Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Frugal Homemaking Lessons from the Great Depression Inspired by Janette Oke ~ Part 2

"Without frugality none can be rich,
and with it very few would be poor."
~ Samuel Johnson

Thank you for joining us for our second installment of Frugal Homemaking Lessons from The Great Depression Inspired by Janette Oke.  You will find part one HERE which features #1-6. As I had previously mentioned, 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 had many 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. 

#7. Host Potlucks

"No fuss was made, but each family member brought simple food items with them. Lou had a big pot of rabbit stew and some pickled beets. Lilli brought deviled eggs and a crock of kraut. With the roast chicken prepared in our kitchen, we had ourselves quite a feast. There was even a cake for the birthday boy -- and some weak tea for the adults."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Potlucks are the perfect way to show hospitality, practice fellowship, have fun and share food when the budget is tight. Every person invited is asked to bring a dish and the collected food is a feast! During the Great Depression, the church often held these socials where the one-dish casserole was star of the show. People are glad to do this! You provide the clean house and date, they will be more than happy to bring a small share of the meal or dessert. You will also be amazed how each little dish is stretched and blessed into an abundant state on your table!

"There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. When they were filled, he said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above unto them that had eaten."
~ John 6:9-13

#7. Mend and Make Do

"And then I looked across the table to where {she} sat mending work socks. They had more darning than original wool...  She patched my overalls and sewed buttons back on my coat, but there didn't seem to be much she could do about my worn-out mittens... But the following morning when I joined the family at the breakfast table there was a new pair of mittens. She must have stayed up again most of the night in order to knit them. They were the same color as her chore sweater, which I noticed was no longer hanging on the peg by the door where she always kept it. I tried to swallow away the lump that grew large in my throat..."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

"Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" needs a second mentioning in this series. It encourages us to be creative with our resources and with a sewing needle and thread, miracles were made! For starters, you would simply maintain what you had by letting out seams and tucks to make dresses larger and/or longer for your growing girls, patch up pants, mend socks and even shoes! Frayed bath towels would be cut down to make smaller hand-towels and washcloths. Likewise, the thicker (but worn out) dishtowels can be fashioned into serviceable dishcloths. Buttons and zippers can be removed from clothing that is completely worn down and reused while the fabric itself can become rags. Better portions of fabric can be used to cover pathetic looking potholders and embellish small sewing projects. The salvaged pieces can also be saved to make old fashioned patchwork quilts and rag rugs.

Sew the items you need from available and free fabrics (remember the famous flour-sack fabrics recycled into children's clothing, tea towels, bonnets, aprons, etc.). Look in your own linen closet for random pieces that have no real use! You can also find flat sheets and such at yard sales and thrift shops very inexpensively that can be repurposed into napkins, curtains, clothing (remember the Sound of Music?), duvets, runners and so forth. Flannel sheets can be repurposed into re-usable paper towels, soft handkerchiefs, baby blankets, bibs and burp cloths. Be creative with your resources and you will find the challenge to be very satisfying! 

"To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven...
A time to rend, and a time to sew..."
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 3:7

#8. Reduce

"We did make the payment. It was always a miracle to me. But we had to drain ourselves down to practically nothing to do it. We sold off almost all my good stock...  she also sold the silver tea service..." 
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

It is during the lean times that we must assess the situation. What do we own that we really don't need? Perhaps it is that second car? An RV or boat? Or just too much "stuff" in general? Ebay, yard sales and Craig's list are ways to earn a few extra dollars to make ends meet. Most of the time, we can find the bondage from all these extra things very freeing. In the case of a second car, you are also reducing a car insurance bill, an extra registration fee, future fuel expenses and garage space. You don't realize how owning one item can cost you so much!

"A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away..."
~ Ecclesiastes 3:6

#9. Search for Side Work

"Then I thought about the piece of treed crick bottom on the Turley land, and I decided there might be a bit of money in cord wood. (She) clutched at the idea right away, her eyes shining..."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Finding work outside of your regular work to make ends meet was also done. Cutting lumber, preparing cord wood, selling off eggs and cream from the farm, hiring out washing services, cleaning services, selling produce, homemade casseroles, etc., are all ways one made a few extra dollars during lean times. In this modern era, you can also do some bookkeeping and/or quarterly tax reports for smaller businesses from the privacy of your own home. There are also many internet based income opportunities! And once again, there is selling on Ebay (each year I would sell my old homeschool curriculum and use that money to purchase the new year's curriculum), Etsy (if you are crafty) and Craig's List (I wouldn't personally have anyone in my home without my husband present though).

"For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you..."
~ 2 Thessalonians 3:7-8

#10. Let the Animals Forage 

"And with no feed to speak of, the few remaining farm animals mostly had to forage for themselves anyway. Even her chickens had been turned loose to fend for themselves." 
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Those on the farm had not only their families to think of but their animals. If there was an economy, they could be sold off. However, that might not be feasible. Old fashioned foraging was necessary during these rough times. Excess chickens, sheep or goats can also be processed to provide meals for the family table and reduce food consumption on a farm. Dogs can be given food scraps from the kitchen (there wasn't always those bags of Purina...). Lawn clippings can be given to livestock and chickens as a supplement. I have also heard of feeding animals fish from local ponds during the Depression Era. 

"...yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table..."
~ Matthew 15:27b

#11. Take in Boarders or Move in with Family

"(She) tore the envelope open quickly... "It's from the school-board chairman, " she told me. "I wrote inquiring about boarding the teacher."'
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

Boarding houses were quite popular during the Great Depression. It provided a way for many people to keep their homes and for many other people to affordably live in one. In this day and age, boarding strangers could prove unsafe. Consider a relative who would be blessed by living with a family or convert a garage into a separate living quarters that you could rent out. I grew up living with two uncles (at different times), a grandfather and a cousin. The memories are precious! Multigenerational homes were quite normal until a few decades ago. I remember a few of my aged aunts living with my great grand-parents. In the Old World, this is still done in the poorer villages. There is always a babysitter at hand and many hands make light work --- not to mention a lighter financial load! Plus, you may not realize what a blessing your boarding house can be to someone else! 

"And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house,
and received all that came in unto him..."
~ Acts 28:30-31

#12. Prayer Doesn't Co$t a Penny

"I guess it was my Bible and the time I was able to spend reading it
and praying that got me through that long winter..."
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

"...then I heard her simple, fervent prayer, "Help us, Lord, please help us."'
~ Janette Oke, Spring's Gentle Promise

And finally, what has kept many an old-fashioned, God-fearing homemaker sane during challenging times is the precious power of prayer. This doesn't cost a penny but is the most valuable thing we can do. It puts that heavy burden into more Capable Hands. We physically are not able to endure that much stress and sorrow. It will deplete us of our health and strain our joyful presence in the home. These trying circumstances easily create tension, anger and bitterness. Prayer provides not only answers, but peace -- and that is something we all strive for as faithful Titus-2 women in our homes, especially during the hardships as home is our sacred haven, our sanctuary, our refuge.

"Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
~Philippians 4:6-7

"He shall regard the prayer of the destitute,
And shall not despise their prayer."
~ Psalm 102:17

Thank you for joining us in the final installment of Frugal Homemaking Lessons from The Great Depression Inspired by Janette Oke. If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in Titus 2 Homemaking Lessons Inspired by Jane Austen. We will be sharing more in this series shortly. In the meantime, I leave you with these sober words on the subject for the modern-day household as a bit of prevention...

“There is no dignity
quite so impressive,
and no independence
quite so important,
as living within your means.”
 ~ Calvin Coolidge
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 MusingsGood 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).


  1. Thank you JES...this has been so encouraging to read. An answer to prayer this tear filled morning.
    God is good!!

  2. Beautiful Jes. We need to revive many skills and also the attitude that we can be inventive, resourceful and learn things. Today I was thinking how much less food my chickens need because they can forage and eat scraps. I am loving this series! Love Annabel.xxx

  3. I love this!! I haven't read the books, but hope to do so soon!

  4. Love the quote by Calvin Coolidge. We've always tried to live within our means so there were no glitzy purchases. We drive (good) used cars, used tractor, used lawn mowers, etc., but we don't owe anybody anything. :)

  5. JES,
    I so love this! Women back then didn't have it easy or the luxuries we have today and they carved out homes and homemaking skills from many dire circumstances. It is so inspiring and you write about it so beautifully!

  6. Great reading! I finally got my first book of that series from the library. Once Upon a Summer, I think it is. I only have a couple of chapters left so I'll finish it tonight. I've so enjoyed it and am glad there are 3 more!! Thanks for sharing those titles.

    We've had some very lean months here lately so I've been looking at things with a different eye. I'm proud to say that I've managed to re-assemble some old clothes to fashion some *new* ones for summer. If you stare at something long enough, you get ideas!!

    We're thinking about downsizing home-wise. Our house is much too big for us and frankly, it's a lot of work. And the expenses that go with upkeep are more than I'm comfortable with these days. So, I'm doing lots of using up and donating to do without! It's nice to see some extra space in closets, on bookshelves, etc. Still a long ways to go.

    Debby in KS

  7. Jes,
    What a great and informative post! So many points hold true for today!! Thanks so much for sharing and thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!!

  8. Oh Jes ~ what endearing posts (both). The pictures are amazing and the message is a superb reminder of just how blessed we really are and how much we have.
    On a side note: have you read the book Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish? I'd say she was far from a heathen.

  9. Hello JES- As always, a wonderful and informative post. We must learn from the past to prosper in our lives today. Frugality is a good thing and much less stressful than being in debt and living in clutter! Best wishes to you!! ~T

  10. I wish you could really know how much I enjoy your posts!...I love them! So inspiring...so much information...so much love, hope, trust and work shared by family members, neighbors and friends. Sure do wish it were that way today. You encourage me spiritually with each post. Thank you and God bless, norma

  11. These are such helpful, inspiring tips and ideas, JES - and I like the way you weave in scriptures, adding a deeper meaning and purpose to them.

    For some reason "Skylark" (#2 from the Sarah, Plain and Tall video series) came to mind when reading about potluck dinners. When the tremendously difficult time of drought was at hand, Sarah's family and friends all brought a dish to share and gathered around to encourage Sarah and join in celebrating her birthday. It brought so much relief and renewal to her weary soul and I imagine to all those who helped her.

    As for mending, I remember my mother keeping, in our front hall closet, a laundry basket of clothes that needed mending, for when my Nana would come visit and help to lighten the load. Nana was the one that taught me to thread a needle, tie a knot, sew a running and hem stitch, and also to crochet. Nana also kept a large tin of buttons which I now have and at times have added to from our own clothes.

    Thank you for sharing! :-)
    ~ Lynne

    1. Lynne, I smiled about your Nana's button tin. I have my Grandma's button tin, too! She kept her buttons in an old tin that once contained talc. It's really flowery & beautiful. I remember loving to look at her buttons when I was a child. They were like tiny treasures to me. And she always seemed to know where they'd come from! There are even buttons in there from my uncle's old Cub Scout uniform. That's probably from around the late 1940's.

      Debby in KS

    2. Thanks for sharing, Debby! Some of the buttons I have from my Nana's collection are still attached to the store cards from long ago. Many are so unique. I wonder if some of them were handed down to her from her mother. I'm happy for you that you have your Grandma's button collection in that lovely tin. ~ Lynne

  12. Thank you Jes, great ideas and great information.

  13. I was looking forward to this post! Thanks, for sharing!

  14. A great post(s)! I agree so much with using what you already have to make something that you need. So many things can be reused or recycled to become something else. I'm a big fan of 'shopping' my own house for things to make over and am lately getting rid of so much 'stuff'!

  15. Awesome post Jes! Thanks for sharing at Home Sweet Home!


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