The Great Depression was a unique time in history, as wealth disappeared and life became difficult. People couldn't even afford the basics to survive, and food was scarce and expensive. As a result, people had no other choice than to get a little creative with what they cooked and ate, and stretching resources and pinching pennies became the norm. Creativity went wild, and all sorts of crazy dishes became a part of home cooks and families' everyday life. Hopefully, you're not hungry because some of the dishes on this list will leave you (and possibly your stomach) quite shocked!
Mulligan's Stew - Perfect for Leftovers
Although this dish was originally invented by people left homeless as a result of the craziness of the Great Depression, that shouldn't make you underestimate how delicious it can be. It was originally just meant to be a stew that combined all of the scraps and random pieces of food that they could collect into one big edible stew, but you'd be surprised how tasty that can be once cooked!
People make a different version of this stew now and it's not usually called Mulligan's Stew anymore. After all, it's more of a simple meat or vegetable stew.
A Pie Made From Hot Water
When you first hear the phrase "Hot Water Pie", you may not think that there is any way that can be filling and tasty. However, the name doesn't quite reveal exactly what this Depression era food actually consisted of. Although there is a filling that requires hot water in the recipe, it is not as bland as it sounds. There is also butter, eggs, and sugar involved along with a proper pie crust.
It certainly was not the most luxurious food, but this vintage classic of the era was a great way to spread out difficult to come by ingredients into something that would be filling.
Peanut Butter and Mayo Sandwich
Just about everyone in the world has heard of the famous peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is an all time popular snack for kids (and adults) all around the world. However, have you ever heard of the peanut butter and mayo sandwich? Most likely not, since (luckily) it is hardly eaten anymore in modern times despite being very popular for years during the Great Depression and when money was tight.
Jam and jellies were usually too expensive to waste on a simple sandwich and so they had to come up with another filling alternative. And that is where mayonnaise came into the picture.
Gelatin Dishes Everywhere
You are probably only familiar with gelatin when it refers to the additive that is put in many different foods nowadays. However, Gelatin was a complete dish and a full vintage recipe that was made with canned corned beef, plain gelatin, canned peas, vinegar, lemon juice, and also occasionally cabbage. It does not sound too appetizing, but it was a great way for people to get all of their vitamins in a cheap way.
The main nutrient that this offered was protein, which was actually one of the harder ones to obtain at the time. So it was a great option for people everywhere, hence its popularity.
Simple Meal of Cabbage and Dumplings
Although you might not think that cabbage and dumplings are that strange of a combination, when you know what the dumplings were made of and how often they were eaten in the Depression era, you might change your mind. Eggs and flour were the main ingredients in the dumplings. And then the dumplings would be combined with onions and cabbage for a delicious meal combination that was also very affordable.
Not only was this very cheap and easy to make, which were two key factors in the crazy times of the past, but it also required a very minimal set of ingredients.
Anyone Down for a Garbage Plate?
The name itself shows that this might not be the most appetizing dish on the market. After all, most people are not too eager to chomp down on some garbage. This dish was actually served in restaurants during the Great Depression. Although it is not actually garbage and is more just a combination of multiple other dishes, it still does not sound that appealing. Maybe it wasn't the tastiest dish, but it was filling!
A garbage plate usually consisted of baked beans, sausage, leftover burgers, and macaroni salad. It was then topped off with sauces like mustard, ketchup, or BBQ sauce.
A Loaf of Bread Filled With Everything
Who doesn't love a good meatloaf? Just about anyone who isn't a vegetarian would be happy to eat meatloaf every now and then, and even more frequently if possible. However, not everyone in that era could afford meat. On the contrary, it was one of the most luxurious and expensive things to obtain. As a result, they ended up making "everything but the meat loaves". They just filled it with whatever they had on hand.
They pretty much just put whatever leftovers they had around the house into the loaf and baked it into something edible. Sweets, savory items, and just about everything went inside.
Would You Like to Have Some "Save Our Stomach"?
You might be a bit concerned about trying a dish called "Save our stomach". After all, you usually want your stomach to be happy after a big meal and not to be in need of saving. However, rumor has it that this dish was not only extremely popular during the Great Depression, but also quite delicious. It is made from dried beef that is rehydrated with a thick mixture of butter, flour, and milk.
Serve that on top of a piece of toast and it almost like a pot pie. If you're lucky enough you may even be able to find this dish on some menus in small restaurants in the US.
Carrot Pasta With White Sauce
This one is certainly not the worst out of all the ones on the list here. It may not be something that people choose to eat on the regular, but all the ingredients alone and when they are combined together actually don't make for the worst combination. This is pasta that is cooked and baked with carrots and then topped with a white sauce made from flour, water, milk, and butter.
The pasta with the white sauce actually sounds like a pretty average and decent meal. The only thing that makes it unique (and maybe a bit strange) is the addition of the carrots.
Cabbage Soup With Vegetables
Whenever times get rough and food gets scarce you can almost always rely on two vegetables - cabbage and potatoes. Potatoes were featured quite often on this list, so now it is time for the cabbage to shine. Cabbage soup became popular during these times due to the fact that they were one of the more inexpensive vegetables and easier to find than most. Combined with other veggies like carrots and sometimes meat, this was a popular base for soup.
It pretty much was just a cabbage base of soup and broth with other vegetables and tastes combined in after. It was a simple yet great soup.
Who Wants Some Wacky Cake?
If you were to hear the term Wacky Cake nowadays, your mind might take you to a completely different place than what this cake actually was. In a time when it was difficult to get the ingredients needed to make an actual cake, people were forced to become creative and to make cakes with the ingredients that they were able to find. That meant that they often had to disclude milk and general dairy products along with eggs.
They could pretty much make this recipe to fit whatever they had in the kitchen. That was the requirement for a good recipe during the GReat Depression...one that would use all the leftover ingredients and not have any waste.
Raspberry Jell-O Into Ice Cream
If you are living in modern times, you probably wouldn't even consider ice cream to be a luxurious food item. After all, it is pretty easily accessible and not that expensive. However, historically, it was not that easy to come by. During the Great Depression, people came up with cheaper version of ice cream snacks so that they could still enjoy something sweet without breaking the bank. They mixed raspberry Jell-O packs with whipped cream, sugar, vanilla, and milk.
Even though this was originally created to be a budget friendly dessert, this old-school cooking recipe actually doesn't sound too bad, even if you're not on a budget!
Stretching Out the Food for Days - Rabbit Stew
When you don't have a lot of food and aren't sure when you'll obtain enough money to have more food, you have no other choice except to do whatever is possible to extend the life of your current food for as long as possible. That is exactly what they did during the Depression in order to preserve their food for as long as they could. They would get their food to last for days longer than they thought.
Instead of just cooking rabbit meat once and then letting it spoil, they would redo it again a few days later and once again a few days after that.
Clara’s Depression Egg Drop Soup
Although this might look sort of similar to the now popular egg drop soup that most people are familiar with, the Depression era version of this classic is very different from the version you are probably familiar with. Using two of the ingredients that were the most easily accessible at the time, eggs and potatoes, they created this egg drop soup. It mostly consisted of cooked potatoes, scrambled eggs, and broth.
Giving this basic, and almost inedible sounding soup a fancy name like Egg Drop Soup is almost a desperate attempt to make it sound more appealing.
President Hoover Stew
Although the concept of naming a stew after a US president is quite a funny one, that is exactly what happened in Depression era America. They had a famous stew that everyone seemed to be eating and so they chose to name it after the president, Hebert Hoover. What was in this stew? A truly horrifying combination of foods including canned tomatoes, hot dog bits, pasta, corn, and beans. Although some of the stews sound edible, this one sounds horrible.
This sounds like one of the least tasty dishes on the menu so far. Although they had to eat it just to get by, hopefully they stopped once they were able to afford something yummier.
Dandelion Salad From the Garden
Although the Great Depression brought with it a lot of poverty and suffering, it also resulted in people becoming more in tune with nature. They started to garden a lot more and grow food in their backyards. They also began to forage for food that was right in front of them but that they normally would have ignored completely. The prime example is dandelion green which became a staple for salads.
People were able to go right out into their yards and pick the dandelions that were growing. They could then use them as the greens in their salads. Cost effective and healthy!
Cook the Bread and Then Cook It Again
In a time when you could not afford to waste any food at all, if your bread became hard or inedible, you couldn't just throw it away. Even though you may not have been able to bite into the bread because it was so hard, they came up with solutions. They would cut the bread into pieces, soak it in water and olive oil, and sprinkle it with some salt.
The water and olive oil made the bread soft and malleable, at which time they would then mask it up and eat it almost like mashed potatoes.
Onions Stuffed With Peanut Butter
Now unless you are pregnant and have a whole list of weird cravings, you are probably a part of the vast majority of the world that thinks this sounds like one of the most disgusting foods possible. Imagine deciding one day to cook an onion and then opening your cupboard and choosing to put peanut butter inside and chomp down on the snack. Unfortunately, people in these times didn't have too many choices for luxury.
They had to eat whatever was available to them and whatever they could afford and that is how this horrible sounding food became commonplace. Who wants a snack of peanut butter stuffed onions?
Drinking the Superfood of Milk Every Day
When you are living in a time where food is scarce and you can't really afford well balanced and healthy meals, you have to try and come up with other ways to get all of your vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. One great and simple way to do that is milk. And that is exactly why milk was consumed in excessive quantities during the Great Depression. People did not know how else to get their vitamins!
For people struggling on the day to day this was one of the best ways to get a ton of vitamins and minerals in one fell swoop, without breaking the bank.
Apple Cider Vinegar Pie
Have you ever thought of what a pie would taste like if it was made with vinegar? Although that is probably the last ingredient you would ever think of when you were going to make a pie, that is exactly what many people used when they were growing up trying to save money. Not everyone was able to access fruits and sugars and all of the tasty ingredients that are associated with normal pies.
As a result, they would end up using apple cider vinegar in the pies in order to make them different and tasty. And you'd be surprised at how good they tasted!
Potatoes and Hotdogs Created the Poor Man's Meal
Even today some of the cheepest food items that you can buy are potatoes and hot dogs. Then it should come as no surprise that those two ingredients were used by people all around during the Great Depression. They had to get creative with their food dishes especially if the food was so expensive. And so they created "The Poor Man's Meal" which was a combination of fried potatoes and hot dog bits.
When you first look at it, you might be led to believe that this is just a type of hash brown. And although it does look like that, and it probably tastes similar, it is a bit different.
Depression Era Apple Pie
Who doesn't love a good apple pie? When you are hungry and struggling to have different foods to eat, you are grateful for anything that reminds you of the luxuries of times past. That is exactly what they strove to do when they created the Depression era apple pie. Not only did it not contain any apples at all, but it somehow still managed to be quite tasty and desirable.
They used crackers that were crushed along with the spices that are typical of apple pies and somehow it actually tasted somewhat similar to an apple pie in the end.
Navy Bean Soup for Everyone
In case you were wondering what the origins of the name of the Navy Bean is, then you are in luck to find out now that it is from the fact that these beans were eaten quite often in the US navy, which quickly branded them as such. However, for the same reasons they were popular in the US navy, they became popular in Depression era America, in particular in the form of navy bean soup.
Navy bean soup had navy beans as the star of the show, but it also usually included carrots, onions, ham, and other basic soup ingredients.
Banana Cold Milk From the Amish
You probably don't initially consider that the Amish were also quite affected by the Great Depression. Although they have their own communities where they attempt to be at least partially self sufficient, the Great Depression affected them greatly as well and they were struggling to make ends meet and have enough food to feed their families. That is why they created Amish milk, which is a cereal alternative made of smushed bananas soaked in milk and sugar.
This doesn't sound all that bad when you think of it. It seems almost as if it would taste more like a sort of oatmeal and could be quite yummy especially for breakfast.
The Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich
If you thought peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches were one of the worst possible combinations, just wait until you hear about the next vintage recipe that was making the rounds during the Great Depression. How does a pickle and peanut butter sandwich sound to you? It sounds a bit like it would be something that a pregnant woman would be craving more than something that normal people would eat regularly.
All you have to do is add the mayonnaise into the mix and you will have one of the most gut renching sandwiches possible. It's hard to imagine eating this even if times are rough.
Bologna Casserole Made With Canned Meat
Canned foods quickly became a staple in the diets of people across the world when the Great Depression hit. They tended to be cheaper than most of the fresh alternatives and so canned beans and canned meats were all the rage. And with that rage came lots of new recipes including the famous bologna casserole. It was made with canned pork usually and then combined with beans, cheese, onions, and bologna.
Although it may not look that appetizing at first glance, it quickly became one of the most beloved and often cooked dishes of the era. Everyone was eating bologna casseroles.
Frozen Fruit Casserole for Special Occasions
Although a frozen fruit casserole would hardly cause excitement in anyone as an option for dessert today, during the Great Depression this was considered quite a delicacy and a luxury. It was hard to find most of these ingredients and, as a result, this could only be enjoyed on occasion. The canned fruits combined with the cream and bread crumbs made for an expensive dish that was hard to for most people to afford.
During those times you would definitely see this dish make an appearance at special occasions. It was more expensive than most other dishes, but still cheaper than the dishes they were used to.
Baked Beans for Days
Baked beans are a popular food, snack, and meal even until today. As a result, it's no surprise that this was also an extremely popular meal in the 1920s and 1930s. After all, it is cheap and easy to make and it can last for days. All you really need are some beans, various vegetables, and some spices. And you are good to go! It's really as simple as that.
Considering the times, it really is no surprise that this was one of the most popular means of the era. It is also one of the tastier sounding ones on the list.
Sugar Cookies for Breakfast
When you first hear about people having sugar cookies for breakfast, you might be surprised to think that this was a food that was eating during the Great Depression. After all, you would think that everything was boring and basic and there was no room for cookies or other "luxurious" things like that. However, these popular cookies were actually quite easy and inexpensive to make. All you really needed were eggs, sugar, and flour.
Even though they were relatively cheap, people still could not afford to eat them on a regular basis and they were saved for special occasions or the weekends.
Poor Man’s Pudding
No one wants to eat something that is known as Poor Man's Something. it generally has a negative connotation to it. However, during the Great Depression just about everything seemed to have some sort of name that was focused on that. After all, just about everyone was poor or about to be so it made sense. For this pudding, all you needed was just three ingredients and it could be completed.
All you needed was sugar, brown sugar, and maple syrup. It was popular in French Canadian homes (hinted at by the presence of maple syrup), but was still considered a luxury by many.
Chocolate Pudding Pie With Cream
Judging by the looks of this one, it seems like this is something that could easily be eaten even today. It looks and sounds like a yummy dessert. After all, who doesn't love a good chocolate pudding pie that is topped with cream? It almost sounds too luxurious for Depression era folk and yet they still managed to make it on occasion and enjoy the chocolate and creamy flavors.
People would try to make this sweet treat last as long as possible. If they had the ingredients to make it now, it would probably be a long time before they had them again.
Milkorno Was the Cheap Version of Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a popular breakfast food all around the world. Not only is it easy to prepare, but it is also cheap and the ingredient list required to make something is quite small. However, during the Great Depression, even oats were too expensive for some people. As a result, there came about the invention known as milkorno. It was made from cornmeal and dried milk powder and looked a bit like oatmeal.
Scientists from Cornell University came up with this concoction as a way to offer more food to people in need and a way for them to afford it.
The Most Basic Rice Pudding
You probably wouldn't consider rice pudding to be something that was created as a result of the Great Depression, however, that is sort of part of the story. Of course, the rice pudding that people are familiar with these days is not quite the same as the plain and simple rice pudding that was popular out of necessity during the Great Depression. However, the origins are the same although not the taste.
Rice pudding back then was a lot simpler as it was made as something to eat and help people to fill their stomachs, not as much something that was made for pleasure.
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese
Now this one is a well loved meal even today. Who doesn't love a good mac and cheese for dinner, especially from the famous brand Kraft? However, did you know the origins of this tasty food? It was developed during the Great Depression era, and since it was so inexpensive and served so many people, it became a beloved staple for many. It was one of the only tasty dishes that were also cheap.
It is no surprise that these were jumping off the shelves in the millions right when they were released in 1937. Anything is better than the pickle and peanut butter sandwiches!
Pizza From the Depression Era... Or Should It Be Called Bread?
With financial issues and shortages of food also come a lot of changes in recipes. No longer were people able to easily afford delicious foods like pizza which used to be considered a normal and inexpensive treat. Now things were different and people had to adjust. Instead of having delicious pizza with sauce and cheesy toppings, they had a rolled out dough that was more like a flatbread than a pizza, yet it was still called pizza.
It was usually lacking some of the seemingly basic ingredients of a pizza such as sauce and cheese, however, people still called it pizza, holding onto some hope.
Just Make a Loaf of Everything
You probably had no idea how many things could be made into a load. You are most likely only familiar with a loaf this in the context of bread, however, there were so many other ingredients that were used to make bread other than just flour or basic grains. There were loaves made out of beans and loaves made out of peanuts. The options were seemingly endless when it came to the loaves.
Chop Suey of the Great Depression
Chop Suey is a well loved dish even in modern times. It is versatile, tasty, and leaves people satisfied and happy. It is also nutritious which was as important during the Great Depression as it is today. It was made by combining just about whatever vegetables you had in the house, cooking them simply, and then placing it on top of rice if you were lucky enough to have some.
You could also add in some meat or pasta to the mix if you were able to. There were really no rules to this versatile and (potentially) tasty dish.
Prune Pudding Cake of the White House
If you serve people something made from prunes nowadays you will probably get quite a few strange looks for the people in the crowd. There is quite a stigma around this yummy fruit. However, during the Great Depression, this prune pudding cake was served in places as high up as the White House and by the First Lady herself. She was setting the standard for the people of the US in a very difficult time.
Prunes were easier to find than some other fruits and they tended to last longer as well. As a result, they made the perfect choice for a cake like this one.
Potato Pancakes for Every Meal
Potatoes have been and always will be (probably) one of the cheapest foods available. Not only are they cheap, but they are incredibly versatile and extremely filling. It's no wonder that a great many recipes from the Great Depression focused on potatoes. One of the most popular dishes was potato pancakes. People would mix potatoes with a bit of flour and eggs and then fry them into delicious snacks, side dishes, or entire meals.
They were easy to make and also very inexpensive. These two factors were the ingredients required to have a good meal during the Great Depression.
The Poor Man’s Boiled Spice Cake
You might not immediately think of cakes when you think of Depression era foods, however, you have to remember that people wanted to maintain some semblance of normalcy despite the difficult times. And so they tried to make their beloved and usual cakes, albeit without all of the ingredients they were used to using. As a result, the cakes turned out to be a bit different, but still edible.
This cake was known as Poor Man’s Boiled Cake and it was made with lots of spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and the like. It was also cooked with lard instead of butter.