Connect with us
A woman hanging up wet clothes outside on a clothes line.


10 Great Depression Hacks Every Homesteader Should Know

Maybe the old-fashioned way is the better way

My grandparents still practice Great Depression hacks regularly. To them, these Great Depression hacks are more like habits. 

They remember times when there wasn’t enough money to feed their whole family, so they subsisted on ketchup sandwiches. 

Every bite was precious.

So, the idea of the grandkids not eating every bite on their plates horrified my grandparents.

Likewise, my grandparents continue to do many things the “old-fashioned” way, such as line-drying clothes.

To them, this is normal and practical.

For today’s generation, it may seem a bit inconvenient.

But truthfully, it’s wise. Today’s generation has become so attached to modern conveniences that they will struggle if SHTF.

Homesteaders, on the other hand, are always looking for ways to be more self-sufficient.

One of the best ways to embrace self-sufficiency is to embrace the following Great Depression hacks. 

Stirring a large potful of stew.

1. Find Ways to Extend Meals 

During the Great Depression, meat was an extravagance. However, people understood the necessity of protein and full bellies.

That’s why many home cooks used meal extenders, such as rice, lentils, and beans.

These meal extenders helped stretch the food they could afford and provided the calories people needed. 

Knowing how to turn a bit of meat and vegetables into a full, satisfying meal is a hack all homesteaders should know. 

2. Make Your Own Cleaning and Beauty Products

One of the most useful Great Depression hacks is using everyday products to make your own cleaning or beauty products.

For example, if you have items such as baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils, you can whip up DIY cleaning products.

[Related Read: The Homesteader’s Guide to Making DIY Cleaning Products from Scratch]

In addition to using baking soda and vinegar for DIY cleaning products, you can also use everyday pantry items to make your own beauty products. 

For example, combine 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 3 tablespoons of baking soda to make a face mask that will help clean and clear acne-prone skin. 

3. Waste Not, Want Not

During the Great Depression, people understood the value of products.

For instance, they knew they didn’t have money to keep returning to the drug store or grocery store, so they made sure to only use what they needed.

They followed the “just a dab” mantra. 

By only using just a dab (or just what was needed), they ensured they would have enough to last for a while.

Make a point to do the same on your homestead. 

Use just a dab of lotion and invest in a “last drop” spatula to make sure you get your money’s worth. 

A home compost bin piled high with leftover food scraps.

4. Save Your Scraps

My grandparents seemed to save everything – including scraps.

This is another Great Depression hack.

They learned that even scraps serve a purpose.

Citrus peels can be added to DIY cleaning products.

Leftover produce and bones can be used to make stocks and broths.

My grandparents still collect bacon grease in an old Crisco container for cooking. 

If you can’t think of a purpose for your scraps in the homestead, add them to your compost pile where they will help create rich fertilizer. 

[Related Read: Composting Made Easy: Tips for the Homestead]

5. Learn Natural Medicinal Remedies

People didn’t have the money for medical care during the Great Depression, so they relied on their own knowledge of home remedies.

For example, they would drink warm honey tea to treat a sore throat.

If someone had sore muscles, they would apply a plaster of mustard powder. 

Here is a recipe from Herb Wisdom.


  • 4 tablespoons of flour
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • lukewarm water


  1. Combine the ingredients to make a paste that is not too watery.
  2. Spread the mustard paste on half a piece of 100% flannel.
  3. Fold over the other half to make a package.
  4. Apply the poultice to the body.
  5. Leave it on for up to 20 minutes.

Learning how to use medicinal herbs and other natural home remedies is a great skill for homesteaders. 

6. Repurpose and Upcycle

Those living through the Great Depression would never throw something away before carefully considering if it had any other uses.

Empty food jars and shoe boxes were used as storage containers.

One of the most popular examples is how they used flour sacks and feed bags to make dresses for little girls.

Old, worn-out clothes were turned into cleaning rags.

Homesteaders should embrace this same mentality. 

Invest in a sewing machine and learn how to mend clothes rather than buy new ones. 

An outside table loaded with food options at a potluck.

7. Embrace Potlucks

Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency, but that doesn’t mean turning your back on your neighbors.

During the Great Depression, communities came together to make sure one another made it through the tough times.

One way they did so was to embrace potlucks.

Each family would bring a dish to a community gathering, and the community would be fed.

Potlucks still work the same way.

Learn how to make a quick, budget-friendly potluck dish that you can prepare whenever a neighbor is in need or when the community comes together.

8. Use Less Water

Instead of paying a high water bill, use Great Depression hacks to save money.

Make a point to only run your laundry machine or dishwasher when you have a full load.

Add a brick to your toilet tank. This will help you conserve the amount of water used to fill the tank between flushes. 

9. Preserve Food

I haven’t touched on growing your own food because this is typically one of the first things homesteaders do.

However, one of the more important Great Depression hacks is to learn how to preserve the food you grow.

You don’t want to waste it.

Learn how to can, dehydrate, and freeze-dry food appropriately to ensure you use up all of your valuable food.

10. Use Your Hands and Feet

During the Great Depression, folks chose to use their hands and their feet before they paid for something.

Instead of paying for gas and driving a car, they rode bikes or walked.

Instead of using a dryer, they line-dried their clothes.

Instead of using the dishwasher, they hand-washed dishes.

Instead of taking their car to a mechanic, they learned how to do basic car repairs (such as oil changes) themselves.

[See Also: 25+ Homestead Hacks That Will Make Life Easier]

Subscribe for Free

Get access to premium content and more!

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

A woman in a plaid shirt planting vegetables in her garden. A woman in a plaid shirt planting vegetables in her garden.

12 Staple Seeds to Plant in Your Survival Garden


A person feeding chickens from their hand. A person feeding chickens from their hand.

Homestead Automation: Work Smarter


A jar labeled "budget" filled with cash. A jar labeled "budget" filled with cash.

Homestead Financial Planning for the New Year


An old pine tree on its side next to a pile of brown mulch. An old pine tree on its side next to a pile of brown mulch.

16 Ways to Repurpose Your Christmas Tree After the Holidays


Advertisement Flints Stash


Mountain House Sale
Subscribe for Free

Get access to premium content and more!

Privacy Policy | Copyright © 2020

Subscribe for Free

Get access to premium content and more!