11 Survival Lessons From The Great Depression

My grandmother’s life journey has always been a source of inspiration for me. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the subsequent years of communism in our homeland. My mother and her eight siblings also faced numerous challenges throughout their lives, and I grew up listening to their stories of hardship and war.

These tales evoke the old-fashioned values they clung to and the profound influence those values had on their lives. In our modern world, marked by a soaring cost of living, stagnant wages, a worsening economy they keep trying to convince us is doing just fine, and a mounting mental health crisis, disillusionment is on the rise.

A Growing Movement

An elderly Slavic woman stands outside in the snow.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Let’s explore some of the bygone norms that are experiencing a resurgence in our present times. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just something to get you thinking about your own life and habits.

Baking Your Own Daily Bread

Freshly baked sourdough bread on table.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

This one is easy and something you can start today. And if you want to bake the best bread possible for yourself and your family — bake sourdough bread. 

The most ancient form of leavened bread is with a natural sourdough starter, and the fermentation of the grains has some tremendous potential health benefits, too.

My organic sourdough loaves, including the ones made with ancient and heritage varieties of wheat, average less than $2 per loaf.

Cooking From Scratch

Old and young hands stretching an Eastern European pastry.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

We were poor growing up, and that meant all of our meals were simple, wholesome, and always homemade.

What I find today is that people don’t know how to cook beyond following recipes, and while that’s fun, it doesn’t teach you how to cook in a helpful way.

Can you take a whole chicken and stretch that out into multiple meals for your family? Because to me, that is cooking, and that is an essential skill to master. If you can look at the contents of your refrigerator and pantry and make something out of “nothing,” you are ahead.

Growing A Garden

A backyard garden plot.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Before we moved to the homestead, I grew food on our tiny balcony and in a community garden plot.

And while everyone might not have access to that, those who do should take advantage of it and start a simple garden. Even a tiny plot or backyard can produce a surprisingly large amount of food if you take advantage of vertical growing and intensive planting methods.

Inflation isn’t going away, and food prices are not lowering. The cost of living continues to rise. If you can — start a garden. It can be done cheaply and easily and I have numerous guides on this subject and more coming.

Keeping Chickens

A woman beating eggs.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

One of the best tools for self-sufficiency is a backyard flock of chickens for eggs. To keep it as thrifty as possible, choose lightweight ones that are known for being the best egg-laying chicken breeds, as they will lay more on less feed than dual-purpose and heritage breeds. 

There are also plenty of ways to cut down on feed costs.

I promise you that nothing tastes as good as a fresh egg from your flock.

Buying Bulk Ingredients 

A stocked kitchen pantry.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

We buy bulk grains and mill our flour. Properly stored grains will lay for 25 years or more, depending on the grain and the storage conditions.

Again, food prices are not decreasing. It makes sense to adopt a bit of a prepper mentality and have some stores for yourself set aside.

Another great way to save is by buying bulk meat. We buy whole cows and pigs and split the costs and cuts with family and friends. This is a significant way to save money on an expensive food.

Thrifting & Secondhand 

A mother stand underneath a clothesline with her two children on a summer day.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

We don’t buy anything new before checking Facebook Marketplace and the local thrift stores first. It’s how we got an $800 toilet for $50. Perhaps not the most glamorous example, but I was pretty thrilled with that find, and it was basically brand new.

This method has allowed us to find a treasure trove of necessities and save thousands as we slowly renovate our 1865 farmhouse.

Mending & Repairing

A kettle repurposed as a planter.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

From darning socks to mending holes — basic sewing skills are within your reach.

There are even people who take old crocheted blankets and handmade quilts that are too rough to use as intended and upcycle them into beautiful clothing.

Which brings me to the next point…

Buy Quality. Buy Once.

A bowl of beef stew.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Our kitchen range was an expensive open burner Blue Star. We got a great deal on it because it was a store display model.

And that brand has a reputation for lasting forever, and can you say the same for every appliance brand? No. Furthermore, it can be maintained and repaired and broken parts fixed and replaced.

When our old stove broke down, every repair shop we spoke to told us point blank that it was because those things are now made to break and repairing them can cost more than a brand new replacement.

Pretty ridiculous.

So now we really do our research and try to buy lifetime things as much as possible.

Reduce & Reuse

A family prepares for Thanksgiving day.
Photo Credit: Delano, Jack, photographer. At the Crouch family on Thanksgiving Day preparing the dinner. Ledyard, Connecticut. United States Connecticut Ledyard New London County, 1940. Nov. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2017792787/.

Do you need to buy that thing? Can you make it instead?

Look for ways to reduce, reuse, and cut back on the extras which bring nothing meaningful or helpful in your life.

Repurpose: Does This Need To Be Thrown Away?

A grandmother teaches her granddaughter how to bake.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

I never understood why my mother hated throwing anything away. She would keep the oddest stuff — empty jars and containers, random bags, bits of rope.

Now I find myself doing the same and keeping it all neatly organized for that eventual day (and it always comes) that I actually do need those jars and that twine.

Preserve The Harvest

A wooden spoon is pounding the green cabbage into a mason jar.
Photo Credit: The Peasant’s Daughter.

If you’re growing your own food — you should try growing enough to preserve some for the colder months when nothing much fresh can be grown.

Even if you don’t have a garden, you can buy cheaper produce when it’s on sale and or in season and do this.

Getting started with canning and fermenting food is simple and doesn’t require much equipment or upfront costs. It’s also a lot of fun and a great way to add variety and convenience to your meals.

See my simple recipe for making homemade fermented sauerkraut as one example.

Bring Back Home Economics 

Shredded and salted green cabbage sitting in a wooden bowl.
Photo Credit: The Peasant’s Daughter.

Bring back home economics. Not in schools — not because it’s a bad idea but because I don’t see it happening in this timeline — but in our lives. As a stay-at-home mother, I take pride in managing an efficient household and making a beautiful home.

You should know where every penny is going, what is stocked in your pantries, freezers, and refrigerator, and how much that freshly laid egg from your chicken costs.

Setting up a budget, evaluating it to cut costs and spending where possible, and keeping an organized household is the most efficient way to make all of this manageable and, dare I say it — enjoyable.

You don’t need a fancy app; I use Excel, but there are fancy apps for those inclined to use one!

Steps to Self-Sufficiency in the Garden

Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Read the Article: The 12 Essential Steps to Self-Sufficiency in the Garden

Perennials Are Key

Chives flowers grown in a garden.
Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Read the Article: 19 Edible Perennials To Grow For Self-Sufficiency

A Survival Garden Plan

Photo Credit: Envato Elements.

Read the Article: Ultimate Survival Garden Guide {27 Best Crops}

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