“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”

I’ve often wondered just how much we could learn about frugal living from studying how people managed to get by during the Great Depression. How did they cook meals from essentially nothing? How did they get clothing when they couldn’t afford to buy material? How did they cook and clean with no electricity? The idea of living on so little has just fascinated me lately.

I’ve been reading lots of books about Depression Era living, and have been soaking up every little tidbit of wisdom from this very thrifty generation. We all know that people had livestock and gardens for food, but how did they manage other needs? Here are some really interesting things that people did back then:

  • Used the backs of worn-out overall legs to make pants for little boys and overalls for babies.
  • Made diapers and underwear out of flour and sugar sacks.
  • Made smaller clothes out of bigger hand-me-downs.
  • If their shoes wore out before a year, the children went barefooted.
  • Bartering; not only goods for goods, but work for work.
  • Used patterned chicken feed sacks to make curtains, aprons, and little girl’s dresses; three sacks were enough to make a housedress.
  • They mended worn out socks with a patch from another sock.
  • They saved string that came loose from clothing and added it to a string ball for mending and sewing.
  • They used newspaper instead of toilet paper.
  • They saved every scrap of material for making quilts.
  • When there was nothing more to eat, they had lard sandwiches.

But most importantly of all, they gave what they could to those in need, shared their meal with a starving stranger, and neighbors helped each other out. Truly, this is the biggest lesson we could learn from such an unfortunate time in history. When times got hard, they stuck together.