The Great Depression changed an entire generation of Americans. My grandma, who was born in 1913, survived the Great Depression as a young adult, and she carried the thrifty habits that she learned during that time with her for the rest of her life. Well into her 80s she was rewashing aluminum foil and saving baggies for reuse as well as recycling coffee grounds to make another cup of coffee.
Many of us no longer have relatives who survived the Great Depression who are still alive. Their frugal ways often disappear with their passing. However, one man, Christopher Cannucciari, a filmmaker, had the foresight to preserve his grandma’s memories and recipes from the Great Depression.
Great Depression Cooking
The result was first the YouTube show, Great Depression Cooking  with Clara Cannucciari and then a book, Clara’s Kitchen. Clara is still alive and well at the age of 97. She began her You Tube shows at the age of 91 and has just recently retired from making any new episodes because, as she says, “I’m pretty damn old.”
Each episode of Great Depression Cooking has two components — Clara cooking and eating a meal she and her family ate during the Great Depression, and Clara reminiscing about her life during those dire years.
Watch a few; I promise you will be hooked. Clara herself is entertaining, and her food, while frugal, looks good. However, what I enjoy most are the economic lessons to be learned through her stories.
Financial Lessons from Clara
Pay off your mortgage. Clara shares that her family didn’t suffer much during the Great Depression because they already had their mortgage paid off. Her father was out of work for six years, but they didn’t have much need for cash because they didn’t have to pay a mortgage. True, they never bought clothes during that time, but she says they were much better off than many others.
Work hard for yourself. Clara’s family fared so well during those tough years because her father grew a huge garden and they had chickens. She said meat was a rare treat, but they had everything they needed with vegetables from the garden and eggs from the chickens.
Barter for what you need. Sometimes Clara’s father would find work, but rather than getting paid, he would barter for a bushel of vegetables. Clara’s mom would can the extra so they would also have food in the winter.
Take advantage of what is free. Winters were understandably difficult for Clara’s family, so they looked forward to the spring when dandelions would begin to grow in the yard so they could have dandelion greens for dinner. Likewise, Clara’s mother saved all of the seeds from the vegetables their garden produced so they would never have to buy seeds to grow their garden in the spring.
There is much to be learned from Clara as her family took frugality to a whole new level because it was necessary for survival. Take a few minutes to watch her videos and try her recipes. Not only will you get to try some delicious new frugal recipes, but you will also inevitably appreciate how rich many of us are now, compared to those who lived during the Great Depression.