10 survival lessons from the Great Depression

Keystone/Getty Images

As we've seen with the 2008 Great Recession and the stock market ups and downs the past few weeks, our society will never be immune to negative economic outcomes.

Whether it be a stock market crash or a foreign attack on our banking systems, there are a variety of potential situations that could negatively impact our financial well-being as individuals and as a country.

Fortunately, there's a lot we can learn about preparation for economic worst-case scenarios simply by looking at the recent past—the Great Depression, for example.

The Great Depression started when the stock market crashed in 1929 and lasted until 1939. By its lowest point in 1933, roughly 15 million Americans were unemployed and nearly half the country's banks had failed.

Thanks to human resilience and creativity, many people were able to survive this tough time in U.S. history.

That's why today I'm sharing ten concrete survival tips we can glean from the Great Depression. Understanding what people did to survive during this tough economic period helps us to prepare in advance for similar situations.

With tightening monetary policies and geopolitical risks, Morgan Stanley analysts have determined that 2018 is on track to be the most volatile since the financial crisis.

There's no better time to read this list and prepare yourself and your loved ones.

And with that, here they are...

#1 Grow your own food

During periods of economic hardship, the last thing you want to do is rely on external systems for your own food sources.

During the Great Depression, the United States' industrial production dropped by half.

Farmers couldn't afford to harvest their crops, and bread lines, soup kitchens, and rising numbers of homeless people became fairly common in America's towns and cities.

About 20 percent of the population lived on farms. Fortunately, many city dwellers still had gardening knowledge from their country days. If your family had a cow and a garden, you were considered rich.

Today, with a growing urban population, it's less common to possess basic gardening knowledge. We've lost that skill overall in our culture.

But in the case that grocery stores become too expensive or simply run out of food during a financial meltdown, it will be essential to know how to grow your own food.

Take the time now to learn how to plant and harvest foods—whether in your house, backyard, or on your rooftop.

At My Patriot Supply, we have a product called the Survival Seed Vault by Patriot Seeds, which are perfect for gardens like those grown during the depression.

Containing 21 varieties of USDA Certified Organic Heirloom Seeds, they can last 5+ years in proper storage.

#2 Learn to hunt, fish and forage

Like learning to garden, it's equally important to learn to find and hunt your own animal protein sources...before disaster strikes.

If you have a family member or friend who's experienced, there's no better time than now to ask for a lesson in the basics. Who knows? Maybe you'll discover a new hobby along the way.

During the Great Depression, foraging for edible plants helped many people sustain themselves.

For example, nuts and wild asparagus were common findings for families that would go out foraging for the day. Identify the areas in your local community where you can find and harvest additional food. Keeping a deck of Edible Wild Foods Playing Cards nearby would be of help as well.

#3 Turn to a barter system if banking systems shut down

In the years and decades before the Great Depression, banks were revered. No one ever considered the idea that they could fail and that their money would simply disappear. When many of the banks closed down as a result of the crisis, the only cash people had was whatever they had on hand or stored up at home. This was unfortunate, because the banks would close down with virtually no warning—leaving no time to go make cash withdrawals from accounts. And people were forced to rely on other forms of value exchange.

Bartering is an age-old practice that human civilizations have used for generations—even before banks were created.

During the Depression, payment was often made with eggs, fresh milk or produce. Bartering was also beneficial because it meant that families could add different types of food to their meals—expanding the variety of produce they could consume.

Bartering makes an additional case for learning to grow, hunt and forage for food—it gives you more of a base to use in negotiations and trades. Bear in mind that food isn't the only valuable item—during the Depression, things like wood could be collected, split and exchanged as firewood.

In our modern-day context, everything from additional fuel for camp stoves to ammunition for weapons can be valuable barter items. See our recent Survival Scout article on the Top 15 Items That Disappear When Disasters Strike for more valuable barter items.

#4 Be as resourceful as possible

If you have a grandparent or parent that lived through the Great Depression, you've likely heard or seen them express values of resourcefulness and frugality. They were our last, truly self-reliant generation.

For example, they might tell stories about how they used...

  • Pieces of rubber tires as replacement soles when shoes were worn through.
  • Anything and everything you might find in the kitchen or that was donated by others to make what became known as "Depression Soup."
  • Flour-sacks to make dresses.
  • Newspapers to wrap presents.

Knowing how to reuse and recycle everything was the name of the game in those days—and something we can all benefit from.

Challenge yourself to see everything as multifunctional, and get creative with what various items can be used for, in the event that your resources are depleted.

#5 Sleep outside during heat waves

Air conditioning is a luxury many of us take for granted. In the case that it becomes too much to afford or your unit breaks and replacement parts cost you a small fortune, you'll need to find ways to beat the heat.

During the summer months of the Great Depression, it wasn't uncommon to see whole families sleeping on their front lawns or in local parks.

Additionally, they would use other cool-down tactics such as hanging wet sheets over doorways. Hot air was slightly cooled as it passed through the wet fabric.

#6 Strengthen family and community bonds

During the Great Depression, it wasn't uncommon to have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins living in the same house or vehicle. With so many displaced, it was critical to rely on extended family for help.

The same was true of neighbors, and you'd see people donating meals and money whenever possible. Some communities even organized what they called "surprise parties." They would collect food and necessities (including cash), and then designate a particular family to receive the collection at each surprise party.

This spirit of generosity and community bonds is apparent in many stories from the Depression. The people who did well during this difficult time were often those who depended on family and friends and were able to be depended on by others.

Take the time to establish and strengthen these bonds, with neighbors and your local community, now—don't wait until an economic collapse makes everyone desperate.

#7 Be a jack-of-all-trades

When it came to finding work during the Depression, it helped to be a jack-of-all-trades. These people could often find work when others couldn't.

The following skills will come in handy during periods of hardship:

  • Sewing/knitting
  • Fixing plumbing
  • Home or car repairs
  • Gardening, canning/food preserving
  • Sharpening or making tools
  • Butchering and curing meat
  • Metal- or woodworking
  • Gunsmithing
  • Cheese or candle making
  • Recognizing wild edibles

In our knowledge-based economy today, handymen and jacks-of-all-trades are harder to come by. Develop a competitive advantage and learn these skills now. They will certainly come in handy (no pun intended) later.

#8 Stock up on supplies

During the Great Depression, housewives could be judged by how many jars they had "put up" during harvest season.

When things go awry, you can bet that items will be flying off the shelves at local stores. Don't wait until then to stock up on the essentials, or to start canning and jarring your own food. Make sure you have enough stored up to last you for several months, at the very least.

To get you started, at My Patriot Supply, we sell a Three-Month Emergency Food Supply that can provide you with a strong hedge against economic downturn. With a 25-year shelf life, this supply includes delicious meals that average 2,000+ calories per day for one person.

#9 Don't rely on credit cards or loans

Too many of us rely on credit cards and loans from the bank to make big-ticket purchases.

However, during the Depression, many people had to buy their first cars and homes in one lump sum since they couldn't rely on a bank to give them a loan. To do this, they would live with family members and save whatever cash they could as they worked.

Avoid taking out a loan and going into debt—and start saving a supply of cash now.

You should also make sure you have a supply of assets outside of cash or credit. Whether it be houses, land or precious metals, make wise investments into long-lasting items of value. As we've seen with the Great Depression, keeping the majority of your wealth and money stored at the bank isn't exactly the most secure solution.

#10 Remain positive 

Aside from relying on barter systems, growing your own food, and learning to hunt and scavenge, there's a great deal of mental resilience needed to survive tough events like the Great Depression.

According to Murray Hunn, head of global research at Elliott Wave International, "We think the major economies are on the cusp of this turning into the worst recession we have seen in 10 years."

With predictions like this, there's cause for preparation.

And as one woman who survived the Great Depression shared, "Poppy always said the world turns and everything that has happened would happen again. I am sure if he were still with us today he would be warning us to start a garden and buy some chickens."

Take these lessons in stride, and learning from the past makes all the difference when life as we know it changes drastically.


This article originally appeared on MyPatriotSupply.com.

On Wednesday's TV show, Glenn Beck sat down with radio show host, author, political commentator, and film critic, Michael Medved.

Michael had an interesting prediction for the 2020 election outcome: a brokered convention by the DNC will usher in former First Lady Michelle Obama to run against President Donald Trump.

Watch the video below to hear why he's making this surprising forecast:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

On Thursday's "Glenn Beck Radio Program," BlazeTV's White House correspondent Jon Miller described the current situation in Virginia after Gov. Ralph Northam (D) declared a state of emergency and banned people carrying guns at Capitol Square just days before a pro-Second-Amendment rally scheduled on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Jon told Glenn that Gov. Northam and the Virginia Legislature are "trying to deprive the people of their Second Amendment rights" but the citizens of Virginia are "rising up" to defend their constitutional rights.

"I do think this is the flashpoint," Jon said. "They [Virginia lawmakers] are saying, 'You cannot exercise your rights ... and instead of trying to de-escalate the situation, we are putting pressure. We're trying to escalate it and we're trying to enrage the citizenry even more'."

Glenn noted how Gov. Northam initially blamed the threat of violence from Antifa for his decision to ban weapons but quickly changed his narrative to blame "white supremacists" to vilify the people who are standing up for the Second Amendment and the Constitution.

"What he's doing is, he's making all all the law-abiding citizens of Virginia into white supremacists," Glenn said.

"Sadly, that's exactly right," Jon replied. "And I think he knows exactly what he's doing."

Watch the video to catch more of the conversation below:

Use code BECK to save $10 on one year of BlazeTV.

Want more from Glenn Beck?

To enjoy more of Glenn's masterful storytelling, thought-provoking analysis and uncanny ability to make sense of the chaos, subscribe to BlazeTV — the largest multi-platform network of voices who love America, defend the Constitution and live the American dream.

Ryan: Trump Louisiana Finale

Photo by Jim Dale

Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

At the end of Trump rallies, I would throw on my Carhartt jacket, sneak out of the press area, then blend in with everyone as they left, filing out through swinging doors.

Often, someone held the door open for me. Just 30 minutes earlier, the same person had most likely had most likely hissed at me for being a journalist. And now they were Sunday smiles and "Oh, yes, thank you, sir" like some redneck concierge.

People flooded out of the arena with the stupidity of a fire drill mishap, desperate to survive.

The air smacked you as soon as you crossed the threshold, back into Louisiana. And the lawn was a wasteland of camping chairs and coolers and shopping bags and to-go containers and soda cans and articles of clothing and even a few tents.

In Monroe, in the dark, the Trump supporters bobbled over mounds of waste like elephants trying to tiptoe. And the trash was as neutral to them as concrete or grass. They plodded over it because it, an object, had somehow gotten in their way.

It did not matter that they were responsible for this wreckage.Out in the sharp-edged moonlight, rally-goers hooted and yapped and boogied and danced, and the bbq food truck was all smoke and paper plates.

They were even more pumped than they had been before the rally, like 6,000 eight year olds who'd been chugging Mountain Dew for hours. Which made Donald Trump the father, the trooper, God of the Underworld, Mr. Elite, Sheriff on high horse, the AR-15 sticker of the family.

Ritualistic mayhem, all at once. And, there in Louisiana, Trump's supporters had gotten a taste of it. They were all so happy. It bordered on rage.

Still, I could not imagine their view of America. Worse, after a day of strange hostilities, I did not care.

My highest priority, my job as a reporter, was to care. To understand them and the world that they inhabit. But I did not give a damn and I never wanted to come back.

Worst of all, I would be back. In less than a week.

Was this how dogs felt on the 4th of July? Hunched in a corner while everyone else gets drunk and launches wailing light into the sky? configurations of blue and red and white.

It was 10:00 p.m. and we'd been traveling since 11:00 a.m., and we still had 5 hours to go and all I wanted was a home, my home, any home, just not here, in the cold sweat of this nowhere. Grey-mangled sky. No evidence of planes or satellites or any proof of modern-day. Just century-old bridges that trains shuffled over one clack at a time.

And casinos, all spangles and neon like the 1960s in Las Vegas. Kitchy and dumb, too tacky for lighthearted gambling. And only in the nicer cities, like Shreveport, which is not nice at all.

And swamp. Black water that rarely shimmered. Inhabited by gadflies and leeches and not one single fish that was pretty.

Full of alligators, and other killing types. The storks gnawing on frogs, the vultures never hungry. The coyotes with nobody to stop them and so much land to themselves. The roaches in the wild, like tiny wildebeests.

Then, the occasional deer carcass on the side of the road, eyes splayed as if distracted, tongue out, relaxed but empty. The diseased willows like skeletons in hairnets. The owls that never quit staring. A million facets of wilderness that would outlive us all.

Because Nature has poise. It thrives and is original.

Because silence is impossible. Even in an anechoic chamber, perfectly soundproofed, you can hear your own heartbeat, steady as a drum. A never-ending war.

I put "Headache" by Grouper on repeat as we glided west. We were deadlocked to asphalt, rubber over tarface.

And I thought about lines from a Rita Dove poem titled "I have been a stranger in a strange land"

He was off cataloging the universe, probably,
pretending he could organize
what was clearly someone else's chaos.

Wasn't that exactly what I was doing? Looking for an impossible answer, examining every single accident, eager for meaning? telling myself, "If it happens and matters the next year, in America, I want to be there, or to know what it means. I owe it to whoever cares to listen."

Humans are collectors and I had gone overboard.

Because maybe this wasn't even my home. These landmarks, what did they mean? Was I obvious here? When I smiled, did I trick them into believing that I felt some vague sense of approval? Or did my expressions betray me?

Out in all that garbage-streaked emptiness — despite the occasional burst of passing halogen — I couldn't tell if everything we encountered was haunted or just old, derelict, broken, useless. One never-ending landfill.

Around those parts, they'd made everything into junk. Homes. Roads. Glass. Nature. Life itself, they made into junk.

I cringed as we passed yet another deer carcass mounded on the side of the road.

As written in Job 35:11,

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds in the sky?

Nobody. Look at nature and you feel something powerful. Look at an animal, in all of its untamable majesty, and you capture a deep love, all swept up in the power of creation. But, here, all I saw were poor creatures who people had slammed into and kept driving. Driving to where? For what reason? What exactly was so important that they left a trail of dead animals behind them?

So I crossed myself dolorously and said an "Our Father" and recited a stanza from Charles Bukowski's "The Laughing Heart"

you can't beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.

Out here, nothing but darkness. Needing some light, by God. Give me something better than a Moon that hides like an underfed coward.

Jade told me about some of the more traumatic things she'd seen while working at the State Fair.

"Bro, they pull roaches out of the iced lemonade jugs and act like nothing happened."

"All right but what about the corn dogs?"

"You do not want to know, little bro."

She looked around in the quiet. "Back in the day, the Louisiana Congress refused to raise the drinking age from 18 to 21," she said. "They didn't want to lose all that drunk gambler money. So the federal government cut off funding to highways."

We glided through moon-pale landscape for an hour before I realized what she had meant. That there weren't any light poles or billboards along the road. Nothing to guide us or distract us. Just us, alone. And it felt like outer space had collapsed, swallowed us like jellybeans.

Like two teenagers playing a prank on the universe.

In the cozy Subaru Crosstrek, in the old wild night, brimming with the uncertainty of life and the nonchalance of failure, we paraded ourselves back to Dallas. Alive in the river silence that follows us everywhere.

New installments come Mondays and Thursdays. Next, the Iowa caucuses. Check out my Twitter. Email me at kryan@blazemedia.com

The Iowa primary is just around the corner, and concerns of election interference from the last presidential election still loom. Back in 2016, The Associated Press found that a majority of U.S. elections systems still use Windows 7 as an operating system, making them highly susceptible to bugs and errors. And last year, a Mississippi voter tried multiple times to vote for the candidate of his choice, but the system continuously switched his vote to the other candidate. It's pretty clear: America's voting systems desperately need an update.

That's where blockchain voting comes in.

Blockchain voting is a record-keeping system that's 100% verifiable and nearly impossible to hack. Blockchain, the newest innovation in cybersecurity, is set to grow into a $20 billion industry by 2025. Its genius is in its decentralized nature, distributing information throughout a network of computers, requiring would-be hackers to infiltrate a much larger system. Infiltrating multiple access points spread across many computers requires a significant amount of computing power, which often costs more than hackers expect to get in return.

Blockchain voting wouldn't allow for many weak spots. For instance, Voatz, arguably the leading mobile voting platform, requires a person to take a picture of their government-issued ID and a picture of themselves before voting (a feature, of course, not present in vote-by-mail, where the only form of identity verification is a handwritten signature, which is easily forgeable). Voters select their choices and hit submit. They then receive an immediate receipt of their choices via email, another security feature not present in vote-by-mail, or even in-person voting. And because the system operates on blockchain technology, it's nearly impossible to tamper with.

Votes are then tabulated, and the election results are published, providing a paper trail, which is a top priority for elections security experts.

The benefits of blockchain voting can't be dismissed. Folks can cast their vote from the comfort of their homes, offices, etc., vastly increasing the number of people who can participate in the electoral process. Two to three-hour lines at polling places, which often deter voters, would become significantly diminished.

Even outside of the voting increase, the upsides are manifold. Thanks to the photo identification requirements, voter fraud—whether real or merely suspected—would be eliminated. The environment would win, too, since we'd no longer be wasting paper on mail-in ballots. Moreover, the financial burden on election offices would be alleviated, because there's decreased staff time spent on the election, saving the taxpayer money.

From Oregon to West Virginia, elections offices have already implemented blockchain voting, and the results have been highly positive. For example, the city of Denver utilized mobile voting for overseas voters in their 2019 municipal elections. The system was secure and free of technical errors, and participants reported that it was very user-friendly. Utah County used the same system for their 2019 primary and general elections. An independent audit revealed that every vote that was cast on the app was counted and counted correctly. These successful test cases are laying the groundwork for even larger expansions of the program in 2020.

With this vital switch, our elections become significantly more secure, accurate, and efficient. But right now, our election infrastructure is a sitting duck for manipulation. Our current lack of election integrity undermines the results of both local and national elections, fans the flames of partisanship, and zaps voter confidence in the democratic system. While there's never a silver bullet or quick fix to those kinds of things, blockchain voting would push us much closer to a solution than anything else.

Chris Harelson is the Executive Director at Prosperity Council and a Young Voices contributor.