10 Ways The Great Depression Shaped Multiple Generations


Save your containers

Everything from a glass jar to a cardboard box could be used again during the Depression, and many of the containers that we throw out today could be used again. Think about this the next time you spend money on plastic trash bags, craft supply organizers, plastic food storage containers, or storage boxes. Something you would normally throw out could be reused instead. Get in the habit of reusing the containers your already have and not buying empty containers at the store.


Make clothes from almost anything

During the Depression, most people made their own clothes, but fabric was extremely expensive. To save money, families would reuse the fabric from flour and feed sacks.  Today, hardly anyone makes their own clothes anymore, but many people are in a cycle of throwing away clothes as soon as they are worn out or outgrown.  Get in the habit of shopping for used clothing instead of new stuff.


Repair your old clothes and shoes

When items wore out during the Depression, many families would repair the clothing and keep wearing it. Replacing buttons and fixing seems was only the beginning. Families also knew how to refit clothing to fit younger siblings and replace the soles that had worn out in shoes. Incorporate this lesson into your life by looking for ways to repair more than just old clothes. Consider if you could save money by repairing appliances and furniture rather than buying new things.


They got conservative in the kitchen

Food costs were an enormous part of a family’s budget.  That made it imperative to see to it that nothing went to waste. A roast chicken could be turned into a casserole, soup stock, and eventually dog food. A bumper crop of potatoes, apples, or other produce could be made to last for months by being incorporated into hundreds of different recipes. Learn to reuse your leftovers and plan ahead to take advantage of sale items at the local grocery store.


Depend on each other

Communities were forced to depend on their members to make it through bad times. Farmers would get together to work on major construction projects such as wells that everyone would benefit from. Women would form sewing circles and watch each other’s children so that everyone could get their work done. No one had to do it on their own.


They learned to watch sales

The Great Depression helped to make sales, coupons, and other retail incentives popular enough that we still have them today.  For the first time, consumers were able to plan their purchases based on these sales and create a budget that would allow them to plan purchases weeks in advance. Today, you can still learn to match sales with coupons and plan your shopping trips so that you’re not buying what you don’t need.



Granted, most people knew how to can their produce well before the Great Depression started, but this era of history made people much more aware of the importance of having a supply of food that could last them through tough times. Today, many people continue this by building a supply of shelf-stable foods when they go on sale, and digging into their stash when they need to save money at the grocery store.


Enjoy simple pleasures

Picnicking and Sunday drives became popular during this era. While wealthy people could afford vacations, many families during the Depression knew that they could be just as entertained by having a picnic near a lake and/or going for a swim on a nearby beach. Look for simple, fun things that you can do with your family that don’t require a lot of planning or money.


Conserve water

The Dustbowl and several other great droughts made it necessary for families to think about how much water they were using and take steps to conserve it. Today, similar droughts in some areas of the country have caused water bills to skyrocket.  While it may not be time to bring out a metal washtub for the whole family to share, it could be a good idea to learn some techniques for saving water.


Never give up

Even though this period was one the hardest times in the lives of many people, they knew that they had to keep working to get through it. Many people took on extra jobs or worked particularly hard to save money and conserve what they had.