Stretching Your Resources in Uncertain Times

How Do You Save Money?

Guest Post by Jim M

With the cost of everything going up and the future uncertain, stretching your resources and re-purposing items becomes more of a necessity. I am always looking for new ways to get the “max for the minimum.”

Some recent posts here reminded me of some of these things.  My grandparents and parents were a young family when the great depression hit. What kinds of things did they do to make ends meet when things were expensive or scarce?

Unfortunately, many of them who went through this period in time are no longer with us. However, I remember a few things they did or heard of them doing, that now, looking back, were obviously brought about by the times they lived in. Even after times improved somewhat, some still stuck to certain ways of doing things. Old habits are hard to break.

Hunting and gardening were basically a given back then. Most everyone outside the city limits did one or both of this along with bartering services for goods. A little carpentry or plumbing work for a couple of chickens.

I remember my grandfather mixing his old used motor oil with a little bit of kerosene and spraying the underside and inner fender wells of his pick up truck just before winter. He claimed it helped protect the truck from incurring rust damage over the winter months. Getting more serviceable years out of the truck.

I am sure environmentalists would have a cow over this nowadays, but it was a way of taking something that didn’t appear to have any usefulness left ,and yet, finding one more use for it. The county used to spray old used oil to keep the dust down on dirt roads during the spring and summer months. Don’t see that happening anymore.

My grandfather saved some wood ashes from his fireplace to sprinkle around his tomato plants in the garden. He claimed it brought more blooms, thus more tomatoes during the growing season.

My grandmother would take apples and make pie filling and apple sauce. She would then take the wasted apple skins and apple cores and boil them down in water to get enough juice to make apple jelly. Finally using the old boiled down skins and cores to slop the pigs along with other scraps.

That was really getting some serious mileage out of your apples. I am sure such things as corn cob jelly and jello came from the same kind of frugal thinking of, “If I could just find one more use for this material.” My grandmother never threw a tea bag out after only “one” use. She also used up every last bit of an orange. Eat the orange, use the zest of the skin in baking and boil the pithy part of the skin to give the kitchen a nice aroma.

I had uncles who made hard cider during prohibition and would play cards all night on the weekends. That was long before my time but seems they still knew how to have a good time even when things were tough. God bless them.

My parents had the 1970’s to deal with, huge interest rates on mortgages, gas lines, inflation and crazy tax rates. My dad worked his hind end off and made pretty descent money. But by the time he paid for the weekly and monthly expenses, it sure didn’t seem that way.

Christmas was the time of year when me and my brothers would get new blue jeans. My mom would take the brand new jeans and wash them on a low load setting to get as much of the blue dye out of the new jeans. Before the washer would spin that water out, she would remove the new jeans and put any of our old faded jeans that still fit along with jean jackets in the dyed water to soak overnight. Gave old jeans and jackets a “little” darker blue look.

How about an old wire clothes hanger as an emergency exhaust hanger for your car. Works in a pinch to get the muffler from dragging on the road. Unfortunately most clothes hangers they are making now are plastic.

A friend of mine has used old pine wood pallets to build cold frames. The wood was free and if you get a couple or a few years use out of it, all the better.

My brother-in-law reloads his own ammo.

Old newspaper can be used for a weed barrier in the garden, gift wrap and I would dare say make a good candidate for emergency toilet paper if cut or torn down into smaller sheets. So would old telephone book pages.

I have also seen some recipes on the net for making logs to burn made with old newspaper. We keep some around to start fires. Anyone remember the old Readers Digest Christmas Trees? They would fold the pages of a Readers Digest a certain way and spray paint and decorate them to look like a Christmas Tree.

I have the tank to an old shopvac that I use as a waste can next to my workbench in the basement. The motor is long gone but still found a use for the tank.

I have found that a simple tarp has many uses other than covering wood piles. I have seen them used to stop a leaking roof until better weather comes along to address the problem properly. I have taken an old tarp that was starting to fray and cut a section out big enough to cover the windshield on my work car. It sits out in the weather and this piece of tarp can be removed in the morning along with the frost. Now I don’t have to scrape ice or run the defroster for 10 minutes before I leave during the cold months.

Saves me some time and a little gas money too. Word to the wise. Don’t put it on the car when they are forecasting freezing rain. Not nearly as easy to remove. I am sure tarps can be used for a temporary shelter in a survival situation.

A couple of years ago, I saw a man on TV claiming that he shaved an entire year with just one disposable razor. AN ENTIRE YEAR! He claimed that leaving the razor wet after you use it is what dulls the razor. The water deteriorates the sharp edge on the blade.

This sounded crazy to me so I decided to try this out. I did not get the same results this guy did by far, however, I will get through this year using a total of 5 replacement blades on my razor. This is based on shaving twice a week, not everyday. Get your whiskers soft with hot water, use a shot of liquid hand soap to lather up and shave as normal. I believe the actual cutting of the whiskers is what dulls the blade, not the water.

So getting the whiskers as soft as possible with hot water and the lubrication of the hand soap is what helps keep the razor sharper for longer. Why are replacement razor blades so expensive? Don’t they mass produce these things by the billions?

My boss has been bringing me in empty plastic jugs that contained cat litter. They have the 2 HDPE marking on the bottom. So far, I have used these to store rain water that we use on our garden. The jugs he brings me hold about 2.6 gallons of liquid. I have even taken old motor oil to Walmart for collection in these jugs. I’m sure there are probably many other uses for these.

We use old baby food jars to store herbs we grew in the garden. The really small jars (2 or 4 ounce ?) are really good for this. I also keep my hardware sorted and orderly at the workbench with the larger jars. Kids have used them to make endless crafts, too.

We reuse storage bags when possible.

I use some of the leaves that come down in the fall to pack in my basement window wells. The basement windows are a cheap, thin glass window. And they are below ground level thus the wells on the outside. I pack these wells as tight as I can with dried leaves during the winter.

It keeps heat from wicking out the thin glass, acting as an insulator and deadens the sound from outside. In the spring. I remove the leaves, bag them with the mulching mower and till them into the garden. I even heard of people using dried tree leaves as insulation during the depression to keep the lower floor of their homes warm. Surrounding the house with a temporary snow-type fencing and filling the void between the house and the fence with dried tree leaves. Then removing the fence and leaves in the spring.

With each passing generation, we lose a little bit of useful knowledge and common sense that was gained by the times in which they lived. I’m not sure of the severity of what’s coming, but I feel some of what they did could serve us well in days ahead.

I am very interested in finding out what you, the readers, could share about what you do and what your relatives did many years ago to cope and survive in uncertain times and stretch what resources are available to the max.



  1. Diana Smith says:

    My folks were Depression era kids, and my Mom still teaches nephews and nieces how to sew, can food, cook meals, make menus and budgets and value shop. She’s 84 and still going. Hope I’m that good at 84. We did a lot of the same things your family did as I was growing up, except we had chickens, not hogs. I remember my DD cooking up potato peels in the winter to give the hens a hot meal. Mama cooked roasts or birds, etc, and after the first meal, trimmed all the fat and bones and skin. Pork and beef fat and bones went to the dog. Chicken trimmings went to the dog too, but all the rest was left for sandwiches or stew or pot pies.
    My mom, aunt and grandma all had gardens. Every year, we would harvest what we and grandma had, haul it all to my aunt’s, help her harvest and for the next month we were canning. My job was to listen for the jar lids to pop, then as I grew, to help process the food and tighten jar lids. We canned chickens, too, once a year, about 50 of them. My grandma could literally clean 12 chickens in an hour!
    Mama didn’t save the water off the jeans that way, but any old jeans were kept patched until they couldn’t be anymore, and then whatever good material was left was used to patch others. Sometimes, we made quilts, using an old, worn out blanket or two as the batting, and placing a nice new cover over it.
    I never really knew hardship growing up. We had a medium income and my DD worked hard. My folks were determined that I would never know trouble, but taught me how to deal with it.
    We had to burn our own trash, so all the burnables went into one trash barrel, and all the cans from food were flattened by taking out the bottom and crushing. This left space in the barrel so we only had to dump it a few times a year. Mama tore up the cardboard and paper, too, because it would lay flatter in the trashcan and not fill up so fast. Also, torn paper catches fire easier in the burn barrel. Daddy always used the ashes in the garden, too, especially for the tomatoes, as it put the pH of the soil where it should be.
    Socks were darned, old t-shirts and sheets became rags and towels to dry the dishes. Mama put rugs down on the carpeting because it helped keep the carpet from wearing out too soon. Furniture was dusted and cleaned periodically, to keep the wood fresh and from drying out.
    Things were generally just taken care of better, because it wasn’t a throw-away society until the late seventies, early eighties. Now, we get a little something on our shirt, or tear a small hole, we buy a new one. Jeans tear, buy new ones. Shoes dirty? Buy new ones. It is what has allowed our stores to sell things cheaper, because they are cheaply made and geared to only last a short while, not made to last like they used to be.
    Funny thing–if clothing went out of style my DM still saved it back. The clothes were still good, still wearable if someone really needed it, so why not? Now, when fashions have come back around to retro 70s and 80s, she has pulled some of these out of the closet and given them to her nieces. They’re thrilled to have them and she has taught them the value of keeping things. They appreciate the effort she goes to for them enough to help her with shopping and cleaning house.
    One last thing. With the way food prices are getting, one method of trying to obtain food for storage or preserving may be to contact the manager of local food stores and ask if you can buy any overstock, or nearly out-of-date items at a discount so they don’t have to totally write it off. Make it about them. Some stores can’t, because of policies, and some can’t because of state laws, so don’t get upset if they say “no”, but some can and will. Some are willing to give away overstock if it’s already been written off (and some managers are just jerks), but they usually want you to take it all off their hands. If it’s more than you can use, spread it around to those in need around you, give it to friends you know are prepping, donate to the local food bank, whatever, but this is a possible source.

  2. When I was a kid, my Dad & older bro would put bales of hay around the foundation of the house, to prevent cold drafts.

    For Christmas, we each rec’d one toy & one article of clothing. Mom “wrapped” each of our gifts in a brown paper grocery bag. & the whole family rec’d a board game. The Sun. School at church gave us small paper bags w/ an apple, peanuts & candy.

    • Diana Smith says:

      Although my folks could afford a bit more, our Christmases were about the same. Mama did use wrapping paper, but was frugal with it. She still has a box of trimmed paper that she trimmed off the used stuff if it was still good, and I still try to peel the tape so the paper doesn’t tear. Bows were carefully reused each year, too. We got clothing, a toy when I was younger, or a book or art supplies when I got older, and one family gift. When I was seven, it was our first black and white TV. Before that we listened to radio and actually spend time as a FAMILY. What a concept!

      • Diana Smith says:

        Much of the reason our family did Christmas this way was to keep Christmas about Christ, not about getting presents, or trimming the tree. Also, to learn how to be grateful when someone gave you something. It was nice to get the presents, but somehow it was even nicer to see someone made happy by giving.

        • oldalaskan says:

          Growing up for us boys it also was one toy, Clothing and a family game. As we got older we would go Christmas shopping on the day after when the sales were. This way we played with our friends and neighbor’s toy’s and knew which ones we wanted.

      • We still reuse bows & so do all my daughters. The bows live in a couple of old popcorn tins. They come out to go on the presents, then go back in the tins until someone has a birthday. Most bows can be used at least a dozen times, with a little tape on the bottom to stick the bow onto the package.

  3. mom of three says:

    Like many here our family did the same things too. Clothing is making me mad the clothes if you get anything on them will not looses even when you use spray n wash, I have had so many shirts look like a slobby pig wears them. ( no disrespect to pig’s, they are super clean) but after a while all my shirts had stains that will not come out, plus are other people getting those tiny holes, in your shirt’s after a few washing? Unfortunately we do and will continue to live in a throw away society, companies can’t make any money on us if everything last for 50 year’s! This is why antique stores ask a pretty penny, for dishware, and old tool’s, they get it. Even thrift stores have area’s now where old stuff is expensive, because it’s retro.

    • I absolutely have the same problem with clothes. A few years ago I started saving receipts for clothing in a special file and I return items that wear out in a very short time. I was so disgusted when once I bought a shirt from target and after ONE washing there was a hole in it! I believe there might be something to the story that GMO cotton might be a problem in clothing. Once I did research (hard to find on internet) but manufacturers expressed concern a number of years ago that GMO cotton had irregular fibers that did not make good material. At the time, Monsanto, I think was trying to say it was other factors (weather, hybrids)

      • mom of three says:

        That makes perfect sense on tne GMO, very interesting indeed.

      • Or is it what the Chinese are using as fabric dyes that are the problem? Or both?

      • S; You are correct on the fiber having flaws. Cotton coming from GMO bolls can be be downright nasty. I order samples of raw cotton and also the growers name. Anything less than snowy white and soft (minus harvesting and shipping dirt) is not acceptable. BT GMO cotton has a rougher feel to it. It is also very toxic.

        ALL fabric has a warp and weft. The warp is the up and down thread (lengthwise) and the main strength of the fabric. The weft is the cross fiber that fills in the warp and adds designs. If the warp has any slubs, it reduces strength. If the weft has slubs, it in, the design/pattern will be irregular. Most slubs are so minor you don’t notice them. Those are the flaws that cause holes to appear in clothing. Some of slubs are also in the thread. Which are a pain in the backside when a slub pops up and won’t go through the needle. If you run your hand over clothing, you can often times feel weak spots (slubs).

        To make matters worse, when the raw cotton is shipped to China, it is made into clothing via chemical processes that have been outlawed in the U.S. for decades. Double whammy….toxic GMO + Chinese refined. Gotta love the Monsanto and govt.’s lies.

    • Babycatcher says:

      Check the cotton content. Most American clothes are made with 65/35 blend cotton/polyester. It’s the polyester that holds the stain. You cannot bleach it out. Try to go with either 100% cotton, or close to it, and use oxyclean powder in your wash, with your detergent. It won’t harm the fabrics, and when I was in clinic learning midwifery, we used all cotton sheets( white) and using Oxyclean got all the blood and meconium out! That stuff is great!i use it on my weed eating clothes to get them clean, and it works!

  4. TYVM, appreciate your thoughts. To my knowledge, using ashes from burnpile gives a short termed increase in nutrients to garden, but depletes nutrients over time. I’ve read the same regarding using fish carcasses in garden. Just saying.
    Interesting how ‘cardinal virtues’ when employed, are a prescription for a better life. Becoming more obvious in times of want. Just as in the Book of Proverbs…..

    • I use wood ash around plants or sections of the garden to keep pests out. It keeps slugs and snails away… till it in at the end of the season to help counteract the fact that we live in pine country.

    • Fresh mulch will draw out nitrogen from topsoil, but you can sprinkle a handful of fertiliser/ manure in with it or you can wait until it composts and then it’s fine.
      Potash is essential to flowering plants so put out your ashes through out winter and when the plant blooms in spring the ash will have broken down further and also leached into the root zone.
      As I butcher livestock I put non usable offal and bone into post holes dug in my orchard. I then plant trees in them as I go. By the time the plants roots get down to the blood and bone it has broken down to usable nutrients.

      • Diana Smith says:

        A lot of people don’t know about the blood being a gret help. It’s the iron, I’m told, and if there is not access to blood, a few large steel nails stuck in the ground near the roots will also work.

        • We boost the iron in our fruit and nut trees (the ones that need a boost, that is) using the FREE iron filings we get from our friendly neighborhood mechanic. He’s happy to have us haul them off, and we’re even happier to put them to good use. Fall is a great time to feed iron shavings to your nut trees! Dig a small hole; pour about a cup on each side of your trees, and cover. Now go take a long nap. You’re work here is done!

  5. I’ve finally learned a valuable lesson. When you buy cheap,all you get is a piece of junk you’ll have to repair continuously and eventually throw away. I’m talking about poulan brand chainsaws. I got a small job cutting some trees. 100 bucks a tree, all I could cut and burn. I cut and burned 8 the first day and the next day I wore myself out working on and trying to start the green nightmares called poulan. I brought them all home,went and bought a stihl and cut 16 more trees over the next two days. The stihl was about 3 times what a poulan would cost,but if it starts every time you need it,it’s worth it.
    The only other thing I can add to this article is this. I make a nice little living squiring broken things. Fixing them,and selling them. It could be an appliance,a tool,a piece of lawn equipment,a ladder that needed a step rewelded. I’m not getting rich but I’m saving perfectly usable things from going to the dump (a major source for repairable items) and keeping enough income coming through here to have a small but happy life. When I need more money,I look for something no one else wants to do,and offer to do it for a price that makes it worthwhile to me. The tree cutting is a perfect example. Use it up,fix it if it’s broke,live without it if you can,buy quality when you have to buy something. Great article and being frugal and reusing repairing or repurposing is my new way of life and it’s much more satisfying on so many levels.

    • have an old Mc Cullough (24″ beast) & an old Poulan (16″ wimp-bought on clearance in late 80’s). In the 70’s poulan had a good rep, seems the rep has changed. When the poulan works, it’s fine, but it’s taken on f o r d attributes…. Wish I still had my 12″ Homelite from late 70’s.
      Some electric chainsaws work better than I ever figured they ever wood.
      Hats off to large sawdust chunks!!!!!!

      • I had an old homelite that I used and abused for many many years. When it was finally time to get another I was so disappointed in how the quality had suffered.

    • BC:

      I for one am thankful for what I have learned from you on “repurposing” equipment. Over that last couple of years I have taken many things that were throwaways and made use of them. We have an agency (BSW) that employs handicapped people to “re-purpose” stuff (clear, repair, mend, etc.). This stuff goes on sale at their Thrift Shop; they provide purpose to people who otherwise might not find any and cheaper products for the people who patronize their store.

      If I have something useful, it either gets donated to BSW or the Rescue Mission Thrift Stores. Although I may not have the cash to help support them, this is my way.

      I haunt the Thrift Stores myself. I should be ready this Spring to do the same on Fridays for the Garage Sales.

      Whether we want to admit it or not, money is tight. Buy used vs. new, fill your pantry at the grocery sales, grow what you can and produce as much of what you need as you can.

      And for some of us – just do without. When the SHTF we’ll have to anyway. Might as well start now, small, and get used to it if we truly believe it’s coming.

      • Just got back from the gun shop with the 9mil beretta carbine,payed for with tree cutting money. Gonna take it out back and throw a few rounds at that poor old pine tree that has served as my long range bullet stop for 20 years.

  6. grandma bear says:

    My grandmother lived on a farm through the depression so gleaning was what she shared . Never turning any thing down that was offered to her. She found a way to get it in a jar for future use. She could somehow take a few things from the fridge, leftovers and add a few things from the pantry and make the best tasting meal ever! No cookbook just the knowledge she had . Oh how I envy that talent and miss those meals. Good memories!

  7. A note on gardens: When I lived in the country, I used the old Biblical truth that soil must rest every 7th year. I rotated my garden crops according to that schedule using 7 sections with one lying farrow for a season.

  8. I do/have done the same with apples, wood ashes, oranges & other citrus, used oil put in a wide bucket with sand to dip garden tools like shovels & hoes after use to keep them rust free, tea bags get used more than once and even use 2 or more for another cup, now use broken down cardboard boxes topped with cut grass from the empty lot next door and the greenbelt behind the house to make new garden beds, just had a new quartz bathroom counter removed because it was incorrectly cut and will use it as a potting bench – no reason to dump it in the landfill which is what the company was going to do, saved seed from a buttercup squash to plant in the new garden, shop at thrift stores for my clothes (except underwear and socks) paying no more than $2 per piece, repeated have started new plants from existing ones – rosemary, ti, vinca, cranberry hibiscus. There’s lots more so let’s just say I live a very frugal but very satisfying life. Learned a lot from my mother and a lot more from my college education in Home Ec during Johnson’s War on Poverty as we were taught, so we could teach others, how to get a nickel’s worth out of every penny!

  9. The price of razor blades is one reason why I went back to a double edged safety razor, much cheaper. There is a blade sharpener that is little more than a wire handle that holds two glass marbles in a pair. Run the edge between them and it hone’s them for a longer use life. I also use soap and brush for lather, the soap mug is where the small soap ‘chips’ from the bath soap goes, I use them up.

    I have mixed used motor oil in the jug of chainsaw bar oil before as well. Fruit peel’s and core’s goes either out under the tree it came from for the deer, or into the chicken coop for feed.

    After the garden has been harvested, the goats get to go into the plot for a few days of nutrient dense feed. The corn stalks are saved for feed a bit later on. The shuck’s makes good bedding if it isn’t eaten. Older recipe’s are a favorite and a money saver.

    Ashes from the stove goes to the garden soil and is used in the goat house under the straw to help keep it smelling a bit fresher. I store the ashes in a galvanized steel garbage can.

    Clothing used until they become rags. Blue jean pants legs make fine storage bags for tow/tire chains, jacks, tent pegs, dry bean’s, flower bulb’s, etc, or what have you. Sew one end closed and sew a ‘tunnel’ for a draw string to the other end, they make a fine “poke sack”.

    Scrap lumber and plywood is saved until its gone. Smallish plywood squares cut corner to corner make good shelf supports for the garage. Small pieces of lumber are finally used up in the woodstove.

    Bones and carcases are saved for soup stock,soup, stew, beef or pork bones goes to the dog after we’re done with them. Tea, coffee, and eggshells are reused in the garden and/or compost pile.

    Shopping bags are kept and reused paper or plastic doesn’t matter. The ‘net’ bags from onions or potatoes etc are kept to dry nuts in once hung up, ears of corn can be hung up with them to finish drying if need be as well. They also work for picking mushrooms.

    Buckets and other containers have uses that are endless. Pickle jars, peanut butter or mayo jars (glass or plastic) are reused to store dried nut’s, produce, herbs, and fruits in.

    Bailing twine and feed bags are saved as well. When we demolished the old place here I saved all of the steel roofing, it has roofed the outbuildings for us saving hundreds of dollars!

    I shop alot at thrift stores and used building supply places. Buy sirloin tip roasts and cut steaks from them, odd’s and end pieces are saved for stew meat or kabob’s. We buy bulk food and repackage them. We usually save a bit of money.

    We pay down as much as we can and do not owe alot. Card purchases are paid very quickly and our balance is kept very, very low.If we use a card to pay for a vacation, it is planned ahead of time and paid for before we go. Our only outstanding finance is our mortgage and we pay extra on that so our 15 year loan will only be for 1/2 to 2/3rds the time. Our Christmases are budgeted to an amount per person. Very rarely will we go in debt for this, most gifts are kept to the practical side and according to need rather than want. There are exceptions of course.

    • Since I’ve had a beard for 30 years, i fortunately don’t share the sticker shock on razor blades. Once, I shaved my beard off and my dog bit me.

  10. I highly recommend the Good Old Days books. You can buy them used for .99 or so each online. They are filled with stories of how people made do during the depression, but best of all, they are fascinating to read. They make entertaining read alouds for the whole family (nearly free entertainment) and education rolled into one. They also tell how to do many things that are no longer common knowledge. I’m a minimalist, but these books have earned a permanent spot of my book shelves.

  11. Anonamo Also says:

    I also use several of the things posted above.
    ..The Plastic kitty litter jugs, I wash, dry and place my dog food and cat food in…after it has been rotated thru the freezer. The lids seal very tightly and a couple of oxygen absorbers will keep it fresh until it is needed..depending on the size of the kibble, it will hold 12 and 18 lbs..just shake it down several .I use a wooden dowel to enocurage it to pack a little better.
    I get my best savings from the powdered laundry detergent, ..powdered product can have the oxi product added to it, and it maintains effectiveness..(.the one mixed with water peroxide base, looses the effectiveness)
    All food grade jugs are reused, for storage of Oats, rice, beans,cornmeal, instant potatoes/ short term storage… 2 / 3 Liter ones are good for containing craft yarns and keeping them clean while working a project. Extra Plastic lids can be made into christmas ornaments, so can the ends off of “pop” biscuits..makes a nice tin punch project.
    Vinegar, and non scented bleach, pre-made tea jugs for water, storage..easier to use for cooking needs in a short outage.
    Liquid laundry soap containers are repurposed for dry laundry powder after cleaning and drying..of course I use that water in a load of laundry.
    Fabric softner, for the washer is used in the dryer, by mixing 4 oz in a 32 oz bottle, with water and spraying 20 sprays or so on a cotton cloth and placing in dryer, with clothing to be dried…. shake before you spray..If is has had time to separate ..4 Oz, will treat about 100- 125 loads of laundry.
    All bags are reusable..Plastic ones can be cut in strips for crochet products/ reusable shopping bags… Bread bags , saved for various uses, to contain extra Ice for the ice chest, to crush those toasted egg shells, when it is not convienient to take them out, To provide a level of protection for 5lbs flour or meal needing to rest in the freezer.,for an emergency glove when cleaning up dirty things. Bread ties, many uses, including cleaning out a plugged pin hole of some powders, or the spice/salt container hole that moisture helped clog… and a few pinto beans, or 1/2 tsp of rice in that salt shaker absorbs the moisture.
    Junk mail, check for extra envelopes, outer envelop is used for making notes and lists., when done, I shred and use for mulch, with the other non greasy kitchen scraps, veggie leftovers and toasted egg shells, hair from the brushes and pet hair after giving the boys their strokes..

  12. When my clothes basket handles cracked, I drilled a small hole on either side of the crack- inserted twist ties and twisted them together tightly underneath the handle. This worked amazingly well and kept my clothes baskets going for several more years.

    The funny thing is, a friend saw my clothes baskets, felt sorry for me and bought me new ones for Christmas. But my repaired ones out lasted hers too.

  13. We have a portable dish washer. It came as an accessory when the DW and I got married, 25 years ago. It had wheel issues, so we replaced them. Now one of the settings does not work. But being the age it is, I’m sure that the cover is screwed on (she’s currently using it) and the switch is replaceable with another screw or two. I can’t imagine what I would find on a new one, but I’m sure it would not be repairable with common household tools.

  14. oldalaskan says:

    When I was around 4 years old in the spring my mother would give me a quarter and send me to the local feed mill to buy a chicken feed bag. “And MAKE SURE THERE ARE NO HOLES IN IT”. She would make a pair of shorts for my brother and me to wear all summer thus saving our “good” clothing.
    My Father worked part time for various farmers in our area and I would tag along. He was paid in kind with meat, eggs and the government forbid “RAW’ milk.
    Wire coat hangers became chicken catchers, welding rod for Oxy-Acetylene welding, Gate latches, hooks for garden tools, shovels, rake’s hoes axes.
    We learned to fix it, make it or make do without it using something else.

  15. IZZY: here’s a column regarding The Plymouth Colony’s experiment in socialism on arrival in The New World…..

    Sorry I was not able to get this to you earlier, but now is a golden (brown as in roast turkey) opportunity! This story is not easy to find, because it’s not pc. But it does come from Gov Bradford’s diaries, so it has the ring of authenticity.

    To the WOLFPACK- a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  16. What a fun post. Sure brought back a lot of memories and gave me some good ideas.

    My parents are depression era kids from the mid-west. My mom’s dad worked for a meat processor and would bring home odds and ends that my g’ma make into meals. When the weather was good my g’pa and mom would fish in the river for catfish. G’ma had a garden and according to my mom could squeeze a penny so tight it would scream:)

    My mom picked strawberries and got to bring some home. They made summer clothes out of flour sacks or dish towels. My g’ma sewed, quilted, canned, etc.

    My dad’s family was a bit better off, but still turned their home into a boarding house to make ends meet.

    When they moved to CA they had $200 to their name. I remember my mom telling stories about shopping at stores in low income areas of the cities they lived in because they carried larger cans and jars of food.

    Growing up we got one or two practical gifts and one joint gift at Christmas, like a record player that we could all use.

    When we started raising sheep we built fences, feeders and part of the barn out of 2×6’s and 2×4’s we salvaged from a local glass company. We would go every Saturday morning and load up the pick-up with the crates that the glass came in, then we’d pull them apart and keep the wood. If we didn’t mess up the nails to bad we’d reuse those too.

    After the country fair we’d buy all the straw they used for the auction or decorations for a dollar a bale. They like us because with our trailer we could take everything they had.

    As our town started building up we’d comb the construction sites for recyclables and sell them.

    We’d also:
    Sell veggies and eggs to the neighbors
    Glean firewood from an abandoned orchard.
    Make wreaths from pine cones and seed pods we collected and sell them at a local Christmas tree lot.
    Use mayo and peanut butter jars to store nuts, bolts, washers, screws and nails.
    Use junk mail to make seed pots.
    Saved old jars and melted down candle bits to make new candles.
    Ashes got used in the garden.
    Feed bags became weed guard.
    Old PVC pipe made great little cover frames to protect tender plants.

    My childhood set me on the path to being frugal, knowing that a good life, happy life can come from simple things. I enjoy shopping at thrift stores, garage sales, and the dump much better than the mall.

    We all could probably write a book full of ideas:)

    Some of the things we did growing up aren’t easy to do nowadays, which is sad I think.

    • Jen Mar- great post& thumbs up! To add to one of your points….. Nowadays ‘gleaning’ firewood from a stand of trees is ‘verboten’. The old dead wood helps forest fires grow in intensity, duration & areas destroyed…… The dept of interior, bureau of forestry, wants a ‘monopoly’ on forest fires. Thereby they can create regulations which will cost in carnage & $$$$. Then they will hire more bureaucrats to see to their ‘tyranny’.
      Of course the bureaucrats will be hired according to the ‘diversity quota’ system. Get out the old checkbook!
      Bur of forestry used to do ‘controlled burns’ to get rid of dead wood. The practice is falling out of favor. So the size & scope of wildfires have intensified.
      Might extra-governmental groups be a part of this madness? Isn’t there a group (aka people eating tasty animals?) which gets great press for their ‘humanitarian’ works? More Potemkin!
      I noticed an increase in info ads regarding non humane treatment of animals during brou ha ha over infant body parts piracy a few months back….. just a coincidence, right? Good old pope facist did his part to call attention to the infanticide, right?

      • Our firewood gleaning was from an abandoned walnut orchard on private property (with permission), so no forest was deprived of its fuel to prolong the rampaging fires season we in Cali experience. Gotta keep the bureacraps employed;)

        • TY & thumbs up Jen Mar….I should have specified, sorry…. bureaucraps…..bunglinrats…. or public serpents, no matter……

        • I feel u were/r doing right to remove the deadwood… park I walk in has tons of dead wood in ‘forest’ section….the manicured lawns & such are w/in view of city hall (of shame?). Maybe hilary’s campaign song: ‘….she ran calling wildfire’; the more our leaders ‘cry wolf’ the fewer the ears what listen, I pray….

  17. My grandfather came to live with us when he was in his 80s and 90s.He had plenty of old depression era habits. He used eat his cereal with water sometimes instead of milk even though there was milk in the fridge. …We had a large grove of black walnut trees, he would spend hours removing the nut meat and putting it into jars. We had tons of walnuts! He also saved string and rubber bands, he had a softball size ball of rubber bands…. My great uncle went fishing every day after he retired. I don’t think that he ever bought fish from a store. My other uncles were experts at gardening and light carpentry. Everyone had a very practical skillset

  18. my grandmother had 7 kids to raise during the depression and WWII years. she would cut the buttons off old shirts and put them into a draw string “button bag” and use the shirt fabric for quilts, patches or rags. as a kid when visiting my grandmother I loved to spend hours going through the button bag and sorting the buttons by color or size. now children get high priced sorting games or online sorting activities to learn sorting and patterns. i’d rather sort buttons.

  19. BlueJeanedLady says:

    I am enjoying this thread tremendously! Thank you, many thank yous, to the author and everyone’s individual comments!

    Just a bit of background as both sets of my Grandparents were in their late 20’s early 30’s during the Great Depression and both of my parents were born during the Great Depression (and the Dust Bowl, in middle America.) Since the folks were infants and toddlers during the 1930’s neither remembered too much about those days yet both grew up with a great appreciation of how their parents managed to survive and continued to live after those bleak times. The folks genuinely passed on such appreciation to us kids.

    However, Mom & Dad, as young adults, came of legal age in the 1950’s & left behind the idea of practicing some traditions as they both loved learning of & enjoying all of the “modern” conveniences introduced to their generation in the 60’s & 70’s (when I was a child). None-the-less, they always encouraged us kids to learn more from the grandparents, more from our maternal grandparents than the fraternal grandparents as Mom’s folks lived closer. The parents also kept us kids involved in church & community activities, 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and various school activities as well. Thus, I grew up with a rather “prepper” mindset years before a “prepper” mentality was considered “odd.”

    Grandma usually wrapped most of the Christmas gifts (usually only one per person and almost all were homemade, from her & Grandpa) in “the funny papers”, the Sunday, color printed, comic section from the nearest “big city” newspaper. She saved the “funny papers” all year for the next Christmas season. I still remember Grandma always saying, “See you in the funny papers,” with an enchanting wink, after a visit and it always got me ‘geeked’ for the next Christmas – even when the next Christmas was one day short of a year away!

    Grandma also had a habit of saving things like “jello boxes, store bought cake mix boxes, tinned meat cans, some non-mason / glass jars, paper flour & sugar packages, etc., (all the “modern” – 1960’s – grocery store bought containers) during those years for a different, family Christmas tradition . . .

    There were three or four wicker baskets she used at the time, for Christmas Day – one for the “babies”, kids under age 5; one for the older kids still under age 18; one for the cousins & aunts & uncles aged 18 or older and still single; and one for the married couples – and all were filled with these random, recycled grocery containers (again before “recycling” was considered as counter culture or even “politically correct”) and were stuffed / taped / sealed / wrapped in the “funny papers” if the jars were clear glass, so that the content of the mystery gifts were well hidden.

    She would walk about their living room, on Christmas Day, offering each of the family members the opportunity to “pick” (out of the age appropriate basket, of course) our own, extra mystery gift.

    What fun! What excitement! Should I pick the small jello box or the bigger, cake mix box? What about that glass mustard jar wrapped in the funny papers? What a delightful and curious quandary!

    Think I was about 10 or 11 years old before I figured out that – every year – all of the “containers” in the baby basket contained either two 50 cent pieces or a $1.00 bill, the older kid’s basket contained 5, $1.00 bills or a single $5.00 bill, the basket for the 18 & older single folks had two $5.00 bills or one $10.00 bill, and all of the “containers” in the basket for the married adults (one per couple) contained a $20.00 bill! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Even after I figure out the method to Grandma’s Merry Christmas madness . . . I still loved the tradition for the next few years. She passed away in the 1970’s when I was in high school but I still have the loveliest & fondest memories of those bygone Christmas day traditions.

    For several of those 1960’s growing up years my parents and us kids lived in a house that had a crab apple tree in the back yard. Grandma made the most delicious crab apple jelly (it might have had other fruits added as I nor any of my siblings or cousins were never able to find or recreate this recipe of hers to perfection). The only thing I’ve found similar to Grandma’s crab apple jelly was my MIL’s sand plum jelly! I’m drooling with the memories of both!

    I loved, loved, loved, Grandma’s crab apple jelly. Mom and Dad weren’t interested in harvesting the crab apple berries in our backyard and (in hindsight) I think that attitude made my Grandma a bit peeved. 🙂 Grandma once told me that if I would at least pick up the fallen berries (and she explained to me how to recognize a ripe berry from an unripe berry from a rotting crab apple berry) and picked those tiny crab apples I could reach she would make me some crab apple jelly that season! Yippee!

    Oh joy of joys! I’m in like gang busters, Grandma! More crab apple jelly for me! Mom and Dad were (I think – they both died young & have been gone since the 1980’s) tickled at my enthusiasm or at least huge fans of Grandma’s crab apple jelly, too! They actually taught and trusted my pre-teen self enough to use a (6 foot or so?) ladder to pick some of the higher up crab apples and I was never reprimanded for climbing up higher in the tree to reach more ripe crab apples! Yummy, yummy, yummy. I had love in my tummy every year I harvested the crab apples for Grandma’s jelly!

    I could go on & on with such memories, but it’s time for me to start getting things prepped for today’s Thanksgiving menu. Keeping it quite small scale this year as it’s just the two of us and DH has to leave for a work related venture on Friday, but simply must serve Grandma’s corn & oyster casserole (as a side dish) and something like homemade dinner buns (Grandma’s recipe, she’s the one that taught me how to bake bread) – just cuz’ it’s Thanksgiving Day. 🙂

    Ya’ll take care and happy giving thanks, Thanksgiving wishes for all!

  20. Linda Smith says:

    I use the wrappers from around the sticks of butter to grease my baking pans. My 16 yr old granddaughter saw me do it yesterday & asked why. “No use wasting it”, I told her. Her eyes got really big & she said, “Grandma, you are so COOL!” How about that; I’m cool.

  21. Way back before food stamps the government issued commodities. My dad was a timber faller and during the winter work could be pretty slow (high winds and falling trees do not mix well for the workers longevity) so we would qualify for commodities. One winter we got bulgar. No one in the family liked bulgar but we did have dogs. Dad would cook the bulgar and feed it to the dogs every night. When spring came the dogs were in good shape and the food was not wasted. Sometimes I wish they would go back to commodities but I fear that people would have no idea of how to actually cook with the food that would be provided.

    My dad was from a rather large family (death, marriage, divorcee, remarriage) and as a youngster would milk cows on his way to school and on his way home, told stories of sleeping in the lean-to next to the house, having a small skunk like critter sleeping on his bed at one cold winter (never getting sprayed), being raised by his step-mother (even though his mother was living)

    We raised a large garden and would travel to the Umpqua valley to pick fruit/vegetables every fall. Canning and freezing would follow. My mom started me canning when I was just 5 years old.

    The top of the first baby quilt I made was done all by hand (mostly on a cross country trip/return) when I was about 12.

  22. Such great memories!
    When I was young my mother would go out in the woods and pick ferns for money. She cut boughs from the trees and sold Christmas wreaths and gave them away at Christmas time. We would travel out of town to the big berry farms and get gallons of berries to process at home. Canning peaches was something I did as young as 10 years old, having learned with my sister helping mom before that. We would always shoot deer for venison and put in the freezer for winter. Our family together would split, cut and stack wood for the winter. Mom showed us how to cut the heads off chickens, boil and pull out the feathers for chicken dinners. Vegetable gardens were big a bountiful with the kids weeding all summer long. We ate more salads in the summer and meat in the winter, seasonal cooking they call it now, but necessary then. We always butchered a cow for meat and sometimes split a large animal with family. I picked strawberries for money in the summer to buy my school clothes in the fall. Clothes were handed down in our family of six and all the girls knew how to sew & mend. My uncle brought out his homemade wine at Christmas and girls made banana, carrot and zucchini bread for presents to friends. Need extra money? We were taught to mow lawns, tend to neighbors farm animals and other odd jobs. We rode horses for entertainment, swam in the creek, jumped off the barn loft into piles of hay and built forts in trees. If only kids worked more and had less time to get in trouble there would be fewer problems in the world. Of course when times got tough we turned to our grandparents for moral support, since it was their geneartion who went through the depression. One thing both sets of grandparents taught us: never complain, never give up and learn a skill that you can use anywhere to make money.

  23. Zours Bielski says:

    I use grocery plastic bags several times.
    First, to handle the stuff from the supermarket or grocery.
    Then, to for wasted bread or cakes from the bakery’s wastebin.
    Then to carry wasted vegetables or fruit remaining from the market/store/garden.
    Then to contain the remainings for the compost.
    And finally, for the garbage…

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