On October 29, 1929, the US Stock Market crashed, surging the country into what we know as the Great Depression. During the Great Depression, countless jobs were lost, millions lost their incomes, and families started to go hungry. This was during a time when many still lived off their own homestead, and if they didn’t, they needed to start.
Situations got so desperate, hungry people made food out of almost nothing. Canned goods, flour, and eggs from your own chickens were sometimes all that was available, if anything at all. Some only had one meal per day, and went hungry at nighttime. Others ate the same food for days or weeks on end because that’s all that was available to them.
Although this happened over 90 years ago, today we prepare ourselves for all types of worst-case scenarios. We know that, of course, this Depression-era famine will happen again, so here are some recipes that your parents or grandparents made during the Great Depression out of nearly nothing.
By no means you need to follow any of these recipes exactly, just adapt with what you have.
Related: 50 Tips From the Great Depression
Firstly, this bread is a huge loaf made from only 4 ingredients, all of which will already be in your food reserve.
Keeping homemade bread on-hand adds to many of the dishes on this list.
- 5 lbs. flour
- 5 tbsp yeast
- 6 tsp salt (optional, if you have it)
- 6 cups warm water, more or less depending on your flour
Add flour to a bowl or board and make a well in the flour mound.
Add yeast, salt, and warm water to well and knead into a dough.
Allow to rise for 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Add to a baking pan and make 3-4 slits with a knife on the top of the dough.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned on top.
Chipped Beef On Toast
Secondly, using the bread you just made, slice off some nice thick slices to serve with this dried meat Depression delicacy.
What You’ll Need
- 8 oz. dried beef jerky
- 2 tbsp butter or oil
- 4 tbsp flour
- 4 cups milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sliced homemade bread, for serving
- Add jerky and oil to a pan over medium heat. Cook until the meat softens, about 3-4 minutes.
- Stir in your flour and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add milk and bring to a low boil. Allow sauce to thicken for up to 5 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper if you have it.
- Serve over homemade bread, toasted if desired.
As we know, dandelions are totally edible and delicious, they just require lots of cleaning before eating.
- 1 lb. freshly picked dandelions, cleaned well
- 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar
- 2-3 tbsp oil
Head outside and pick the largest, freshest dandelions you can find.
Then, cover the dandelions completely in cold water and rinse 3-4 times.
Using a knife, peel off the darkest outer leaves from the root. Rinse again.
Once clean, either chop or leave whole, depending on your preference.
Add to a large bowl and season with vinegar and oil. Serve immediately.
Beans are cheap, plentiful, and filling.
They were very common in the Depression era, and recently have had a resurgence with the Covid-19 epidemic.
If you do not have every vegetable used, omit without issue.
What It Is Needed
- 1 package soaked dried beans, or 2 cans of beans
- One tomato, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 tbsp lard
- Two tbsp molasses
- One cup water
- Soak your beans, if using dried, overnight and drain the liquid.
- Prepare your veggies by chopping. Omit any vegetable that you do not have on-hand.
- Add lard to a stock pot and cook your vegetables until tender.
- Add the beans, molasses, and water. Cook all together with a lid on for 2-3 hours or until the beans have your desired consistency. Add more water if needed.
- Serve hot. Leftovers of this dish keep very well and can be eaten many days in a row.
Ash cakes got their name because different renditions are cooked in the hot white ash of your campfire. These are only 3 ingredients but are filling and have a great texture.
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 cup meat stock or water
- 2 tbsp lard or grease
Mix both ingredients together in a bowl and allow to sit overnight to hydrate the cornmeal. Pat into a bread pan and refrigerate or add to your cool storage before allowing to set up.
The next day, slice into 1-inch slices and fry in melted lard. Serve hot and crispy.
This stew is an amalgamation of what you currently have in your reserve. This recipe is very easily adaptable to the items you already possess.
- 1 box noodles
- A can of tomatoes
- 1 package of hot dogs, or 1 can of sausage or meat
- A can of corn, peas or beans
- 2-4 cups water
Mix all ingredients together in a pot until boiling.
Then simmer for 15-20 minutes until the noodles are tender.
If you have aromatics, onion and garlic would be a great addition.
If not, the recipe is great as is.
Many of us have potatoes buried in our yards right now, saving them through winter. This is a great way to use up your potato harvest at the end of winter, but you can always use canned potatoes too.
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced (or 2 cans of potatoes)
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- One carrot, sliced
- A can of meat, sausage, or hot dogs (optional)
- 3 cups water or stock
- 3 cups milk
- Any herbs you have on-hand
- Salt to taste
What To Do
Slice all your potatoes, garlic, and carrots. Add to a soup pot with the meat, water, and milk. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat, keeping the mix at a low simmer.
Then, cook for 30 minutes until all veggies are tender.
Add herbs and salt, if using. Serve hot.
And finally, our only Great Depression dessert recipe. There aren’t many comforts during a depression, but at least this rice pudding will bring some familiarity to an undesirable situation.
What It Is Needed For This
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cups milk
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 tbsp honey, maple syrup, or molasses
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and cook over low heat, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Taste for doneness and cook an additional 5 minutes, tasting until desired consistency.
- Serve warm.
Therefore, we may need our parents or grandparents’ Great Depression-era recipes sooner than we think, thanks to the increasing instability brought on by governments and the current pandemic.
Cooking with almost nothing is possible, as the 1930’s and early 1940’s taught us. All of these recipes are easily made with what you should already have in your root cellar and non-perishable reserves. Use your judgement to add or omit any ingredients that suit you.
In conclusion, the next time the economy crashes, which may be sooner than we think, keep prepared with some recipes to keep your family fed and your homestead moving forward.
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