When times are tough, people get creative with the food they have available to make something not only edible, but downright delicious. I didn't grow up during the great depression. That was decades before my time. However, my grandmother did. She was an expert at taking the little bit of food she made on Social Security and stretching it into a pretty fantastic meal. One of my most enduring memories of her cooking when I was growing up was the many casseroles that she made. In Minnesota, these were known as "hotdish" (taken from the church suppers that are popular there, as in "bring a hot dish to pass around").

My favorite was my grandmother's tator-tot casserole. She also made a mean chicken-and-rice casserole, and was a master baker. We always had lots of cakes and cookies around the house.

With the U.S. facing one of the worst recessions since WWII, people are taking a renewed interest in cooking their own meals using simple ingredients, particularly using recipes from the Great Depression era. There tends to be a romanticized view of these recipes. Many people during the Great Depression went hungry, and ate things that we may not consider very tasty today. Still, each society has recipes that started out of necessity, and later became treasured family favorites. The idea was to be frugal, and make the best use of the ingredients that were available.

When I was growing up, that meant we at a lot of things that my father shot while he was hunting, or the fish that he caught from local lakes over the summer and froze. He also grew and canned or froze a lot of produce from a garden he maintained in our backyard. The reason was simple. We didn't have a lot of money back then, and that's how he put food on the table. To this day, those ingredients made some of the best meals I've ever eaten.

If you have any simple family recipes which use few ingredients available in most anybody's home, feel free to comment and post them here. I'm sure our readers would love to experiment with new recipes!

Related post: Great Depression Cooking with Clara

Savvy Frugality Recommended Reading: Finding a Job in a Bad Economy


  1. Anonymous // March 16, 2011 at 11:28 PM  

    I, too, grew up in Minnesota and remember my sweet Grandma making something delicious from almost nothing at all. The most wonderful part is that all of my aunts as well as my mother learned to cook from her, so no matter when we all got together, the favorites were always made exactly the same! My favorite: Hamburger patties (no buns) and Potato Patties (made from leftover mashed potatoes, refridgerated overnight, made in to patties, dipped in bread crumbs and fried until golden brown), and Creamed Corn.

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