Could you stomach these Great Depression meals?

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image by edenpictures

With all the talk about food storage and growing our own food, I did a little digging around to find out what some people ate during America’s Great Depression of the 1930′s.  Surprisingly, a few of these were made by my mother and grandmother, traditions, I’m sure, from a more frugal era.  I still have a soft spot for Chipped Beef on Toast!  How many of these are familiar to you, and do you have any others to add to the list?

Milk toast

Chipped beef on toast

Cucumber and mustard sandwiches

Mayonnaise sandwiches

Ketchup sandwiches

Hot milk and rice



Potato soup – water base, not milk

Dandelion salad

Lard sandwiches

Bacon grease sandwiches

Sugar sandwiches

Hot dogs and baked beans

Road kill

One eyed Sam – piece of bread with an easy over egg in the center

Oatmeal mixed with lard

Fried potatoes and hot dogs

image by Tony the Misfit

Onion sandwich – slices of onion between bread

Tomato gravy and biscuits

Deep-fried chicken skin

Cornbread in milk

Gravy and bread – as a main dish

Toast with mashed potatoes on top with gravy

Creamed corn on toast

Corn mush with milk for breakfast, fried corn mush for dinner


Rice in milk with some sugar


Fried potato peel sandwiches

Banana slices with powdered sugar and milk

Boiled cabbage

Hamburger mixed with oatmeal

American cheese sandwich, ‘American’ cheese was invented because it was cheap to make, and didn’t require refrigeration that may or may not exist back then.

Tomato gravy on rice

Toast with milk gravy

Water fried pancakes

Chicken feet in broth

Fried bologna

Warm canned tomatoes with bread

Butter and sugar sandwiches

Fried potato and bread cubes

Bean soup

Runny eggs with grits

Butter and grits with sugar and milk

Baked apples

Sliced boiled pork liver on buttered toast (slice liver with potato peeler)

image by Blue Mountains Library

Corn meal mush

Spaghetti with tomato juice and navy beans

Whatever fish or game you could catch/hunt

Tomato sandwiches

Hard-boiled eggs in white sauce over rice

Spam and noodles with cream of mushroom soup

Rag soup: spinach, broth and lots of macaroni

Garbanzo beans fried in chicken fat or lard, salted, and eaten cold

Popcorn with milk and sugar – ate it like cereal

Lessons learned from this list?  Stock up on ingredients for bread, including buckets of wheat.  Bread, in some form, is one of the main ingredients for many of these meals.  Second, know how to make different types of bread.  Next, have chickens around as a source for meat and eggs, and if possible, have a cow or goat for milk.  Another lesson is to have a garden that will provide at least some fresh produce, and plant fruit trees and bushes.  Finally, don’t waste anything, even chicken feet!

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  1. Guest says

    I remember having dinner at a friend’s house in the late ’50’s. The mom, who had a disabled husband and severe money problems made dinosaur patties. Later I learned that the dinosaur patties were tuna patties made with canned cat tuna, which was much cheaper than regular tuna. So happy I didn’t know at the time.

  2. pennsyltuckian says

    My grandmother introduced me to milk toast and brown sugar sandwiches. I still sneak a brown sugar sandwich as a snack on occasion. My wife thinks I’m nuts. Also ate what I caught and what we raised on many occasions.

  3. madmemere says

    I was a “depression baby”, so I remember a lot of things on the list; that “sugar sandwich” reminds me of brown sugar and butter sandwiches- – we were lucky, had our own cows, pigs and chickens! Sunday night supper might be a bowl of crackers, milk and raspberries, or blackberries (in season)! Chicken giblets and gravy (when the hens stopped laying eggs). Another “treat” was spam, cucumber and mayonnaise sandwiches! If you chop the spam and add chopped pickles and mayonnaise, it tastes just like ham salad! Egg salad can be “spiced up” with chopped pickles, or relish. If we didn’t drink the milk fast enough, or the ice man didn’t come, the milk would “sour” and Mom would use it to make her wonderful cake-like donuts, or pancakes (with blueberries, in season); oh, and she fried her donuts in a big old cast iron skillet!

    Her cook stove was a four-burner kerosene job and I remember the oven- -a square tin box (with racks), the door had an “isinglass” window you could, actually, see through. The oven was “removable” when you wanted to cook with all four burners.

    Dad would tap the maple trees, in February, so we made our own maple syrup; in March, before the snow all melted away, they would have a “sugar-on-snow party”! Lots of family and friends gathered, you’d take the last of last years maple syrup, start “cooking it down” and pour a little over your bowl of snow; it became taffy-like (very, very sweet). Eat a little of that, then a saltine cracker and a sour pickle to cut the sweet taste and start over. Sometimes, they would continue to cook the syrup down and make those lovely little maple sugar candies that we buy at gift shops today and pay “dearly” for!

    We always had a garden, so we had plenty of vegetables. Dad would start a lot of his plantings early, by building a “cold frame”, using scrap lumber and old storm windows he salvaged from some place. The sides of the frame would be wrapped in “tar paper” (roofing paper) and banked with leaves we raked up the previous fall. With the storm windows, on top of the frame, it was like a miniature greenhouse. I didn’t mean to “ramble on”, but I could write you an entire book about things like that!

  4. MontieR says

    I still eat a lot of what is listed.

  5. Jay Star says

    I can just see these little pansy’s nowadays eating these things, can’t you? lol

  6. $14832922 says

    I was raised on about 2/3 of the things on that list and I was born in 1950.
    To think I could live to see this twice.

  7. B-Mac says

    Funny thing is, I have eaten most of the things on that list, and not because I was poor, but rather because those were things that my father had taught us to cook, eat, and enjoy. My father was born at the tail end of the Great Depression in West by-God Virginia, the heart of Appalachia, and he was dirt poor – a kind of poor only people in third world countries can imagine today.

    More often than not, he would have to hunt, fish, or trap his food, or he, his sister, and his widowed mother would go face going hungry. Those meals are what he called ‘belly-fillers’, and they would keep you alive and healthy in the lean times, and when prepared properly, and with a few basic spices would actually make very good meals.

    I have been taught throughout my life to be self-reliant; to know how to hunt, fish, garden, raise livestock of all kinds (cows, pigs, goats, rabbits, chickens, etc) to enable me to survive the worst of times with a minimum of hunting and fishing tools. As long as I have my .22 rifle, a shotgun, a larger caliber rifle (my .30-06 does the trick, and ammo is cheap and plentiful) for deer, wild boar, elk, and bear, a fishing pole and basic tackle, I can live well off the land for as long as I need to.

    I think that these are skills that will always be in demand, and especially when the feces hits the proverbial fan. I thank God everyday that I had a father who passed those skills and knowledge along to me throughout my life, and wish that more people had those skills today. When money no longer means anything to our society, and a box of .22 ammo is worth its weight in gold, I’ll be in a good position to not only survive, but thrive and protect the lives of those I care about as well.

    Those, like my dear departed father, who survived the Great Depression, did so through self-reliance, as well as teamwork with their neighbors and fellow men, with a whole lot of good, old-fashioned tenacity thrown in for good measure. I know that I will be among the survivors of any such subsequent societal breakdown, because of these skills and my knowledge of how to survive and thrive off the land which was passed down to me and my brother from our father.

    Most of those meals on the list will also be a big part of a smart, thrifty person’s diet when the need arises. As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. Well, the same thing goes for an empty stomach, especially when those empty stomachs are those of your wife and children.

    A smart and prudent man hopes for the best, and trusts in God, but prepares for the worst. God helps them who help themselves. Don’t expect the government to be there when you are down and out – they’ll be too busy looking out for themselves, and trying to maintain their power over us.

    1. Worship Dancer says

      i’m the same way. we used to eat crackers crunched up in a bowl with milk & sugar. as i read the list i thought i already eat a lot of these items. both of my parents grew up in the depression so adding cracker or bread crumbs to hamburger is normal for me as is mashed potatoes & gravy on bread or just gravy on bread.

    2. Trump WILL make America Great! says

      AMEN!!! All of us that grew up in this region were taught the same skills as well and have eaten the majority of the things on this list!!! And you’re right, when the sh*t hits the fan all of these leeches will be screaming at the top of their lungs for the government to save them and will die a slow painful death while those of us with the skills we were lucky enough to have been taught and grew up with will go on with our lives as usual because we never expected, or would much less accept welfare or a hand out as anything worth having is worth working for and we always relied on ourselves and family and looked out for each other and never looked for anyone to keep us up!!! That’s why we are Conservative, believe in the Lord, read the bible regularly, hold these morals and values as the only way, and know the value of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and our right to have and bear arms!!! We will be here when this plague called liberalism is gone and nothing but a bad memory and WE will restore OUR Country, the USA to the greatness it once held and represented!!! And as a warning to any of you leeches that think you will come take what we have and worked for, and harm us or our families you best be warned that IS the quickest way to lose your life because WE will defend these rights, our families and what is ours with our very lives!!! May God Bless America once again!!!

  8. foxxybey says

    Used to eat a lot of what is listed, stand in line at the store behind illegals with buggy’s filled with steaks and chops and paying with food stamps. Something wrong when illegals have more medical, more food and free cell phones over those who served in the military and are considered second class citizens to the illegal’s.

  9. Mary Brown says

    I still eat a lot of these foods, Grew up poor during the 60’s and you eat your childhood comfort foods at times.

  10. Wyo proud says

    Wow I have eaten a lot of these meals and it wasn’t doing the depression. I still eat a lot of these meals because I like them and if you try some you might too.

  11. tallsandi says

    I remember a lot of those, my parents were born in the teens

  12. Lisa Renee' Jones says

    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst~

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