15 Forgotten Ways Our Ancestors Stayed Warm During Winter-Kathy Bernier

Published October 2017

With what were often limited resources, our grandparents needed to use common sense and ingenuity to augment whatever they used as a primary heating system.

Here are some of the “free” things they did to keep warm:

– Acclimatize to cooler temperatures. When my aunt relocated to Florida several years ago, she laughed at the sight of joggers wearing earmuffs at 50 degrees. But by the next year, she, too, felt cold at higher temperatures than she had while living up north. In the same manner as my aunt became accustomed to warmer weather, so, too, can most people get used to cooler indoor temperatures during winter.

– Stay active. I have hiked many mountains in cool weather, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt in temperatures as low as in the 40s. But sitting indoors at my computer, I reach for a sweater as soon as it dips below 70. Our grandparents may have moved around both in- and out-of-doors more than we do now, if for no other reason than to accomplish daily living tasks which we no longer do today. This higher level of activity contributed to keeping them warmer.

Reed Burch-My mother’s family would put large rocks in the wood stove oven after the daily bread was baked. Then in the evening those rocks were put in the bottom of the beds under the covers. This made it possible for toes to be warm even if the rooms were cold.

Linda Sorci-Wear a hat, scarf, hoodie or other head covering (even indoors) to prevent heat loss through the top of your head. And when layering clothing, tuck in the first shirt layer into your waistband to prevent heat loss through an open shirt. Get a ‘blanket’ for your hot water tank. It will keep your water hotter for longer and lower your energy costs too.

Jason- In old England, people built their residences about where the animals were kept, so the heat from their bodies would warm the home. Stinky, but warm. Having many people in a room will also warm it.

Hold The Heat – Too much heat goes up the chimney and is wasted. Various ways to hold on to that heat, rocks or pots of water that hold the heat can but put in or near the fire, or on top of a stove, and then put somewhere where the hat can be used, or in a bed warmer and rolled around the inside of the covers to hear the bed before getting in. In fact, large quantities of water hold heat for a long time, and if enough of these were in your home your temperature would be more stable and last longer.

Having a pot of simmering water on a stove will heat in another way: it heats your body core temperature faster when the air is moist. We may not like the humidity, but you will be warmer for much less cost.

Another way to feel warm is to eat Ginger. It will warm you to the tips of your fingers. Too much will make you sweat, and you do not want that in frigid temperatures, but you can modify that quickly enough.

There is also a psychological component that is worth keeping in mind: the colors of your walls can get you to feel it is warmer or cooler in your rooms. Painting them a warm color will increase your comfort level, and the reverse is also true. It has been when in repeated scientific studies to let people feel it is several degrees warmer or cooler depending on the color.

One of the main factors in being warm is your blood. IN winter, it thickens and summer it thins. This is related to too many factors to go into, but suffice to say that good oils (extra virgin olive oil and so on, thicken the blood in winter and also allow you to retain the heat longer (think oil ratiator instead of water — it hold the heat longer) but a less known factor is the foods you eat. In a nutshell, if you eat tropical fruits in winter, your body will interpret that as being summer, so will thin your blood, making you feel colder and less able to hold on to heat. This is where “hearty stews” are an experiential example that proves the point.


Way to keep warmer at night? Rise the bed. Heat rises, so it is warmer closer to the ceiling. Raise the bed and it can be 10 degrees warmer for no extra cost. Just mind your head if you sit up! Speaking of heat rising, if you have a ceiling fan, reverse it in winter, to draw the warm air into the room; you might be surprised.

Ever go camping? IF so you may know of the insul-foam pad used to sleep on. Sit or sleep on one and the heat is retained more. They last for many years so very cheap in the long ru