We can learn a lot about being frugal from 1940’s housewives. Their wartime efforts can often still be applied to our lives today to help us save money.
I share a lot about 1950’s housewives on this blog but the 1940s were also a very interesting time we can learn so much from. The Great Depression was just ending, World War II was starting, and Oklahoma (where I live) was recovering from the Dust Bowl.
While Americans were more removed from the war than countries like England, it was still hard. A lot of supplies were low and many families lost loved ones in the war.
While many of the men went off to war the housewife was left behind to take care of the home and family. And this also was a time when many women entered the workforce.
The number of employed women in the U.S. grew from 14 million in 1940 to 19 million in 1945, rising from 26 to 36% of the workforce.
Even with this added income for some family, things were still tough. Being frugal was the norm, especially as the memory of the Great Depression was still fresh on people’s minds.
There are so many great things I love from the 1940s. The fashion, style of homes, music, and much more but it was a very challenging time.
We can learn so much from the women of the 1940s. They were strong and they did a lot to help with their own families and the war efforts. Many of the things they did we can put into practice in our own lives to be more frugal and resourceful.
Frugal Tips from 1940’s Housewives
Make the Most of the Food You have
While rationing wasn’t nearly as harsh here in the U.S. as it was in places like the UK, it did impact how housewives cooked. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor and the U.S. entering World War II, there were restrictions on imported foods and a lot of food was diverted to soldiers overseas.
“On January 30, 1942, the Emergency Price Control Act granted the Office of Price Administration (OPA) the authority to set price limits and ration food and other commodities in order to discourage hoarding and ensure the equitable distribution of scarce resources. By the spring, Americans were unable to purchase sugar without government-issued food coupons. Vouchers for coffee were introduced in November, and by March of 1943, meat, cheese, fats, canned fish, canned milk and other processed foods were added to the list of rationed provisions.” –Food Rationing in Wartime America
Housewives had to get creative with their cooking to make up for the rationing. They also weren’t going to waste food like we often do now.
These are some of the ways 1940’s housewives made the most of what food they did have and avoided waste.
- Potlucks were sometimes used as a way to pool limited ingredients to help people enjoy the foods they loved.
- Lower sugar desserts were common. Since sugar was a very limited food item new recipes were created using less of it. Fruit-based desserts became more common.
- Chicory was used to make weak coffee taste stronger.
- Things like soup and meatloaf were used to stretch meat and use up leftovers.
It forced women to be more creative in their cooking and we have some really interesting and great recipes that came from that creativity. A great way to test this out yourself is to skip a shopping trip and shop your home instead, for delicious meals.
Grow Your Own Food
The Victory Garden movement started in the U.S. during the First World War but we saw a reemergence during the Second World War as well.
Food was once again being diverted to the troops and with food rationing in effect Americans had a big incentive to grow their own food.
They grow food in any location they could including flower boxes, apartment rooftops and of course their backyards. Eleanor Roosevelt even planted a victory garden on the White House lawn.
Growing your own food is a great way to save money and is good for the environment. Fresh produce also tastes better. For those in the ’40s, it was also a boost to morale. It helped people feel like they were helping in the war effort.
Take Care of Your Clothes
There were some parts of wartime fashion that was not helpful to one’s budget or the war effort. Some people tried to hoard items out of fear and people sometimes wore newer fashions decided to use less cloth even though they had older clothes that worked just fine.
However, people also were better about repairing and mending clothing than we are today. Learning some basic sewing skills can help you extend the life of your clothing.
Save on Fuel & Energy
A lot of fuel was needed for the war effort so it was rationed and much harder to come by. Public transportation and sharing rides were used more often.
People also walked as much as possible. And travel was limited. People found things closer to them for entertainment.
Being more aware of how often you are driving, using public transit and carpooling more, and walking when possible can really help you save money. It’s also much better for the environment.
People also needed to be very mindful of their energy use during the war. Lights were turned off when not needed and sometimes people even shared rooms so they did not need to heat the whole house.
We have a lot more electronics now so you can find even more ways to save. Don’t leave the TV or computer on when they aren’t in use, run full loads in the washer and dishwasher, and overall just be mindful of the energy you are using.
Thankfully we don’t have to deal with much of the hardships felt during the 1940s and can instead just learn from their wisdom.
Want more frugal living tips from the past? Check out these posts-
Free Printable 1940’s Frugal Habits Checklist
If you want to try and make some of these things habits you use now get this free printable checklist. You can put it on your fridge or in a home management binder and try to do each of these things.
Some you may want to keep doing and some may not work for you but it’s a lot of fun to try! Sign up below to get the free printable.