“Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without.”
The Great Depression (1929-1939) was the worst economic downturn in modern history. By 1933, the bleakest point of the depression, about a quarter of the U.S. workforce was unemployed. Those that were lucky enough to have steady employment often saw their wages cut or their hours reduced to part-time. What did they do to survive?
1. Homemakers stretched their food budget with casseroles and one-pot meals such as chili, macaroni and cheese, soups, and stews, mostly meatless.
2. Potlucks were organized by churches, as a way to share food and a cheap form of social entertainment. People stopped going to the movies, restaurants and clubs.
3. Families planted kitchen gardens with vegetables and herbs.
4. Women substituted beans and local fish for meat.
5. Some towns and cities allowed vacant lots to be used as community “thrift gardens” where residents could grow food.
6. For those living in the country eating food from the wild became a norm. Berries, dandelions, and small game became delicacies. Others gleaned fields gathering corn kernels or veggies missed during harvest.
7. Families who owned homes and some who rented, dug up lawns and planted gardens.
8. Preserving food became a priority for anything and everything you could get. Canning became the norm for families and a source of pride.
9. People learned to hunt and fish.
10. Families pawned possessions.
11. Everything was reused. Flour sacks became dresses and shirts, newspapers became wrapping paper or patched holes in the walls, ribbons were saved for the next gifts, small pieces of soap place together in cheese cloth and every bit used.
12. Neighbors gathered for game nights as entertainment.
13. Radio shows became more story and series oriented.
14. Bingo became popular as a way to socialize cheaply.
15. Chain letters became a way to stay in touch and connect to new friends.
16. Women who could get work began working outside the home.
17. Women and men sewed and mended clothing.
18. Bartering services for food and goods became the norm. Skills such as: sewing/knitting, home repairs, gardening, canning/food preserving, making tools, butchering and curing meat, cheese making, candle making, etc. became very valued.
19. All family members worked selling home grown produce, working for others cleaning, delivering papers, baby-sitting, taking in laundry, and more.
20. Families canceled phone service.
21. Many gave up or locked up their car and biked everywhere.
22. Electricity was expensive so families would sleep outside on hot nights to avoid using fans.
23. They shared. Some opened their homes or barns to people who needed shelter. Some gave meals to people who would knock on the door asking for help. Many worked with neighbors and traded produce. They worked together.
Yes, “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without” became the call of the day. How prepared are we to do the same things our ancestors did? How are your skills? What can you do now?
1. Learn to preserve food.
2. Learn to garden.
3. Plant fruit trees and berry bushes now. Fall is almost here and that means planting time.
4. Begin turning off the TV and playing games, visiting friends and family, reading, and doing other activities that can be done for free getting your family accustomed to these activities. They will not seem foreign or boring when you can no longer afford activities costing money.
5. Learn a new skill and polish up a skill you may not have used for awhile.
6. Learn to cook simple, inexpensive meals from scratch.
7. Don’t waste leftovers. Learn how to freeze and reuse.
8. Get in shape. Fuel prices are crazy and going higher. Be ready to walk and bike instead of using the car.
9. Sell unneeded and unused items now.
10. Stop buying toys and items that are not needs. Save that money for coming “rainy days”. During a recession how much will that boat or dirt bike or past expensive vacations really be worth?
Live by: “Use it up, wear it out, make do or do without”