25 February 2020

Back to Basics: Make It, Bake It, Grow It, Sew It

Welcome to the first in a series of back to basics posts I've called Make It, Bake It, Grow It, Sew It that I'm writing to help everyone get back to basics.

From my You Tube shows, and questions that come from Cheapskates newsletters, I've realised that there are a lot of folk who struggle with cooking, baking, meal planning, writing a shopping list, building a stockpile and preserving, not because they don't want to, but because they're uncertain of where to begin, and what steps they need to take to get started.

I was blessed with a mother and aunties who were amazing cooks, and who taught me how to cook, bake, preserve, and then clean up the mess; how to knit, crochet and sew; what to grow to keep us fed and how to grow those foods on a budget. Not everyone has been so blessed and so I'd like to share what I've learned over the years about using basics to create a happy, healthy home.

I think the best thing any young person can do, for themselves and their family, is learn to cook basic meals from scratch so they can ditch the expensive "convenience" style meals and ingredients. From those basic meals they can meal plan and write a shopping list of ingredients. Next step would be to take that list of basic ingredients and see how many different dishes they can make with them. If they can do that they'll never go hungry, won't get bored eating the same meals over and over and won't be spending a fortune at the supermarket.
Learning to grow at least some of the food you eat not only saves you money and time, but it gives you options. You're not limited to what's available in the shops. We are seeing more and more ordinary fruit and vegetables disappearing from supermarkets, only to be replaced with more expensive exotic produce, or not be replaced at all. Having just a few veggies and some fruit in our gardens or on our balconies means we can always have fresh produce for just a few cents a week.
When you know how to sew on a button or take up a hem, you can do most running repairs on your clothing. Take it a step further and you can make pot holders, tea towels, pillow slips, tablecloths, turn old towels into bath mats or cleaning mits. Then take it even further and you can make your children's clothes, and your clothes; you can alter clothes you have or find for a few cents to fit and look like a new garment.
So every Tuesday I'm going to post a Back to Basics post, with simple, step-by-step instructions on the basics. Yes, how to boil an egg or cook a roast chicken; how to make a fruit cake and bread; how to do a pantry inventory; how to meal plan; how to stock a pantry on a budget; how to write a shopping list; how to make a pot holder, take up a hem and sew on a button; how to start plants from seed, what to grow for a basic summer and winter garden, how to preserve excess produce  and more.
Because when you know the basics, it's easy. You can take what you have and make a meal; you know what to keep in the pantry so you can always eat; you can write a shopping list that will not only fill your pantry, but feed your family and stay withing your grocery budget.

You can turn an old sheet into curtains or tea towels or pillowslips or even a new dress. You can take a ball of wool and knit or crochet a blanket. A skein of cotton becomes a dishcloth or a pretty doyley for your home.

You can fill your garden with no or very low cost plants to feed your family and brighten your home.

And if you have any questions, let me know, or if there's anything in particular you'd like to know more about, let me know! Just put your question in the comments below so I can find it.


  1. Love the idea for this series, Cath! We had pancakes here today, too!

    xx Jen in NS

  2. That crochet blanket is so gorgeous Cath. Did you crochet it? I would love to know if there is a pattern somewhere for it? I just finished a basic granny square baby blanket for my daughters friend, and while it looks pretty, I love the look of the one you have pictured.

    I do have skills taught to me by my mother and grandmother, but I have not taken them to the next level. What I can do is pretty basic. I can sew, knit and crochet, but I always stick to simple patterns that I can achieve easily. I should challenge myself more.

    I have taught myself to grow food over the years. My parents and grandparents were all gardeners, so plenty of experience to hand down.

    Same with cooking, mostly self taught with the guidance of my mother.

    I am going to enjoy this series. Thank you for all you do.


    1. Hi Tania, it's really easy. I didn't have a pattern. Just made chain, worked a row of dc. Next row was 1 tr, 2ch, to end. Next row 3ch, 2ch 1tr in top of next tr, to the end. Repeat till it's the size you want. Work a border around the edge in sc. It's small bassinet size, worked a few years ago for a friend's much waited for babe. I'm practicing doyleys at the moment - getting better with each one. Thank goodness for YouTube - my mother was self-taught and all she had were pattern books with one picture of whatever, then the instructions. I have it easy! Your garden is amazing I love to see pictures of it - really encourages me to keep going in our little backyard. I'm working on the autumn/winter garden right now, around the last of the tomatoes.

    2. Thank you so much Cath. Doyleys are fun to make, and yes YouTube is definitely an asset these days.


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