I was watching one of my son’s tween movies the other night with him on a nice little story about a young girl growing up during the Depression Era. It occurred to me that much of what they were doing, is a modern homesteading way of life. It wasn’t so much about the Pioneer Days that we homesteaders find ourselves fascinated with, but it was the attitude that struck me.
My grandmother grew up in the Depression Era and the sewing machine you see above was hers or her sisters (and yes, it still works). Plus, that is antique thread from her sewing box too!
She never talked much about those days, but she did not live a frugal life as an adult. In fact, she had rather lavish tastes the rest of her life. The person who really helped me know how to save money was my Great-Grandmother, who came across the plains in a covered wagon. I have several hand-sewn quilts that she made.
These days, we are simply more blessed because of technology and other modern conveniences.
So, while we may not live in the Depression Era (Thank God!), we can still learn how to make do during lean times or to just live frugally.
Lessons We Can Learn From the Depression Era.
DIY everything you can.
When you are trying to get by on a little, you can make and create a lot. In a woman’s world, that may mean sewing and repairing old things into new things. If you are good at upcycling, this is also a good way to do it. During the depression days, they made little girl’s dresses out of chicken feed sacks, or even old linens and tablecloths. Sometimes a little bit of leftover paint goes a long way. Re-use fabric from Goodwill in new and creative ways.
Learn to sew and you open the door to making your own clothes, napkins, drapes and the like. Purchase fabric on sale at discount stores, or use what you have on hand to adjust clothing sizes. Once my son had to have nap mat for a day care program, and I found some discount material and made him a mat. It was his very own, and he still uses it to cuddle up with. It was cheaper than buying him a new mat. He still sleeps with it.
Grow a garden
Did you know you can purchase seeds from Dollar Tree? So, okay, they aren’t non-GMO, but if you are broke, they translate to food! Grow your own herbs too. You can puree and freeze them in ice trays, or make a pesto and freeze them. Can, freeze and preserve everything you can for the winter months.
When I was a little girl, my father was really good at finding morel mushrooms. They grew wild where we lived and were delicious! You can eat a variety of wild plants and still get those veggies in too! Dandelions, plantains and stinging nettles, all offer good nutrition and may grow right in your very own yard!
Vinegar and baking soda
You don’t just need these two items for your kid’s science school volcano project! Vinegar and baking soda are great cleaners and all around general all-purpose ingredients for everything from baking to sanitizing. You can make your own all-purpose cleaner from vinegar and Borax, such as the one here for pennies.
Make your own rags
One thing our modern society seems to love is buying everything just to make it more convenient. But, if you are going to toss out that old towel, or t-shirt, cut it up and make your own rags. It will save you a trip to the store.
Feed your farm animals from the land.
It is amazing how far rope can go when you want to feed your animals who can graze for most of their food. Let your chickens free range and let your goats, cows and horses graze while supplementing only what you need to.
Always keep staples in the pantry.
Making sure you always have flour, salt, and beans in your pantry. Even sugar is pretty cheap today. You can always make bread or tortillas, and beans can either be a staple, or extend the life of your meat in your meals. Buy bulk and store away what you can.
Eat what you can kill.
If you are really broke and you need meat, then you may find yourself killing the wild game on your property. Or, if you rotate out male roosters, you can kill the ones who need it and eat them.
Use your local library.
I can’t say enough about using the local library. Today, kids can check out books, audiobooks and videos, as well as online videos through Overdrive Media, which partners with libraries nationwide. You can even read your books online instead of checking them out. Some even use the Internet at the library instead of paying for it themselves.
Make your own bread products.
It doesn’t take much ingenuity to make your own bread or flour tortillas. Not only is it healthier, but it is certainly cheaper to make your own. Using flour to make your own cookies and treats for your kids is also much better than store-bought.
Reuse containers and boxes.
Don’t just toss everything in the trash when it empties. The question may be how can we use it? Any plastic or glass container can be washed and reused. Boxes can be upcycled into storage ideas instead of throwing them into the trash.
Composting your vegetable scraps are a good way to both feed the chickens and to create good, rich growing soil. Sprinkling coffee grounds and tea leaves will help you grow your plants, so don’t toss them out with the trash!
Reuse kitchen trash.
Everything was reused during the Depression Era, and that includes ziplocs, foil, strings and rubber bands! Wash out your ziplocs and save the bag ties from plastic bags from the grocery stores. If something is barely used, it can be used another time. Using paper and rubber bands to cover leftovers in the refrigerator, is much cheaper than buying new coverings or a whole new storage container.
Use powdered milk.
Okay, I hate powdered milk, and I remember days when that was all we could afford, but if you are low on money and need to save, then this is a good way to do it. Buy it bulk and make only what you need.
Make your own toys.
My special needs son has an affinity for stuffed animals. He has a million of them, but guess what I learned to sew? I have made him 2 pillows, blanket and a stuffed animal. He is happy and so am I because I save money! You can also make your own paper dolls, or print any number of art projects you can make at home. Don’t have enough money to buy supplies? Go to Dollar Tree and save money! They have plenty of craft supplies for $1 a piece. Need a jump rope? Buy some rope from Dollar Tree and make your own!
Save your meat grease.
Not only is this totally Paleo, but it saves you money. Pour off the grease and put in the refrigerator or freezer for later use to stir-fry meals or make healthier fried foods. Trans fat is unhealthy, not a moderate amount of saturated fat.
Cut back on extra costs.
If you take a newspaper, stop it. If you can set your thermostat to 80 or 65, then use a fan for summer and an electric blanket for winter. Or, build a fire in the winter if you have a fireplace. Cut back your phone data and use the wifi at the library. Stop any extra monthly payments that you just don’t need. Don’t do anything unless it’s free.
Take your vitamin C.
I never thought this before, but if you can take megadoses of vitamin C and prevent illness, then do it. You really cannot overdose on vitamin C on any level and it is super cheap when you buy it in large doses!
Make your own food.
This is hard in our society, but if you really want to save your health and your money, making your own bread, drinks, and meals will save you tons of money. Make your own pizza crust and no one will notice you are saving money! Buy bulk staples and you will always have plenty to eat. Make extra casserole dishes and stick them in the freezer for later use on those nights when a quick meal is needed. Plus, making your own food will keep you healthier and save you from medical bills.
If you are broke and you need to save money, then using free ebooks, online software, music and the like will save you money. Access to the Internet will save you tons of money.
Shop at Discount Stores.
While Wal-Mart may be one of the best working person’s stores, it is not all that discount when you are short on cash. There are many dollar stores available in our modern society that offer better bargains, as well as thrift stores. Some even swear by garage sales. Things you can buy at a dollar store to help you save money: rubber bands, staples, pencils, art supplies for kids, Ziplocs, paper towels, toilet paper, kitchen towels, parchment paper, glass ware, toiletries (for $1), and even some food items.
You can barter, or swap items or services with others who have things you need. Swap food for food, or item for item and get what you need. If someone has an old chair you need, and you have an old bicycle, they need, then bartering for a fair trade, pays off for both of you.
Use Natural Remedies.
A little bit of calendula (marigolds) can go a long way to healing scrapes and bug bites. Using essential oils (make your own or buy oils from Plant Therapy) helps with a multitude of ailments. Using herbs for tea and medicinal purposes will keep you healthier and out of the doctor’s office (and your kids too) much more than those who use over-the-counter drugs for every purpose. You will save money if you can avoid going to the doctor if you can prevent colds and flu bugs from worsening in your family’s bodies. I have also successfully used essential oils and herbs on my dogs, goat and chickens to keep them healthy and out of the vet for most ailments.
Hang your clothes to dry.
You can make a clothes line with rope from Dollar Tree for $1 and purchase clothespins for another $1. You will save electricity by not running your dryer.
If paper is misprinted on, or lightly written on one side it can be cut up and used as scrap paper. Cut it up in squares for those shopping lists and notes. Or, if you have a shredder, shred the paper to make your own packaging material. Save your gift bags and tissue paper from birthdays and holidays. Anything helps!
Make do with what you have. In our disposable society, we think running to the store is the answer. Instead, save your cash for what you have to have to eat and for gas. Create new solutions for things you already have on hand at home. Set a goal to avoid shopping, and use what is in your home. You would be amazed at how much you save!
Resuse plastic bags.
One of my special needs son’s favorite tasks is to collect the plastic bags we bring home from the dollar store. Then, he uses them to collect trash and put them into the trash can. We stick a few in an old kleenex box and pull them out as we need them.