With all the talk about food storage and growing our own food, I did a little digging around to find out what some people ate during America’s Great Depression of the 1930’s. Surprisingly, a few of these were made by my mother and grandmother, traditions, I’m sure, from a more frugal era. Cookbooks like this one, document many of these meals. I still have a soft spot for Chipped Beef on Toast!
As you read this list, you’ll notice how simple and basic they are. Sandwiches are featured prominently, which is a reminder how important it is to have bread-making skills. When a single loaf of homemade bread might cost just a dollar or two when you buy and stock up on the ingredients in bulk, it makes sense for fresh bread to be a key component of a Great Depression menu.
Great Depression Meals
How many of these are familiar to you, and do you have any others to add to the list?
Chipped beef on toast
Cucumber and mustard sandwiches
Hot milk and rice
Potato soup – water base, not milk
Bacon grease sandwiches
Hot dogs and baked beans
One eyed Sam – piece of bread with an easy over egg in the center
Oatmeal mixed with lard
Fried potatoes and hot dogs
Onion sandwich – slices of onion between bread
Tomato gravy and biscuits
Deep fried chicken skin
Cornbread in milk
Gravy and bread – as a main dish
Toast with mashed potatoes on top with gravy
Creamed corn on toast
Corn mush with milk for breakfast, fried corn mush for dinner
Squirrel — Here are how-to instructions for field dressing a squirrel.
Rice in milk with some sugar
Fried potato peel sandwiches
Banana slices with powdered sugar and milk
Corn pone — Check out this recipe.
Hamburger mixed with oatmeal
American cheese sandwich: ‘American’ cheese was invented because it was cheap to make, and didn’t require refrigeration that many people who lived during this era didn’t have.
Tomato gravy on rice
Toast with milk gravy
Water fried pancakes
Chicken feet in broth
Warm canned tomatoes with bread
Butter and sugar sandwiches
Fried potato and bread cubes
Runny eggs with grits
Butter and grits with sugar and milk
Sliced boiled pork liver on buttered toast (slice liver with potato peeler)
Corn meal mush
Spaghetti with tomato juice and navy beans
Whatever fish or game you could catch/hunt
Hard boiled eggs in white sauce over rice
Spam and noodles with cream of mushroom soup
Rag soup: spinach, broth and lots of macaroni
Garbanzo beans fried in chicken fat or lard, salted, and eaten cold
Popcorn with milk and sugar – ate it like cereal
Lessons learned from this list? Stock up on ingredients for bread, including buckets of wheat. Bread, in some form, is one of the main ingredients for many of these meals. Second, know how to make different types of bread. Next, have chickens around as a source for meat and eggs, and if possible, have a cow or goat for milk. Know how to make many different foods from scratch.
Another lesson is to have a garden that will provide at least some fresh produce, and plant fruit trees and bushes. You may be interested in this article with tips for Planning an Edible Landscape. Finally, don’t waste anything, even chicken feet!
Check out these Great Depression cookbooks:
You may want to download my free ebook, Switch From Store-Bought to Homemade, with dozens of from-scratch recipes for foods, cleaning products, and personal care products.
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