Though my mom wasn’t born until long after the Great Depression, it did hit her farming family pretty hard. By the time she came around in the 1950s, the family was still relying on the meager funds they could scrape together.
Luckily, my grandpa was a skilled farmer who could grow most of their groceries, and my grandma knew how to stretch one meal out into enough dishes for a whole week. That meant a lot of stews, fresh bread, and even having all nine kids take turns churning their own butter. It wasn’t easy, but they always found a way to transform even the most simple dishes into a yummy family favorite.
In fact, all of the economical Depression era recipes below are so scrumptious, many should still be regular staples today. I know I always request the potato soup when I’m home visiting my mom!
Did we miss a recipe your family passed down from the days of the Great Depression? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your loved ones!
Thumbnail sources: Wikimedia Commons 1, 2
1. Depression Bread
4 cups flour
2 cups warm water
2 Tbsps. yeast
Pour flour into a large bowl and create a hole in the center. Pour the yeast and warm water in the center, then combine with the flour until you form a ball. Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until it’s doubled in size.
Knead the dough and split into two loaves, then allow to rise one more time. Bake at 300 °F until golden.
2. Hoover Stew
16 oz. box of noodles (macaroni is best)
2 cans stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 can corn, undrained
1 can peas or beans (or both!), undrained
1 package sliced hot dogs
Cook pasta until it’s not quite done, then add sliced hot dogs and canned ingredients. Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer until pasta is done.
3. Creamed Peas On Toast
2 Tbsps. of butter
2 Tbsps. of flour
1 cup milk heated close to scalding
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups fresh peas rinsed and drained
Melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the flour to make a roux. Be sure to stir consistently until the mixture bubbles, which should take about two minutes, being careful not to let it burn.
Next add the hot milk, again stirring as the sauce thickens. Allow this to be brought to a boil, then add salt and pepper to your preference. Lower the heat and continue stirring for two to three more minutes. Add peas and cover. You can also add protein, like hot dogs or tuna — whatever you have on hand.
Let simmer for 5-10 minutes, then serve on toasted bread.
4. Potato Soup
15-20 cups of water
8-12 medium sized chopped potatoes
1/4 cup bacon grease
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring the water to a boil, then add the chopped potatoes and bacon grease. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes and add salt and pepper to your preference. You can also add cheese for a creamier texture.
5. The Poorman's Meal
3 Tbsps. vegetable oil
3 chopped potatoes
1 chopped onion
4 sliced hot dogs
4 Tbsps. tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
Simmer potatoes and onions in vegetable oil on medium heat. Add the tomato sauce and allow to warm before adding the sliced hot dogs. Then add the water and allow to cook until the potatoes are soft.
6. Ham Hocks And Beans
1 lb. dry pinto beans
4 or 5 smoked ham hocks
1 large, chopped yellow onion
2 or 3 tsps. of black pepper
Salt to taste
Rinse the beans and place in a large pot with ham hocks, onion, and black pepper, then fill with water and allow to boil. Once it’s reached a boil, lower the temperature and cover, allowing to simmer for several hours. Add water as needed, but only enough to cover the ingredients.
When beans are soft, it’s ready to serve.
7. Sponge Cake
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/4 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs beaten until thick and light
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
5 Tbsps. boiling water
Add flour, baking powder, and salt together, sift until combined. Gradually pour sugar into eggs while beating, then add the boiling water and lemon juice. Add the sifted dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
Bake in an un-greased pan at 350 °F for 40 minutes.
8. Chocolate Cake
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tsps. baking soda
10 Tbsps. unsweetened cocoa
2 tsps. vanilla
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsps. vinegar
2 cups cold water
Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl then add the wet and combine until completely mixed. Pour into a greased and powdered baking pan and bake at 350-degrees for 30 minutes.
9. Leftover Potato Pancakes
About 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2-3 Tbsps. of bacon grease or other oil
Mix the potatoes, egg, and flour in a bowl — it will be much firmer than regular pancakes. Heat your pan with the grease or oil, then begin spooning batter once it’s good and warm. Flip until browned on both sides and enjoy with syrup, apple sauce, or butter.
Do you know more budget-friendly recipes folks relied on back in the Depression era? Let us know in the comments and be sure to SHARE with your loved ones!