10 Depression-Era Hacks That We Could All Still Embrace Today

by Jess Catcher
Jess grew up in Oklahoma before moving to New York to become a writer. She has a cat named Agnes.

For 10 long years between 1929 and 1939, Americans struggled to survive the hardest economic downfall to ever hit an industrialized country.

We read about the Great Depression in our history books, but actually listening to those who lived through it really puts things into perspective. I know my grandparents had it especially hard when their small town in Oklahoma was hit with not only the financial crisis but the Dust Bowl, too.

It’s incredible to think about how much strength folks summoned to bounce back from such immense hardships. I have to admit, looking at all the creative ways they used to thrive in the past listed below, I’m not quite sure I’d be nearly as resilient.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t still benefit from borrowing some of their budget-friendly tricks!

Take a look to see their genius Depression-era hacks and let us know in the comments if we missed any that you know your family relied on way back when.

And don’t forget to SHARE with your friends!

1. Add Salt To Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds

Instead of splurging on fancy grounds, they would buy the cheap stuff and use salt to reduce the bitterness, which sounds like it would only make it more bitter but apparently not!

2. Treat Coughs With Onion Syrup

Sliced onions

It might seem hard to swallow, but this home remedy was used often rather than spending money on medicine or a trip to the doctor.

They would combine red onion, honey, and sugar in alternating layers in a jar and use the extracted liquid for their pesky coughs. While this should never take the place of a doctor trip today, it is a home remedy that many folks swore by.

3. Transform Old Fabrics And Materials Into Outfits

Upcycled pillows

Farming families never wasted anything that could be used as fabric for a new dress or shirt, and they were especially fond of the pleasant patterns found on their animals’ feed sacks and bags of flour. We can still get creative about upcycling old materials today.

4. Hang Wet Sheets Over Doors To Cool Down

Clothes hung on line outside

This handy — and free — trick was often used back in the day to help cool down all the hot air flying around in the summer months.

5. Put Soap Slivers In A Mesh Bag

Soap on dish

Many families relied on making their own bars of soap and needed to ensure that they lasted as long as possible. Gathering the slivers in a porous bag made sure they got every last ounce of suds!

6. Never Throw Away Jars

Bunch of jars

Same went for butter containers, apple boxes, and anything else that could easily be repurposed as a cup, a bowl, or an organizational tool.

7. Grow Groceries With Old Veggies

Backyard garden

Folks reused the stalks from old veggies and herbs to keep their garden full with seasonal goods all year round, even if they lived in a big city.

8. Add Lentils To Meat Dishes

8. Add Lentils To Meat Dishes

Since meat was considered an extravagance at the time, families would often pad their meals with cheaper oats and grains to still get plenty of protein.

9. Use Homemade Toothpaste


Instead of heading to the store for powders or paste, they would grab some baking soda, salt, and peppermint oil from the kitchen to scrub their teeth with.

10. Shave With A Straight Razor

Straight razor

By leaving the razor in mineral oil, they were able to prevent their blades from rusting and keep them lasting so much longer than any disposable options we have today.

Did we miss any tips from the past that folks used to survive way back in the day? Let us know below and be sure to SHARE the timeless advice with your loved ones!