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15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great Depression 🍲

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In the midst of the Great Depression, mothers and grandmothers all over America found ingenious ways to stretch the little they had left to keep putting food on the table each day.

These long-forgotten dishes will feed you and your family during hard times, when shortages of every kind will once again become common, just as they were during the 1930’s:

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great Depression

Give these odd recipes from the Great Depression a try if you’re attempting to pinch pennies – or are feeling a bit adventurous!

Bologna Casserole

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionYou might not mind eating a bologna sandwich every now and then – but bologna casserole? That’s a little odd!

Bologna casserole was made out of things like bacon, onions, peppers, canned pork and beans, inexpensive cheese, and naturally, bologna.

It’s hearty – to say the least.

Hot Water Pie

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionAs the name implies, hot water pie is connected by combining ingredients like flour, sugar, and butter for a crust then using boiling water, sugar, butter, and eggs for a filling.

Related: 21 Old-Fashioned Recipes Your Grandma Knew By Heart

Great Depression Egg Drop Soup

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionYou might recognize this name, but this unique dish is not at all like the Chinese soup you know and love.

Instead, it consists of onions and browned potatoes, scrambled eggs, and a water broth that has been heavily salted.

Garbage Plate

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionThe garbage plate is still often served at diners in the western New York region.

It’s a combination of home fries, baked beans, macaroni salad, ground beef, and sometimes sausage (or any variation of those ingredients). This mixture is then topped with chili, onions, hot sauce, mustard, or ketchup.

A peculiar combination of flavors, for sure – but also loaded with nutrients and calories.

Related: 10 Foods You Should Never Store Together

Great Depression Cooked Bread

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionIt’s as simple as it sounds. Made out of hard bread that had gone past its prime and was no longer fresh, cooked bread just involves cutting bits of bread into slices, soaking it in some oil or butter, and frying it in a pan. You could pour some water over the slices if it needed more hydrating, too. You could then mash it up.

Cabbage and Dumplings

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionCabbage and dumplings is a dish that’s pretty much self-explanatory.

Despite being strange, it’s not the worst tasting dish on this list. It’s just fried onions and cabbage combined with dumplings crafted out of flour and egg.

Frozen Fruit Salad

Frozen Fruit SaladFrozen fruit salad was a popular meal around the holidays, in particular.

This dish can be adjusted in a variety of ways, but most versions include canned fruit, whipped cream, flour, eggs, and mix-ins such as nuts or marshmallows.

The whole dish is frozen, then served like ice cream.

Great Depression Meatless Meatloaf

Meatless MeatloafIt seems counterintuitive that meatloaf would be served without any meat – but back in the Depression, meat could be hard to come by.

Meatless meatloaf could be made out of anything – from liver to raisins, peanuts and more, just about anything you had hanging out in the refrigerator or pantry could be thrown into this dish.

Amish Cold Milk Soup

Cold milk soup is just like cereal – without the cereal.

Served cold on a hot day, this dish could actually be quite refreshing. It’s just bananas, milk, and sugar.

Related: How to Make Amish Sweet Bread

Boiled Carrots and Spaghetti with White Sauce

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionAlthough you might be quite attached to your favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe, back in the Great Depression, you would have enjoyed a much blander variation of this.

Spaghetti would be boiled for a long time – about 25 minutes – to make it super mushy.

Add to that some boiled carrots and a white sauce made out of salt, flour, milk, and margarine, and a nutritious dinner is served – albeit a bland, tasteless one!

Peanut Butter and Mayo Sandwiches

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionJust about every household would have pantry staples like peanut butter and mayo hanging around.

Because of that, the peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwich became a fixture, providing just enough protein and sustenance to people in a pinch.

Great Depression Milkorno

Scientists at Cornell University are responsible for the culinary marvel that is milkorno. This inexpensive food was meant to feed struggling families in the Depression-era.

A blend of cornmeal and dehydrated milk powder, it could be eaten by itself like oatmeal or mixed into recipes. Yum.

Related: How To Dehydrate Milk For Long Term Storage

Ketchup Sandwiches

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionAnother popular Depression-era meal was the infamous ketchup sandwich.

It wouldn’t have had a ton of nutrients or calories but would help families fill a plate in a pinch.

Corned Beef Luncheon Salad

15 Strange Meals People Ate During The Great DepressionGelatin, in the 1930s, was a new and cutting-edge food. It was added to just about everything.

One popular dish was corned beef luncheon salad, which contained canned corned beef, canned peas, cabbage, lemon juice, vinegar, and of course, plain gelatin. It was popular and inexpensive to make.

Jell-O Ice Cream

Jell-O Ice CreamLast but not least is Jell-O ice cream.

Dessert lovers, pay attention – this is an odd Depression-era meal you’ll want to try at your next dinner party.

In fact, this recipe doesn’t sound nearly as repulsive as corned beef luncheon salad – but it’s unusual, to say the least.

This recipe includes whipped heavy cream, vanilla extract, milk, sugar, and raspberry Jell-O. A no-churn, inexpensive take on ice cream, it would have been most popular around the holidays, especially for those who were used to living on the bare minimum and being forced to skip dessert!

Get Adventurous with These Odd Great Depression Meals

In the midst of the Great Depression, Americans found creative ways to stretch their food dollars and provide nourishment for their families.

They ate a variety of unusual dishes that made use of the ingredients they had on hand (like food that they foraged or grew in their gardens).

Whether you’re looking for some fun and frugal new recipes or you just want to explore a unique period in America’s history, consider whipping up a few of these odd Great Depression-era meals today!

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