Frugal Survival Tips From The Great Depression

My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression, and I remember hearing plenty of stories of what it was like during that unstable time. While technology and the economy have certainly changed and improved since then, we have found ourselves in a similar situation as of late. With schools and businesses shutting down, many people have found themselves with a lack of income and are wondering what the future holds. While I certainly don’t have all the answers, I do have some frugal living tips from the Depression Era that we should be practicing in our everyday lives. Take a look at these ideas and start implementing them today!

Reuse Containers, Fabric, And More


Anyone who has a family member who grew up during the Great Depression is probably familiar with stacks on stacks of Cool Whip containers. Or, at least that is true of my grandma! I’m not sure why these seemed to be some of the only containers she used (or why she consumed so much Cool Whip), but I can’t see these familiar blue containers without thinking of dear old grandma!

Sure, hanging on to things isn’t a trend we see nowadays, especially with people like Marie Kondo advocating for a minimalist lifestyle, but desperate times call for desperate measures, as the old saying goes. Now, I’m not talking about not throwing anything away or creating excess clutter. This is intentional reuse rather than hoarding. Think of things you would normally spend money on – Tupperware, new clothes, etc. Old food containers can be reused (as we’ve already gone over) and clothes can be mended or made if you are able to sew and have extra fabric around.

Use Fillers & Substitutions To Stretch Meals


One of the biggest concerns, when times are tough, is what you’re going to feed your family. This is especially true if you have kids, as there are more mouths to feed and even less of a budget to do it on. During the Depression Era, buying meat and sugar were huge expenses. So, people got creative with how they provided for their families. Meat was stretched with fillers like rice and beans, whereas desserts replaced flour with oats and sugar with other, more readily available sweeteners. If you find yourself with a big grocery bill, consider cutting back the meat and adding in fillers to stretch your meal! Check out these 7 Depression Era recipes that have held up over time.

Grow Your Own Herbs & Veggies


Gardening can be a fun hobby, but if you find yourself with too much month at the end of your money, gardening can reduce your food budget so you can purchase other things essential to survival. Many herbs and veggies are incredibly easy to grow, including peppers, green onions, tomatoes, mint, basil… the list goes on and on. Check out this list of easy-to-grow herbs!

Make Your Own Cleaners


You might be surprised at how much money we spend on cleaning supplies! Window cleaner, furniture polish, disinfectant wipes, air fresheners… the list goes on and on. You can save big bucks by making these products yourself. Another plus is that they don’t contain all of the harmful chemicals that many of the store-bought cleaners do. That’s a win-win in my book! Here’s a list of ways to clean with vinegar around the house. Check out this other article on natural DIY cleaners. You can also make your own laundry detergent for pennies on the dollar! Finally, here’s a super easy tutorial for DIY disinfectant wipes!

Make Your Own Toiletries


Just like cleaning supplies, most people spend far more than they think on soap, shampoo, conditioner, and toothpaste. DIY toothpaste is not only cheaper, but better for you. Since you put this stuff in your mouth (hopefully) twice a day, it’s nice to know exactly what goes into it. Here’s a helpful list of beauty products you can make at home.

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