Raising Kids to Survive Plenty OR Poverty

My grandma was a product of the Great Depression. Learning to survive during those years of economic downturn truly affected how she lived the rest of her life. I can now understand why she hoarded random containers, and refused to let anything go to waste. Living to survive meant working hard, being frugal, and looking out for each other. Are we raising kids to survive plenty as well as poverty?

When the economy took a nosedive in the 1930’s, I’m curious how prepared those families were to survive. By nature, life was still significantly less than what we would define as convenient. Even though the roaring 20’s brought a boom of manufacturing, radio, and railways, a lot of rural America was still living without electricity and indoor plumbing.


As decades have passed, technology and society have evolved, and many of us find ourselves raising our kids in a time of abundance.


We can afford to buy clothes when we need them or call the repairman if an appliance isn’t working. Theres enough food from the grocery store to keep our refrigerator full and a health-care system for when we are sick. We can afford to avoid asking for our neighbor’s help, entertaining ourselves rather than needing a face to face conversation.

We are far from surviving, I guess you could say we are thriving.


Or are we?


Are we getting too far away from the earth and the One who waters it, to sustain ourselves and our loved ones?

Will our children know how to make clothes last a long time, by sewing, mending, and making alterations?

Would they be willing to take humble jobs to provide for their families?

Will they have the knowledge to grow a garden and keep themselves fed?


Will they know how to cook from scratch, on a low-budget, and with the food they were able to produce at home?


Do they have the discipline to spend their money wisely?

Will they have tender hearts to help family and neighbors support each other with food, resources, and money.

Would they be selfless enough to give their portion to feed their own kids?

Will they have a general knowledge of home remedies for common illnesses?

Will they understand that hard work means food on the table and a roof over your head?

Do  they have a basic knowledge of edible berries, nuts, and plants?

Will they know how to cast a line or go hunting?

Will they know how to preserve food by canning and storing?

Do they know how to be creative and resourceful with what they have?

Will they push through their problems to find answers?

Will they be humble enough to ask for help?


I realize these questions are a bit old-fashioned, because we are where we are, and wrapping a gingham apron around my waist,or making my own soap won’t change that.

Progress, technology, and advancement are a part of our lives. However, I think there is merit in keeping one foot toward progress, and one foot firmly planted on the grassy earth.


Our food still grows from the same rain and sunshine that God pours down, and our hearts are still fulfilled by thankfulness toward God, and relationships with people.


As I raise my kids in this season of abundance, my prayer is that I not only teach them the new way, but also show them the path worn by my parents, and their parents, and their parents… That dirt, face-to-face relationships, hand-picked berries, and frugality are not just a thing of the past, but rather a foundation on which to build their future … in plenty, OR in poverty.




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  1. Teaching our children to be thankful covers it all. For them to grow up knowing they are not entitled to a specific life style or things. For them to have humility in whatever position of life God places them. For them to be grateful for God’s provision;that can be through our local farmers, the small garden in our back yard, the humble home God has us in this moment, the rice and beans, the not so fancy clothes and more…… All in all, we daily teach our children to be thankful for God’s provision.

    1. That is awesome! I think you are right, if we can teach them to be thankful rather than entitled, we are giving them a great hope for their future. Thanks Susan! <3

  2. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while now, and I’m afraid to say there’s rather quite a bit I want to say!

    Firstly, this is where good government is important. (My undergrad degree is in political science and my grad degree is in development, so I’m a bit of a geek.) There has never been a famine in a democratic country, because famines only ever affect about 5% of the population, and democratically elected officials have an incentive to ensure that, in tough times, everybody has enough to eat. Historically, if you look at the great famines that have occurred over the past century or so, most of them have been political in nature, and used to punish segments of the population (ethnic minorities, geographic regions, etc.) that did not support an autocratic government. Autocrats don’t have to worry about being voted back into power; democratically elected governments do. Government policy can also do a great deal to influence economic policy and prevent or soften economic set-backs, as we saw during the GFC, which could easily have become another Great Depression. In fact, Australia hasn’t had a recession since 1991 – we survived the GFC unscathed – and that has a lot to do with good governance, not just at a political level, but also at an economic level (e.g. the Reserve Bank.)

    Secondly, while I am a big fan of Big Government (I’m outing myself as a socialist here), I also believe in personal responsibility. I’m a Mormon, and Mormons are taught to have a year’s supply of food and water to prepare for tough times. This is where our personal responsibility comes in – we are to do all we can to help ourselves. But thirdly, and most importantly, I also believe in a God of miracles. One of the most powerful stories to me in the Old Testament is the story of Elijah and the widow – Elijah approached a widow and asked her to make him something to eat. She responded that she had only enough oil and flour to make a small cake for her son, and so she was going to make it and then wait for death. Elijah promised that if she fed him first, her oil and flour would last for the duration of the famine. I believe this was the famine where things were so bad, people were eating their own children. Imagine the faith of the widow as she made Elijah a small cake, and imagine her surprise when she looked, and there was enough oil and flour for another one, and another one, again and again, for several years! When the LDS church first asked people to put together a year’s supply of food, there were many who responded by saying, “And I’m getting some guns too, so my neighbours won’t come asking for any of it.” And in response the leadership admonished them and said that if the worst happens, we are to be generous and share with one another, and the Lord will provide.

    And if he doesn’t? One of my favourite hymns speaks to this: “Why should we mourn or think our lot is hard? Tis not so; all is right. Why should we think to earn a great reward If we now shun the fight? Gird up your loins, fresh courage take; Our God will never us forsake . . . And should we die before our journey’s through, Happy day! All is well! We then are free from toil and sorrow too, With the just, we shall dwell. But if our lives are spared again To see the Saints their rest obtain, Oh how we’ll make this chorus swell – All is well. All is well.”

    One final thought to an already too-long post. In his book, God’s Politics, Jim Wallis states that, as a divinity student, he went through the Bible and cut out every passage that had to do with poverty. By the end of the exercise, his Bible was in tatters – there was hardly a single page that did not mention poverty. But most of us, when asked, remember only one verse: “The poor will always be with you.” We use this verse as an excuse: “Well, Christ said the poor will always be with us, so it’s just the way it is.” Wallis argues that Christ meant it as a challenge: “The poor will always be with you. What will YOU do about it?” He quotes a man who says, “Nobody will get into heaven without a letter of recommendation from the poor!” I love that quote. There is enough money in the world today to do away with poverty. There is enough food in the world today to ensure that every person who goes to bed hungry tonight, will have a meal tomorrow. The problem isn’t supply; the problem is that our hearts are not one with God and His will. (Of course God doesn’t want these things in this world! Hugh Nibley relates it to our earthly fathers – No father would make one child dress in rags and eat from the crumbs of the table while he dresses the other in silk and gives him the finest of food. Why would our Heavenly Father want that for His children?) We will be judged by our ability to look away from others. And we all fall short. I do not mean to judge you in this, because we all fall short, myself most definitely included. I mean it as a challenge, for myself as much as anyone else: The poor will always be with you. How are you helping? Who is writing your letter of recommendation for heaven?

    1. Wow, Becca. I think its time you start that blog. 😉 You are a thinker and have a lot of info to share! While we differ quite vastly on our politics and faith, I think you made a good point and a challenge I am really going to consider and evaluate in my life: What am I doing to help the poor?

  3. Hi Jessica , what a fabulous post! Our Grandma’s did live in tough times , and knew to be frugal was the only way as they did not know what was around the corner. We have everything at our fingertips and can have it delivered within 24 hrs if we want. But are we better as a society? Back in the day people used to greet each other on the street, Now if you say hello to a stranger they look at you funny. We don’t give thanks to God our creator which is so sad. Many people wont acknowledge him. I like to teach my kids to give Back to our brothers and sisters who have very little resources , We contribute to the food shelf, It teaches them that not everyone is as lucky as them. Have a great and Blessed day Jessica, Hugs, Terri xoxo.

    1. Thanks Terri! I love how you are intentionally teaching your kids about giving, gratefulness, and being kind to others. Those are the kind of lessons that are so valuable to their future! Have a great day, friend. <3

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