From the Dust Bowl to Your Door: 8 Lessons from the Great Depression You Can Apply to Prepping

black and white apartment building with colored American flag hanging outside

From 1929 to 1941, the United States experienced over a decade of economic hardship, known as The Great Depression. The American people were left hungry and struggling following a steep stock market crash, changes in world trading, government policy changes, failing banks, and the collapse of the money system. Everyday life during this time required grit and survival skills.

Though it might have been before our time, there are still plenty of survival lessons from the Great Depression that can be applied today. After all, you never know where the economy might go. Check out these eight lessons from the Great Depression that you can use to help prepare yourself for the uncertain future.

Stay Prepared With These 8 Prepper Great Depression Tips 

1. Grow Your Own Food

World events can cause food production to grind to a halt. During the Great Depression, a time of both natural disaster and sharp economic downturn, individuals grew their own food to avoid going hungry. Community and backyard gardens were a necessity. Many opted to grow, can, dehydrate, pickle, and jar their own produce. This allowed families greater independence and to avoid living on rations alone.  

Today, you can prepare by keeping a garden and growing your own vegetables, legumes, and fruits. Stay prepared and self-reliant by growing your own seasonal produce in a traditional backyard garden, a patio garden, or even an indoor garden.  

2. Stock Your Pantry

The Dustbowl suddenly dried up rivers, lakes, and groundwater that people depended upon for survival. Crops were destroyed leaving unprepared Americans without a stable food supply. 

Today, we know that you can never be too sure about what’s around the corner. Though you can’t anticipate the future, you can prepare for it. Start by stocking your pantry with enough food and water now. Survival food kits are an easy and convenient option that you can slowly accumulate over time.

3. Stay Frugal and Save 

One in every four workers was unemployed and short on money during the great depression. If they didn’t have savings, they were dependent upon soup kitchens and the kindness of neighbors and friends. In order to maintain self-reliance, you need to account for uncertainty at all times — that means not taking periods of steady pay for granted. 

The first step when prepping for economic downturns is to start saving now. Start by cutting out excessive spending and instead live below your means whenever possible. Pay down your debts on time and avoid excessive spending.

Finally, consider keeping cash on hand at your home in the event you find banks closed — preferably stowed away in an immovable fireproof safe. 

4. Invest in Tools and Materials

When everyone else starts bugging out — and prices skyrocket for everyday items — you’ll wish you had stocked up on essential household survival items sooner. Start by investing in the tools and materials you need for day-to-day living and for household maintenance tasks now. 

Stay independent of today’s already fragile infrastructure by investing in: 

5. Learn to Conserve 

In times of economic crisis, goods can become expensive or disappear from the market entirely. The best way to start preparing for a crisis? Learn to practice conserving what you have before disaster strikes. Begin by looking at your everyday habits. Are you careful to switch off the lights when you aren’t in the room? Do you leave the shower running before you get in? Do you drive short distances when you could walk or bike instead? From electricity to water to gasoline, it makes good financial sense to do your best to cut down on unnecessary use now. 

As we’ve seen in recent years, single-use items (like toilet paper) can become scarce in times of crisis. Consider other ways you could conserve or reduce costly single-use items in your day-to-day life. For example, start using rags or reusable towels in place of paper towels. Reach for cloth napkins instead of paper. Dine with durable metal cutlery and traditional plates instead of disposable options. Getting out of the single-use-item habit can help keep you prepared for when a crisis strikes — and save you cash in the meantime. 

6. Learn to Repurpose 

Ever heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” The Great Depression taught Americans the importance of repurposing everything. Smart folks during the Great Depression knew how to make use of what they had, whether it be reusing old storage containers, silverware, toothbrushes, or worn tires. Embrace a DIY attitude and get creative with things you might normally discard. 

Easy ways to get started include:

  • Using old ratty T-shirts to clean the windows
  • Washing and reusing aluminum foil
  • Using old silverware or toothbrushes as plant markers
  • Saving cardboard and packaging for note taking
  • Using kitchen scraps to create hashes, soups, or casseroles 

7. Purchase Wisely 

In good economic times, money flows easily. When the economy is on the upswing you may not be too stressed over needing to replace a pair of cheap shoes or a flimsy chair bought at a big box store. However, when times are tough, you’ll be glad to know you have quality clothes and goods you can rely upon. 

During the Great Depression, folks wore clothes until they were threadbare and used items for the complete duration of their lifecycle. For things you wear or use every day, it’s better to make the choice to opt for quality items that can endure — and can be repaired.

8. Sharpen Your Skills

Nowadays, most folks have a single specialized area of expertise. However, in the era of the Great Depression, you had to have a “do it yourself” mindset and the ability to take on an assortment of challenges. In order to be prepared for a recession, or any crisis, you should spend time gaining knowledge. 

When funds are tight, there are plenty of things you’ll need to be able to do by yourself — changing your oil, mending clothing, and even making home repairs. 

Stay self-reliant by learning the basics of: 

  • Sewing
  • Electronics repair
  • Car maintenance 
  • Carpentry
  • First aid and basic home medicine
  • Gardening 

Not only can these skills help you out in a crisis situation, but they could also help you find work in even the toughest of economic conditions. 

Survive and Thrive With 4Patriots 

You never know if (or when) history will repeat itself. Stay prepared for times of economic hardship, natural disaster, or any emergency with 4Patriots. Stay independent and self-reliant by shopping our delicious survival food kids, convenient seed packets, solar generators, and water filtration systems today.