The Great Depression was a time when many people had to learn to make do with what they had. Money, food, and material items were scarce or expensive. So, people had to make and mend do.

This also included learning how to be more frugal in their everyday lives. Nothing was wasted and you did as much as you could yourself.

Today, we live in a wasteful world. Many people will throw away clothes simply because they have a small hole in them or a button missing. They throw leftover food in the trash because they are bored of the taste.

This waste is needless and can be very costly. Instead, we could learn a thing or two from the men and women of the great depression era. The main idea? Learn to be more self-sufficient.

Learn Some New Skills

A lot can be achieved when you broaden your skillset. You can pick and choose which tasks are suitable for you and your lifestyle based on your likes and dislikes.

For example, if you and your family have a lot of food waste throughout the week you can learn to improve your cooking skills. Widening your recipe book can help reduce the amount of food waste.

If your children go through clothes very quickly, either by staining or breaking them, then learn some sewing skills to repurpose the material.

Recycle Leftovers

Every year in the US 108 billion pounds of food is wasted. This is an incredible amount of food that is simply thrown away, possibly for no good reason.

Many of us are fussy eaters, especially children. And getting our kids to eat healthily (and to finish their plate) can be a nightmare.

The best way to reduce your food waste is to learn (or improve) cooking skills! This means that even if your child does not finish all of their dinner, you can learn to use the leftovers to make another meal. For example, the common English tradition of a Sunday roast would often result in a large amount of food leftover.


So, instead of throwing the food in the trash, they learned a new recipe: bubble and squeak! This is essentially a mash patty of leftover vegetables. Meat can be repurposed into sandwiches, casseroles, or even pet food.

The possibilities are endless. Make sure that you do not reheat anything that can make you ill.

Learn to Sew

Materials and clothing were also increasingly difficult to come by during the great depression and were very expensive. This is also a skill that we should use in our everyday lives now.

Just because a pair of pants has a hole in the knee does not mean that they need to be thrown away. Instead, take advice from the great depression and learn to sew! If the hole cannot be sewn shut then consider repurposing the material into something else.

You can always turn them into shorts or just the material to make headbands or even washcloths for dusting. There is almost no reason to get rid of cloth!

Basic Electric Repairs

Learning how to fix things yourself was one of the main ideas to come from the Great Depression. Money was tight, so if you could do the job yourself, you would.

You can apply this to daily life now simply by learning a few extra home skills. One of these can be something as simple as learning how to check that your smoke detector is working. Or what to do when the electricity trips.

Learning simple things like these can save you a lot of money when it comes to needing to call an electrician.

Basic Plumbing Repairs

Just like with learning to fix electrical things in your home, try learning how your plumbing works. Got a leaky tap? If the problem isn’t too severe try looking the answer up on the internet.


Once you have learned a few tricks you may find that you have a knack for it. The more odd jobs that you can do around your home, the better.

Reduce Your Grocery Budget

Just like in the Great Depression many people nowadays have to be frugal with their money. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look at your food bills.

More and more of us have become accustomed to ordering takeout. Instead, try to avoid ordering food and cook at home. This will significantly reduce your bills.

Grow your own food

During the Depression, one of the main ways that people changed their daily habits was to learn to grow their own food. Not only can be it an amazing and rewarding hobby—it also means free food!

You can grow as much or as little as you want. This can include anything from potatoes and other vegetables to even a small herb garden on your window ledge. Anything is better than nothing.

The more room you have the better. You could even keep hens to access fresh eggs. If you team up with family members, friends, or even your neighbors, you can all grow different foods and share.

This can reduce food waste as if you have a surplus of home-grown food you can share.

Buy a Whole Chicken

Many of us do not want to do the dirty work when it comes to carving and butchering meat. This is one reason why supermarkets sell meat pre-cut and prepared, for example, chicken breasts.

The great depression taught people not to waste any food. If it was edible, you can eat it. So, consider buying a whole chicken as this is often a cheaper way to buy meat.

You can then also get all of the meat off of the chicken, giving you more meat for less money.

Use Meat Substitutes

Many of us know that meat is an expensive item to buy in general. So, many people in the Great Depression learned to substitute meat with other substantial alternatives.

This can be adapted to the modern-day by choosing to buy and eat meat substitutes such as vegetarian or vegan options. In general, these can be a lot cheaper than meat and just as filling. In some instances, they can also be healthier.

If this is not for you, consider using starchy foods to substitute for meat. Potatoes and other such vegetables can be filling and will only cost you a fraction of the price of meat.

Reduce Housing Expenses

With many of us spending a lot more time at home, our house bills are increasing. So, here we will give you some ways that you can cut these bills.

Borrow from Your Friends and Family

People who lived during the great depression learned to look out for one another. If you had something that you did not need, you would give it to someone else. There was no throwing anything away.

So, you can easily do this today. Get your friends and family involved! You may have spare food that is going out of date that you will not eat, but your mom might.

You can even expand this to your skills. For example, if you are a very good seamstress, you can offer your services to others either out of the kindness of your heart or in exchange for something else.

Use Clothing to Keep Warm

Another way to be frugal with your money that was common during the great depression was learning to keep warm cheaply. This can easily be achieved with clothes.

Yes, there are some instances where you will need to turn on the heat. But, if it is just a little bit cold, consider putting on a sweater or an extra-thick pair of socks instead of turning the thermostat up.

This can significantly reduce your monthly heating bill.

Cut down on your laundry bills

Another way to cut down your bills is to wear your clothes more than once. There is no need to wash outer clothes after every single wear.

Instead, reduce your laundry loads to only washing dirty clothes—we mean really dirty! This way you can save on water and electricity as well as prolong the longevity of your clothing.

General Life Tips

Here we will give you a few general life tips that were inspired by the great depression.

Start a Side Hustle

Because money was tight in the great depression people often started a small side business. This is certainly something that can be applied to today.

Now, thanks to the internet, you can sell your handmade craft, offer your language skills, and many other skills. This way you can make a little extra money in your spare time.

If you can do this with something that you love, for example, if your hobby is knitting, then that is even better as it will not seem like work!

Live Within Your Means

The Great Depression saw people readjust their lives. This is a lesson that we can learn today.

Many people go into credit card debt for buying unnecessary things. There is simply no need to do this!

Instead, learn what your income and expenses are and learn to budget. This can greatly reduce your worries and financial stress.

Make Your Own Gifts and Cards

A lot of us spend an incredible amount of money on gifts and cards for birthdays, Christmas, and other various celebrations.

Instead, learn to make these things yourself. Often homemade is much more appreciated and the recipient will love the thought, care and time put into it.


There are many things that we can learn from the great depression. Being frugal does not have to be a negative thing. Instead, we can learn to use what we have, share, and waste less.

All of this can help us financially as well as be better for the environment! We hope you enjoy this list of frugal living tips from the great depression.

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