11 Great Depression Era Habits and Skills for Modern Times

The Great Depression era, a time of immense economic hardship, also brought forth a treasure trove of skills and habits that were essential for survival. Today, these skills can offer us valuable lessons in frugality, sustainability, and resilience. Here, we delve deeper into each of these 11 skills, offering insights on how they can be adapted and expanded upon in our contemporary world.

11 Great Depression Era Habits and Skills for Modern Times

1. Mastering the Art of Bread Making

Making your own bread daily, as was customary during the Great Depression, is not only cost-effective but also a deeply satisfying practice. Beyond the basic loaf, explore different types of bread, like sourdough or whole grain. Engage in the process of bread making, from milling your own flour to experimenting with various grains. This skill extends beyond saving money; it’s about creating healthier, more nutritious options for your family.

2. The Philosophy of Saving and Repurposing

The practice of saving everything, down to the smallest string, is a powerful antidote to today’s disposable culture. Challenge yourself to find new uses for items that would otherwise be discarded. This could mean turning old clothing into quilts, repurposing jars and containers for storage, or finding creative ways to use leftovers. It’s a mindset that fosters creativity and resourcefulness.

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”

Depression Era Slogan

3. Gardening: Growing Your Own Food

Gardening was a lifeline during the Great Depression. Today, it can be a source of organic, fresh produce. Expand your gardening skills by exploring companion planting, composting, and permaculture principles. Learn about seasonal planting and how to maximize yields in small spaces. Gardening also offers mental health benefits, connecting us to the earth and the rhythm of nature.

4. Raising Backyard Chickens for Sustainability

Keeping chickens provides more than just eggs and meat; it’s a step towards a sustainable lifestyle. Dive into the world of chicken breeds to find ones best suited to your climate and needs. Learn about natural chicken care, from homemade feed to integrating chickens into your garden for pest control and fertilization.

Backyard Chickens

5. Bulk Buying and Efficient Cooking

Purchasing food in bulk and cooking large quantities was a necessity in the Great Depression. Today, this can translate into meal planning and batch cooking, which saves both time and money. Explore methods like freezer cooking or canning to preserve large batches of food. This habit encourages eating at home, reducing reliance on processed foods.

6. Deep Organizational Skills

Being organized goes beyond knowing where things are. It involves creating systems that reduce waste, such as inventory lists for pantry items or regular decluttering schedules. This practice can lead to mindful consumption, where you purchase only what is necessary, reducing clutter and waste.

7. The Craft of Repair and Upcycling

In an age where it’s often easier to buy new than repair, relearning the art of fixing things can be revolutionary. This could mean mending clothes, fixing appliances, or refinishing furniture. These skills not only save money but also cultivate a sense of accomplishment and independence.

“If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled, or composted, then it should be restricted, designed or removed from production.”

Pete Seeger

8. Food Preservation Techniques

Food preservation extends the shelf life of produce and helps in times of scarcity. Expand your knowledge beyond basic canning to include fermentation, smoking, and drying. These methods not only preserve food but also enhance its nutritional value and flavor.

9. Cultivating a Mindset of Contentment

Contentment was a key survival trait during tough times. Today, it translates into practicing gratitude and finding joy in simple pleasures. This could mean prioritizing experiences over possessions, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in community and family activities that foster happiness and fulfillment.

Thomas Fuller

10. Homemade Cleaning Solutions

Replacing commercial cleaning products with homemade alternatives is not just economical but also environmentally friendly. Experiment with natural ingredients to create effective cleaners for different purposes. This practice reduces exposure to harsh chemicals and can be tailored to suit personal health needs.

11. Energy Conservation Strategies

Limiting energy use was crucial during the Great Depression. In modern times, this can mean adopting energy-efficient appliances, using renewable energy sources, or simply being more mindful about energy consumption. Simple changes like using natural light, unplugging devices when not in use, or insulating your home can lead to significant savings.


Embracing these Great Depression era skills is more than a nod to frugality; it’s a step towards a more mindful, sustainable, and fulfilling way of life. Each skill offers a pathway to greater self-reliance and a deeper connection to our environment and community. By incorporating these practices into our daily lives, we honor the legacy of resilience and resourcefulness handed down to us from a generation that knew how to make the most of every resource.


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    Author, blogger, podcaster, homesteading and permaculture enthusiast. I have a passion for sharing what I learn and helping others on their journey. If you're looking for me, you'll usually find me in the garden.

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