Things are very different today than they were 50 or 100 years ago.
Forget smartphones — if you’re looking for some real changes in how we operate, look no further than the kitchen. Pre-packaged and preservative laden meals have replaced made-from-scratch classics, and most wannabe home cooks are a lot more likely to follow recipes on their iPad than they are to break out a dusty old cookbook. The kitchen is still the heart of the home, but how we spend time in one is a whole lot different.
Your grandmother probably didn’t microwave meals and she certainly didn’t buy pre-portioned recipes from Blue Apron. And while today’s fast-paced lifestyles made some of these routines fall out of style, lately some folks have shown a renewed interest in doing things the old-fashioned way. Read on to find out exactly what your grandmother did in the kitchen that you probably don’t do anymore.
1. Churn butter
Can you imagine having to make this kitchen staple by hand? | iStock.com/Marietjieopp
Before you could just stop by the grocery store and pick up a 4-pack of perfectly portioned butter, people had to use a hand operated butter churn. And it was a lot of work.
This manually operated device turns cream into butter using nothing but good old-fashioned arm strength. But while some ancient techniques are worth revisiting, this doesn’t seem to be one of them. While churning your own butter may sound quaint and fans admit homemade butter tastes delicious, you’ll likely spend more on ingredients than you’ll yield in output. Best to just purchase this one from the grocery store. Want fancier butter? Purchase premium grass-fed butter or ghee.
Next: She didn’t leave flour in the sack.
2. Store baking supplies in canisters
Storing your ingredients like this is an old-fashioned idea. | iStock.com
Back before Duncan Hines offered boxed cake mixes, your grandmother made everything from scratch, so she always kept a stock of flour, sugar, and salt easily accessible on the countertop. And what better way to do that than in ceramic, metal, or glass canisters? These retro finds are making a comeback, and you can find pretty ones at places like Target or HomeGoods. Now the only challenge is finding the time to use them.
Next: Nothing compares to homemade preserves.
3. Preserve fruits and veggies
Mason jars are for more than just decorating, you know. | iStock/Getty Images
Making your own jam or sauce is time-consuming, but it’s also worth it. Your grandmother probably spent a fair amount of hours picking fruits and veggies from her garden and later preserving them to get the family through winter. Sure, you could spend a couple bucks on jarred tomato sauce from the grocery store. But there’s no way it’ll taste as good as the sauce made from sun-ripened tomatoes that you grew in your own garden.
Next: She mixed up that cake by hand.
4. Use a hand mixer
You’ve probably been spoiled by your stand mixer. | iStock/Getty Images
Before every kitchen boasted a Kitchenaid stand mixer, the hard work of mixing ingredients happened with two arms and a crank-operated contraption. Your grandmother probably has an old one stashed away somewhere — but even she’ll probably admit that the new way of doing this task is way easier and more effective.
Next: Grandma didn’t buy premade casseroles.
5. Cook from scratch
Everything back then was homemade. | ABC
Peeling potatoes, marinating meat, picking vegetables from the gardening and roasting everything together… the poetry of preparing a homemade meal is sadly a lost art form.
Your grandmother most likely made everything from scratch. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed at the thought of following in her footsteps. If you want to eat healthier but you’re not sure where to start, take baby steps like committing to one made-from-scratch dinner per week. Dig out old recipes and get inspired when you put on a great soundtrack and have fun with it. Grandma didn’t have Spotify or wireless Bluetooth speakers, but she probably would have loved them.
Next: Your grandma probably did this task right before the holidays.
6. Polish the silver
This is a chore almost no one does anymore. | Hanohiki/iStock/Getty Images
There was a time when fancy meals meant fine china and the silver. Now families are more likely to use disposable cutlery for holiday gatherings (hey, no one likes doing all those dishes).
Real silver can’t go in the dishwasher, and it’s likely to get tarnished over time. One task your grandmother used to spend time on was polishing all the good silver to a high shine before her company came over.
Next: Premade cookie dough didn’t even exist yet, but she still had fancy sweets to share.
7. Use a cookie press
Grandma’s fancy cookies require some skill. | Sean Gallup/Getty Images
There’s a reason your grandmother turns up her nose at your slice and bake sugar cookies.
Back before premade dough, your grandmother not only got out her canisters to make cookies from scratch, but she also used a cookie press to make them look fancy. You could buy a new one or — better yet — see if you can dig out your grandmother’s vintage one for a touch of nostalgia.
Next: This smell made you feel right at home.
8. Bake bread
Nothing compares to homemade. | iStock.com/Photology1971
Your grandma knows — there is a huge difference between store-bought bread and homemade bread. The preservatives give your plastic-wrapped loaf a very chemical-like taste that’s impossible to disguise.
Bread baking requires very few ingredients and just a small amount of effort. Water, yeast, and flour will at least get you started, and then you can experiment with fancier loaves like sourdough or rye. There’s something so rewarding about biting into a slice of fresh bread that you kneaded by hand, plus it’ll make your whole house smell amazing. Nana would be so proud.
Next: Grandma didn’t have Pinterest.
9. Use a cookbook
Most people use their phones or iPads these days. | iStock.com
Remember books? Grandma does.
Almost every kitchen had a red and white checkered copy of Betty Crocker’s famous cookbook, and beyond that, the previous generation had quite a few other favorite books that focused on cooking.
Now recipes are saved via smartphone, which just isn’t the same. Still, pinning recipes is better than not cooking at all.
Next: Her spaghetti noodles didn’t come from a box.
10. Make pasta by hand
It’s a lot of work, but homemade pasta is delicious. | iStock.com/Rolleiflextlr
Ravioli didn’t always come from the frozen section of the supermarket. Ever tasted homemade spaghetti? Be careful, because once you eat your pasta like Nonni used to make it, it’s hard to go back.
Next: She wrote down her favorites to give to future generations.
11. Pass down recipes
People shared recipes the old fashioned way. | DGrad/iStock/Getty Images
Family recipes were once handwritten on index-sized cards and stored in cute little boxes, with bonus points for chocolate fingerprints on the cookie recipes. If you’re lucky, then your family might still have some of these handwritten treasures that you can use and then pass along to your own children.
Next: Nana’s box grater got tons of use.
12. Grate cheese
Most people buy the pre-grated cheese these days. | iStock.com/Anna_Kurz
Grandma knows — Freshly grated cheese tastes a million times better than that stuff you buy pre-grated in a bag.
Next: A quality item like this often attached to the table.
13. Grind nuts, meat, and coffee
People had to grind their own coffee beans back in the day. | iStock.com/JulieWild
A good quality grinder had a special place in your grandma’s kitchen. Meat grinding wasn’t done by a butcher, but rather by hand, often from animals that were raised on the family farm. Fresh peanut butter from the grinder is way more delicious than the jarred variety, and freshly ground coffee beans make a delicious cup of Joe in the morning.
Next: This task helped keep her appliance functioning.
14. Defrost the freezer
Did you know this was once a necessary chore? | iStock.com
Old school freezers tended to get covered with chunks of ice, making it necessary to defrost the freezer to keep it running smoothly. You still may need to do this bit of freezer maintenance occasionally, but not as often as your grandmother did.
Next: She skipped instant brewed coffee in favor of this method.
15. Making coffee with a percolator
Keurig machines are a very modern convenience. | iStock.com/Stevanovicigor
Before the Keurig started brewing cups of coffee at the press of a button, your grandmother used a percolator to get her caffeine fix. Percolators work by continually cycling hot water through the grounds using gravity. Now that artisan coffee is making a comeback, stovetop percolators are actually back in fashion.
Read more: Cleaning Tricks Your Grandma Used That Still Work Today
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