man working in his WWII victory garden

The Fourth of July is right around the corner, and this holiday puts me in mind of Grandma Jennie. She was very patriotic. Many of the people in her generation were. They pulled together for the war effort in World War II by using ration books, saving items like tin cans to provide metal for the military, and growing “victory gardens.”

She was so proud of her brothers who served in the war and her sons who both joined the service. She treasured the letters that she got “from overseas,” and I remember her singing songs like “Over There” and “God Bless America” when she worked around the house.

So, to her, the Made in America label really meant something. And it means something to me. Purchasing locally produced goods saves the fuel used to ship items long distances, and it provides local employment. Our communities and nation grow together when we focus on local solutions.

We can learn other lessons from the WWII era as well. We can avoid being wasteful and treat resources as if they were scarce or rationed. If we don’t start to act this way, we may find that nature puts us on very uncomfortable rations.

My mother-in-law told me that her aunts would sew rips in their stockings because nylon was so scarce that they couldn’t just buy a new pair if one got ripped. If one stocking couldn’t be repaired, they’d steep its mate with their other stockings in cool tea to get them all the same color. There was no tossing a torn garment without first trying to fix or reuse it.

We can reduce our consumption of resources like they did, we can recycle, and we can grow a victory garden, too!

WWII Victory Garden poster
WWII victory garden poster. Source: Wikimedia Commons

My mom’s friend, Hannah, recalled when American families were issued ration books. The rationing included foods like sugar, butter, coffee, and meat. It also included goods like tires, shoes, gasoline, and bicycles.

I wonder, what would I do if food like meat or milk was rationed like it was then? I’d like to think that I would give my milk ration stamps to a mother for her children. And I’d eat more meat-free meals. How would you adjust your life if products we take for granted were rationed?

I feel very privileged to have known people from the WWII era, like my grandmother and Hannah, who willingly made sacrifices for a common goal. I think that they have so much to teach us. By pulling together — like they did then — and doing our part to buy locally produced goods, reduce our consumption, reuse what we have, and recycle what is no longer usable, we can have a big impact on the world around us.

Feature image: Marjory Collins [Public domain], Wikimedia Commons. This article was originally published in June 2019.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.