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Frugality tips from the Great Depression

This advice from 1930s issues of Successful Farming magazine still rings true.

Looking through old issues of Successful Farming magazine is such a treat for me. I love seeing the old photos, articles, and ads. When putting together a family feature on saving money on food, I thought it would be fitting to see what the editors of the past had to say on the subject of frugality. 

While the nation was in the Depression and farmers were struggling, our editors tried to remain upbeat. They discussed the important news of the day, of course, but with a positive spin. I suppose farmers already knew how bleak things were, and they wanted a magazine that would make them feel better – not worse.

Here are a few tips on living with less from those past issues.

A return to pioneer meals is a real solution of the food economy question. Such old-fashioned treats as cottage meat pie, chowder, hominy dishes, old-time rice pudding, apple turnovers, and dozens of others spell economy and flavor on any menu.
“Thrifty Meals are Square Meals” by Aubyn Chinn, June 1932

Plant your garden with a canning plan in mind. This saves time and provides vegetables that are young and tender for canning.
– “Budget Your Garden” by Ruth Cessna, May 1933

Selectivity considers many things, but the following are especially important: Does this article I contemplate buying merely catch my fancy for a moment or does it fill a real need? Have I nothing that will do in its place? Will I use it often enough to justify its cost? Is its value, as measured by its usefulness to me, high enough to make a reasonable price unimportant?
– “Double the Dollar’s Duty” by Ina B. Rowe, March 1932

One of the oldest lessons taught by adversity is that to live happily most of us must live simply. Such prosperity as we have had in the past 25 years has caused many of us to forget this ancient truth. We are rediscovering the pleasures and satisfactions of certain features of old-fashioned family life. Instead of spending several dollars to take the family to a movie, many farm parents are reviving the delightful and invaluable customs of family reading and family play.
– “Sweet Uses of Adversity” by F.D. Farrell, June 1932

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