10 Items Grandma Never Discarded

The Great Depression is a significant historical event that all students will likely study multiple times throughout their schooling. It occurred from 1929 to 1939, and individuals who lived during that time quickly learned the importance of reusing or repurposing household items.

Many people probably have memories of their grandparents or great-grandparents who continued to save things even after many years. Here are some commonly preserved items that your grandmother likely never discarded, as why would you if they could still be useful? Isn't that right?

10 Household Items Grandma Never Threw Away

The Depression was a humbling experience for a large part of the world. People gained valuable insights into their resilience and learned to adapt to challenging circumstances. They developed resourcefulness and became adept at maximizing the utility of household items.

Here are some items that Grandma would save to make ends meet.

Fabric Scraps And Sacks

Old bedding or towels were often repurposed during the Great Depression, as resources were scarce and people needed to make the most of their possessions. These items would be cut down and transformed into other things, such as clothing.

Every bit of fabric was valuable, including food sacks made from cotton, commonly used for items like sugar, flour, animal feed, and potatoes.

Resourceful women of that time ingeniously utilized these sacks to create various household items, including clothing, diapers, and curtains.

Interestingly, the mills caught on to this trend and started printing designs and colors on the sacks to make them more visually appealing. This act demonstrated that even large corporations can be considerate and generous.


Paper is another item on the list of versatile household items that can serve various purposes. During the Great Depression, people found various uses for scraps of paper or old magazines, including using them as a substitute for toilet paper, employing them in crafts or as materials for making gifts, and in certain areas, utilizing them to construct shanty towns.

Household Items Such As String And Rubber Bands

These items were repurposed whenever possible to facilitate quick and easy clothing repairs. They were also transformed into toys for children, like slingshots, which could be used for hunting small animals such as squirrels to provide food for dinner.

Furthermore, families utilized them to keep important paperwork, cards, or handwritten recipes organized in one location.


Since most clothing was handmade during the Great Depression, buttons were important among the commonly reused household items. They served multiple purposes, such as mending torn garments or adding a vibrant touch to dull and worn-out clothing, giving them a new lease on life.


During the Great Depression, tires made from synthetic rubber materials had various uses. They were repurposed for mending the soles of shoes, providing durability and extending the life of the footwear. Additionally, when combined with scraps of paper, they were utilized to create a more stable foundation for shanty towns.

Tires could also serve as fuel for fires in desperate situations, although this practice was generally avoided due to the highly toxic smoke emitted when burning them. While tires offered resourcefulness and practicality during difficult times, the health risks associated with burning them made it an option of last resort.

Jars And Containers

Today, mason jars or vintage containers are used in desperate situations for DIY projects or homesteading purposes.

However, during the Great Depression, these containers were essential household items that were repeatedly reused. They provided a reliable means of storing food, keeping it fresh for extended periods compared to simply leaving it on a cabinet, pantry, or countertop. Additionally, these containers helped protect stored food from pests.

Beyond food storage, they were also utilized for organizing sewing materials or storing other items. Moreover, old cookie tins found new life as repurposed lunch boxes, serving a practical function during challenging times.

Household Items Such As Hygiene Products

In modern times, people may only go to a little length to extract every last bit of soap, toothpaste, or shampoo from their bottles. However, during the Great Depression, individuals tried to utilize every drop, even saving and combining remnants.

This was driven by the scarcity of resources and the need to be resourceful. Similarly, candle wax was highly valued and well-spent. It was often repurposed to provide lighting or generate a small amount of heat in extreme situations.

Bacon Grease And Other Food Scraps

Leftover scraps of food during the Great Depression were valuable and not wasted. They were often incorporated into stews or other dishes to create an additional meal or two for families. Moreover, certain vegetables can be replanted and regrown, providing a sustainable source of fresh produce.

Bacon grease, known for its flavor-enhancing properties, was utilized to add taste and depth to otherwise plain meals. Furthermore, food scraps were repurposed to feed household pets or farm animals, ensuring that edible resources were used.

Aluminum Foil

It can be washed and reused for storing food or cooking it over an open flame, providing a practical and versatile option. In addition to its culinary applications, foil also proves helpful as a scrub brush when crumpled into a ball or shaped like a sponge. Its abrasive surface allows for effective cleaning in various situations.

The resourcefulness of utilizing foil in alternative ways demonstrates the ingenuity of individuals during times of limited resources.

Seeds, Perhaps The Most Important Household Item

Saving seeds was an important practice during the Great Depression, allowing families to grow and regrow crops and herbs. This not only ensured a continuous food supply but also provided an opportunity to enhance the flavor of their meals.

By saving seeds, households could sustainably cultivate their produce, adding variety and nutritional value to their diet. The practice of saving seeds exemplifies the resourcefulness and self-sufficiency of individuals during a time when access to food was uncertain.

During the Great Depression, saving common household items was crucial for families to navigate challenging times. However, it's worth noting that this practice has broader significance today. Saving and reusing household items benefits individual households and contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing waste and resource consumption.

Additionally, it can be a means of support for those who have limited access to readily available resources. The lessons learned from the past can inspire us to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices, benefiting us and the world.