I can remember my grandma and her cooking from decades ago, as if it were cooking on her stove right now.
I can also remember my grandfather who was a butcher by trade. So, he had access to some of the best meats and took advantage of that perk. But, not only did he grab the goods, he often also cooked it up for us when gathering as a family.
One of our all-time favorite dishes my grandma made was called “Slop”. I’m not even sure if she had a recipe, but I certainly haven’t been able to find anything like it since then. It was tender chunks of beef, carrots, celery, and onion with a thick and hearty gravy. Sounds like stew, right? I’ve had stew. This was different, and I’m not sure why, because she never left a recipe for it.
She put a pile of mashed potatoes or rice on the plate and slopped a scoop of her “Slop” over it. We always asked her to make extra so we could take it home and eat it for the next few days. Not because we had to, but because it was that good. She’s long been gone. So, I can’t ask her for the recipe anymore. And unfortunately, I was too young to realize that I would desperately want it someday.
But, that got me thinking. Many of us probably have recipes from grandparents that we would love to have right now. And, many of those recipes were most likely created during wartime and the Great Depression as a necessity for batches to last for a week or so. Some people might call that leftovers. But, not everything is good for a week’s worth of meals.
So, I looked into what recipes might have been passed down from our ancestors and that era, to compile them for an article to share. Not just for nostalgic reasons, but just in case SHTF.
Staples to Have on Hand
It’s not just about making meals that will last throughout the week during bad times. But, having a variety of ingredients on the shelf is also important, either to make these recipes or as a side for your favorite recipes.
Here is a good list of pantry items to consider, and how long each should last:
- Canned Fruit, Veggies, and Beans (up to 6 years)
- Canned Meat or Tuna (up to 5 years)
- Dried Fruit (approximately 1 year)
- Dried Beans (indefinitely)
- Corn Starch (indefinitely)
- Dried Pasta (about 3 years)
- Grains (about 8 years)
- Oats (2 years)
- Rice (30 years)
- Instant Coffee (about 25 years)
- Jams and Jellies (2 years unopened, 6 months opened)
- Jerky (2 years, sealed)
- Maple Syrup (indefinitely, unopened)
- Raw Honey (indefinitely)
- Sugar (indefinitely)
- Vanilla Extract (indefinitely)
- Oils (2 years)
- Powdered Milk (20 years)
- Ramen Noodles (2 years)
- Salt (indefinitely)
- Bouillon (2 years)
- Soy Sauce (indefinitely, unopened)
- Whole Spices and Herbs (up to 4 years)
- Tomato Sauce Can or Jar (2 years)
- Vinegar (Indefinitely)
Of course, the length of time listed above could vary, depending on how it’s stored. Cool and dry places, and airtight containers will lengthen the shelf life of many products.
So, let’s take a look at some tried and true recipes from our ancestors. It’s a list compiled of a few recipes that will last a week, some that will last several months, and a handful that use scraps so nothing goes to waste.
Long Lasting Recipes for when SHTF
Here are 30 recipes that I found, which will help you get through the hard times. Please keep in mind, with the exception of one, these are not my recipes. And, they are not fancy. But, most of them also don’t require hard to obtain and expensive ingredients either.
Some of them you can eat for a week, while others you can store for months…maybe even years. Below you will find the recipes and/or links to them.
Breads, Grains, and other Carbs
There are a lot of recipes for breads or crackers, and the use of grains. Some are good for longtime storage, while others are a good source of food for a week or so, depending on how many you make, and how you store them.
Nothing Fancy Wartime Loaf
Nothing like a fresh loaf of bread to help with a meal. It can be used for any meal, such as toast at breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, or a side for dinner. A loaf or two could last a week, depending on how many are eating, as well as how many meals it’s used.
This recipe makes 2 large loaves or 4 small.
Bannock was created in both North America and Europe. Native Americans made something similar, only using corn.
The version in the link is more like a bread than hardtack, but also somewhat similar with the ingredients.
The shelf life discussed is for the mix, not the baked product. A basic bannock recipe, without a lot of additions, could last a couple months if you store it in a sealed baggie. If you don’t add the oil until you are ready to make it, then the shelf life is even longer. But, once it’s baked it should be used within a week.
Hardtack is a hard biscuit or bread that has a very long shelf life, decades long. Even though it’s typically on the bland side, soldiers would often eat these to fight off hunger. To add flavor, they can be dipped in broths and soups, or beverages.
When they are completely cooled, you can put them in an airtight container, then store in a cool and dry space. If stored properly, they should keep for decades.
Milkorno was invented by scientists from Cornell University to help feed the masses during the Great Depression. It’s a mix of:
- 2 parts cornmeal
- 1 part powdered milk
This could be used as a base for other recipes, or as a porridge or polenta on their own.
More breads and carbs:
- Leek Potato Pancakes
- Grandma’s Onion Squares
- Depression Era Macaroni and Cheese
Dried Meats, Beans, and other Proteins
There are several recipes for dried meat options, bean dishes, and other proteins to consider. They are often packed with protein and can be stored for a long time.
Jerky from a store is often filled with unnecessary and unwanted preservatives. Whereas if you make it at home, you can create a high protein survival food that can last on the shelf for months.
Related: The 10-Dollar Jerky Maker
Similar to jerky, biltong consists of marinated and dried meat.
However, biltong is cured with vinegar and spices. It’s also air-dried, so you can make it anywhere.
With a shelf life of at least 5 years, it’s a great staple to have on hand.
Pemmican was created by Native Americans, and has been referred to as the ultimate survival food.
The reason is that it’s packed with protein and will last for decades as long as it’s stored in a cool dry place, such as a refrigerator or root cellar.
Lemon Garlic Lima Beans
Lima beans might not be everyone’s favorite, but they can make a great dish that is adaptable, like the linked recipe.
Add your own ingredients that you feel will add the flavor you prefer in a hearty side dish.
Or, add meat to make it a very filling main dish, one that could last for a few days if you make a big enough batch.
Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast
This is something I used to eat as a kid, and kinda liked it.
It’s easy, inexpensive to make, and can be made in large batches to last about a week.
Great Depression Casserole
Using a few ingredients probably sitting in your pantry, this casserole was a good one to make in the Great Depression…inexpensive, easy, hearty, and enough for a week for a small family or individual.
This stew was created during the Great Depression and named after President Hoover who was in office at the time. Made with inexpensive ingredients, it’s a filling meal, and enough for leftovers for the week.
High-Calorie Ration Bars
These bars are very high in calories, making a great option for a meal replacement.
They will last a few months on the shelf if stored properly, and actually taste really good.
Corned Beef Salad
Using inexpensive ingredients, many out of your pantry, this dish is a popular item during the Great Depression. If kept refrigerated, it could last the week.
Depression Era Meatloaf
If you like meatloaf, you know it’s good on the first night, as well as leftovers such as sandwiches.
So, make 2 loaves and you can eat from it all week.
Make a sandwich, or cut it up to mix with rice or noodles.
If you don’t have access to meat, or prefer to not use meat due to spoiling quicker, this meatless meatloaf recipe is a good option.
Jams are a great addition to a pantry. They don’t have to be refrigerated, until they are opened. And, they provide a nice variety to a person’s intake.
While they can sit on your shelf for years before opening, homemade jams should be used within a couple weeks after opening.
Rhubarb and Apple Jam
Jams are something that might be time consuming to make, but could last years on the shelf if canned properly.
This jam will allow you to have a treat with a slice of bread or cracker either as a snack, or just to add a variety to a meal with something sweet and tangy.
This recipe makes several 10 ounce jars.
Summer Berry Jam
This is a good, and easy recipe for jam using your favorite summer berries. If canned properly, it can yield 4 good size jars and will last a couple years on the shelf.
The butter you add acts as an additional sealant and can be removed when you open the jar for use.
Soups are my favorite food item, ever. It can be a very hearty meal, a light side, or just a good dish to warm you up on a cold night. They can also last a week, if you make a big batch.
Another big perk of soups is that they can often be made from items either in your pantry, or from leftovers.
If you have considered canning soups, here a few important guidelines:
- Soups need to be pressure canned.
- Do not add rice, noodles, flour, any milk product, cream, or thickeners (they can be added after you open a jar and heat it to serve or eat).
- Cook beans and peas before canning.
Make sure all ingredients are safe to can, for example cabbage has not been proven safe for canning. But, since sauerkraut is pickled, that would be fine.
Split Pea Soup
I always have ham left after making a ham dinner. And, I always have requests to make split pea soup with the leftover ham. My mother and grandmothers always used to make a good split pea soup. But, here’s my easy, but tasty recipe:
- 1 bag of split peas
- Ham bone
- 1 cup onion, diced
- 1 cup celery, diced
- ½ cup carrots, diced
- 1 large potato
- 2 cups ham, diced
- 4 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned
- 2 teaspoons black pepper, or to taste
Clean the peas by rinsing them and removing any outer skin that might come off. Place all the ingredients into a crockpot, with the exception of the diced ham. I typically hold off on adding the ham, just so it doesn’t overcook. No worries, the ham bone will add a ton of ham flavor.
Cook on high for a couple hours, then turn down to low for about 4-6 hours more. Stir the mix a few times throughout the day.
When you start to see the peas break down, add the diced ham. Stir good, and it should be ready within an hour.
After the leftover sets and cools, it thickens quite a bit. I typically add water to what’s left before reheating it.
Vegetable soup is probably the most easily adaptable soup around. You can add or omit any vegetables you want, without ruining a recipe. Do you have any leftover veggies? Add those. You could also make a large batch, and add some meat to it later in the week to add variety.
Another option you have is using fresh or frozen. Fresh, in my opinion, always tastes better. But, in some areas, seasons, or situations, you might not have a good selection of fresh. And, since there isn’t any meat or cream in the recipe above, it will last about a week if refrigerated.
Lentil soup has been around for ages, for a good reason.
This recipe contains about 50% of your daily fiber needs, and 30% of protein in just one serving. And, it’s quite inexpensive to make, at around $2 for a batch which makes 4 large servings. If you want more servings to either feed a larger group, or have throughout the week, double the batch.
It’s still really cheap to make!
Depression Era Potato Soup
The great thing about a good basic potato soup recipe is all the options to add ingredients to change it up. Straight up potato soup one day, add a little bacon, sour cream, and chives for a twiced-baked potato soup the next. It’s hearty, inexpensive, and really good on a cold night.
Other Soups to take a look at that will last at least a week in the refrigerator, or months in the freezer:
- Carrot Chowder
- Great Depression Egg Drop Soup
- Tomato Soup
Either to have at the end of a meal, or a snack, sweet treats have also been around forever with some great recipes handed down.
Bread pudding is a treat that has been around since the 13th century. And, the nice thing about bread pudding is that it’s highly adaptable…and filling.
Using old bread and few other ingredients, it’s also inexpensive to make, even though it can taste like it’s a gourmet treat.
The recipe in the link uses challah bread, which tends to be sweeter than some breads. But, you could use any bread. In fact, why not try a savory bread, with savory seasonings for more of a main course or side dish, rather than a sweet treat?
They say this cake got its name because the thought of making a cake years ago without eggs seemed a bit wacky. This sweet treat could easily last about a week, depending on the portion size you choose.
Mock Apple Pie
Nothing like a yummy apple pie. But in hard times, the ingredients and cost could be an issue. So, why not try a mock apple pie? Depending on your portion sizes and how many people are eating it, it could easily last all week.
You may also like: