foods are your enemy!
  • Learn how to store foods
    • This can take the form of freezing, drying or canning.
      • We use all 3 methods depending on length of storage.
  • Buy in-season produce
    • When you buy in-season produce you can get it for less than half of the off-season price most times.
  • Buy in-season meats
    • Yes, there is such a thing as seasons for meats. I’ll be doing an entire post on this one in the future.
  • Buy when items are on sale, not as you need them (AKA stocking up)
    • This is where the idea of a pantry and/or root cellar are very helpful so you can store more than a week or 2’s worth of food.
      • We usually shoot for 1-3 months of food stocked on our shelves just in case. It also helps save money 🙂
  • Only buy things you know you and your family will use/eat
    • If you buy something because it’s a good deal and then never use it, then you are still wasting money. Don’t do it!
      • Josh and I learned this one the hard way. Don’t be like us.
  • Stick to the list!
    • Make a list before you go to the store and stick to it.
      • Josh and I have a “1 item splurge” rule we stick to now a days. We each get 1 item under $10 that isn’t on the list and that’s it.

I know that some of these seem obvious, but they really aren’t in practice. I know how hard it is to look at that $1.50 box of mac and cheese and think how easy it’s going to be rather than getting noodles, cheese, flour, butter, milk, salt and pepper together and making it from scratch, but trust me…it ends up taking about the same amount of time to make and if you get the ingredients on sale, you can have the beginnings of several other meals in your kitchen as well.

Cooking from scratch is hard and downright confusing for some people, but I assure you it is a skill that will serve you well if you take the time to hone it (see what I did with “serve you” there? It’s a pun…come on now!).

Grocery budgeting hacks

Most people will tell you that you need to make a budget and limit the amount of money you allow yourself for each item and category on your list; but I find this very constrictive and I don’t stick to it and end up blowing my money on things just to rebel against my own system.

This is why I make a list each week or two of everything that we need and then cross reference that list with sales, coupons and other discounts. Then I sort the list according to store and items along with a note if it has coupons or discounts to check them. I know it sounds like this would take a really long time, but it really only takes about 20 minutes when you get used to doing it.

Believe it or not, using this method works really well for us. I actually end up spending WAY less on groceries when I know that there is a list and I allow myself to get 1 thing that’s not on the list. This curbs impulse buying by making me stop and think if I really want that to be my “1 thing” and helps me make better choices about the quality of items I choose.

I’ll be starting a budgeting series here in the next week or 2 and will be talking more in-depth about how we budget and shop for groceries there. I’ll link it here when the article is posted.

2. Sorting and Doing Laundry

Laundry is one of the most basic chores for a homemaker, whether you are a full-time homemaker or a weekend whirlwind worker, this is the largest task you will have no matter how big or small your family is. I find laundry is the easiest thing to let pile up until you go to get dressed and realize it’s your last clean pair of undies (oh no!).

Laundry is also something that is very personal and every person and family has their own way of doing it, which makes it hard to look into if you are just learning and figure out which way is right for you. I personally was raised with a very relaxed outlook on doing laundry. We took “wash and wear” literally and everything could be washed together.

Today, however, I take a slightly more old-school approach to my laundry. Let me explain what I do:

  1. Gather your laundry and take it to the washer.
  2. Sort the laundry into categories:
    1. Sort delicates together (socks, undies and lacy things…may also include workout clothing such as compression gear).
    2. Sort pants and tops together.
    3. Sort toweling and linens together.
  3. Start washer and add soap.
  4. Add laundry on top of soap as water is running into the washer.
  5. Let washer run the cycle.
  6. Put into the dryer.

Now, I know this seems a bit silly and simple, and it is both, but trust me when I say it took me a while to come up with this way of doing my laundry because it actually works and keeps our cloths nicer longer.

Each Sorting category has it’s own special needs, and we will go over those in an upcoming post, but for now, lets keep it simple and say delicates get cold water and perm-press (socks and undies) or gentile cycle (lacy and hand wash items), pants and tops get warm water on either normal, heavy or perm-press cycle depending on how dirty they are and toweling and linens get hot water on normal or perm-press cycle.

Each category also has it’s own drying needs, and for these just check the care labels on the products. When in doubt, just hang it to dry or dry on low to prevent damage and/or shrinkage of your clothing.

Like I said, I’ll be doing more in-depth posts for each of these 5 skills and will link them in this post when they are published. For now, this should give you a good start on doing your laundry.

3. Sorting and Doing Dishes

Next to laundry, dishes are the most important skill you should learn. I put this after doing laundry because I know a few people who literally eat out every meal of their lives just to avoid the dishes because they hate them so much, but they still have to do their laundry.

So why do people hate doing dishes so much? I think, at least for me, it’s because it’s the chore that never ends. As soon as you clean them, you immediately see more dirty dishes in the sink when you eat or have a beverage. It’s just kind of always in your face. So how do we keep up with them?

The easiest way to keep up with dishes is to wash them as you use them. This prevents food and drinks from drying on the dishes and also keeps your sink clean and empty to give you that warm fuzzy feeling when you enter the kitchen. But lets be real here, Everyone I know either has a dishwasher to hide their dirty dishes or just leaves them in the sink till they feel like doing them. Thus, the problem of the dishes.

I’m going to assume that you are like the people that I know for the purpose of this article and that you leave your dishes in the sink till the end of the day, then do them in the evening after dinner. So what is the best way to sort and do your dishes?

Well, dishes are more uniform than laundry, but every family still has their own way of doing them. I’m going to share the way I was taught and the way I still do them because it is hands down the most efficient and effective way I have found that ensures sparkling results every time.

So here are the steps I take to sort and do my dishes:

  1. Remove all dishes and flatware from the sink.
  2. Wipe sink so it’s clean (because clean dishes can’t come out of a dirty sink) and plug the drain.
  3. Add the soup of your choice (I use the classic blue Dawn), about 1-2 tablespoons should do it.
  4. Run HOT water into plugged sink.
    • Only use hot water for washing and rinsing dishes. Use as hot as you can stand to help with sanitation of the dirty dishes.
  5. Sort dishes on counter as follows:
    1. flatware
    2. sharp knives
    3. glasses
    4. mugs
    5. plates
    6. bowels
    7. pots
    8. greasy pans
  6. Do dishes according to above list, one item at a time starting from the top.
  7. Rinse with HOT water and place in drainer.
    • The hot water helps prevent residue and spots
  8. Dry dishes, either air or towel, and put away.

That’s it! It really is a super simple task that can be done in a relatively short amount of time if you keep up with them. These instructions are for the hand washing of dishes.

If you have a dishwashing machine and want to know what I do when using my dishwasher, check out my post Dishes 101: The Dishwasher: Prep and Loading.

4. Using and Maintaining a Vacuum Cleaner

When most of us think of vacuuming, we think of getting out the vacuum, plugging it in and turning it on. Then we just move it around the room and/or house to clean the floor. Easy, right?

But what happens when the vacuum stops working? Do you panic and just go out and buy a new one like so many people I know would because they don’t know how to fix it, or do you roll up your sleeves and say, “I got this!”?

Well, guess which one I do…yep, I just get out my small tool kit and get it fixed. Trust me, for the amount of money we spend on a decent vacuum cleaner now a days, you don’t want to be sending it get repaired every time it gets clogged or the brush stops spinning. Get empowered and do it yourself!

How to clean your brush and intake hose:

  1. Turn off and unplug the machine.
  2. Lay the vacuum down and turn it over so you can see the bottom of the vacuuming head on the main machine that houses the brush head.
  3. Remove the screws from around the housing (usually a small phillips head will do just fine for this).
  4. Remove plastic housing to expose brush.
    1. Remove brush
      • The brush will be attached to a small belt that will come out too. Don’t panic…you got this!
  5. Clean brush head and housing.
    • If there is hair and threads tangled up around the brush, use a seam ripper for best results. You can also use an x-acto knife or box cutter as well. Scissors should be your last resort as this will dull the scissors and will hack up the brush and bristles while being the least effective.
  6. Remove any obstructions from intake point with the screwdriver or cleaning tool if your machine came with one (my intake extends out to help with cleaning).
  7. Replace brush head and belt.
  8. Replace plastic housing and screws.

Again, I will be getting into more details with a photo tutorial in the near future on maintenance of my vacuum cleaner. I’ll link that here when it is published, but for now, just follow the instructions above and you should be golden. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask in the comments section below.

So…lets talk about the different uses for a vacuum cleaner. Here are a few tasks that most of us homemakers use the vacuum to help with:

  • Cleaning the floors (duh!)
  • Getting cobwebs out of high corners
  • Dusting baseboards and trim
  • Catching flies and spiders
  • Air freshener

We all know that you clean your floors with a vacuum cleaner, but you can use the attachments to clean cobwebs and dust from high and low places (i.e. baseboards and vents or window and door frames and high corners). We use our hose attachment as a bug and spider catcher when they are too high for the cat to get to. And did you know that you can put a cotton ball with a few drops of essential oils into the canister or bag of your vacuum and it will freshen the air in the room as you work? Who knew!?!

5. Knowing How to Sew a Button

Ok, so lets talk basics here shall we? I’m not telling you that you need to start off knowing how to make a dress or tailor a coat, I’m just saying that you should at the very least be able to replace your own buttons.

This is a skill I remember my dad teaching me when I was around 3 or 4-years-old. He showed me how to thread the needle and place the button, then how to do the basic cross or “X” stitch and tie it off. He had me sew the buttons back onto his flannel shirts when they would pop off while he was cutting firewood; and he also wore military surplus plants with the button fly, and would hand them to me so I could sew the buttons back on when they would come loose as well.

He used to tell me what a good job I did when I handed him his garment back and he would show me how to fix it if I made a mistake. He told me how his mother, Grammy P., showed him how do sew buttons on and told him that he needed to be able to take care of his self because you never know when you will find someone to help you when you grow up. I have to say I wish everyone with kids would take this approach and teach them everything they should know to tend themselves because you never know what the future holds.

I was so grateful to my dad for teaching this to me when I got to college. I went to college near Erie, PA where the snow never stops falling and the wind never quits whaling from October to May. There were so many people that would lose their minds when they would lose a button from their coat because they didn’t know how to fix or replace it.

I found myself with a stack of coats one day after a few people heard I could sew and started charging $0.75 per button to sew them on. I actually made a pretty decent amount of money this way. And all because their parents didn’t make sure they knew how to sew a button on.

For those who don’t know how, here is a great illustration of how to sew a button on so you too can become a dorm room entrepreneur too:

I do have to say that I don’t bother with securing the base of the button (step 7 above) unless it’s going to be on an item that is being used on a regular basis. I just place the button where I want it and do a cross stitch, then secure it underneath. I’ve never had a problem doing it this way, but it’s up to you how you want to do it.

I hope that this article gave you some tips you didn’t know coming in and some new skills to teach the kids in your life if you didn’t think about it. Lets all work together to help empower the next generation and build a world full of self sufficient people who can help each other.

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