7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (2024)

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Posted: | Last updated: by Erin K. Browne 15 Comments
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PHOTO CREDITS:All credit for photos included in this round-up goes to the original bloggers who created these incredible recipes.No recipes have been reproduced here.Please click through to the awesome blogs who shared these posts andleave them some love in the commentsif you try their recipes or if you just love their ideas!

During the late 1920's and early 1930's when funds were tight and food was expensive, families had to get a little creative and a lot more frugal when it came to making meals to feed their families. Many of those recipes have continued to be passed down to current generations, and here's a list of the few of the more prolific meals that were made during that time. Have you tried any of these?

7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (1)

Image and recipe link from The Baltimore Snacker

Hey, if we had fallen on hard times, I'd feel totally fine feeding this simple dish to my family. Onions and potatoes get cooked together and mixed with chopped up hot dogs. Nothin' wrong with that. You've got the fat from the cooking oil, the protein in the hot dogs, and the carbs in the potatoes - the gang's all here. For the remaining oil from your recipes, you can store them and do a bulk cooking oil recycling pick up once in a while.

7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (2)

Image and recipe from Spicy Southern Kitchen

Though my parents are too young to have lived during the Depression, my mom used to make this all the time when I was a kid. And I hated it. As an adult I can see the appeal and I'd like to give it another goal, but there was just something about the texture and the combo of the gravy and the dried beef that just didn't sit well with the kid version of myself.

7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (3)

Image and recipe from Crazy Simple kitchen

Did you know you can make a loaf of bread using as little as 3 simple ingredients? I can imagine Depression-era families would spend lots of time in the kitchen preparing many loaves of this basic staple to last the week.

7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (4)

Image and recipe by The Kitchen Magpie

Also known as Crazy Cake or Wacky Cake, this recipe is still popular today because of its sheer simplicity. The lack of eggs, milk, and butter is what makes this cake so unique, as such items were in short supply during the Depression. Some recipes call for lemon juice instead of vanilla extract, if it wasn't available.

7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (5)

Image and recipe by My Turn For Us

I totally still make this recipe (though I use salt pork) on the regular, and it's amazing. I just made it this past weekend with a big ole cast iron skillet of cornbread, in fact! It's easy, inexpensive, and I can see why it was a popular dinner choice when funds were tight.

Potatoes are cheap and easy to store, so it's no surprise they showed up on menu home meal plans during the Depression. This recipe jazzes them up a little bit.

7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (7)

Image and recipe by 12 Tomatoes

This is the classic whatever-is-in-the-fridge-and-pantry stew. While 12 Tomatoes has refined it to an actual recipe you can follow, the stew whipped up during The Depression contained literally whatever was available - vegetables, any kind of meat, onions or other spices, etc.

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7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (8)

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7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (9)

About Erin K. Browne

Erin is a mom of two human babies and a sweet kitty named Biscuit Fingers. She loves comfy clothes, eats too much peanut butter, and watches excessive amounts of Netflix. Make her day and toss her a like on Facebook or follow her on Instagram. Post may contain affiliate links including those via the Amazon Associates program

Reader Interactions


  1. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (10)Diana

    How do I get the bread recipe? It doesn't want to open to the recipe from the link.


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (11)Beverly

      I can’t pull it up either. Where do we go to get it?


  2. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (12)Noniblue6

    I grew up eating all of these foods. My Grandmother was a depression era newlywed and grew up with 7 siblings and my grandfather raised himself from 14 yrs of age due to the death of his father on a cattle drive. My mom was a very functional cook and could make something out of nothing. She made mulligan stew often but called it clean out the refrigerator soup. My mother in law introduced me to chipped beef on toast, I loved it! She was an army wife with 9 children .Travel all over USA and Europe. Giving birth where ever they were stationed. Very frugal cook, but a very good cook. She made the best fried chicken. I went in to home economics and learned all the tricks from my teachers. I married at 17.5 and can cook almost anything.


  3. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (13)Elbert

    I prefer using lean ground beef to make chipped beef. you could also add uncooked rice to the ground beef. Make meat balls with it. cook them. Then add white sauce. You can also use ground turkey.


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (14)Erin

      Yum! Love those ideas!


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (15)Tamara Jones

      Very interesting! Is it possible to share the recipe for the rice meatballs? Your tips are great! Thank you. ?


  4. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (16)Deb

    Love these easy and inexpensive recipes! Use half with my family. Will be trying the other half thank you!!


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (17)Erin

      Awesome! Thanks for sharing, Deb!


  5. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (18)Esilot

    My family loves fried hot dogs, potatoes, and onions. I use bacon grease instead of vegetable oil. We call it redneck hash.


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (19)Erin

      Sounds delish!


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (20)Sandy

      My family used Italian sausage and hot dogs we called it depression dinner


  6. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (21)Leslie

    I grew up with every one of these meals and more. I never realized until I was an adult that they were very frugal meals and depression meals. I love potato soup and SOS and still make many of these. Soup is a great frugal meal in it's many forms.


  7. 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (22)Kim

    I love cheap and easy meals they now a days it's worth it.


    • 7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (23)Erin

      I know! When I created this post, I had no idea it'd actually serve a real purpose due to current events. Sheesh! Hope you and yours are doing well in these weird times!


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7 Cheap Recipes Straight From The Great Depression (2024)


What were common dishes from the Great Depression? ›

Top 10 Great Depression Foods That Are Actually Tasty
  • 10 Potato Soup.
  • 9 Bread and Butter Pickles.
  • 8 Egg Drop Soup.
  • 7 Spaghetti with Carrots and White Sauce.
  • 6 Mock Apple Pie.
  • 5 Prune Pudding.
  • 4 Mystery Spice Cake.
  • 3 Hoover Stew.
Oct 5, 2023

What did hobos eat during the Great Depression? ›

With the limited amount of ingredients families had, they developed their own recipes, which spread like wildfire to poor people in need of something to eat.
  • Peanut Butter Bread. ...
  • Mulligan Stew. ...
  • Poorman's Meal. ...
  • Dandelion Salad. ...
  • Hoover Stew. ...
  • Prune Pudding.
Feb 26, 2023

What is the poor mans meal? ›

Potatoes were also inexpensive and used extensively. Some meals even used both. One of these meals was called the Poor Man's Meal. It combined potatoes, onions, and hot dogs into one hearty, inexpensive dish, which was perfect for the hard times people had fallen on.

What was the most popular food in the 1930s? ›

From frozen foods to Jell-O molds, the 1930s and 40s saw a huge upsurge in convenience foods. Building on the popularity of brands like Wonder Bread, Kool-Aid, Velveeta Cheese, and Hostess Cakes, American supermarkets stocked up on mass-produced items.

What was one of the common meals in the 1930s? ›

Food was always home cooked, and people usually ate bread, vegetables, meat, etc. The most common meal was made of a composite dish with one portion of proteins (meat, eggs, fish, cheese, pulses), one portion of potatoes, pasta, or bread, and two portions of vegetables, followed by fruit as dessert.

What is a soup kitchen Great Depression? ›

During the Great Depression preceding the passage of the Social Security Act, "soup kitchens" provided the only meals some unemployed Americans had. This particular soup kitchen was sponsored by the Chicago gangster Al Capone.

What unusual dessert became popular during the Great Depression? ›

A common depression cake is also known as "Boiled Raisin Cake", "Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cake", or "Poor Man's Cake".

What did people in the Dust Bowl eat? ›

Many people turned to newly developed, mass-produced processed foods like canned meats, corn chips, and fruit-filled cakes [1].

What does hobo stand for? ›

The term emerged in the American West around 1890, though its origins are hazy. Some say it was an abbreviation of “homeward bound” or “homeless boy”; author Bill Bryson wrote in his 1998 book “Made in America” that it may have come from “Ho, beau!”, a railroad greeting.

How much was bread in the Great Depression? ›

Average Price of Loaf of Bread

In 1931, the average cost for a loaf of bread was 8 cents.

What was the mulligan stew during the Great Depression? ›

This Great Depression staple was also known as “Hobo Stew.” Mulligan, being a common Irish surname, completes the recipe stew title because it's an adaptation to a classic Irish Beef Stew. During the depression, this catch-all meal was assembled by whatever anyone could scrounge up.

What is the cheapest food to live off of? ›

Cheapest Foods to Live On:
  • Oatmeal.
  • Eggs.
  • Bread.
  • Rice.
  • Bananas.
  • Beans.
  • Apples.
  • Pasta.

How can I eat if I have no money? ›

Your local food bank can help you find food today, even if you need temporary help. They partner with food pantries, soup kitchens, and meal programs in your local community to give away free food. Enter your zip code to find the food bank partnering with Feeding America.

What's the cheapest meal to make? ›

65 Easy And Cheap Dinner Ideas That You'll Want To Make On Repeat
  • Sweet Potato And Black Bean Burritos. tasty.co. ...
  • Barbecue Beer Can Chicken. tasty.co. ...
  • Zucchini Noodles with Kale Pesto. ...
  • One-Pot Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta. ...
  • Chicken Alfredo Penne. ...
  • Avocado Quinoa Power Salad. ...
  • Tofu Scramble. ...
  • Egg Pizza With Scallions.
Dec 21, 2023

What food items were popular in the 1930s? ›

They included: Kool-Aid powder drink, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Bisquick, Spam (precooked canned pork), Twinkies, Ritz Crackers, Lay's Potato Chips, cereals of Cheerios and Chex and Three Musketeers Bar. Maybe the most favorite item coming from the 1930s was the new Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies developed in 1938.

What was popular during the Great Depression? ›

Radio programs, music, dancing and dance marathons, and cinema were popular forms of entertainment during the Great Depression. Many people affected by the economic downturn sought inexpensive ways to pass the time and distract themselves from the challenging circ*mstances.

What was popular in the Great Depression? ›

Inexpensive amusem*nts included backyard games, puzzles, card games, and board games such as Monopoly, which was introduced in 1935. Even the national pastime, baseball, changed profoundly during the Great Depression.

What was common during the Great Depression? ›

Factories were shut down, farms and homes were lost to foreclosure, mills and mines were abandoned, and people went hungry. The resulting lower incomes meant the further inability of the people to spend or to save their way out of the crisis, thus perpetuating the economic slowdown in a seemingly never-ending cycle.

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