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10 Great Depression Era Recipes for Cheap Meals

By: Toby Kuhnke, Editor, CheapThriftyLiving.com
Updated July 24, 2018
10 Great Depression Era Recipes for Cheap Meals
10 Great Depression Era Recipes for Cheap Meals

Does your family have money-saving cooking tips passed down from the Great Depression? Stories of extreme thriftiness in the kitchen during that difficult time of American history are usually shocking, but there’s also a lot to be learned from the budget-conscious generations before us.

During the Great Depression, the biggest goals of thrifty homemakers were to conserve what you had and get every last bit from it. Nothing went to waste.

These were the days of one-pot suppers and church potlucks where everyone loved to share the little they had. Many people grew their own food on modest farms – something we’re returning to bit by bit with urban farming.

These Great Depression cooking recipes will transport you to a simpler time with an emphasis on cheap eats.

Here are some interesting facts about cooking in the Great Depression:

  1. Some thrifty ladies used powdered milk and water to create milk.

  2. Spam was very popular in the last years of the Great Depression as fresh meat was hard to come by. Bologna became a staple meat, too.

  3. The thrifty thinking of 1929-1939 may have inspired the invention of the slow cooker in 1940. Irving Naxon was inspired to invent it because his mother would use the residual heat of an oven to cook dinner.

  4. Corn and potatoes became popular because they were cheap – that hasn’t really gone away, has it?

  5. Casseroles became a popular way to consume cheap ingredients.

  6. Canning became an essential way to make vegetables last the entire year.

  7. Every food scrap was used in a new way. Bones would be boiled to make stocks for stews. Grease would be reused to cook another meal to add new flavor. Many scraps were used to start compost piles for the crops.

We’d love to hear your family’s history and cooking tips, so please share in the comments!

One of our favorite blogs is Great Depression Cooking with Clara. Clara was a 94-year old cook with all kinds of tips and memories of growing up in the Great Depression. She sadly passed away in 2013, but her YouTube videos are still extremely popular!

Maybe someday our grandkids will be asking us for money-saving tips from the Great Recession (you know, gems like “eat Ramen”), but for now, we can’t do better than these easy cheap recipes from the women who kept America afloat.

Check out these 10 easy recipes from the Great Depression

Great Depression Casserole

This hearty meal is full of cheap ingredients from hot dogs to canned chili!

Easiest Layered Cabbage Casserole

This five-ingredient feast combines layers of flavor from inexpensive farm-to-table offerings.

Amish Church Soup

There are few easier ways to conserve money on meals than with a filling soup!

Simple Shepherd's Pie

This filling dish combines meat, potatoes, and veggies for a frugal dinner!

Grandma's Great Depression Cake

This cake is dairy and egg-free as those ingredients were hard to come by during the Depression.

Old Timely Hot Chipped Beef

This dried beef recipe turns an old-fashioned staple into a nourishing party dip!

1930s Kitchen Sink Casserole

This casserole uses common pantry ingredients to create a budget-friendly dish!

WW2 Carrot Cookies Recipe

When sugar was rationed, carrots took charge! These cookies will show you why!

Throw Together Bologna Salad

This bologna salad provides a freshness to your deli meat by adding vegetables and a light dressing!

One-Pan Double Chocolate Cake

When common baking ingredients were too expensive, your Grandma had to adjust to bake a cake!

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Interesting meals! I never knew about many of these.

Great list. Learning more about the Great Depression is always interesting. Everyone was so clever with using what they had available.

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