jar of buttons spilled onto a white surface
Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
April 20, 2024 ·  4 min read

10 Things Grandma Never Threw Away

The Great Depression is an event in history that everyone will learn about, and maybe a few times throughout school. It took place between 1929-1939, and anyone who was alive then quickly learned how to reuse or repurpose household items. Many people likely remember, while growing up, their grandparents or great-grandparents still saved after so many years. Here are some most common things your grandmother never threw away. Because if it could be used again, why would you? Right?

10 Household Items Grandma Never Threw Away

grandmother and grandkids
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The Depression was a humbling experience for much of the world. People learned a lot about what they could withstand and how to adapt. They learned resourcefulness. Furthermore, finding a way to get as much life out of household items as possible. Here are some things Grandma saved to help get by.

Read: 12 Things You Only Understand If Your Grandma Has Always Been Your Best Friend on Earth

1. Fabric Scraps and sacks

Close up view of a dressmaking scissors with a pile of scraps of printed patterned fabric
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Old bedding or towels would be cut down and repurposed for other things like clothing. Because resources were so limited, people saved every scrap of fabric they came across, including food sacks. Things like sugar, flour, animal feed, and potatoes came in large sacks that were generally made from cotton. The resourceful women of the time began using these bags to make all kinds of household items, including clothing, diapers, and curtains. As it turns out, the mills caught wind of this and began printing designs and colors on the sacks to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Proving the large corporations do have the capacity to be thoughtful and selfless.

2. Paper

Woman's hand cut paper Making a scrap booking or other festive decorations DIY accessories arrangement
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Paper is another on the list of household items that are incredibly versatile and can be used for a range of things. Some used scraps of paper or magazines as toilet paper, for crafts or gifts, and in some places, to construct shanty towns.

3. Household Items Such as String and Rubber Bands

Holding a pile of colorful rubber bands in hand.
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These were repurposed as often as possible to mend clothes quickly and easily. They were also used to fashion toys for kids, such as slingshots that could be used to hunt small animals for dinner such as squirrels. Additionally, families could keep important paperwork, cards, or handwritten recipes together in one place.

4. Buttons

Spilled Jar of Colorful Buttons against a White Background
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Because most clothing was made by hand, buttons were essential on the list of commonly reused household items. They could be used to mend torn clothing or add a colorful touch to dull and worn-out clothing.

Read: Mom shares genius way she dries clothes without a tumble dryer or annoying racks

5. Tires

A pile of worn car tires dumped on the field. Environmental pollution. Landfill of used tires, car waste. Car waste recycling, automotive industry. Used tires close up, lie on top of each other
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During this time frame, tires were made from synthetic rubber materials that could be used for a number of things, including mending the bottoms of shoes. They were used with scraps of paper to create a more solid foundation for the shanty towns. Tires could also be used as fuel for fires in the most desperate situations, although this was generally avoided due to the intense toxic smoke of burning them.

6. Jars and Containers

Various uncooked cereals, grains, beans and pasta for healthy cooking in glass jars on wooden table, white background, close-up. Clean eating, vegan, balanced dieting food concept
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Today, people use mason jars or vintage containers for cute DIY projects or for Homesteading. However, during the Depression, these were essential household items that could be reused over and over again. They can store and keep food fresh longer than if just sitting in a cabinet, pantry, or countertop. As well as keep pests out. They could also be used to store other things like sewing materials. Meanwhile, old cookie tins could be repurposed as a lunch box.

7. Household Items Such as Hygiene Products

pile of skin care tube used up
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People may not waste time trying to get the last of their soap, toothpaste, or shampoo out of the bottle. However, people living through the Depression would use every last drop, including saving and then combining them. The same is true for candle wax, which was often used to light a home or generate a little heat in extreme cases.

8. Bacon Grease and other Food Scraps

Dirty oily pan with cold solid grease saturated fat from bacon after frying macro closeup as unhealthy leftover cleaning job
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Leftover scraps of food could be added to stews to make another meal or two for a family. Additionally, some veggies can be replanted and will grow again. Meanwhile, bacon grease was used to add flavor and dimension to otherwise lackluster meals. Additionally, scraps could be used to feed household pets or farm animals.

9. Aluminum Foil

Chef wraps baking pan with aluminum foil. Baking process
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It can be rewashed and used again to store food or cook food over an open flame. But foil also comes in handy as a scrub brush when wadded up into a ball or sponge shape.

10. Seeds, Perhaps the Most Important Household Item

Different vegetable seeds on white wooden table
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While self-explanatory, this household item is definitely noteworthy. By saving seeds, families had the opportunity to grow and regrow crops and herbs. This ensured they could both continuously have access to food and add more flavor to that food. Saving common household items was essential to keep homes afloat during a dark time in History. However, we now know that it can also benefit the environment and help those with fewer readily available resources.

Keep Reading: Grandma’s Rules for Hanging Out the Laundry


  1. 7 Reasons Why Grandma Would Never Throw Away Bacon Grease.Tiph Hero
  2. 10 Household Items Grandma Never Threw Away.” Dusty Old Thing. Rose Heichelbech.
  3. Did Wheat Producers in the 1930s Make Flour Sacks to be Fashioned into Clothes?Snopes Dan MacGuill.
  4. 10 Things Our Grandparents Reused During the Great Depression.Melissa K Norris. Melissa Norris.
  5. The Great Depression.Brittanica. Christina D. Romer and Richard Pells. April 28, 2023.
  6. The History of Tires.” Tread Wright. Derrest  Williams.. May 2018.