10 Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That Most Of Us Have Forgotten)

4. Food Preservation

It’s rare to find people who preserve their own foods, but in our grandparent’s generation, it was common. Canning food, smoking meats and even making one’s own sausage were all common home tasks, which ensured that people had enough food to get through the winter. Today, it’s rare to find people who know these methods of food preservation, let alone having the equipment needed.
If we go back very far in American live, pretty much every middle class home had a smokehouse for preserving meats. I’ve seen some homes where the smokehouse was actually in the kitchen chimney. Instead of building a normal chimney, they had a very wide one, with enough room to hang sides of beef in it for smoking.


5. Blacksmithing.

This one’s a little bit harder than the others. It’s one that you may have difficulty learning from a youtube video. You’ll want to find a fellow blacksmith to teach you how. It may seem unnecessary, but if the electricity went out, the only people who could repair anything metal are blacksmiths. Might as well know the trade!

6. Herbal Medicine

The roots of medicine were herbal medicine. While doctors have existed for millennia, it hasn’t been until recent times that those doctors had such a wide range of pharmaceuticals to work with. Before that, doctors made their own medicines.
Many women also learned to use what nature provided for medicine. It was not uncommon a few generations back for mom to take care of her family’s medical needs, using recipes that she had learned from her mother. Today, that sort of medicine is called “old wives’ tales” but it works just as well as it always did.

29 Responses to “10 Survival Skills Your Great-Grandparents Knew (That Most Of Us Have Forgotten)”

  1. Michele says:


    • Michele says:

      Sorry. 10 didn’t load the first time. BTW I can do all of those things. We raised and milked dairy goats for 10 years and had chickens, rabbit and ducks. I also patch the patches on my husbands overalls. All things that most people don’t do anymore. I also had to darn socks when I was young.

  2. Connie Trott says:

    So thankful that I can honestly say we know all of these skills and can add a couple more to the list. It’s been a long learning curve but well worth the journey.

  3. Evelyn Wilkins says:

    Know and do every one of these except black smithing…and my husband knows that.

  4. Tanir says:

    You can add ‘sewing and mending’. People don’t know the basics of that any more.

    • Annie says:

      I like that addition. One can add making sundries: soap, toothpaste, deodorant alternatives, shampoo, laundry and household soaps, medicinal alternatives, starchs, and there are many more. Then there are many alternative Pantry Items to be explored Examples are yeast, startch, soup bases, dehydration of “leftovers and foods/nuts/fruit. The list is vast. .

  5. D. Keathley says:

    Friend still makes her own (goats milk) soap, lotions, bath bombs, laundry soap, lip balm, salves for everthing, cans and makes jellies – she’s amazing! Her husband is handy, built their house and he welds, too.

  6. J. Dana Clark says:

    Most of these I at least have a good handle on and the ones I don’t, I’ve got neighbors who do. And some of them I find it unimaginable that someone wouldn’t know.

  7. M W Kimbell says:

    Things I remember are:
    *Making Soap
    *Growing a vegetable garden
    *Canning food
    *Raising Chickens for eggs and meat
    *Tending livestock

  8. bryan says:

    It’s on there. Number 9

  9. betty says:

    We didn’t call the herbs made for medicinal purposes ‘Old Wives’ Tales’ we called them ‘Home Rememdies’. To me an Old Wives Tale is something that was ficticious. A fairy tale or a story handed down or maybe something that was used for medicinal purposes but didn’t work. Those we might have called an Old Wives Tale. But not herbs for healing. I think you are using it wrong. imho

    • Sheridan Sims says:

      People who use the herbs and such call them Home Remedies. The folks who don’t use them scoff at their use and say, “Oh that’s just an old wive’s tale.” People tend to ridicule anything that they don’t believe or use.

  10. Valerie Chapleau says:

    Got 8 out of 10. We don’t hunt or fish but know how to. Don’t do black smithing – no horses. Have all the test down pat.

  11. Louise says:

    Right now I’m living off grid.. I’ve completed the list except Black Smith, Breaking a Horse (at 50 I’m excused), and although I know I can I’ve yet milked a cow

  12. Sally says:

    I didn’t know there was a test.

  13. Wendy says:

    There’s also knitting and crochet, trapping and making leather and fur clothing, gathering wild edibles, building with stone and logs, even cooking full meals has almost become a lost skill.

  14. Mike R says:

    Was brought up learning all those skills plus quite a few more. I was shooting and snaring rabbits at age 10, and skinning them. Thanks to my Grandparents and parents I have all the skills required should I ever need them.

  15. Pam says:

    cooking at all, esp in urban populations, is becoming the thing that only chefs do, it’s truly bizarre to me. Rural not so much, I think it likely that most rural people have someone in the house who cooks at least part of the time. What else is astonishing is how many people both urban AND rural don’t have gardens.

  16. Susanne Papalia says:

    Most young people don’t even know how to cook !
    I’m thankful that I learned all those things from my parents and in schools.
    Some 4-H Cornell Ext. Started teaching all the basics again !

  17. usafsam says:

    There are many things left out like rendering lard, making soap and candles, churning cream into butter, foraging for wild growing edibles, using animal excrement for fuel.

  18. Btame says:

    Yes, there is a difference between home remedies and old wives tales. For instance, taking apple cider vinegar is a home remedy. “If you have a lot of hurt burn during pregnancy then your child will have lots of hair,” is an old wives tale

  19. Mike says:

    10? I only see 6.

  20. Deb Rank says:

    I must consider myself blessed, my mom passed the knowledge to do almost all of it except blacksmithing. And a wooden high heeled shoe makes a decent hammer in a pinch

  21. Mixbee says:

    If I have to learn all that to survive – SOMEBODY SHOOT ME!!!

  22. Bob says:

    A couple of my grandparents did 2 of these things, I don’t think that urban poor working 16 hours a day in a factory had a lot of time to do these things if they weren’t there full time job.

  23. Sue says:

    Might want to add wielding an axe to that list…..

  24. GADS says:

    Awesome. I know 8 out of 10

  25. Tim says:

    Why are there only 3?

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