Remember When: Ideas from The Depression and WW2

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Remember When?

One thing that we sometimes forget is that conservation and frugality is not a new practice. During the Second World War, our parents and grandparents had to be very creative in running their households on the Home Front. I would be very interested in advice and suggestions from our older readers on how they made things go a little further, and last a little longer.

Mother of Invention

My mother-in-law has told me about a shortage of rubber pants for babies during WWII. She solved the problem by buying shower caps at the drugstore and cutting holes for the legs!
Marie D. in Klamath River, CA

Memories from England

My mother was a war time wife & young mother in England. Even in the 1950's I remember her saving used matches near the gas stove. This was in the days before automatic ignition & pilot lights on gas cookers. She would strike a match to light one of the burners. If she needed to light another burner later on, she would take one of the 'dead' matches & light it from the already lit burner - she told me this was something they did in the war to save matches.

Also in WW II, with an acute shortage of stockings, the young women would rub gravy browning into their legs and draw a fake seam up the back of their leg with an eyebrow pencil!

She had no money or resources to buy her first baby a Christmas gift. She took one of his terry toweling nappies (diapers) & sewed it into a little toy dog, using permanent black ink to draw on spots and a face !! Orange boxes were turned into furniture - someone gave her an old carpet - she cut off the border & hand stitched the edges to make a stair carpet - the centre piece was similarly finished & used as a large floor rug. Old parachutes were made into underwear etc. Nothing was ever wasted - everything had a use !!
Jeni in Australia

At the Butcher

In the early days of WWII, my mother would send me to the local meat market to buy chopped meat (I don't know if it was called hamburger in those days). It was 25 cents for two pounds. As I was leaving the house, she would tell me to be sure to ask the butcher for some soup bones and also some suet, which he would happily include in the 25-cent purchase.
Joe B

The Things We Did

Remember when:

  • We darned our socks?
  • We turned the collars on our shirts?
  • We cut the buttons off before discarding clothing?
  • We replaced the waist elastic on slips, pajama bottoms and other items?
  • We replaced the elastic closures on bras?
  • We squeezed every last smidgen of toothpaste from the tube and then saved the tube for the war effort?
  • We drove the car only once for a week's errands to save gasoline?
  • We walked to save money?
  • We read all our books from the library because they were too expensive to buy?
  • We traded magazines with our neighbors to save money?
  • We smoothed and folded wrapping paper and ribbon for reuse?
  • We made our own bread crumbs?
  • We baked from scratch?
  • We cooked whole chickens and used all the parts from breast to broth?
  • We cooked bone-in hams and the bone-flavored beans or soup was the best part.
  • We used hankies instead of tissues; cloth napkins instead of paper?
  • We diapered our babies with clean-smelling, air-dried, soft cloth diapers?
  • We seldom ate a meal in a restaurant?
  • We saved the leftovers and made big pots of soup?


Grandma's WW2 Recipe

Although I am not an older reader, this made me remember a recipe of my grandma's that she gave me. It is from World War II. They had to ration their use of butter, eggs, and milk. I haven't made it in a long time, but the question prompted me to pull it out; in looking at it again, this is a very economical dessert.

BEM CAKE (aka Butterless, Eggless, Milkless Cake)

  • 1c seeded raisins, boiled in 2c water until 1c water remains
  • 1c sugar
  • 2T shortening
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 1t nutmeg
  • 1t baking soda
  • 2c flour

Mix ingredients thoroughly, bake in a 325-350 degree oven until toothpick comes out clean.
Tami B.

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Home Economics

Remember when the heel of loaves of bread were saved and used to make stuffing or as croutons in soups. Fried bacon grease was saved and used as a cooking oil. Leftovers were saved and combined to make tasty soups. Oatmeal was used with ground beef (3 lbs./dollar) to feed large families of 6, 8 or more. Salad dressings were homemade, baked fresh bread and cinnamon rolls were common. Mainly, women stayed at home and raised the family - spiritually, morally and socially. Home economics was taught at home and Mom was a financial wizard that could save money under dire circumstances. Love and self-sacrifice was the norm and not the exception.

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