My Grandmother was best described as Martha Stewart meets Hints from Heloise, with a big dash of frugal added to the mix. She demanded etiquette, regular mass attendance, and was as creative, practical and inventive as they come. I can’t tell you how many times my husband will say, “How did you know how to do that?” and the answer is nearly always, “My Grandmother taught me!” From household tips, to food storage tricks, mom hacks to party prepping, there are 100 different ways her lessons make my life easier on a daily basis… and now, I’m sharing them with all of you!
30+ Household Mom Hacks I Learned from My Grandmother
My Grandmother was a depression-era child. The oldest of 6, she went on to have 8 children of her own, and 17 grandchildren! Never one for today’s latest and greatest, she always said she had no need for “foolishness” and was more content to make due with what she had. They say ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ and she was living proof. Her innate frugality combined with a huge family informed her savvy, and made her truly a household wizard!
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Baby Care Tips
After 8 kids and traveling to help when her children had each of her 17 grandchildren, you could say my Grandmother knew a thing or two about caring for babies. Here are a few of my favorite baby care tips I learned straight from her!
Feed babies in front of a mirror
When babies start eating solid foods, spoon feed them in front of a mirror. This helps them learn to feed themselves and also keeps them entertained!
Bathe babies in the kitchen sink
In the evening, after dinner, the kitchen is still warm from cooking. The kitchen sink is the perfect size for a baby bath, it saves on water and your back! First time mom? Here are all my tips, tricks and secrets for how to give your baby a bath. I know I was terrified the first time
Style baby hair with sugar water
Tame that wispy baby hair or style it for family photos with your finger and a little bit of sugar water. When it dries, it acts as a natural hair spray.
Plastic wrap on high chair seat
Ditch the fabric high chair cushions and covers. Put plastic wrap down on the seat of your baby’s high chair. It will keep them from slipping and sliding, and also makes for super easy clean-up. Spills wipe right off, or if things get really messy, lift it out and throw it away.
Belt through chair slats as a makeshift high chair
My baby high chair was all wood. For younger babies, you can thread a belt through the back slats to belt them in to the high chair. The same trick works for older babies and toddlers on regular chairs when you need a makeshift high chair.
Mom Hacks and Tricks
You don’t run a household of 10 without a few sanity saving mom hacks and tricks along the way. Here are some of my most memorable favorites.
Cure all for head bumps
Whenever we bumped our heads, my Grandmother used to rub a cold stick of butter on it and then press sugar onto the butter. It minimized the bump and soothed the injured child. While it seems this is an old wives tale, there is some scientific reasoning to butter on bruises.
Hose for summer showers
My Grandparents had a pool, and I spent endless hours in it every summer. At the end of the day, my Grandmother would bring out a giant bottle of shampoo, throw the hose over a tree branch, and we would wash the chlorine out of our hair, suits and get a shower all at once!
DIY hair salon hair dryer
You know the beauty salon hair dryers? You can DIY at home – when you need your curls to set or a quick dry, cut a hole in the top of a brown paper grocery bag. Fit the opening of the bag to your head, and fold the tops down to keep it in place. Insert a blow dryer in the hole, and dry until your hair is set!
Peanut butter removes gum from hair
With 6 daughters and 13 granddaughters, you can bet this one was used more than once! Peanut butter will remove chewing gum from hair.
Garbage Bag Pillow Cases
I dread the stomach bug with only 3 kids… I can’t imagine it hitting a house of 8! To save on wash, use garbage bags as pillow cases. Lay a towel over it for comfort. This also works on couch cushions while you are potty training!
Disposable Vomit Bags
And to save bedding, carpet and yourself, you can make disposable vomit bags. Use a brown paper grocery bag, line it with a plastic garbage bag, and roll over the top edge to keep it open and upright.
Every house needs an Aloe Vera plant
My Grandmother had a mammoth aloe vera plant. She was constantly taking cuttings of it and growing plants to give to family and friends because she used it for everything. Sunburns, burnt fingers, to remove face paint or make-up, a natural moisturizer. Just cut a giant leaf off your aloe vera plant, stick it in the fridge, then slice it open and use the ooey gooey insides to soothe what ails you!
Household Cleaning Tricks
And if caring for 8 children wasn’t hard enough, can you imagine the clean-up and laundry they produce? You might imagine keeping up with it all involved a little ingenuity (and a lot of child labor!).
Packing tape lint remover
Before the advent of lint rollers, my Grandmother used to wrap a strip of packing tape around her hand, sticky side out, to use a lint remover. Works equally on clothes and furniture. Works for pet hair too!
Need a quick mop of your floor? Soak two dishtowels in warm, soapy water. Tie them around your feet, and shuffle and dance around the floor. Kids love to help with this one too!
Fuzzy sock dust rags
Before there was Swiffer, my Grandmother saved old socks. The fuzzy cozy ones work best – so do ones with fuzzy insides turned inside out. Slip them over your hands, and you’ve got an awesome dust rag that’s washable and reuseable.
Start a load of laundry every night
My Grandmother forced all laundry into the laundry room (no separate baskets anywhere), and it was immediately sorted into three baskets: whites, colors and darks. She took whichever basket was full and put it on to wash, EVERY night. With half the family, I figure I can get by with doing a load every 2-3 days, but her methods keep me on top of it.
Wash sneakers in the washing machine
You can keep your sneakers looking sharp (or clean them after accidents) by washing them in the washing machine with a few towels. The towels will muffle the banging of the shoes inside. Put them to dry overnight in a warm oven.
Oven drying rack
Run out of counter space, or just don’t want the counter to look cluttered after you wash all the pots and pans? Put them on the oven racks to dry. They will dry extra quick if it is still warm from cooking dinner. Just remember to check before you turn it on again!
Stubborn or burned on pot stains
Tough stains or burned on gunk on your pots and pans? Add water and Dawn dish soap. Return it to the stove and bring it to a boil. Clean while still warm, and will come right off.
Cooking & Baking Tips
So in case cooking for 10 every night doesn’t make you enough of an expert, my Grandmother also made wedding cakes professionally. She learned from my Great Grandmother, who’s patented gum paste recipe and flower tools she sold to Wilton in the late 1970s. My Grandfather converted their garage into a commercial bakery, and for decades she made countless wedding, birthday and special occasion cakes for hundreds of families.
Bake a perfect cake
- Drop your cake pan on the floor to clear air bubbles, level batter before baking
- Make any box cake mix taste like homemade by swapping milk and butter for the called for water and oil
- Ice a cake perfectly on a lazy susan
When your little ones are sick, nothing cures them like homemade chicken soup! And my Grandmother’s was the best… her secret? Add 2-3 whole cloves. Complete recipe coming soon!
And since you can’t eat chicken soup for breakfast, sick day breakfasts featured ‘Magic Porridge:’ cream of wheat with sprinkles and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Waste not, want not
My Grandmother always said ‘Wasting food is sinful.” Nothing ever went to waste in her house, and she could open what appeared to be empty cupboards and whip up a meal for 20 every time. A few of my favorites…
- Leftover peeps at Easter? Make colored Rice Krispie Treats
- Stale chips or crackers? Crumble them up for excellent, crispy casserole topping
Party Tricks and Food Storage Hacks
With immediate family tallying over 30, most holiday gatherings featured 50 or more people. So you can bet, my Grandmother knew how to not only cook for the masses, but how to throw a great party and still stay sane. I still use all of these party tricks and storage hacks regularly!
Label drink cups
Before there were wine charms or chalkboard labels, my Grandmother’s beverage stations always featured a stack of red Solo cups and a Sharpie. You got one cup, put your name on it, and it was yours for the weekend!
Never lose a dish
Family gatherings or church banquets always were potluck. My Grandmother received every dish, and stuck a piece of masking tape with the owner’s name on it on the bottom of the dish. No one ever lost a dish on her watch!
Refrigerator for more than just storage
Don’t have a dish big enough to prep salad for 50+? Clean out a refrigerator drawer. My Grandmother regularly prepped things like fruit salad, green salads and her famous Macaroni Salad, served at every family gathering for Easter through Labor Day, in a refrigerator drawer!
No containers or space for leftovers?
Guess again. There was no Glad Ware back then – but we did have gallon Ziploc bags. She would roll the tops over to keep them clean, and set the bag inside a glass or measuring cup to hold it upright for easy filling. Easy, quick and you can send home doggy bags with everyone!
Tricks with Newspaper
As a Depression era child, and wife to a entrepreneur with feast/famine style income, my Grandmother NEVER wasted anything, including recyclables, like newspaper. I bet you didn’t know you could use a newspaper as
- A dustpan: dampen one long edge to fix it to the floor, and sweep the dirt directly onto it
- Streak-free substitute for paper towels to clean windows, mirrors
- Wrapping paper – especially the comics section for kids’ birthday gifts!
And in case being matriarch of a giant family, and baking cakes wasn’t enough to keep her busy, my Grandmother also arranged the flowers for our Church for years. Again, never one to spend an extra dime, she would drive to the Wholesale Florist every Friday after morning mass, hand pick all the flowers, and return to the Church rectory to arrange them all herself. There were her tried and true tricks for making them last the week, and sometimes up to two!
- While some flowers come with their own food, if they don’t, add sugar to water
- Always re-cut all flowers at an angle. Re-cut again when you change water to keep fresh for days
- Remove extra greenery from flower stems
- Change water daily, adding more flower food or sugar
- Need more greenery? Go clip some off the shrubs in your yard
She used those tricks to keep the Church in flowers and decorate cakes with fresh flowers for decades!
I owe a special thanks to my cousins who helped me brainstorm and add to this amazing list… and what a blast we had reminiscing while we were at it! What’s a fun trick you learned from your elders? If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my Mom Hacks board on Pinterest and all my Mommy Sanity Savers!