The Great Depression, spanning the late 1920s to the late 1930s, was marked by severe economic downturn and hardship.
During this era, families across America had to get inventive with their meals to make the most of limited resources. These meals, often simple and inexpensive, reflected the spirit of resilience in trying times.
This plain, simple, and inexpensive meal consisted of slices of bread slathered with mustard or mayonnaise and layered with thick slices of raw onions.
Creamed Corn on Toast
It consisted of corn, bread, and some form of dairy—often powdered milk, which was cheaper and more shelf-stable than fresh milk.
Whatever Fish or Game You Could Catch
Fish or game were used to create a variety of sandwiches, sometimes with vegetables and condiments like horseradish.
It consisted of various vegetables, canned tomatoes, and any available protein (such as hot dogs or beans). This dish was named after President Herbert Hoover, whom many Americans blamed for the economic downturn.
A hearty and filling meal made with cheap and readily available potatoes. Even the water was not wasted; it was used as the broth for the soup.
This soup combined white beans, onions, and bacon and was simmered in an iron pot until thickened. The broth could be served with bread or potatoes.
Fried Potato Peel Sandwiches
After being thoroughly washed, the peels were fried until crispy and used as a filling for bread.
Cornmeal Griddle Cakes
Simple cornmeal pancakes that were easy to make and used a handful of ingredients.
Biscuits with Tomato Gravy
This dish involved a simple gravy made from canned tomatoes, flour, and a fat source like butter or bacon drippings. This warm, tangy gravy was poured over freshly baked biscuits, providing a filling and nutrient-rich meal.
Fried Potato and Bread Cubes
This “Poor Man’s Meal” dish consisted of fried potatoes and onions, with added stale bread cubes for extra substance.
Hard-Boiled Eggs in White Sauce Over Rice
Eggs, a convenient protein source, and rice, a filling and affordable staple, nourished families in challenging times. The white sauce, made with butter, flour, and milk, added flavor and richness.
Oatmeal with Lard
Oatmeal was frequently used for nutrition due to its affordability and availability. Lard, rendered pig fat, was another inexpensive and readily available ingredient.
Made from rice, sugar, and milk.
Creamed Chipped Beef
Dried beef in a cream sauce served over toast, known as “shingles.”
Cabbage and Hot Dogs
Another inexpensive meal that combined the cheap and ubiquitous hot dogs with cabbage, a vegetable that was readily available and inexpensive.
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