Living Like Little House in the Big Woods

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Ever wanted to live like the Little House on the Prairie books today? Curious about what we can learn from the books as adults and how we can apply it to our lives? Come dig into my Living Like Little House series as we explore Living like Little House in the Big Woods!

Ever wanted to live like the Little House on the Prairie books today? Curious about what we can learn from the books as adults and how we can apply it to our lives? Come dig into my Living Like Little House series! #littlehouse #littlehouseontheprairie #livinglikelittlehouse #modernhomesteading

Living Like Little House in the Big Woods

I promised, and here it is. A whole series about frugal living based on the Little House books!

Of course, I need to start at the beginning, where it all started, The Little House in the Big Woods. I’ve actually been to Pepin and the site where the little house was in Wisconsin. It helps you to get a true sense of where these books really were based and when you read through them you can picture all the things that Laura talks about. Lake Pepin, the big woods, the little cabin where they lived.

Let’s get started!

Corn Cob Dolls

“Mary was bigger than Laura, and she had a rag doll named Nettie. Laura had only a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief, but it was a good doll. It was named Susan. It wasn’t Susan’s fault that she was only a corncob. Sometimes Mary let Laura hold Nettie, but she only did it when Susan couldn’t see.” ~ Little House in the Big Woods p. 20-21

Since I was homeschooled we got to do a bunch of different craft projects that I might not have gotten to do in public school. Mom did a whole series based on the Little House books because we loved them so much. So, naturally, one of the crafts we did was to make corn cob dolls. Once I realized you could make your own dolls we had a whole bunch of different dolls. Dolls made with pipe cleaners, dolls made from yarn, paper dolls we cut out from magazines….and so on. To us it didn’t matter that they didn’t come from the store, they were perfect anyway. I’m pretty sure I had a whole family of yarn dolls and the pipe cleaner dolls were special so they got to live in the dollhouse, the yarn dolls only got to visit sometimes.

Here’s how to make a corn cob doll of your very own with your little ones!

Here is a picture of what you need. A scrap of fabric for the dress. A dried corncob, a dried piece of corn husk that was hung over a chair while drying, and a few pieces of string or ribbons.

Wrap the fabric around the corncob leaving room for a head-on one end. Tie it securely with a string or ribbon.

Put the folded, dried corn husk over the other end of the corn cob to make the bonnet. Tie in place with a string or ribbon. Tie securely but not too tight, you don’t want to break the husk!

Now you have your very own corn husk doll!

Family Game Night

Family Night

Something that is a reoccurring theme in the Little House in the Big Woods is all the stories that Pa tells the girls.

“And then, Pa told stories. When Laura and Mary begged him for a story, he would take them on his knees and tickle their faces with his long whiskers until they laughed out loud.” ~ Little House in the Big Woods p. 39

Laura lists at least 5 stories in the Little House in the Big Woods that Pa tells. It’s obvious that it was a way of life for them. They didn’t sit around the TV at night(not that they had the option). They told their own stories. Not only did Pa tell stories but, he also played with the girls and played music for them.

“Sometimes, when Pa had walked his traplines quickly because the traps were empty, or when he had got game sooner than usual, he would come home early. Then he would have time to play with Laura and Mary.” ~ Little House in the Big Woods p.34

When we invite people over to our house, or even when it’s just us, we love to play cards and board games. We had a whole huge closet full of board and card games that we’ve downsized to fit in one small area, but we still have an extra-large amount of games.

The best advice that we got when asking for wedding gifts was to register for board games. They were fun for people to give and we loved getting them! I’ve added to the game collection by purchasing more games at garage sales and thrift stores. If you buy them used, just check inside to see if all of the pieces are there. I’ve never had an issue with buying used games and I hardly ever pay over $2 for an entire game.

Even though Laura didn’t have a tv like we have today they probably wouldn’t have had one in their home anyways (they probably wouldn’t have been able to afford it).

Something that we may not think about all of the time that costs us money is having family time. What are we doing when we have family time? Going to the park? Going to a movie? Going out to eat? Each of those things cost money, either for the activity or for gas (unless you live next to the park!)

Those things are fun to do every so once in a while but maybe, if you haven’t already, set aside a night to have a stay-in family game night or family fun night. Take turns reading a book out loud. Make cookies together and then play a card game. Play a family sports game outside. Having a family game night isn’t just fun, it’s thrifty!

–Set some time aside for a date night too! Here are some Frugal Date Night Ideas.

Jars in the Pantry

Food Storage

The  Little House in the Big Woods book paints a pretty picture of Ma’s winter storage. Stockpiling is something that’s a cornerstone in any modern homestead. Plus, it just makes good sense to stock up on items when they are on sale so you don’t have to purchase those same items for the regular price when you really do need them! They are just right there in your stockpile waiting.

Not only that but having a stockpile is security for if anything really happens with the economy or if something happens to a job. You have your stockpile to fall back on in those cases or in any number of cases. (For example, I talked about stockpiling for winter over HERE.)

In the Little House in the Big Woods book, it talks about Ma’s food storage.

” When Butchering Time was over, there were the sausages and the headcheese, the big jars of lard and the keg of white salt pork out in the shed, and in the attic hung the smoked hams and shoulders. The little house was fairly bursting with good food stored away for the long winter. The pantry and the shed and the cellar were full, and so was the attic.”

“The attic was a lovely place to play. The large, round, colored pumpkins made beautiful chairs and tables. The red peppers and the onions dangled overhead. The hams and the venison hung in their paper wrappings, and all the bunches of dried herbs, the spicy herbs for cooking and the bitter herbs for medicine, gave the place a dusty-spicy smell. Often the wind howled outside with a cold and lonesome sound. But in the attic Laura and Mary played house with the squashes and the pumpkins, and everything was snug and cozy.” ~ Little House in the Big Woods p.18 – 19

If you’ve ever been to the Little House in the Big Woods replica house in Pepin you know how small it is and how creative Ma must have been to be able to store all of those goods in such a small space.

Small space storage can be a tricky thing. It’s something you have to be creative with! I’ve got stuff stashed all over my house (in an organized fashion of course!) I keep batteries in small plastic shoebox totes. I keep all my food in a closet. I have a cupboard for paper goods, part of a closet for bulk health and bulk stuff and I keep the rest of the health and beauty in my little bathroom. I think one of the keys to having storage space is cleaning out what you don’t need. My hubby and I are always working through every room in the house and cleaning out everything we don’t need. I’ve been surprised at what we keep finding to get rid of!

–Create a DIY Cold Storage and get some Frugal Root Cellar Ideas for storing fresh, root vegetables.



I had a hard time trying to find a paragraph in the Little House in the Big Woods that could go with this article. But when I think of the Little House though I think of how organized Ma must have had to be with having only 2 rooms and having to store everything she needed. A few parts in the book talk about all her storage up in the attic and it also talks about Ma’s pantry and how she had a specific shelf for her cheese storage and how they kept the smoked meat in a certain area.

Lately, we’ve have been thinking a lot about about the little house and how we are storing things in it. I like keeping things very organized and neat! I’ve been thinking more and more about this upcoming summer and fall and my garden. I want to can as much food as I possibly can during each season. It’s the cheapest form of good food out there and I want to take advantage of it. My issue is being able to store all this food.

Several years ago we decided to live a more minimalist lifestyle.  A minimalist lifestyle might not come easy to everyone, especially if you’ve accumulated a lot.

Here are some ideas on how Frugality and Minimalism can beautifully work together.

If you are cleaning out, there are several things that you can do to make it easier on yourself. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Look at your furniture first. Biggest items in the room. Decide what you need and what just makes the room look cluttered.
  2. When you look at the surfaces in your house, think clean and clear. Do you really need 100 books on the coffee table? Just having a simple vase there will look so much better and cleaner.
  3. Clean out one room at a time, don’t get distracted with another room otherwise your focus will be divided.
  4. Think in terms of essentials. Those craft books are nice to have on hand but are you ever going to make sock puppets?
  5. Clear the floor. Leave no stacks of items. Things like that make the room look cluttered and messy.
  6. Create a place for everything and if there is no place, decide if it’s really necessary. Clutter comes from us not having a space for everything because it gets left out. Get rid of this problem but creating a set place for everything.
  7. The space you are creating for things should be out of sight. Use cupboards, boxes, storage cabinets, etc.
  8. When you look at the decor in your house think, is it simple? If your walls have dozens and dozens of pictures covering them, they are going to make your house look messy, even if it’s not.
  9. Once you have cleaned everything out and started to get more organized, think about the things that create the biggest amount of mess. Usually, mess comes from papers and such that don’t have a place, solve this issue by putting a “paper basket” in a common area. Put all loose papers and random things in this throughout the day and at the end of the day, clean it out and either put things away or throw things away.

I hope this list at least starts to get you in the right track for cleaning and organizing. If you want a step by step plan for cleaning out and making your life simpler, I highly recommend my eWorkbook, 31 Days to Simpler Living. You will love it!

Staying Organized

I’ve talked a little before about being organized and keeping a daily to-do list so you can get done all that needs to get done during your day and during your week so you aren’t left at the end of the week with all the housework to do. In Little House in the Big Woods, Laura talks about Ma’s plan for the week so they got all their chores finished. She said:

“Every morning there were the dishes to wipe. mary wiped more of them than Laura because she was bigger, but Laura always wiped carefully her own little cup and plate. By the time the dishes were all wiped and set away, the trundle bed was aired. Then standing one on each side of the bed, Laura and Mary straightened the covers, tucked them in well at the foot and the sides, plumped up the pillows and put them in place. Then Ma pushed the trundle bed into it’s place under the big bed. After this was done, Ma began the work that belonged to that day. Each day had it’s own proper work. Ma used to say:

Wash on Monday,
Iron on Tuesday,
Mend on Wednesday,
Churn on Thursday,
Clean on Friday,
Bake on Saturday,
Rest on Sunday.”

~ Little House in the Big Woods p. 28 – 29.

I keep a folder/binder where I keep all my daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists. I also have a Meal Planning Binder that I use for all of our favorite recipes and meal plans. Everything in one place is pretty handy!

You can go here to learn more about a modern version of this work week and how you can put things together here.

If you want to use Little House in the Big Woods in your homeschooling or as part of your children’s education, I highly recommend this study guide: A Guide for Using Little House in the Big Woods in the Classroom. This reproducible book includes sample plans, author information, vocabulary building ideas, cross-curriculum activities, sectional activities and quizzes, unit tests, and more.

I think that it’s fun for us to go through the Little House series as adults and see things that we never saw before when we read them as children. It puts Laura’s entire life into a new perspective and helps us to appreciate what we have today.

If you are reading this book to your children, be sure and check out my free Little House in the Big Woods printable Lapbook!

Make sure you read the entire Living Like Little House series!

This series was originally published on Little House Living in 2011. It has been updated as of November 2019.

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  1. Pingback: Little House – Fall Fest | Cabins and Affordable Housing
  2. Great website! Our family is currently reading the Little house on the Praire series. Thank you for your website.

  3. I’m going to make these for my granddaughter who is three. I wonder how she will react to the corncob doll since she loves pumpkins and has kissed them when I have given them to her! I wonder if she will kiss the corncob doll I can’t wait to find out!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing!! My 2 little girls and I are currently
    On the 2nd book and have been this past week been living w/out
    Running water or electricity (due to a severe storm that caused a tree
    To fall on our power pole) anyway the girls are actually enjoying their
    Adventure !!

  5. Those yarn dolls bring back the best memories for me! In the early 60’s my mom made them and I thought they were SO special! The only time I got toys was birthday and Christmas. Mom made them in red and white and green and white for Christmas packages, instead of bows. She was a very young farm wife living on a 11$ a week milk check so she had to be thrifty! Thanks for the memories!

  6. This is adorable. I’ve loved the Little House series since I was young (I believe I was 5 when the series was first read to me) and I’m so glad I found your blog!

  7. How long does it take to dry out the corn cob? I would like to do this with my daughter however her school project is due in 3 days! Any suggestions? Thanks!

    1. I’ve not actually timed it because I’ve only used old corn cobs that are already dried but I’m pretty sure it takes longer than 3 days. I’m not sure if there is a way it could be dried quicker without it becoming too much of a fire hazard either. (Unless you have a dehydrator? That may work…) Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  8. Hiii! This is so great!! It’s true about he different perspective as an adult. I love Ma’s daily list and I’d love to apply it!! I love this blog post because it’s exactly what I am wanting to do very soon. I want to re-vamp my life! – beginning with getting off social media. It’s WAY to distracting for me and just a avenue for vanity. I just need more focus and intention in my life. Investing in my Health is very important to me but I’ve been confused by this diet or that and I’ve decided I want to research what my ancestors ate. I’m mostly Irish and all north European soooo I’ll be pursuing that. Essentially I want to eat more organic and simple food. I want to be at home more working on projects. Too much social interaction just leads to me eating food I know is not good for me and staying up too late – simply because that’s what my friends do. I want to get my life streamlined, under thoughtful control and organized and then I’ll share it with my friends.