17 Self-Sufficiency Tips from the 1940’s & Great Depression Live Interview

By Melissa Norris | Podcast

Mar 19

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Welcome to the Pioneering Today Podcast. This is Episode No. 81.

Grab these 17 self-sufficiency tips from the Great Depression and 1940's and learn how they really did it without electricity or refrigeration. Loved the live interview with her Dad who actually went lived through this and shares his stories. So much wisdom for us to remember.

17 Self-Sufficiency Tips from the 1940’s and Great Depression Era

This is a very special episode. This is where I get to interview my dad, and share with you his wisdom from growing up during the Great Depression. Even beyond on then, they still lived without electricity, without indoor plumbing, and raising almost everything themselves. You get to hear what it was like from someone who really lived during that time.

For more from scratch frugal recipes and stories from this era check out

The Made-From-Scratch Life: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home

The Homestead is the house that is still standing, and still doesn’t have electricity. It’s wired, you can hookup a generator or battery but it’s not really wired for electricity. There is no electricity that runs out there, there’s still no indoor bathroom or indoor plumbing other than the sink that has the hand pump. We refer to it as the homestead because that’s when he and my grandparents moved out here from North Carolina in the 1940s and ended up purchasing their property and living during his childhood years.

I created a special download for you of my Grandma’s cornbread and biscuit recipe, you’ll notice her cornbread recipe doesn’t use eggs, making it even more frugal and allergy friendly.

Click Here for our Great Depression Era Cornbread and Biscuit Recipes
MKN: Welcome, Dad!

DAD: Thank you!

MKN: One of the first questions that we have, it came in from a reader and listener Jeanette, she said…if you knew that there’s another Great Depression coming or worse, where would you choose to live, if you could? What area of the United States?

DAD: Probably, right here!

MKN: Right here, in the Pacific Northwest. If you knew another Great Depression was coming, what’s one thing would you make sure that you have before it hits? What would be some things that you would make sure you have lined up or in place?

DAD: Well, I think you should have a cow for milk, butter from the milk, and a pig or two, and chickens. And you pretty much have everything there that you would need, besides growing a garden in the summer time.

Life without an indoor toilet or bathroom

MKN: Rachel asks, what was it like to use the outhouse, at the different seasons of the year?

DAD: Very cold! The Sears Roebuck catalog pages got a lot stiffer in cold weather.

MKN: Is that what you guys used for toilet paper – old catalogs? Is that what you had?

DAD: Yeah!

MKN: With the outhouse, how often did you have to move it? How deep is the hole dug where it’s at?

DAD: They moved it around. It was probably moved for at least 10-12 times for I could remember when we lived there. Then they would dig down a hole probably 3 or 4 feet underneath, and then, they’d saved the dirt. Then when we move the outhouse, we took that dirt and put on top of the remains of the outhouse.

MKN: Yes, you just cover it up and then moved it around. How often do you move it, like once a year.

DAD: it depends on how many people were using it, and it could be once a year, maybe twice a year

MKN: So not really often?

DAD: Yeah. And you put lime in it to keep it from smelling

Protection during tough times

MKN: Oh yeah, the lime. Patricia has another question. She said, where there any dangers from other people, or do you need guns to protect your family?

DAD: well, you always had a gun. And that was for hunting also. And there wasn’t that many people coming through, not like now, but there’s still a few that we considered outlaws. You’d want to protect your family from them, and that was one way to do it.

MKN: We got question here from Lisa. She wants to know what you guys do back then for fun?

Forms of Entertainment without Electricity During the Great Depression

DAD: Well, we have a battery-powered radio and in the evening we get to listen to the Lone Ranger, and Gene Autry for 30 minutes. The kids were very quiet then, because all you had was the voice coming over the radio. You could hear the horses galloping, and coming through the radio, stuff like that. They played card, such as fish and checkers, different things like that.

Kids Chores from the Great Depression and 1940’s

MKN: What were your parents’ big rules? Did grandma and grandpa have any hard fast rules, stuff like that.

DAD: We had so many chores we had to do everyday. One of them was, we had to get wood for mom, for the wood-cooked stove, and have kindling for next morning. So when she got up, dad used them to build fire, and cook breakfast. We always have big breakfast like biscuits and eggs and oatmeal and gravy.

MKN: So you always have a pretty big breakfast?

DAD: Oh, yeah.

MKN: Was breakfast the biggest meal of the day, or did you have a big supper, or a smaller dinner?

DAD: There’s a big dinner, we always had lunch, because it’s always like a pot of beans or stew setting on the stove and they kept it just above the boiling point. A lot of times we just added to it and kept it going for a few days.

MKN: so you just keep adding.

DAD: because there’s no refrigeration, so we’d keep it hot.

MKN: right!

How to Keep Food without a Refrigerator or Power


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About the Author

Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.

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