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10 Depression-era Life Hacks We Learned From Our Parents

We’ve all heard of things our folks did to save money over the years. Sometimes we don’t even think of these tips as “life hacks.” But, for Depression-era folks these tricks saved precious pennies on a regular basis. It was a time when bartering replaced money sometimes, and when every single scrap got reused in some way. Some of these tips you may already have heard before, but there were some that were new to us!

1) Dash of Salt

Salt Shaker and Sugar Bowl on Vintage Doilie

Via/ Flickr

Put a sprinkle of salt in coffee grounds to make cheap or bad coffee taste better. The salt off-sets the bitter taste that poor quality or old coffee can have. I wish I had known this one in college!

2) Mend Everything

Sock Darning / Mending

Via/ Flickr

How many of you remember using a darning egg? More of a rarity these days, darning and mending were absolutely crucial during the Depression. One way to save money and avoid buying anything new is to constantly repair and mend what you have. This means some of your stockings and socks will be more repair-work than original by the end, but it’s how you save money.

3) Save Every Container

Reused Jars for Pickling

Via/ Flickr

Does your fridge look like it’s filled exclusively with Country Crock and jam? Them’s the breaks when you reuse every container. Today, we often think of the packages that food or consumables come in as completely disposable. But, everything that could be used was used during the Great Depression, so jars and boxes got used over and over depending on their condition. Glass jars for pickling, fruit crates for planters, larger crates for cribs or storage. The list goes on and on.

4) Onion Cough Syrup

Cut Onions

Via/ Flickr

How many of you were given onion syrup by your mom when you had a sore throat? This homemade remedy has been used for generations and is just one example (among many) of how women during the Depression made due with what they had for their families. Anything to save a trip to the drug store or the doctor would have been a welcome addition to the household. The recipe for onion cough syrup is extremely simple. Just follow the recipe and see for yourself.

Peel and slice an onion. Place onion slices in lidded jar, layered with granulated sugar on each slice. In 6-8 hours a liquid will develop: this is the syrup. A spoonful for scratchy throats and stuffy noses is a wonder. Syrup keeps for 1-2 days in closed container. Recipe adapted from Vintage Amanda.

5) Save Celery Bunch Ends

Celery Stalks

Via/ Flickr

This tip not only can help save you money, it could be part of a windowsill or kitchen garden that supplies green foods close at hand in off seasons. Save the last 2-3 inches of your celery bunch. Lightly bury or plant the roots and water well. This plant needs full sun or at least 6 hours a day of good sunlight. You can begin harvesting when the stalks are about 3 inches tall (for young celery). Directions adapted from SFgate.

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