10 things we can learn from our elders

Martha Kelly, National Coordinator at Supergrans, explains why sharing home skills between generations is good for the whole family.

Were you lucky enough to learn how to cook and run a home from the people who raised you? It’s easy to assume that once we become parents, we all know how to cook family meals, how to grow our own food, how to run a home, how to manage the family income, and how to do the occasional repair around the house.

The reality is quite different for many people who perhaps grew up with changing caregivers, busy working parents, or in an environment that wasn’t focussed on such things.

But no matter what your personal story as a parent is, we recognise how priceless the skills we learn from the generations before us are. And, fortunately, we are living in a country where it is never too late to grow our abilities with these life skills! Even better, there are organisations in our communities to support people to learn and reach their full potential (like SuperGrans, which you can learn more about in the box on the facing page).

Here are 10 life skills that our elders practised that you might like to consider doing at home, too.

1. Planting a garden

Are you living in a rented home, or do you move often? Don’t let this put you off having a garden with lovely fresh vegetables for your meals. Buy buckets and potting mix when they are on special, and set up a mobile garden that you can take anywhere you move to.

2. Meal planning

Have you considered planning your family’s menu for the whole week before you go and do the weekly shopping? Have you looked at the supermarket specials before you do this? How about creating your menu around the specials? Make a list of all the ingredients you need – if you’re buying exactly what is needed, it can save costs, minimise waste, and save time.

3. DIY cleaning products

Have you considered making your own cleaning products? Can’t afford oven cleaner? Why don’t you put some baking soda in a cup, mix it with water to make a paste, and then spread it to whatever part of the oven needs cleaning. Leave for a while, and then wipe off. You’ll be amazed how well it works to get the grime off!

4. Managing debt

Did you know that some people are eligible for interest-free or really low interest loans to help them manage their way out of debt? You would need to work with a budgeting organisation to find out more about this, but it is well worth it. (Some SuperGrans can help out here too.)

5. Waste minimisation

Reducing waste in the home can save money, save our environment, and is fun to do. Take a look at how much rubbish you are putting out and see where you could recycle instead, and get the kids involved!

6. Smart shopping

Have you thought of buying your kitchen and bathroom supplies in bulk so that it is cheaper and there is less single-use packaging to pollute our environment? Everyday things like shampoo and conditioner, cooking oil, and liquid soap work well, along with dry goods like flours, sugar, and lentils. The list is endless.

7. Giving food scraps a second life

Don’t throw away your fruit and vegetable peelings. Wash the vegetables well and then cook the peelings up as a base for stews and soups. Put it in the freezer if you don’t need it right away.

8. Soup from (almost) nothing

Roast chicken for dinner tonight? Make chicken and rice soup with the bones. Boil them up and then cook the stock with some onion, mixed herbs, and rice. There’s lunch for tomorrow, ready just like that.

9. Use the whole fruit

If you are preserving fruit, try making jam out of the skins. For example, you’d be amazed how great peach skin jam is. Just follow the jam recipe as if you were using peaches.

10. Did you know you can make a great banana cake with banana peel?

As long as you have a blender, you can eat the banana and then make a cake with the skin. Yum! Here’s a recipe to try.

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