The Great Depression was a time when people learned how to make do with very little, something we could all benefit from. I share frugal tips from my grandma (via my aunt) that they used to get by during the Great Depression and beyond in both the kitchen and the home.
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We're going to be talking about more Depression Era Tips after the huge success of last weeks post (my most downloaded show ever in just 24 hours) Episode #39 Building a Great Depression Era Pantry-Frugal Recipes and Tips . I heard ya loud and clear, we needed more Depression Era Tips!
Resources for Depression Era Tips to Save Money:
Cornmeal is a great way to stretch the food budget. My grandmother used it as much as she used flour as cornbread was a daily staple in their home. Purchasing it in bulk will save you money and increase your food storage. Organic 25 pound bag of Cornmeal
Parchment paper– I re-use my parchment paper multiple times when baking bread or homemade granola bars. It keeps my pans in good shape and helps keep my baked good from sticking, because no one likes it when half the loaf of bread comes out. I bought this roll two years ago and still have some left, if you re-use each sheet it will last you just as long.
During the Great Depression people learned to make do with very little. We are so spoiled today in our modern society. I'm grateful we don't know those times, but we take so much for granted. I love having a more frugal mindset because it makes us appreciate what we have more.
It seems so many of us (myself included sometimes) have an air of ungratefulness, that we're owed things. Instead of grumbling about things we don't like, if we look for something to be thankful, we're much better off. I've been readingOne Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, and I'm implementing finding things every day to be thankful
When you're looking for things to be thankful for, it changes your emotion and mindset to that of grateful instead of grumpy and frustrated. Look for ways to thank God every day for little blessings in little moments. I think that is something those who went through the Great Depression learned.
I called my aunt to get some more Great Depression Era tips. She said, “Those years shaped the way my mom lived the rest of her life. It was always in the back of her mind. She never threw things away, thinking she might need it.”
We need to find ways to re-purpose things. One reader said her grandmother taught her to wash out plastic ziplock bags. During the Depression they didn't have this, but in today's time we can learn to wash and re-use things instead of one time use and toss. Wash bags out and then turn them inside out to dry. I use parchment paper when baking bread and different baking. I re-use the parchment paper every time I bake bread at least 2 to 3 times before throwing it away. Most things can be re-used more than we currently do.
My grandmother always said anything can be made at home. My grandma firmly believed everything made at home is better for you than made in stores. Now we've come full circle and are embracing this again. It's always cheaper for me to make something at home than it is to buy it in the store, and always healthier.
They had a milk cow and each day she'd skim the cream off the milk and put it in the fridge, because it wasn't enough to make butter at once. She waited until she had enough cream saved to make butter. It took so long the cream would start to turn sour. When she had enough cream she'd let it come to room temperature on the counter and then make butter, which was a cultured and soured butter. Cultured food is much better for us and also didn't let any of their milk go to waste. My aunt said it was an acquired taste, but she remembers it fondly. You learned to wait until you had enough to make something and you weren't allowed to be picky.
We like to think of what we want to have for dinner or eat instead of what we need or the cost of the food. We really need to learn to pay attention to what we need and afford, not what we want.
They didn't have bread very much. Lunches weren't sandwiches, but biscuits and corn breads, which didn't require yeast or another ingredient. They used quick bread recipes. Biscuits are very versatile, topped with warm applesauce, butter, jam for a treat or topped with eggs, or biscuit sandwiches for a meal.
Treats wasn't something they were always able to due, but my grandma would make a special treat called chocolate gravy and serve it over the biscuits. It wasn't served often, but both my aunt and dad remember it well. It was like a chocolate pudding. I don't have this recipe because my grandma didn't follow recipes, she just cooked the way her mother had taught her, by taste, feel, and sight. This recipe looks very similar to what my father remembers for Chocolate Gravy.
Grandma's rule is you only eat white corn, yellow corn is for chicken and livestock. I don't have her sentiment, but she was adamant on this point.
My Grandma's Cornbread Recipe (she wrote it out for my Mom, the only recipe of hers I have)
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon soda
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
a cup of buttermilk
Add a little water if too stiff.
There's no directions for temperature or time because for most of her life she cooked on a wood cook stove. Sometimes she'd fry them up like pancakes. This is not a sweet cornbread. Another thing my father said is you don't have cornbread without milk. You pour a glass of milk and crumble your cornbread into the glass and eat it with a spoon. To this day he doesn't eat cornbread without doing this.
My grandmother didn't buy store bought pectin. Blackberries grow wild here and she made blackberry jelly and syrup. Grandma taught my mom to make blackberry jelly without pectin. You grate up one to two green apples and cook it with the blackberry jelly. The apples create the set and are the natural pectin source.
I don't use store bought pectin often either. I make strawberry jam, blueberry jam, and cherry jam without store bought pectin. You could say I take after my grandmother in many ways.
My grandpa used a wood stove for heat, cooking, and as a dehydrator. They didn't have dehydrators like we do now so they used the sun or the wood stove. Wood stoves put off dry heat. He hung hooks above the wood stove and used screens to dry prunes above the wood stove.
Corn is usually easier to grow than wheat, at least where we live. She used cornmeal to stretch out the flour. You go through your corn and pick the ears that aren't prime and cut kernels off of the cob and dry them. When fully dry, it was dried into corn meal. Corn could also be fed to the livestock during the winter months.
Here's my great-grandmothers pie crust recipe, be warned, it might be the best pastry you've ever had. Grandma would take pie crusts and cut it out in small circles and put fruit or applesauce inside and then put another small circle on top. She'd crimp the edges with a fork and fry it. They're called pasties and if she didn't have enough fruit for a full pie she'd make smaller versions. You can also put meat and veggies in them, which my aunt says is popular where she now lives in Wisconsin.
I'm got 75 pounds of apples and am putting some up into the pressure canned apple pie recipe to make some pasties this winter.
I would encourage you to talk to your family and get your family history, stories, and recipes before they're gone. Reach out and ask questions. I feel blessed to reconnect with my family and preserve this knowledge before it's forgotten and gone. Ask them for recipes and stories.
Even after the Depression was over and they did have some money, my grandma was still in the mindset you didn't splurge on things. My grandpa went to the store and brought her a hand mixer. She made him take it back and said, “I don't need that. I can do without it.” So much of what we have we don't need.
Want frugal recipes made with real ingredients from a time when people knew how to save money and cook! Click here
I will order some things online because we're rural and I can't always get to the store. I've started putting things in the cart and not checking out. If I come back the next day or two, I find I don't really need it and don't purchase.
Use things until they're totally worn out. With clothes we don't usually wear it until it's worn out. We wear them until we don't like them or want them anymore or they're not fashionable. I just wore out the first pair of my pants as an adult. I bought a pair of pants 10 years ago and finally wore them until the fabric had worn and split beyond repair. After being worn out as pants, they could still be torn into rags. Depression Era mindset was finding ways to use things again.
My aunt said they always purchased their clothes used, even after the Depression was over.
I'd love to hear your frugal tips!
More Simple Living Articles:
- Community Sufficiency vs. Self-Sufficiency
- 10 Things Our Grandparents Reused During the Great Depression
- 17 Self-Sufficiency Tips from the 1940’s & Great Depression Live Interview
- Time & Budget Saving Tips from the Great Depression & this Homesteader’s Kitchen
- Handmade Gift Bags & Tags from the Great Depression Era
- 5 Life Lessons from the Great-Depression
- Great Depression Era Money Saving Tips w/ Potatoes
- 7 Depression Era Tips to Stretch Your Food Budget
- Building a Great Depression Era Pantry
- A Military Wife’s Look on Homestead Preparedness
- How to Stay Cool in the Summer Naturally & Old Fashioned Tips
- How to Keep Your House Cool in the Summer without Electricity
- Surviving Winter Without Power & Great Depression Christmas Traditions
My great grandma made cottage cheese pie for treats. My grandpa said she would use the soured milk and cook it on the wood stove until it curtled further and make pie from it, store bought is used today. A sweet treet with no waste. It was my grandpas favorite pie till the day he died. Its my favorite too.
Do you have the recipe for that cottage cheese pie?
I just found your blog through pinterest. This is so true. I can’t remember who taught me the saying, as I had a HUGE extended family that was all dirt poor when I was a child, But I love the saying “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.”
Now if only I could get my husband to embrace this mindset. about the only thing he refuses to see go to waste is food! 🙂
I love that saying! That’s awesome! My son’s daycare lady has one that I like to use when he wants to be a picky eater: “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit!” 😀
My family has tweaked that saying a bit over the years to help us have a more positive mindset. In our family, it is now “You get what you get and be glad for it!” I’ve really noticed a difference with my 8yo daughter in her attitude when she doesn’t get something she wants.
My Grandma told me a story how they couldn’t afford to make bread and always made biscuits instead. The kids had to take them for lunch. One girl in my Grandma’s class always had sliced bread for her sandwiches and boy were the other kids jealous! That is until they found out that her “sliced bread” was actually biscuits that had been made in a bread pan so that the girl’s mom could slice them like bread. LOL
My grandpa had stories of his mom making him sandwiches…with sliced bread…but they were lard sandwiches! He had fond memories of home rendered lard. He said it was sooo good with that pork taste…it didn’t have anything else in it. I’ve never tried it, but it is interesting… I also used to help my great grandma prep the day’s food and help preserve food with her as a little kid. I wasn’t allowed to ever pick an apple off the tree (that was only if I was to eat the apple straight from the tree!), we were there to pick up the apples from the ground and make applesauce. We did a few jars a day, until the apples were all done. It was a waste not/want not mindset! She also kept a ball of string that was used for everything…organizing items together, wrapping presents (no tape needed), fixing buttons, making a tie…the list was endless! Then, when you were done using the string, it was recollected. Same with wrapping paper! We all got our christmas/birthday presents with the same string/paper every year and it was expected we could carefully undo everything, and give it back. So many lessons. I love that I grew up understanding these ideals.
My mom would tell us stories of bacon grease sandwiches that her grandma would make them. My great grandma wanted to have a family picture taken but with money so tight and 12 kids. She sewed all there clothes but the white material she used to make all the guys shirts was paper. Yes, she used white paper to sew shirts for the picture. When you look at the black and white picture they look so crisp and nice. My mom told us she wore out her sewing machine and had to get another one which was unheard of but she used it so much.
We still do this with the ribbons and bows. I hate wasting money on cards and paper that only go in the trash!
I love pretty wrapping paper. To justify the expense I pre-wrap boxes and use them over and over. This has worked out well over the years. I had pretty, but empty boxes I could put under the tree before Christmas and then as the kids purchased (or made) the gifts they were giving, they could use one of the already wrapped boxes for their gift. Quick and easy for them and pleasing to the eye for me. Then after Christmas the tree always looked so lonely without packages under it, I started putting the now empty boxes back under the tree until the tree came down.
That’s a fantastic idea!
The delightful thing about recycled wrapping paper is remembering all the other gifts which it held and the past good times!
My aunt was telling me the other day about how my grandma (who was the BEST woman to EVER live—she raised my brothers & me, too) would make their potato chips for lunches. She (my aunt) said she didn’t really appreciate it at the time, but that it was one of the ways my grandma saved money. They always had potatoes, and she wouldn’t buy chips.
Also, they would use drying racks or clotheslines to dry their clothes instead of running the dryer all the time. In fact, she gave me her aunt’s old drying rack, which I’ve started using. That way when the weather gets cold, I won’t have both the furnace AND the dryer running up my bill.
More stories please! These are so interesting!
It can be “Depression Era” any decade, if you’re desperate/frugal enough! As a student in the ’80’s, I was so broke that I saved not only bags but cellophane wrap from produce or meat trays. I could afford groceries only once a month so I’d prepare a loaf of sandwiches all at once, wrap them with the washed saran & froze them; on a school day I’d grab one & run for the bus!
My dad always tells me stories of lard sandwiches covered with black pepper. He still loves to eat them and would if I would let him! When we bought a pig from a local farmer he made me promise to get the lard and the head. I kept the promise on the lard and it still sits in my freezer. He wasn’t too happy that I didn’t come home with the head!
Girl, render that lard down. It’s great for cooking with. I’m not brave enough to eat it on a sandwich as the main show though. lol Thanks so much for sharing!
8 Depression Era Tips to Save Money Now - Prepared Bloggers
[…] View the full article at Pioneering Today […]
Love this! The ones that I learned, and have incorporated into my daily life, from my great- grandmother: no food is ever spoiled beyond usefulness. Sour milk or cream can be made into cultured dairy products or fed to the animals, over ripe fruits can be turned to vinegar or compost, over ripe veggies can be fed to the animals or turned to compost, slightly over ripe meat can be fed to the dog, meat bones get cooked down into stocks. Anything that isn’t used up in the above ways. can be burned down to ash that is good for the garden. No foods should ever go in the trash can.
My parents were born not long after WW2 in Holland. Things were tight. My mom always told me stories about growing up with 7 or 8 siblings. Her mother died when my mom was 14, she dropped out of school and she took over household duties.
I was raised very frugally. My father was possibly more frugal than my mother. He’d make porridge out of old bread for us (vile… that’s all I can say). He also reused tea bags and coffee filters. He got me hooked on fried blood sausage.
I got teased a lot of a child, because my family lived a little differently and that made me different. My parents were of a different generation than most of my peers’ parents. They didn’t have kids together until their late 30s.
My mother purchased flour at the windmill to make bread. She sewed a lot of things herself. We grew a large vegetable garden. My brothers fished for fun and we built forts and soapbox cars (as a girl I was working with tools as well as learned how to cook, bake and make jelly). My peers spent much more time shopping, obsessing over clothes, playing games and with the newest latest and greatest plastic gadgets. We did long for those things.. but we had to save up for them ourselves if we wanted them. Surprisingly when you have to wait, you end up not wanting those things all that badly.
My clothes were home made, hand me downs or purchased on sale at 75% off after the season ended and put up for the following year. I never had the ‘fad’ toys like the other kids. It was rough at the time, the bullying was hard, but I am very glad now that I was raised the way I was… I know the value of money, I am frugal and know how to save. I most definitely do not fit in with the Joneses and I am darn glad about it 😉
(I too put things in my Amazon cart and end up deleting them later on haha)
Just remembered some more things.
My mom cut buttons off clothes that were ruined, they went in the button tin and were used on new clothes she made.
Oh the horrible sweaters I wore in high school! I loved them, but boy if I wasn’t the laughing stock in my big knitted sweater she so lovingly made.
Sometimes her frugality was borderline insane.. one time she brought a box of chocolate bars home. She urged me to try one and I did, I asked her where she got them and she said she found them in the dumpster. Haha.
We didn’t buy new furniture, we would walk around town on trash day and find a new couch for free at the side of the road. We’d get a shopping cart from the grocery store to wheel the thing home. *laugh*
My parent divorced when I was young and my mom didn’t drive, so we biked and walked everywhere. I do miss that, but in rural Alabama that’s just not very feasible. (I moved to the US when I turned 22.. I wanted to get away and have the space to grow up.)
SherryBee in AZ
I have enjoyed this post and all the comments! I am nearing 60 and I do pick my 82 year old moms brain ALOT. It saddens me that the kids nowadays don’t have a clue and just plain don’t care…. They sure would be much better off not having the BEST of everything from the time they get together….do they still get married these day? LOL
I learned a lot from my MIL, who probably could be considered borderline crazy….She grew up in hard times *but, I don’t her all that much on that, because my parents did do, and they weren’t as ‘frugal’ as she was—she was the same age as my dad. Besides living out of town and having animals to feed and take care of, she was quite the ‘repurposer’.
Because of her—as I age I give her a lot more credit—I cut my paper napkins in half….I suppose I should get the cloth ones out of the drawer that she probably gave to us.
I do wash and re-use Ziploc baggies.
I reuse the cereal bag from the boxed kinds. It makes a great barrier for things going into the freezer.
I love to bake and cook at home.
I used to sew all of my hubbys western and denim work shirts….from a pattern that she helped me make from an old shirt onto newspaper.
I don’t throw out much food, unless I absolutely have to…I’ve found that most things kept refrigerated do last….might that GMO thing, though, too? LOL
I LOVE fresh eggs, but, am not in a position to have our own chickens. My MIL used to always have chickens—where I learned to love and appreciate those awesome fresh eggs! *She bought many things with her ‘egg money’* I do buy them from my BFF who loves her chickens as much as her other animals—free range. I cringe to have to buy eggs at the store!
I hang the majority of our clothes on my clothesline hubby made for me many years ago. *When I had my two babies in 1981 and 1985, I used cloth diapers—-there ought to be a law about that! LOL*
We use a woodstove for our main source of heat *hubby ‘loves’ to get wood—I think he’s crazy! That is some HARD work*….we did just put in an ETS heater 2 years ago, so, we could leave the house unattended in the 0 degree weather in the mountains of Arizona here—yep, it snows, too!
I have been trying to wear all my ‘older’ clothes on the days that I don’t leave the house. I put them in a separate clothes basket in the spare bedroom, until I have a several big loads, then, I will wear them again. I kinda enjoy doing that.
Well, I guess I’ve contributed a chapters worth. I’d love to hear more about the frugal ways of others!
Thanks for this interesting post!
I think we all miss our sweet grandmas *and mothers, too*. I bet we think of them more as we do what they used to!
I know I think of them every time I do something old-fashioned, like choosing to launder ‘rags’ instead of buying paper towels. I like to think it is a way to keep them with me. (Now I’ve made myself cry!)
My mum was a young teen in pre-war Poland and her family had a small farm where waste was forbidden. Money rarely changed hands since few people had money so goods were exchanged, except taxes that had to be in money. Everyone had a garden or they didn’t eat, and seeds were necessarily saved. Anything spare or special in the area was shared among the neighbours, no one hoarded. Kids left the only walnut tree alone because the owner would share the ripened nuts with everyone. Beet tops with homemade sour cream were a frequent, nutritious and much loved supper. A large freestanding root cellar held most of the vegetables and had to be regulated daily. People grew their own grain and took it to the local mill to grind into flour for the year. Gran kept two milk cows that birthed six months apart so she’d always have dairy products for home and to barter. Meat cuts like roast beef were unknown, only small cuts like stew to stretch farther.
A cleaned rooster or old hen fed the family many ways for a whole week, including broth for borscht (beet soup). School lunches were usually things like onions fried in bacon dripping with tiny bits of some spare meat. The aroma was so tempting that the (male) school teacher made mum and her sister share this dish with all the class (but they weren’t made to share theirs with mum and her sis). Flying birds were rarely seen because someone would have already shot it for food, same with most small game.
Grandfather rigged some strong rods inside the attic section of the brick chimney of the masonry stove so gran could use special wood to smoke meats like hams, blood pudding, kielbossa, etc. Gran also had an outdoor bake oven and once a week or two weeks she’d fire it up to first cook some bread, then whatever meat they had and any special baked goods. Christmas treat was primarily fruit compote from the assortment of dried fruit gran strung around the house to dry during harvest time. Extra items were dried outside on lines under the house eaves. Mid winter mum and her sis often slept on one of the stove platforms to stay warm. All duck and goose feathers were saved for comforters.
Every spring gran made special blood pudding with buckwheat and bulgar to ensure everyone had enough vitamins, and dandelion salads were also prepared. Small injuries/infections were treated with homemade poultices or remedies and home births were the norm (gran was the area midwife).
It was hard, constant work that few of us today would be able to cope with.
My grandmother was german, oldest daughter during the depression and took care of the younger siblings while her dad worked. Their mother had died. She never threw anything away and I remember seeing folded pieces of tinfoil that she reused and reused. She never turned on the heat but instead wore about 2-3 socks in the house, a ‘house dress’ which I think cut down on her need for a wardrobe and a cardigan. When I spent time with her she was living in southern California so it was never *very* cold. She hardly used her water! She would fill a plastic bowl in the kitchen sink and use it to rinse dishes or wash dishes by hand. They didn’t flush the toliet unless it was *necessary*. She grew her own tomatoes and vegetables and canned them. She also made barley vegetable soup in quarts and would eat this regularly from her pantry. She didn’t have a vehicle but used a bicycle to get around (with a basket). She used baking soda for toothpaste. Any cut or scrape got washed with soap and water (not 25 different first aid treatments). I am told when she had 3 young children the family would walk to the YMCA each night and take their shower and walk home (in NJ)! I am guessing this was also to keep water costs down. She would also make bobka (polish bread) as a treat. I never saw her buy any sweets. Lights were kept off unless you were using that room. My other grandfather recalled eating lard sandwiches every day as a young boy.
I really wish I’d grown up being taught how to use everything. It’s so hard to learn it now in baby steps through wonderful bloggers like you. It would have been much easier to learn over time and simply know it by the time I was on my own. But it’s a worthy goal. Thanks for all you do!
I loved reading this! My grandparents were raising a small family during the great depression and grandpa was the only person in Utah to buy property during 1933 and wad able to buy property at it’s fair price and still turn it for profit. His secret? Prepare. Save your money. He was a great planner and incredibly frugal. He became somebody who owned many iconic buildings and properties over his lifetime and became a builder of homes as well that were revered. Even though they had money, my grandma made her own breads like yours, sewed her own clothes and her five kids clothes, grew wheat and raised chickens and networked with her community. I have learned so much from her! The millionaire who clipped coupons. Like you, I believe there’s so much we can learn and be grateful for thanking God daily to gain an appreciation for. Thank God for our loved ones who went through what they did and taught us so much. Thank you for the read!
My mom turned 81 today and I actually asked her about the lack of sugar during the Depression. She said they received monthly stamps for certain items and since no one in the family smoked, they would trade the tobacco stamps for food stamps such as sugar. This way they always had plenty of store bought staples. Their farm provided beef, pork, chicken, eggs, milk and veggies. With 10 kids, my grandparents had plenty of mouths to feed but also plenty of help to run the farm! There were also extended family members and neighbors at their house constantly because of the bounty of food.
Mom said that the hard part was the stamps for shoes because it only allowed one pair for each person. So to extend the wear of their shoes Grandpa would cut the tops off of his high-top shoes and use them as leather for the bottoms of the kids’ shoes.
My mom still makes chocolate gravy for biscuits. I don’t recall ever eating it anywhere else so can not compare it to other recipes. Here is mom’s recipe:
1 cup sugar, 1 Tblsp flour, 1 Tblsp cocoa, milk – 1 Tsp vanilla, 1 Tblsp butter
Mix dry ingredients in saucepan and cover with milk. Bring to a boil, then cook 3-5 minutes stirring continually to keep from burning. Add vanilla flavoring and butter. Serve over hot biscuits.
We make our own jam, no store-bought pectin, we buy very little in boxes, and forage when possible. Three kids wear hand-me-downs (even the eldest), until they wear out to become rags or quilt material. Wood is salvaged from old furniture or pallets, we are blessed to own a planer and saw. Firewood is gathered from others’ throwaway tree trimmings. We scavenge furniture (wood or plastic, because of bed bugs…no soft), we only purchase used if we can or high quality if we can’t. Our vehicles are elderly, we repair ourselves if possible. We will install a clothesline and garden once our yard is regraded (floods). All of our large trees died because of the flooding, so we will replant with fruit trees. Mom goes without (if necessary), since I stay at home (part of the reason for the frugality). We cook at home, carpool, etc. Home haircuts and camping rather than Disneyworld and salons. We are blessed to live in a state with a beach, so that’s always an option. So far to go, but we are working on it!
This is great! My grandparents lived in Brooklyn, NY, so while they didn’t have access to a cow or a farm, they still made do with very little. My grandmothers taught me a lot about repurposing. To this day, I still reuse aluminium, plastic storage bags and grocery store bags whenever possible. Old socks become dust rags. Used coffee grounds become a one in a while facial exfoliator (with coconut oil as the base). I also make my own everyday scrub with baking soda. Anyway… thanks for the great tips!!
Have You heard of medicinal use for honey mixed with cinnamon? Also I would like to try homesteading and am looking for a place with low taxes.
other things to consider if u are wanting to homestead is growing seasons. some areas of the country are a lot shorter than others, also learn what there is for foraging in the area for different seasons.
Southeast Missouri, Carter County, has low taxes. We also have a temperate climate with a long growing season. The cost of living is low as is the price of property. Much lower than 200 miles north near St.Louis. There is an abundance of public land for in season hunting and foraging. The conservation department publishes guides to help with this. It is a nice place to live. The job market is a bit of a challenge due to the lack of manufacturing. My husband and his father both work away from home in order to make a good living. There are jobs in near by Butler and Ripley Counties which are neighboring counties. Overall it is a slow and quiet place to live. We have a large Mennonite Community which includes a grain fed meat market, fresh produce market, and small dairy. Many in the community are baptist but there are churches of all Christian denominations near. The school district is a single campus that serves about 700 student prek-12th grade. I hope this helps. Good luck.
hot water, honey and lemon (cinnamon optional but good) for a sore throat, hoarseness or cold symptoms. It’s very soothing and works almost as well as any commercial decongestant.
We were lucky enough to move to the country about 10 years ago. Soon after we got here we bought chickens. We have had laying hens ever since. As the roosters get mean, or old, my husband butchers them and then pressure cans them. Yes, he does the pressure canning! Just two weeks ago he butchered 12 broiler/fryers and I am proud to say that only the entrails and the feet did not get put to use. We boiled the carcasses down for bone broth and then he put all of the “boiled bits” that were strained off of the broth through the meat grinder and dehydrated (and baked some) into dog treats. The dogs absolutely LOVE them.
A few years ago we added highland cattle to our menagerie. Our bull will go to butcher sometime this winter. We’re hoping he will be able to “service” our two females before we send him to butcher, but they haven’t had their babies yet, so we are unsure whether our plans will mesh with theirs. *laugh*
We are a family of the “dying arts”. All of the guys in our family, my husband and 15 and 12 year old boys all weave. My 15 year old son has been sewing since he was 9 and my 12 year old also spins our alpaca fiber into yarn…wonderfully I must say. I also thoroughly enjoy the process of spinning.
I also was out my plastic bags, make other “home” items out of old clothes/blankets, make my own laundry and dishwasher detergent as well as deodorant, antibacterial wipes, etc. I am even planning to weave my boys’ old t-shirts into rugs on a hula hoop.
I have loved reading these wonderful tips and ideas. Thanks to everyone who commented.
These are some great tips! I love the idea of re-purposing, and I have actually done some with worn out clothing. I have several t-shirt “t-shirt bags” I fashioned after plastic grocery bags that I use at Aldi instead of buying paper or plastic bags. I have done two purses out of pants that I wore out in the thighs (chubby girl problems) and some fabric left over from other projects. I also took an old set of dishes that no one was using and with a little E 6000 turned them into a cake stand and a dessert tier. I’m always squirreling away glass jars, either for my munchkin’s lightning bug jars or for storing dry goods.
I was brought up broke and we lived with hand me downs and glut excess gifts. It was interesting to see community spirit when the Boy Scouts came to renovate our home that was desperately in need of repair. My mother tried to repay in service and taught us to go the extra mile for others.
After I married, hubby agreed we would not have debt…. but had to buy a house and car. Other than that, we did without if we didn’t have the money.
We saved by shopping in bulk on a monthly basis. We grew as much food as we could and always prayed for the garden. We were blessed with abundance and had enough to spread it around. We have always composted and repurposed, made our own gifts and been rather quirky.
The down side to all this is kids growing up feeling deprived. We also had a problem with credit rating, so it has been a difficult thing getting bank accounts, utilities etc.
My grandmother (mother’s mother) used hankies instead of paper facial tissues. She called the paper ones a waste. She was one of the four children of the town’s grocer. While they weren’t poor during the great depression they were still very frugal. She took “sink” bathes, flushed the toilet only when necessary and sweets only on special occassions. She also made her own pineapple ice cream in her freezer. Mmmm, wish she had written out a recipe.
how is this for full circle? My mother, who was a child during WWII in Sweden, was the second of six kids. Her family did not have a lot of money and one Jul/Christmas, they were so poor that her parents went in with another family to buy a whole pig. And now the big thing is to buy a portion of an animal to get the different cuts.
Did people back in the great depression days dehydrate their own milk?
Great post. I thank God that I am a child of Depression Era parents. My wonderful Dad, who turned 80 this year came over to my home and we had some organic green tea that. I had bought. He commented after his tea bag steeped that he would take the bag and place it in the fridge and that he could get a couple more cups from the bag and when it got too weak he’d still save it to pair with another bag that had also been reused a few times to boost its flavor :). We eat organic and its pricey. Hes also gotten around that by planting a victory garden, where He grows organically. Thanks for sharing your tips
I adore this post and all of the comments. Thank you so much for sharing them. My grandparents were amazing to me….they somehow saved and budgeted their small incomes, and purchased a huge farm property. The greatest memories of my childhood are on that farm. The garden alone was bigger than my entire suburban property. Grandma washed plastic bags, fed 20 people from 1 chicken and some flour, and re-used things until they disintegrated. I am so thankful for her legacy.
Podcast Depression Era Tips to Stretch Your Food Budget
[…] This Depression era series has helped me find out even more about my grandparents and what it meant to live frugally. I hope it encourages you to find out your families stories, too. If you missed the other Depression Era episodes here’s Building a Great Depression Era Pantry-Frugal Tips and Recipes and 8 Depression Era Tips to Save Money Now […]
Just some of my random ideas on saving-
*save all Ketchup/sauce packets and use in lunches to go or in recipes.
*garden, even w/o a yard. Lots you can grow in pots.
*Boil the bones from chicken to make broth and even freeze till needed.
*price match, coupons.
Goodwill for clothes and decor and donate for a tax deduction.
*Premade freezer meals to avoid eating out on busy nights.
*Trade babysitting with friends.
*Cook dry beans vs canned and freeze to use as needed.
*line dry big items.
*Compost you left overs to inrich your soil.
*make your gifts!
*stock finds from Goodwill or yardsales for kids Christmas.
*buy only what you have money for other than home/car.
I spend a month with my mum while she was dying and my aunty and cousin came to visit, so we got talking about the old days as we found an old recipe book of my nana’s I listened to the stories about impossible pie and chop suey and how they grew up on a farm and nothing was wasted. I passed the recipe book onto my aunty but I took photos of the recipes and shared them with my cousin. I am getting a house soon and I intend to live like in the old days grow my own garden, sew clothes, have chickens and make food and freeze it and teach my daughter who is 8 that life isn’t about the internet and I think once we get started she will enjoy it.
When my grandmother was a little girl her dad died leaving her mother with several small children to raise alone. Her mother would make a dish using left-over potatoes. She would add tomatoes and onions (from the garden) , salt and pepper. Then she would fry it in a skillet. When the kids asked her what it was she said “Fill Belly. Something to fill your belly.” My grandma made it for my mom who in turn made it for me. I’ve made it for my kids. It is so good.
chocolate gravy–sounds like something my mom describes to me.. she says its the original nutella 🙂
Melissa, I have a chocolate gravy recipe that I got from a friend’s grandmother who went through the depression. I made it for my grandchildren when they came up to see us, when they were little all the time. They have fond memories of it. If you are interested I’ll pass the recipe along. Just let me know. You can email me. Janethttp://sweetcaptcha.s3.amazonaws.com/widget/v2/upload/answer_149.png
I would love for you to share your recipe, Janet!
In order to save $ I reuse my coffee filters. At the end of the day I empty the grounds, rinse the paper filter, then lay it over the plastic filter so it will dry in the shape that’s needed. This way I can use the same filter for one week instead of one day!
save your coffee grinds for around your veggies….keeps away slugs and snails plus adds nitrogen to the soil. Worms love it!
Love the ideas. I hate the feel of disposable diapers. When ever I attend a baby shower I include cloth diapers in the gift. Often they get looked at and tossed aside but the last few showers I attended were different- no laugh but a hearty thank you. When my niece had her last child I had trouble finding even one package so I stuck an IOU in a small box with a bow. I watched as the gifts were opened and when my niece opened the one I gave (a hand crocheted blanked and burp cloth) she awed the gift but looked up and said “but where are my cloth diapers? I have about worn out the last ones” Then she opened the small box and smiled ” I knew I could count on you” she said. It took me several more weeks but I managed to finally find some and stocked up. Seems many new mothers are finally learning that sometimes reusable is better. No more emergency runs to but more throw away diapers.
While cloth diapers make good burp clothe I found that crocheting a pad with cotton yarn makes them a little nicer. I make them as if starting an afghan about 24 to 20 inches long. I use a single stitch and usually make them about 12 inches wide. When I have it where I think it is wide enough I finish off by going around it several times without increasing the number of stitches this causes a small lip to form The lip is so when a productive burp makes a puddle the results are caught by the lip and don’t run off onto your back. By using cotton yarn they are more absorbent. ( this is another item I get repeat requests for)
Isn’t it nice to see people appreciate the cloth items? I really like your idea of a lip on the burp cloth! That’s so smart.
My Great Grandmother always wore an apron to save her dresses, wore her dresses,which were handmade, several times before washing, always used a line to dry even in the winter when she strung a line on the enclosed back porch, made meals of leftover little bits from the fridge, always kept chickens and used their manure in her garden which she canned from for year round use, used a handkerchief, dish towels instead of paper towels, kept the heat down and covered up. She lived through the great depression and lost three babies to dust pneumonia. She was a silly lady who sang silly songs and recited funny poetry to entertain me while we player rummy at her old kitchen table. She made the best gingerbread cake with only powdered sugar sprinkled on top. She made chocolate gravy and biscuits for us kids at breakfast and onced demanded I never wear my “hammer pants”( seriously it was the 90’s and it was a short phase) because it was a “waste of material”. I loved that lady so much. She and others from her generation lived through unbelievable things and thrived on the other side. I have tried to remember her wisdom in my daily life as a homemaker. I keep chickens, cook most things from scratch (this makes my girls the envie of the lunch table), use dishtowels instead of paper towels, grow a garden, shop at goodwill and thriftshops first, learn to do as many things for myself as I can ( my husband once changed my cars water pump with only the help of a YouTube video), buy only used cars and keep them until they drop( 02 car, 04 truck still kicking), trade work and materials with my neighbors ( for instance we supply one neighbor with eggs and they supply us with fresh fruit jams and wonderful home baked treats).
It’s awesome to see that many in our generation still value these techniques. My grandparents are still almost completely self sufficient from my papaw welding and building his own tractor wagons to mamaw still doing all canning and making meal. Up until a few years ago she still made lye soap.
These are things that I grew up around and never thought was out of the ordinary. As I got older and saw how unique it was to most people, I came to really cherish these skills.
As my grandparents are getting older my, mom, sister and I have really been trying to preserve many of these things passed down.
I’m like you. I grew up with a lot of this as normal. I’m so happy to hear others want to preserve these things as well.
Love the post, lots of good tips. My .02 worth:
-learn to cook. Eating out and pre-packaged convenience foods are killer.
-learn to sew. You can maintain your wardrobe much better and repurpose much easier with some basic sewing skills; it doesn’t have to be fancy. When you look better, you feel better.
-garden. Even if you don’t have any land, like somebody else said, a lot can be grown in pots. Even if you’re just growing houseplants, it makes your space look more welcoming.
-stay out of the stores if you can. I call it the $50.00 bag of milk. I go in for one item and come out $50 later wondering what just happened.
-learn a craft. Anything. Make cards, jewelry, knit or crochet something. Most people appreciate getting a one of a kind gift and it saves you money.
-Pinterest and YouTube are your friends.
-skip the fancy stuff.
-hang your clothes to dry. Use a line if you’ve got the room or a drying rack if you don’t. I have a woodburner for heat in the winter and it often doubles as a stove, clothes dryer and dehydrator.
-keep your place tidy and simple. If you have to go purchase another item to replace one you can’t find, you’ve got a problem.
-learn some basic repair skills.
-You can’t do everything alone, ask for help. Ask to borrow items that you only use occasionally but remember to treat them carefully and to say thank you in a tangible way. An old friend of mine used to say “Thanks don’t feed the cat” so follow up with a small gift card, baked goods or a return favour.
Wow, that was longer than I intended, I hope I didn’t bore anybody.
Thanks for the tips!
Thank you Cheryl. That was great advice 🙂
Podcast #45 Great Depression Era Money Saving Tips
[…] Podcast #40 8 Depression Era Tips to Save Money Now […]
So interesting reading this post; I didn’t grow up in the US and come from a country where people do not waste stuff because they don’t have too much. I used to hear stories about how people in rich countries leave their stuff on the curb to be picked up like washers, dryers and fridges that are in good working condition just because they now have new ones…I always wondered why do they have new ones if the old ones are still working? We grew up getting new clothes twice a year; once before school starts and once during a religious holiday…Not having excess clothes meant that we didn’t argue about what to wear to school or to go out. I moved here 14 years ago and I still like to use those rules so I can have enough money to afford doing things that I really enjoy in life like going on great trips to Europe. If you don’t have family members that lived in the depression era to share their wisdom with you, just look beyond the US for inspiration from third world or growing countries because the depression era there has no beginning and no end (Unfortunately)
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and tips. You’re right, those of us who live in America are truly blessed compared to some.
Yes we are blessed whether we are born here or had the opportunity to come live here. I personally feel grateful that I’ve had the chance to be adopted by this country in ways that go beyond the financial aspects. This land is beautiful in every way but some of us get stuck on the small stuff…Let’s just be happy that we have a roof on top of us, food to fill us up, clothes on our backs and peace and security.
Thank you for this beautiful post
Love your blog. I too have tried to live the frugal lifestyle. I learned a lot from my grandparents who came through the depression and raised their children that way too. We never felt deprived even though we were fairly poor. I learned to crochet, knit, cook, sew, garden, and can the items from our garden because of it. I learned to entertain myself by reading crocheting, knitting and sewing as well as use those skills to make necessary items.
I made my own clothes and those for my sisters and even some for my mother as well. It wasn’t uncommon for one of my sisters to come home one afternoon and say that she had a date or a school dance to go to that night and needed something to wear. We would go through the house and find something old and rip it apart to make into something else for the special occasion. We went to a local dry goods store and bought fabric 3 yards for $1.00, which I used to make my youngest sisters’ wedding dress (for the record she got married in 1978, not really all that long ago).
To this day I still hand make almost all my Christmas gifts for the family.
I have been a single mother with daughters; as they grew up I used to worry about them feeling deprived, or missing me, but they are adults now with their own children and have let me know that even though I worked 2 or more jobs most of their lives just to make ends meet, and they still had to do without a lot of the things their friends had, they never felt deprived. They also said that since most of the time while I worked they were with grandparents or my sister, they never felt like I left them alone that much!
So I guess what I am trying to say is, even though you feel like you’re depriving your children at the time, later they will appreciate the lessons learned. We have two generations of our family to prove it, and a third one is growing up that way too.
Keep up the blog, love your ideas and your style of writing! I hope more people will develop your mindset and go back to some of the depression era frugality!
Isn’t it funny how we look back and realize those lessons of frugalness are what I treasure most about my childhood. Thanks so much for sharing your story!
This is the first time I’ve been to your blog, and what a wonderful time to visit. My Grams grew up in the city of Chicato during the depression. I can remember her telling me that she had to beg for bread, which she didn’t mind, because she was hungry. As awful as it was for her, she grew up to become a very frugal & resourseful lady who taught me many of the suggested ways to save that you mention above. Canning….being my favorite today. Thank you for giving me a moment to remember my grandmother who I loved dearly.
Welcome! So glad this brought back good memories of your grandmother. Such wisdom from those folks!
Can relate to these so well! My grandmother always saved the bacon drippings (as she cslled it). She actually had a strainer for it that was part of her canister set. Once the strained fat cooled & rehardened, it was ready to use in place of vegetable oil when pan-frying or sautéing.
The strainer is a smart idea! I’m gonna have to look into that.
Goodwill is a great source for gently worn clothing. My Mom made a dish called mush out of boiled cornmeal. Boil cornmeal until thick, pour into a bread pan, refrgerate until ‘set’. Cut slices, fry in bacon grease until slightly crispy. Good with eggs or with syrup on top. We used molasses or dark Karo syrup.
Love to live by the hints.
I am 61 and have adopted a lot of my mother’s frugality. Though it wasn’t meant as such. It was a way of living. Save butter parchment wrapping , butter the bake dishes and we could swap the butter wrappings for more butter. No dishwasher. I have never owned a dishwasher or dryer for clothes. I am 61. I have never owned a car or had a drivers license. My son has one. I walk or take the bus or train. This is possible in a small country. As a child I lived in the city. The first thing my Mom did in the fifties was buy a washing machine. That was it. We 4 daughters washed dishes by hand. When I moved out at 16 still no dishwasher.
Today I reuse baking parchment, often tinfoil, have quit using plastic bags for storing.
All these old frugal ways which are being adopted again also in new ways I use. Have had my spending binge in the 90’s though always been in a the lower income. Never used paper towels or paper tissues. Always reused gift wrapping and ribbons. Sew or knit a lot of clothes also for family. My son buys second hand designer clothes – no-one knows the difference.
My grandma on my mother’s side was born very poor so she raised herself to a higher status with my grandpa. I didn’t grow up in the same country as my grandparents but I have my Mother’s and grandmothers recipe books. It’s hard to cook and bake from them as stoves and ovens were different back in the 30’s & 40’s.
I sew shirts and skirts from old linen and colour dye . Knit with plant dyed wool.
I am loving these comments with different inspiring stories.
Thanks so much for sharing your stories and experience. Way to go on never owning a dishwasher or clothes dryer! I have a load out on the line right now.
I have a recipe for Chocolate Crazy Cake. It came out of the rationing days of WWII, and uses no eggs or milk. My mother created a spice cake from this recipe in the 1960’s when she was stirring it up and went to the cupboard for cocoa and there wasn’t any. I have created a Banana Cake from this recipe when I had a wealth of bananas to use up and no eggs or milk to make a cake with….
I think you should share that recipe with us! They sound great.
I was wondering if you could tell me what the names of the two items are that you have pictured. One looks like a strainer and the other is some kind of press. I have both of them and don’t know what they are for. Love your website.
The strainer is an old-fashioned sieve and the press is a hand juicer, I use it for lemons when making lemonade.
When my kids were young we made a picnic lunch and ten go into the park that had home stead fruit trees on it and we cleared brush and cut the dead out of the fruit trees. We had fun! When the fruit matured, we came back and picked all we wanted and could use. Other folks got some fruit too, but there was enough for all.
I really like your podcasts. they are no-nonsense, common sense pods. I’ve been water bath canning for a few years and also dry canning. I haven’t yet pressure canned, I can’t afford a good, long lasting canner as of yet.
I eventually want to try to pressure can meat. Have you done this? Is it very difficult to do?
Pressure canning meat is very easy, I started with an inexpensive canner and it lasted me over 15 years, here’s a guide to picking the right one for you. 🙂 https://melissaknorris.com/how-to-choose-the-best-pressure-canner/
Our New No-Waste-Zone
[…] yesterday and purchasing blue cornmeal and roasted yellow cornmeal, I was inspired! We made some cornmeal mush from the roasted yellow for breakfast (like cream of wheat but cornmeal […]
Did she save buttons when a piece of clothing was no longer repairable? My mom did as well as my granny and grandma. Granny saved every bread bag and tie, pie tin, bits of soap,etc…My grandma saved on most of those things as well. She was a FARMER. Butter beans,peas, anything that had seeds that was too dry to sell at the farmers market, she shelled them and replanted the next year. My grandmothers and mom had the best saving techniques. People of that era are the greatest. Thank you for the post.
I’m 70 and my mom is 90 so I’ve inherited being careful and self sufficient from her. I consider it a blessing as prices are always rising. And I enjoy gard3ning and preserving ,baking bread and healthy food from scratch. I patch my husband jeans with front panels from worn out ones…the backs of the legs. I collect seeds from the garden to use next year. After reading your blog I realized how much I actually “am a pioneer” .
Love hearing about everything you and your mom are doing and yes, you’re definitely a pioneer lady!
My grandmother would take any scrap of fabric big enough for seams and sew them together however they fit until she had a quilt top. She also cut the worn part out of sheets and sewed them back together. Some sheets had 3 or 4 pieces. My mother’s mother, Nanny, took old denim work clothes and made a quilt for my parents when they married in 1936. I still have and treasure that quilt. Weighs a TON! This is the first time I’ve posted a comment. Love your blog.