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The American Frugal Housewife
By Lydia Maria Child
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ODD SCRAPS FOR THE ECONOMICAL.
IF you would avoid waste in your family, attend to the following rules, and do not despise them because they appear so unimportant: 'many a little makes a mickle.'
Look frequently to the pails, to see that nothing is thrown to the pigs which should have been in the grease-pot.
Look to the grease-pot, and see that nothing is there which might have served to nourish your own family, or a poorer one.
See that the beef and pork are always under brine; and that the brine is sweet and clean.
Count towels, sheets, spoons, &c. occasionally; that those who use them may not become careless.
See that the vegetables are neither sprouting nor decaying: if they are so, remove them to a drier place, and spread them.
Examine preserves, to see that they are not contracting mould; and your pickles, to see that they are not growing soft and tasteless.
As far as it is possible, have bits of bread eaten up before they become hard. Spread those that are not eaten, and let them dry, to be pounded for puddings, or soaked for brewis. Brewis is made of crusts and dry pieces of bread, soaked a good while in hot milk, mashed up, and salted, and buttered like toast. Above all, do not let crusts accumulate in such quantities that they cannot be used. With proper care, there is no need of losing a particle of bread, even in the hottest weather.
Attend to all the mending in the house, once a week, if possible. Never put out sewing. If it be impossible to do it in your own family, hire some one into the house, and work with them.
Make your own bread and cake. Some people think it is just as cheap to buy of the baker and confectioner; but it is not half as cheap. True, it is more convenient; and therefore the rich are justifiable in employing them; but those who are under the necessity of being economical, should make convenience a secondary object. In the first place, confectioners make their cake richer than people of moderate income can afford to make it; in the next place, your domestic, or yourself, may just as well employ your own time, as to pay them for theirs.
When ivory-handled knives turn yellow, rub them with nice sand paper, or emery; it will take off the spots, and restore their whiteness.
When a carpet is faded, I have been told that it may be restored, in a great measure, (provided there be no grease in it,) by being dipped into strong salt and water. I never tried this; but I know that silk pocket handkerchiefs, and deep blue factory cotton will not fade, if dipped in salt and water while new.
An ox's gall will set any color,—silk, cotton, or woollen. I have seen the colors of calico, which faded at one washing, fixed by it. Where one lives near a slaughterhouse, it is worth while to buy cheap, fading goods, and set them in this way. The gall can be bought for a few cents. Get out all the liquid, and cork it up in a large phial. One large spoonful of this in a gallon of warm water is sufficient. This is likewise excellent for taking out spots from bombazine, bombazet, &c. After being washed in this, they look about as well as when new. It must be thoroughly stirred into the water, and not put upon the cloth. It is used without soap. After being washed in this, cloth which you want to clean should be washed in warm suds, without using soap.
Tortoise shell and horn combs last much longer for having oil rubbed into them once in a while.
Indian meal and rye meal are in danger of fermenting in summer; particularly Indian. They should be kept in a cool place, and stirred open to the air, once in a while. A large stone, put in the middle of a barrel of meal, is a good thing to keep it cool.
The covering of oil-flasks, sewed together with strong thread, and lined and bound neatly, makes useful table-mats.
A warming-pan full of coals, or a shovel of coals, held over varnished furniture, will take out white spots. Care should be taken not to hold the coals near enough to scorch; and the place should be rubbed with flannel while warm.
Spots in furniture may usually be cleansed by rubbing them quick and hard, with a flannel wet with the same thing which took out the color; if rum, wet the cloth with rum, &c. The very best restorative for defaced varnished furniture, is rotten-stone pulverized, and rubbed on with linseed oil.
Sal-volatile, or hartshorn, will restore colors taken out by acid. It may be dropped upon any garment without doing harm.
Spirits of turpentine is good to take grease-spots out of woollen clothes; to take spots of paint, &c., from mahogany furniture; and to cleanse white kid gloves. Cockroaches, and all vermin, have an aversion to spirits of turpentine.
An ounce of quicksilver, beat up with the white of two eggs, and put on with a feather, is the cleanest and surest bed-bug poison. What is left should be thrown away: it is dangerous to have it about the house. If the vermin are in your walls, fill up the cracks with verdigris -green paint.
Lamps will have a less disagreeable smell if you dip your wick-yarn in strong hot vinegar, and dry it.
Those who make candles will find it a great improvement to steep the wicks in lime-water and saltpetre, and dry them. The flame is clearer, and the tallow will not 'run.'
Britannia ware should be first rubbed gently with a wool len cloth and sweet oil; then washed in warm suds, and rubbed with soft leather and whiting. Thus treated, it will retain its beauty to the last.
Eggs will keep almost any length of time in lime-water properly prepared. One pint of coarse salt, and one pint of unslacked lime, to a pailful of water. If there be too much lime, it will eat the shells from the eggs; and if there be a single egg cracked, it will spoil the whole. They should be covered with limewater, and kept in a cold place. The yolk becomes slightly red; but I have seen eggs, thus kept, perfectly sweet and fresh at the end of three years. The cheapest time to lay down eggs, is early in spring, and the middle and last of September. It is bad economy to buy eggs by the dozen, as you want them.
New iron should be very gradually heated at first. After it has become inured to the heat, it is not as likely to crack.
It is a good plan to put new earthen ware into cold water, and let it heat gradually, until it boils,—then cool again. Brown earthen ware, in particular, may be toughened in this way. A handful of rye, or wheat, bran, thrown in while it is boiling, will preserve the glazing, so that it will not be destroyed by acid or salt.
Clean a brass kettle, before using it for cooking, with salt and vinegar.
Skim-milk and water, with a bit of glue in it, heated scalding hot, is excellent to restore old, rusty, black Italian crape. If clapped and pulled dry, like nice muslin, it will look as well, or better, than when new.
Wash-leather gloves should be washed in clean suds, scarcely warm.
The oftener carpets are shaken, the longer they wear; the dirt that collects under them, grinds out the threads.
Do not have carpets swept any oftener than is absolutely necessary. After dinner, sweep the crumbs into a dusting-pan with your hearth-brush; and if you have been sewing, pick up the shreds by hand. A carpet can be kept very neat in this way; and a broom wears it very much.
Buy your woollen yarn in quantities from some one in the country, whom you can trust. The thread-stores make profits upon it, of course.
It is not well to clean brass andirons, handles, &c. with vinegar. It makes them very clean at first; but they soon spot and tarnish. Rotten-stone and oil are proper, materials for cleaning brasses. If wiped every morning with flannel and New England rum, they will not need to be cleaned half as often.
If you happen to live in a house which has marble fire-places, never wash them with suds; this destroys the polish, in time. They should be dusted; the spots taken off with a nice oiled cloth, and then rubbed dry with a soft rag.
Feathers should be very thoroughly dried before they are used. For this reason they should not be packed away in bags, when they are first plucked. They should be laid lightly in a basket, or something of that kind, and stirred up often. The garret is the best place to dry them; because they will there be kept free from dirt and moisture; and will be in no danger of being blown away. It is well to put the parcels, which you may have from time to time, into the oven, after you have removed your bread, and let them stand a day.
If feather-beds smell badly, or become heavy, from want of proper preservation of the feathers, or from old age, empty them, and wash the feathers thoroughly in a tub of suds; spread them in your garret to dry, and they will be as light and as good as new.
New England rum, constantly used to wash the hair, keeps it very clean, and free from disease, and promotes its growth a great deal more than Macassar oil. Brandy is very strengthening to the roots of the hair; but it has a hot, drying tendency, which N. E. rum has not.
If you wish to preserve fine teeth, always clean them thoroughly after you have eaten your last meal at night.
Rags should never be thrown away because they are dirty. Mop-rags, lamp-rags, &c. should be washed, dried, and put in the rag-bag. There is no need of expending soap upon them: boil them out in dirty suds, after you have done washing.
Linen rags should be carefully saved; for they are extremely useful in sickness. If they have become dirty and worn by cleaning silver, &c., wash them, and scrape them into lint.
After old coats, pantaloons, &c. have been cut up for boys, and are no longer capable of being converted into garments, cut them into strips, and employ the leisure moments of children, or domestics, in sewing and braiding them for doormats.
If you are troubled to get soft water for washing, fill a tub or barrel half full of ashes, and fill it up with water, so that you may have lye whenever you want it. A gallon of strong lye put into a great kettle of hard water will make it as soft as rain water. Some people use pearlash, or potash; but this costs something, and is very apt to injure the texture of the cloth.
If you have a strip of land, do not throw away suds. Both ashes and suds are good manure for bushes and young plants.
When a white Navarino bonnet becomes soiled, rip it in pieces, and wash it with a sponge and soft water. While it is yet damp, wash it two or three times with a clean sponge dipped into a strong saffron tea, nicely strained. Repeat this till the bonnet is as dark a straw color as you wish. Press it on the wrong side with a warm iron, and it will look like a new Leghorn.
About the last of May, or the first of June, the little millers, which lay moth-eggs begin to appear. Therefore brush all your woollens, and pack them away in a dark place covered with linen. Pepper, red-cedar chips, tobacco, —indeed, almost any strong spicy smell,—is good to keep moths out of your chests and drawers. But nothing is so good as camphor. Sprinkle your woollen with camphorated spirit, and scatter pieces of camphor-gum among them, and you will never be troubled with moths. Some people buy camphor-wood trunks, for this purpose; but they are very expensive, and the gum answers just as well.
The first young leaves of the common currant-bush, gathered as soon as they put out, and dried on tin, can hardly be distinguished from green tea.
Cream of tartan, rubbed upon soiled white kid gloves, cleanses them very much.
Bottles that have been used for rose-water, should be used for nothing else; if scalded ever so much, they will kill the spirit of what is put in them.
If you have a greater quantity of cheeses in the house than is likely to be soon used, cover them carefully with paper, fastened on with flour paste, so as to exclude the air. In this way they may be kept free from insects for years. They should be kept in a dry, cool place.
Pulverized alum possesses the property of purifying water. A large spoonful stirred into a hogshead of water will so purify it, that in a few hours the dirt will all sink to the bottom, and it will be as fresh and clear as spring water. Four gallons may be purified by a tea-spoonful.
Save vials and bottles. Apothecaries and grocers will give something for them. If the bottles are of good thick glass, they will always be useful for bottling cider or beer; but if they are thin French glass, like claret bottles, they will not answer.
Woollens should be washed in very hot suds, and not rinsed. Lukewarm water shrinks them.
On the contrary, silk, or anything that has silk in it, should be washed in water almost cold. Hot water turns it yellow. It may be washed in suds made of nice white soap; but no soap should be put upon it. Likewise avoid the use of hot irons in smoothing silk. Either rub the articles dry with a soft cloth, or put them between two towels, and press them with weights.
Do not let knives be dropped into hot dish-water. It is a good plan to have a large tin pot to wash them in, just high enough to wash the blades, without wetting the handles. Keep your castors covered with blotting-paper and green flannel. Keep your salt-spoons out of the salt, and clean them often.
Do not wrap knives and forks in woollens. Wrap them in good, strong paper. Steel is injured by lying in woollens.
If it be practicable, get a friend in the country to procure you a quantity of lard, butter, and eggs, at the time they are cheapest, to be put down for winter use. You will be likely to get them cheaper and better than in the city market; but by all means put down your winter's stock. Lard requires no other care than to be kept in a dry, cool place. Butter is sweetest in September and June; because food is then plenty, and not rendered bitter by frost. Pack your butter in a clean, scalded firkin, cover it with strong brine, and spread a cloth all over the top, and it will keep good until the Jews get into Grand Isle. If you happen to have a bit of salt-petre, dissolve it with the brine. Dairy-women say that butter comes more easily, and has a peculiar hardness and sweetness, if the cream is scalded and strained before it is used. The cream should stand down cellar over night, after being scalded, that it may get perfectly cold.
Suet and lard keep better in tin than in earthen.
Suet keeps good all the year round, if chopped and packed down in a stone jar, covered with molasses.
Pick suet free from veins and skin, melt it in water before a moderate fire, let it cool till it forms into a hard cake, then wipe it dry, and put it in clean paper in linen bags.
Preserve the backs of old letters to write upon. If you have children who are learning to write, buy coarse white paper by the quantity, and keep it locked up, ready to be made into writing books. It does not cost half as much as it does to buy them at the stationer's.
Do not let coffee and tea stand in tin. Scald your wooden ware often; and keep your tin ware dry.
When mattresses get hard and bunchy, rip them, take the hair out, pull it thoroughly by hand, let it lie a day or two to air, wash the tick, lay it in as light and even as possible, and catch it down, as before. Thus prepared, they will be as good as new.
It is poor economy to buy vinegar by the gallon. Buy a barrel, or half a barrel, of really strong vinegar, when you begin house-keeping. As you use it, fill the barrel with old cider, sour beer, or wine-settlings, &c., left in pitchers, decanters or tumblers; weak tea is likewise said to be good: nothing is hurtful, which has a tolerable portion of spirit, or acidity. Care must be taken not to add these things in too large quantities, or too often: if the vinegar once gets weak, it is diffcult to restore it. If possible, it is well to keep such slops as I have mentioned in a different keg, and draw them off once in three or four weeks, in such a quantity as you think the vinegar will bear. If by any carelessness you do weaken it, a few white beans dropped in, or white paper dipped in molasses, is said to be useful. If beer grows sour, it may be used to advantage for pancakes and fritters. If very sour indeed, put a pint of molasses and water to it, and, two or three days after, put a half pint of vinegar; and in ten days it will be first rate vinegar.
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