4 Ways Depression Era Housewives Were Tougher than I am

It’s no big secret. I’m not the world’s best housewife. But when compared to the housewives of the 1930s? Oh, please. I’m like a little slug compared to them.

I did a good deal of research into what life was like during The Great Depression for my novel A Trail of Crumbs

The women of that era? They were tough. Tougher than I’ll ever be. Wanna know how? Here are 4 ways.

  1. They washed their dishes by hand and with just a dot of soap: Full disclosure, I whine because I have to rinse my dishes before putting them in the dishwasher that rolls across the floor. Depression Era ladies? Yeah, no dishwasher. They scrubbed those pots and pans shiny with just a rag and a tiny drop of soap.
  2. They made and mended their own clothes: I can’t sew a button on a shirt. These women made full wardrobes for their families out of feed sacks, darned all the socks, hemmed and mended and otherwise fixed EVERYTHING. And they looked good while doing it. sack-5
  3. They went without to make sure the kids had enough: Okay, so I have a stash of chocolate that I hide from my children and husband (hee hee, hi, honey). Depression Era Mamas? Nope. They got used to having too little so their kids wouldn’t starve, so their husbands had what they needed. Man alive, these ladies are really proving that they deserved that greatest generation title, huh?
  4. Birth without doctors: In the 1930s women were still delivering their babies at home, many with the help of midwives (women who attended the birth). No heart monitors, no mechanized bed, no ice chips, and NO EPIDURAL. Me? I called my doctor with every twinge I had in my first pregnancy. I made someone spoon feed me lime Jell-O between contractions. I took the meds, oh yes I did. Geesh. I’m looking more and more like a wuss!

And what amazes me most about these women is that they weren’t just tough, they were also kind. The women of the 1930s are remembered as compassionate, caregiving, generous, loving, nurturing, faithful ladies. They were strong because they had to be. Resilient because it was required of them.

Oh, how I look up to them.

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Finding friends in books.


I remember the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I was in eighth grade and going through a rough time. My best friend had just decided that she didn’t want to be my pal, let alone my best one. I had a terrible perm, out of style clothes, and a whole headful of insecurities.

But there on the page was a girl who was every bit what I’d been when I was younger. Plucky, brave, and with a side of sass (which I’d never released upon the world but kept in my head). Scout felt like an instant friend.

That same year I read The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Ponyboy and Johnny were as different from me as they were from the “Socs”. Still, their vulnerability, their love of Robert Frost, their depth of sadness was so very familiar.

The next year I read The Scarlet Letter and wept over the horrible treatment of Hester and Pearl. I wanted to scoop them up out of that awful town and help them find a place where they would be loved and afforded mercy.

From those days of early teenage life to today I have found countless friends within the pages of fiction. Owen Meany and Luna Lovegood, Jem and Merinda, Doug Swieteck and John Coffey. Reading their stories (and the stories of hundreds of other characters) remind me that I’m not so alone in this world.

Reading these stories makes me feel at home.

In A Trail of Crumbs (releasing March 27) eleven year old Pearl’s mother tells her to go out and make friends soon after they move to a new town. So, where does Pearl go? To the library, the place where all bookish kids go to meet new friends.

And there she does. Not just of the fictional sort, but also of the kindly librarian type.

Readers bond together, quietly, over dusty tomes. Don’t they?

And as we grow in these friendships – both in real life and in fiction – we learn that life is truly a beautiful gift. And we share in the story of this life.

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What fictional characters are like friends to you? Which ones do you come back to over and over to feel that connection, that kinship? Do you have bookish friends you like to talk story with? How have you bonded over books? I’d love to hear from you. Your story matters. 

5 Depression Era Tricks for Saving on Groceries



Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division : LC-DIG-fsac-1a34273

I consider myself a frugal shopper. I clip coupons, compare prices, shop the sales. But my accumulative savings are nothing – NOTHING – compared to the housewives of the Great Depression.

While researching for my novel A Trail of Crumbs, I learned how the women of the 1930s managed their shopping budgets during those tough economic times.

Those ladies put me to shame!

They knew every trick to skimp and save. They pinched every penny as if their lives depended on it. Why? Because, quite literally, their lives (and the lives of their families) did depend on every penny saved.

So, how did they do it? How did they make the most of their grocery budget?

Here are 5 Depression Era Tricks for lowering that grocery bill.

  1. Buy the whole chicken: Our grandmothers never, ever would have bought chicken breasts. She would have been disgusted to pay nearly $4 per pound for boneless/skinless chicken breasts when she could get a whole chicken (skin, bones, and all) for $1.05 per pound (by today’s prices. In the 1930s she would have paid 22¢ a pound). Oh, the meals she could get out of that chicken. Chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, chicken soup, chicken sandwiches…you get the point. Chicken for DAYS!
  2. Less meat. More filler: With ground beef about 10¢ a pound, our grandmothers would have thought of the very best way to make it stretch. She would have used filler to make a little meat seem like a whole lot more. Oatmeal, lentils, bread crumbs – all perfectly good things to add to meat to make it stretch. It’s also a great way to get more veggies into your diet! Add some diced onions and green peppers!
  3. Buy the cheap coffee: My grandma swore by cheap coffee. She was an instant crystals kind of girl. The bad thing about cheap coffee? The flavor. It can be overly bitter and just plain old skunky. So, what did grandma do? She’d add a pinch of salt to the grounds before brewing. The salt takes the bitterness out and makes for a smoother cup of mud. (Still, there’s no way…I’m too snobby about my coffee)
  4. Work the system: The Depression Era housewife knew how to play the system. She knew to get her fresh foods (produce, baked goods, meats) on Saturday evenings when they’d be steeply discounted for the end of the week (grocers were never open on Sundays). They knew to ask for soup bones because they could get them for next to nothing if not free. You can work the system, too! Sign up for the rewards programs at your grocery store, figure out when items are most likely to go on clearance, stock up on nonperishables that are on sale (bonus points if you have a coupon!). But be sure to only work the system for things you need/would usually buy. It’s not a good deal if it sits on your shelf collecting dust for a year.
  5. STICK TO YOUR LIST: When my grandma got older she wasn’t able to shop for herself anymore. She’d send my sister and me to the grocery store with a list and a stack of coupons. If we deviated from the list – oh, doggy – were we in for it. Why? Because the off-the-list items were almost never on sale, weren’t needed, and usually ended up being potato chips/ice cream/chocolate. If you take the time to plan your list and stick to it, you’ll save money in the end. No kidding.

How about you? Any tips for saving the big bucks at the grocery store? Any bits of wisdom you learned from a grandma/aunt/grandpa/parent? I’d love to hear them!

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Learn more about the Great Depression! Read my novel A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression releasing March 27!

Open your eyes. You’re home.


When I was a kid we went on several road trips. Most of them took us to Ludington where we visited family, ran up and over sand dunes, and let the waves of Lake Michigan push us here and there and everywhere.

The drive there was full of anticipation. I couldn’t hardly wait to play with my cousins, to see my uncle and aunt, to smell the Big Lake and hear its roaring.

The drive home, though? It seemed to take forever. We’d drive well into the night some times, having stayed later than we’d intended because the visit was just that good, the weather just that beautiful. By the time we pulled into the driveway, I was full of longing.

It was a different kind of yearning from the trip to Ludington. That was full of expectation of the less familiar, the not-everyday. But the longing I felt for home was unlike anything else.

It was the desire to be where I belonged.

Now I’m older, home is in a different place and is full of different people. Still, after spending time away, I can’t wait to get back to where I belong.

In A Trail of Crumbs Pearl is lost in a storm. Millard (the mayor of Red River, Oklahoma) helps her find her way back. When they get to her porch he says, “Open your eyes. You’re home.”

When I wrote those five words in the novel I had an overwhelming memory of being carried inside my childhood home at the end of a long drive. I pretended to be asleep because it felt nice to be carried inside and put right into my bed.

As my dad carried me, he whispered in my ear, “Susie, we’re home.”

I’m sure he knew I was faking because I couldn’t help but smile.

I was where I belonged.

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Preorder A Trail of Crumbs today! Available from Baker Book House, Barnes and Noble, Amazon

Truth Still Matters

We have a winner of Amelia Rhodes‘ amazing new book Pray A to ZCongratulations, Amy Nemececk! I’ll be emailing for your address and I’ll get your book in the mail soon!

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A week ago I read an article that the Oxford Dictionary had decided on their word of 2016. As a bit of a logophile (someone in love with words), I am intrigued with the language trends of each year.

I mean, 2015 was the year of emoji. And 2013 it was selfie. Fascinating.

This year, though, I’m not so happy snappy about the word of the year. It holds no whimsey for me, no fun. This year’s word makes me sad.

2016’s Oxford word? Post-truth.

Here’s the cringe-worthy definition.

Post-truth: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

So, essentially, how you feel matters more than truth. How you believe, even in the face of insurmountable evidence to the contrary, is more relevant than truth.

In other words, truth is slimmed down. Anemic. Impotent. Unimportant.

To that I roll my eyes and sigh deeply.

Friends, truth still matters. Always has, always will. Lies are destructive. Always have been, always will be.

Our words matter. The words that come from our mouth or fingers or thumbs. Every single one holds power for good or harm.

Choose truth.

Truth still matters.


But how do I teach my children that truth still matters when what’s swirling around our culture is a whole bunch of post-truth mumbo jumbo? How do I teach them that their integrity is valuable when we see so many leaders and soon-to-be leaders lying at every turn? How do I instill in them that honesty is important when even some who claim to be church leaders excuse this post-truth notion as being all right?

You know how I’m going to try it?

By being the best example I can be. By holding truth as a virtue – a God honoring virtue – in our home. By doing my very best to help them discern truth from lies. And by calling post-truth out for what it is.

Post-truth is empty and dark. It’s a hole that will suck us in if we let it. It’s a vacuous, dangerous, soul-diminishing trap.

But we don’t have to even approach that hole. We’d do best not to even tip toe along the edge. Our best bet is to listen to what Jesus had to say about truth.

That when we hold to His teachings and follow Him we will know the truth. And that truth will liberate us. It will set us free.

Friends, cling to what’s true with all you’ve got.

Truth still matters.

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When We Pray

its-just-8When I was in first grade my friend Stephanie was diagnosed with a rare disease. Now, I don’t remember what it was called, but I know that at the time I didn’t realize how serious it was. I remember, though, that she had to undergo bone marrow transplants and that she had more than a few close calls.

She’d missed a lot of school in first grade. If memory serves, we sent her handmade cards to cheer her up and prayed for her during class (I attended a Christian school). I missed her, though. Stephanie was always pure sunshine. She always had a beautiful smile on her face and her dark eyes were kind.

Our teacher told us one day that Stephanie would come for a visit. A brief one, but still, she was coming. We planned a bit of a party. We all looked forward to seeing her.

But as the day neared, we learned that Stephanie might not come after all. That she wasn’t well, not strong enough for the visit. I was so disappointed. I sat at my spot at the work table and asked God to please let Stephanie come. I prayed every day that she’d be all right. And I prayed that she’d be able to be at our party.

That is the first concrete answer to prayer that I remember.

I’ve prayed for Stephanie many, many times since then. God has blessed her life by letting her beat all the odds. She’s doing well, sharing her pure sunshine and beautiful smile with everyone around her.

Stephanie was my first answer to prayer.

I could list for you hundreds and hundreds of answered prayers I’ve experienced since then.

My brother-in-law and his family raising enough money for him to receive a radical treatment for his M.S.

Winning the heart of the man who would become my most excellent husband. 

The gentle passing of someone I loved.

When I think over the times when God has answered my prayers and the prayers of others, I am reminded of one very important truth:

God listens.

And even when those answers are vastly different than I would have expected, I still have reason to be grateful. Because God is el roi. The God who sees me. Who knows me. Who hears and acts in my life and in the lives of others.

God listens.

Prayer matters.

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My good friend Amelia recently released a book called Pray A to Z: A Practical Guide to Pray img_20161126_115325.jpgfor your Community. As I read through the Scripture verses and the prayer prompts, I was reminded of all the times God has honored my prayers and I was moved to joy and thanksgiving.

I would LOVE to share that joy with one of you. I’m giving away one copy of Pray A to Z. All you have to do to enter this give away is comment below. I’d love for you to share a time when you saw prayer answered in your life. Let’s use this to encourage and lift up one another!

I’ll draw a winner next Monday (12/5/16).

*Please note: This giveaway is only for those living in the continental United States.

If you can be anything be a peacemaker


I spent the weekend deep in fever and soaked in herbal tea. What resulted was a small thought about making peace. After several attempts at writing them down, the best I could do was this feeble effort at a poem. Still, it’s a look into my heart for this uneven and heated election season. This is a sort of love poem for those who claim Jesus. I hope you feel my love and hope in these small thoughts.

If you can be anything
Be a peacemaker.

Make peace
The way your great-aunt
Made chocolate pies.
Light and sweet.

Make peace
The way your grandpa
Made rocking horses.
Strong and sturdy.

Make peace
The way your child
Makes birthday cards.
Shiny and pure.

Make peace
The way your God
Makes each day.
New and lovely.

If you can be anything
Be a peacemaker.
And you will be called
Children of God.

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