15 Critical Survival Lessons From The Great Depression

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, nearly every American was worried about where their next meal was coming from – and for how much longer they would have a roof over their heads. A whole lot has changed in our country since, but those very realistic fears are still keeping preppers up at night.

Now, most preppers know they can open up a long-term food storage pouch and make a meal with just a little hot water and have enough survival camping gear to sleep six of more loved ones, but the underlying premise behind the worries which surfaced during the Great Depression are what modern preppers are busy planning to shield themselves from both tomorrow and beyond.

1. Frugality

There are many important lessons we can learn from the folks who survived the Great Depression, but none is more important to our daily lives than frugality.

Creating a budget, living within it, now accruing debt, eating food you cook at home and not dining out except for special occasions, are but a few prime examples of living the type of frugal lifestyle that will leave money in your pocket when both it, food, and a paycheck, become scarce.

2. Sewing

Make your clothing last as long as possible by learning how to mend worn garments, and repurpose them to give them new life in some other useful manner.

You can also save/make extra money by having yard sales to make money on clothing that is in good shape, but cannot be passed down, are great ways to avoid waste and always ensuring you and your family have warm coats, work clothes, socks without holes, to wear.

The feed sack dresses made by poor farming families embarrassed some of the wearers, but are now considered works of art created expertly Great Depression survivors.

3. Foraging

It was not uncommon for families who lived through the Great Depression to forage for their own food and to craft new recipes from what they found, food that was still available in stores that had not shut down, and would fit their shrinking finances.

4. Garden

During the Great Depression, almost everyone had a garden, no matter how wealthy they had been before, or where they lived. Every inch of grass around a city housing unit or yard space was dedicated to the growing of food to help prevent starvation, and to use the little bit of money they had to stave off living outdoors – which tens of thousands of former middle class Americans, were forced to do seemingly overnight.

5. Work

Take any type of work that you can get – and likely a couple old fashioned questionable jobs won’t be beneath you when the SHTF, either.

If your family needs money, do not dip into your savings of go deeper into debt; take a job mopping floors or parking cars if that is all there is available or can fit into your schedule – if taking it as a part-time gig. At the mercy of panicked creditors is not where you want to be if a financial collapse or other long-term disaster happens.

6. Hunting and Fishing

Folks put food into their bellies and garnered the protein they need to keep on working by hunting and fishing extensively – some for the very first time.

If you live in a city or the suburbs and cannot hunt on your own land, carpool out to public hunting areas in rural counties and harvest meat or fish to preserve and stockpile to save money in case of an emergency – which could be anything from job loss, to regional flooding, to an apocalyptic event.

7. Grocery List

Take a long hard look at your grocery list, and eliminate costly items you can either do without or make yourself – even if that means learning how to cook when all you can do now is burn water. Been there, done that.

Processed foods are both the least healthy, and some of the most expensive items in the supermarket.

8. Swapping

During the Great Depression folks learned to swap items they were growing or raising with others who were cultivating something else they needed. Bartering nearly became king again during this dark era. Eggs were traded for haircuts for a scarce job interview, tomatoes swapped for milk, etc.

Start taking inventory of what other members of your community are growing, raising, or services they are providing that you might need during a SHTF event and vice-versa.

9. Food Waste

Only enough food was cooked for one meal because either there was not enough to go around of there was no way to preserve it. We should follow these same food conservation lessons today. The level of food waste in the United States is higher than in any other country on the planet.

Do not put leftovers in your fridge and let them go to waste. Make only enough for one meal at a time or better yet, make enough for two meal and freeze half of it. You can also make meals ahead (or meals in a jar) with only the dry items, and stockpile them for busy evenings and emergencies.

10. Avoid Self-Indulgence

For one entire week, track every penny you spend or use – i.e. cellphone package, cable, etc. If you actually tally up how much those morning cups of coffee cost, work lunches, running errands frequently instead of on a designated day to save fuel, impulse buys at a checkout counter, you may very well find that if you took your lunch to work, made your own coffee, and drove wisely, you could save a minimum o $100 per week.

11. Do The Work Yourself

Calling a plumber, electrician, lawn mowing service or other type of laborer can bust your budget quickly. Your skillset (and local laws about certification for skilled labor on home repairs is your live in the city or suburbs) will dictate how often you can do your own home and auto repairs. Work on honing and enhancing your skills so you can be your own handyman and mechanic – or trade services with others who can accomplish the task for you.

12. Air Conditioning

You can live without air conditioning, you really can. If your home has a basement, make it a summer living space to allow the family to stay cool without driving up your electric bill.

During the Great Depression women soaked sheets in water and hung them in doorways so the blowing air from open windows helped cool down their homes.

13. Commodities

During a crisis of any type, but particularly a financial one, commodities will go sky high before they disappear from store shelves. Learn to use cheaper substitutes, especially ones you can raise yourself, for common ingredients.

To replace sugar in recipes, grow your own stevia plant or sugar beets. You can also use honey, corn syrup, and molasses as a sugar substitute. Evaporated milk or milk you dehydrated yourself, can be used as a substitute for store bought fresh milk. Live somewhere you can at least raise a Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat, and you will have a reliable supply of milk – and by extension, cheese and butter.

14. Preserve More Food

Do not limit your food preservation efforts to simply what you can can or dehydrate from your own garden. Look for sales, double or triple coupon deals on foods you can dehydrate, or have an extensive shelf life. It is not difficult to dehydrate eggs or dairy, that are staples of our diet.

15. Make Your Own

Learn how to make your own natural cleaning, washing, hygiene (toothpaste, mouthwash), and bathing products. This will save thousands of dollars over the course of the years. Many natural cleaning agents are multi-purpose items, making them even more of a bargain, like corn starch, distilled white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and rubbing alcohol.

Start making these small changes inspired from the Great Depression today. Once you see the results in savings and stockpiling, making larger ones will not feel as daunting but an exciting preposition that will allow you to sleep more soundly at night.

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2 thoughts on “15 Critical Survival Lessons From The Great Depression”

  1. LOL!! Funny How I/Family Ate Like This as A Kid. I Made the SAME Meals AND BUDGET As An Adult. And For My Kids/Family….AND We Were All Healthy IN The 1930’s TO MID 1990’s Then THE FAST FOODS, TECH, WIFI, CELL PHONES FAST FAST FAST Way Of Living Started…AS WELL AS MONSANTO….And People Are Less Healthy. And Get Sicker…..


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