Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Frugal Homemaking Lessons from the Great Depression Inspired by Janette Oke ~ Part 1


"Frugality is founded on the principle that all riches have limits."
~ Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797)

My daughter and I just finished reading the Seasons of the Heart series together by Janette Oke. The final book in the series, Spring's Gentle Promise landed the newly married couple right in the beginning of the Great Depression. As a result, the novel included a few gems on how women made do during the lean times. The author herself grew up as a child during the Depression Era. Perhaps these are the frugal homemaking lessons she learned from her mother. I would like to pass them down to you... inspired by the excerpts written by Janette Oke from her gentle story.

Note: This was a really sweet (and often humorous) coming of age novel. It is told from the point of view of a young boy growing up an orphan on the farm with his elderly grandfather, uncle and young aunt. The set of four stories takes him all the way to manhood and with a family of his own. I don't want to ruin the plot for anyone who has not read it so I am going to remove his wife's name from the quotes and replace it with "her" and "she" in order to keep the suspense for a future reader.



#1. Economize

'"Anything I can do?"

I could have said, "Economize. Watch each dollar. Skimp all you can." But I didn't need to say those things. I knew she would do that without me asking."
 ~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise


"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" was the famous mantra of the Depression Era. If we scrutinized every dollar and decision with those words in mind, we would benefit greatly. Do I really need this? Most likely you have gone thus far without it and you can continue to if your budget is breaking. The word "skimp" is rarely said in this modern culture of abundance but it is the foundation of frugal living.


Make a list before you go out and buy only what you truly need. For example, if you were to purchase something in the dollar bin because it was such a "great deal" and yet you really did not NEED it, you are not practicing a frugal lifestyle. It only means you have just spent a hard earned dollar. Many dollars make up 20's and many 20's will make up hundreds!



Buy groceries from bargain food outlets, look for scratch/dent specials, discounted day-old bread and marked down dairy about to expire (they are still good past the due date and whatever can not be consumed in time can be made into meals and frozen). Cook recipes with thrifty ingredients that don't require butter, eggs or milk (such as this crazy carrot cake). Accept hand-me-down clothes and shop exclusively at second hand stores, garage sales and estate sales. Cancel subscriptions to magazines, cable and the newspaper if necessary and utilize your local library instead. Invest in reusable products when possible. Consider handkerchiefs instead of tissue paper, fabric towels instead of paper towels, fabric napkins in lieu of throw-aways, cloth diapers versus disposable and cloth bags instead of paying for the store bought ones.



The other aspect of economy would be services. Are you paying for things you can do yourself such as manicures, yard maintenance, gym memberships (running and jogging are free forms of exercise), making your own meals, baking your own bread and so forth? Consider budget cuts in these areas when the times are lean. Here is our guide to Prudent Living the Pretty Way. It does take willpower and work to achieve these things but your household will be significantly blessed by your efforts!

"... he that gathereth by labour shall increase."
~ Proverbs 13:11b


#2. Grow and Preserve Your Own Food

"All summer long she fought to save her garden. With our finances as they were, it was even more important that she have produce to can or store in the nearby root cellar. Day by day she carried water by the pail and dumped it on her plants, coaxing them, imploring them to bring forth fruit."
 ~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

I think this lesson is quite obvious. There is nothing more frugal than growing and preserving your own food. Freezing and dehydrating are great options if canning is not feasible. I would also like to point out that this is the only way we can afford to eat organic which is an added benefit!

"And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it."
~ Genesis 2:15


#3. Save Your Seeds

"She planted her garden too. She had carefully kept every possible seed so she wouldn't need to buy any. She even exchanged some with the neighborhood women..."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Once you have the gardening and preserving in action, it is time to take it to the next level. Seed saving is not only a thrifty step but a self-sustainable one. If you have an abundance of certain seeds, trading is a wonderful option for building up a collection. Seeds also make nice and frugal gifts (visit here for an idea)! 

"And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
 ~ Genesis 1:29


#4. Conserve

"She knew better than to even start drawing water from the well. There simply wasn't enough there. She saved every bit of dishwater and wash water that was used, though, and carefully doled it out to her plants."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Learning to conserve water and energy will not only save you money, but will also prove a valuable skill during hard times.  If any item is not in use, unplug it! The plug itself will leach a certain amount of energy (called energy vampires). All our electronic equipment is hooked up to a power cord and I unplug it every evening before bed to conveniently reduce consumption. Unscrew excess lightbulbs in ceiling fans during the day that are not necessary and keep all lights and fans off in rooms where no one is present.


Water should not be taken for granted either. During a crisis, it may not even be available. When our well ran dry, we collected the water in the shower that got wasted as we waited for the hot water to run through the pipes (it took that for us to value this resource!). Do you wash your dishes and brush your teeth as the water runs? In the old days, baths were once a week on the evening before church and the same water was used for everyone in the home!  I am not saying we all should do this but how seriously do we conserve? Do you catch rainwater? Every ounce counts as it is a precious commodity. It may be wise to re-evaluate the conservation efforts of water and energy in your home today. 

"Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture—and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?"
~ Ezekiel 34:18


#5. Smaller Servings and Stretch Your Suppers

"It was another of the things we had learned to do without. Coffee -- weak coffee-- was reserved for breakfast, and each of us was allowed only one cup a day... She sliced some bread and spread some of her carefully hoarded strawberry jam over it -- thinly, I might point out. She set this on the table to go with the coffee."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Stretching your provisions by adding oatmeal (or legumes) to a pound of hamburger, watering down coffee or tea, limiting your daily "cups", rationing your special foods or simply serving up smaller portions will positively impact the budget during lean times. Making large batches of soup and stews will stretch vegetables and meats and create multiple meals. Serve with filling foods such as simple muffins or biscuits. Purchase a whole chicken (it is more economical) and roast it or pressure cook it. Remove the meat from the bones and use it to prepare many meals such as chicken pot pie, chicken and dumplings, chicken casseroles, chili, chicken n' biscuits, etc. Take the remaining chicken bones and boil them for a rich, nutritious soup and/or rice base which in turn has created more meals. If you butchered the chicken yourself, the feet can be boiled into a nutrient-rich broth and even the feathers were made into bedding during the Great Depression. When living with my great aunt who grew up in that era, I found that she would take the oil that she fried her foods in and once warm, she would filter it back into a clean bottle. This oil would be used again and again in her cooking (for safety, give it a 3-month shelf life). 


Serving your food on a smaller plate will give you the sense of abundance when a reduction is in order. Cutting toast into triangles also helps with the bountiful table image. Serve water with meals, iced/hot teas or herbal tisanes for frugal beverage options (mint is easy to grow and is a very healthy, tasty drink). I would also like to add something about children's servings. I notice that so much is placed on their plates and 3/4 of it gets thrown away (it grieves me so!). There is no shame in starting off with smaller portions. They can always ask for more! But to give them so much and then to dismiss them from the remains is a grave amount of waste. And finally, don't forget to save your food scraps! Vegetable scraps can be boiled down into a tasty stock which can be drunk as a healthy, hot, beverage in the winter or used as a base for rice, soups and stews. The scraps can also be fed to chickens or composted. Fruit scraps are especially fun to work with and can be made into many useful household products! Remember, "waste not, want not."

"Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."
~ John 6:12b


#6. Seek Comfort in the Psalms

"I took my Bible and began to leaf through it, looking for some kind of comfort in its pages. I read a number of Psalms and they helped..."
 ~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Many sad souls turn to the bottle during hardships which brings them into deeper debt and despair but the believer drinks in the Living Water. The Word of God is free comfort food for the soul! Whenever challenging times come, the Almighty has provided us with promises to sooth our sorrows (some may fulfill in your lifetime while others may fulfill in the eternal life to come). When in need, go to the Psalms. Whatever distress, hopelessness or agonizing trials, you will find solace from every affliction in those pages. This is what has kept the faithful homemaker's of the past afloat when they felt like they were drowning in heartache.

"My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."
~ Psalm 73:26


Thank you for taking the time to visit here today (part 2 will be shared shortly). If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in Titus 2 Homemaking Lessons Inspired by Jane Austen. Have a lovely week and happy frugal homemaking to you!
All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The Scoop, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link Up and Create, Bake, Grow & Gather. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

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56 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post, JES. And I haven't read this series by Janette Oake (even though its on the bookshelf) so I appreciate that you used pronouns instead of the wife's name in your article. I'm glad you addressed the far too common practice of loading children's plates with more food than they can or will eat only to throw it out when they leave it untouched. It seems so wrong to me, but I think the parents just haven't really thought about what they're doing. And if anyone kept an eye on the tweens' plates at fellowship dinners they'd pass out from the shock of seeing so many sweets in one spot, lol. It shouldn't surprise us that they often develop health problems that could have been avoided. Well, there's my rant for the month. ;)
    Have a great day!

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    1. Thanks for sharing! I often laugh and think... when did I become so "old" and "mom-like" in my thinking! :)

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  2. I read that entire series too. When our tiny library closed, I bought the entire series to pass on to my kids. I should read them again.

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    1. We really enjoyed it. I thought it had a lot of great topics for teenagers and the difficulties and temptations they face today...

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  3. What a blessing your articles are for me! I especially enjoyed this one and look forward to the next one.
    Thank you!

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed this!!! Thank you so very much for the encouragement! :)

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  4. Love this post. Very practical advice, and the photos reminded me of my growing up with my grandparents back in the 60s in rural Oklahoma. I haven't read the series, but since I'm at the library, I think I'll see if they have it!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Evelyn and for sharing a bit... Have a lovely week! :)

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  5. Great post! Janette Oke is one of my very favourite authors (although I could not get into this particular series).

    Christina
    www.ourwoodhome.com

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Christina! My daughter and I found the books very amusing -- I wish they would do a movie series on them! :)

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  6. Such a blessing I have received from this article, thanks so much!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by to encourage! :)

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  7. Great post! :) I really enjoyed reading it.

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  8. I was fascinated by the photos. Great advice. I would also add mending especially clothes to make do. How often these days does a shirt get discarded because of a missing bitten or rip. Clothes that were once Sunday best when patched and mended can serve as yard clothes and after that date for cleaning etc.

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    1. Good point! We will be discussing more about mending in part 2 also! :)

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  9. Your timing for this article was perfect. And, I'm thrilled to have a new to me series to read. Thanks!

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  10. Lori in MissouriApril 4, 2017 at 7:49 PM

    This post has to be one of your very best! I am always blessed by your articles but this was especially wonderful. I liked all the pics but could almost feel an actual time travel in the photo of the lady standing in her garden after she had hung her bright white washing on the line! I think that was my Grandma!
    I've read J. Oke but never that series so thanks for the review.
    I look forward to part 2 of this helpful information.
    Thanks JES for all the time spent in ministry to your fellowship of kindred homemakers.

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    1. And thank you for taking the time to comment Lori! I really appreciate the feedback! :)

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  11. Hello Jes, I found this so encouraging today. I am wondering if you are able to link the above books to Kindle. I find kindle so much cheaper, which enables me to actually purchase a few more of your recommendations. Just a thought.
    Blessings Gail.

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    1. Hi Gail, Hope all is well! When you click on the book link, there is usually an option for Kindle. If you click that, our link will still get recognized. Thank you for asking and caring! :)

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  12. I love Oke's books but I actually haven't read that particular series. I keep meaning to. All these tips are wonderful :-)

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  13. I love Janette Okes and all her books. I have this series and have read them often. She is such a good writer. She definitely needs to make a movie on these.
    Great post with some great advice!
    The photos were very fascinating. How hard, but simple they lived. My how things have changed. I remember my grandma telling me stories of the Great Depression and what they had to do to survive.
    I can't wait to see your next post.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Blessings, Amy

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to visit Amy! Have a lovely week! :)

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  14. Hello JES,
    Such a lovely post to help us remember that money doesn't grow on trees! There's so much waste in our society these days. To be reminded of frugal ways from the Depression Era can bring us all down to earth and to reality. Good lessons in your post! ~T

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    1. It sure doesn't!

      Thanks for taking the time to share here today! :)

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  15. I have read several books about the depression. I read Mrs. Clara cookbook, its full of information. I plan tovsee if our library has some of the books you suggested. I would stiĺl like to get your address, so I can order your book.Have a blessed day.

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    1. Sure Sharon! Just send me an email! Also, some of the books are for children... and some of the links are actually movies and not just books. Have a lovely week!

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  16. I believe there IS a movie called Seasons of the Heart! Found it on YouTube. I have yet to watch it, but excited to do so! ~T

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    1. Hi T -- I did look into it and that Seasons of the Heart is a different storyline though it still looks good!...

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  17. JES,
    I just love this! I have read all of Janette Oke's books and love them all. They are making a lot of her books into tv series or movies. Starting with Love Comes Softly. They are really good too. Hallmark Channel plays them a lot. I love saving and finding new ways to save too. We have big tanks that catch rain water that we use to water the garden and bathe the dogs if we had to we could use it for other things. Before we put them in one year I saved my garden with water from a ditch that runs along our property I remember well hauling those buckets of water and giving each plant just enough, but I was able to save the garden until we got rain even though many made fun of me for it. We try not to let anything from the garden go to waste so canning, freezing and dehydrating the extra is always done plus we feed some to the chickens and make our dog food. My dogs eat better than some humans I imagine. Simple foods to me are the best I would much rather have a big pan of fried cabbage and noodles any day over an expensive steak! Oops I'm getting windy again! LOL Sorry Jes! I look forward to more of your posts like this they are so sweet to me!
    XOXO
    Vicky

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    1. Thanks for sharing Vicky! That is wonderful that you were able to save your garden by being thoughtful of your resources! You have quite the pioneering heart my friend! We really do eat simple foods here also... and when we butcher our cows, we also have quite inexpensive steak options :) Usually they are grilled with zucchini from the garden and a nice home grown salad! Thanks for visiting!

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  18. Another lovely and inspiring post...challenging, too. I love Janette Oke and have read book one of this series, with plans to read the others soon. Her writings are always some of the best {{smiles}}

    My Grandpa grew up in the Great Depression, and I grew up hearing story after story about that time in history and how he lived and coped with all that was going on. It really had a tremendous impact on his life, and continued to shape him until his death just two years ago. He would have been 96 this year!! I am thankful for all that he shared and taught me through his stories and wisdom. He was a man who greatly loved God, sacrificially loved and provided for his family, and proudly served his country. This post reminded me of him and all that he passed down.

    Thank you for this post and for the reminder of some sweet memories. I love all these posts you are doing, so keep them coming! :)

    Joy and peace to you,
    Elizabeth

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing Elizabeth! I really enjoyed learning about your grandfather. He sounds like a "good old boy" and I wish there was more of them these days... We will have to try our best at raising some! Thank you for the encouragement. I really appreciate it! :)

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  19. Abundance has made us very wasteful, hasn't it? My husband and I are pretty good about not replacing things that are still usable, but there are other things that we aren't as careful with. My mom has started living with us and it has reminded me of how many things we use and throw away. She's much better about making things stretch and using things up.

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    1. I do notice that the elderly have such a natural way of frugality because it was a necessary part of their life! We can learn so much by spending time with them, watching them and simply listening to the stories of long ago... How I miss my grandmothers! Thanks for sharing Donna!

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  20. This was great information. Thank you for sharing. I can't wait for part two.

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    1. Thank you Chrissy! I appreciate your positive feedback! :)

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  21. I was just thinking about this type of thing over the weekend. I was reading The Nightengale by Kristen Hannah and it takes place during World War II in France... I was amazed at the ingenuity of the women to stretch every last ration and cent.

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    1. Yes, we can learn a lot from our ancestors! Thanks for sharing!

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  22. Dear JES, thank you so much for these lovely words of encouragement in frugality! It is true as you say that in today's environment of abundance these things are hardly ever mentioned. I really enjoyed the pictures, they really are a reminder of how things were and how blessed we are today. You are such an encouragement! ☺️

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    1. Thank you Jackie for taking the time to comment! The sad about about the pictures is that these were the milder ones... Those living in the Dust Bowl area would just break your heart...

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  23. That was interesting, Jes, and the photos really brought back the atmosphere of the time.
    Amalia
    xo

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  24. Well written Jes. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

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    1. You are most welcome! Thanks for the visit : )

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  25. I love articles like this! It is such encouragement to find the 'right' in making difficult decisions. Modern culture tends to belittle such decisions and can make it harder.

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    1. Very true but it is so refreshing to forge your own paths! :)

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  26. I really like these practical tips that are very do-able, and I love the Psalm you shared at the end, JES. So many times the Psalms have been a comforting help to me. ~ Lynne

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment Lynne! I appreciate it :)

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  27. Those sound like really good books, I am definitely going to have to read these. I love all the ideas and several of them I already try to use. I am going to order these ( I will go thru your link :))
    Have a great day
    Connie

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  28. Jes, thank you for your inspiring posts...I find your writings entertaining as well as inspirational. I am a "senior lady" - retired and at this time living alone. ( My family still lives on the farm) I have found that the idea of being frugal is more and more a good and wholesome way of life, not to mention necessary. I hope young people these days realize what a blessing it is to read and heed your posts.

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    1. Dear Julie, thank you for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and for the encouragement... I really appreciate it! Love, JES :)

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