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24 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes


Updated September 20, 2016
(1 Votes)


Leftover Mashed Potato CakesThe Great Depression caused many hardships, but the cuisine of the time certainly didn't suffer! These 24 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes are proof that food from the 1930s is worth bringing back again. People at the time were forced to discover creative ways to use food efficiently, resulting in some very delicious and cheap dishes. Rice, beans, and cheese were major sources of protein, instead of meat, which was much more expensive. Of course, people didn't go entirely without meat in their Depression-era recipes. Oftentimes, substitutes for popular meats like spam or bologna were used instead. When families did get their hands on their favorite meats, it was a real treat, and they would prepare the meat extraordinarily well.


This round-up includes a wide variety of Depression-era recipes, from hobo tin foil dishes to egg-less cakes. Hearty, tasty, and cheap, these recipes are perfect for an easy family dinner. Don't worry about taking a long time to make them -- most of these recipes require minimal effort and very little time. Plus, a lot of these meal ideas are taken straight from old-fashioned kitchens, so you'll love eating foods that are exactly like the ones your grandma used to make. We were inspired by these 1930s recipes, and we hope you are too.


Need more cheap dinner recipes? Check out our free eCookbook of 27 Cheap and Easy Chicken Recipes!


24 Classic Great Depression Era Recipes

Table of Contents

Side Dish Ideas

Old-Fashioned Dinner Recipes

Traditional Dessert Recipes

Side Dish Ideas

These side dishes are packed with protein and flavor, so your whole family will love eating them. You could even serve some of the recipes as a hearty lunch, like Amish Church Soup and Hungry Hobo Beans. Make sure to try Grandma's Zucchini Squares, too - they're a great way to use up your leftover zucchini, and they serve as both the vegetable and the bread components of your dinner.

Grandma's Zucchini Squares Tuna Macaroni Hotdish

Hungry Hobo Beans

Smothered Cabbage

Amish Church Soup

Grandma's Zucchini Squares (shown)

Old-Fashioned Macaroni Salad

Amish Buttermilk Biscuits

Tuna Macaroni Hotdish (shown)

Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes


Old-Fashioned Dinner Recipes

These are some of the best frugal dinner recipes out there. All of the dishes are filling, easy to make, and delicious. Even if they use meat, it's in the most efficient way. You'll love eating these classic meals after a long day. Your family will ask for them again and again!

Ham and Mashed Potato Pot Pie Great Depression Casserole

Poor Man's Spam  

Tin Foil Hobo Dinners

Hobo Beans and Sausage Casserole

Amish After Church Casserole

Simple Shepherd's Pie

One Pot Pork Chop Supper

Good Ol' American Beef Stew

One Pot Chicken and Dumplings

Great Depression Casserole (shown)

Ham and Mashed Potato Pot Pie (shown)


Love vintage dessert recipes? Take a look at our round-up of 15 Vintage Desserts to Take You Back in Time. You will love all of them!


Traditional Dessert Recipes

I have a well-kept secret for you: the best Depression-era recipes are actually the desserts. Egg-less cakes are the big draw of this era (don't worry - they taste fantastic without eggs!). But, the 1930s Banana Cake is definitely the best, with mashed bananas and buttermilk in the recipe to make the cake ultra moist.

Grandma's Great Depression Cake 1950s Hot Milk Sponge Cake

Crazy Wacky Cake

1930s Banana Cake

Little Old Lady Lemon Pound Cake

Great-Grandma's Famous Jimmy Cake 

Grandma's Great Depression Cake (shown)

1950s Hot Milk Sponge Cake (shown)



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