Great Depression

Food Insecurity: Tips From The Great Depression

During the Great Depression, food was rationed. Money was scarce leaving homemakers to “make do” with what they had. For many reasons, people may find themselves in a place where they need these tips-whether it be to save a few dollars or because times might be tough in your home.

According to the Denver Post, a quarter of Americans were unemployed. YET, they were not on relief and most were not suffering from malnutrition. Why? Well, today we are going to explore the reasons this was possible. Obviously, there were soup kitchens and bread lines in cities. However, we will be talking about what can be done in your own kitchen!

If you would like to read more about the Great Depression, and the stories of some of those who have lived through it, check this great book out!

For cyclical context, many people lost their jobs in the Great Depression. Money was scarce, so fresh crops and foods were not being purchased. Farmers were unable to pay their workers, leaving food to remain unharvested, and furthermore wasted. (Read more on the cause and effect here.) This led to innovation to create preserved and affordable foods.

The Innovations: Frozen

The Great Depression brought about many innovations. One of which was frozen food. The founding father of frozen food was Clarence Birdseye. He patented flash freezing for foods. In 1930, this frozen product debuted, promising peas “as gloriously green as you would see next summer.” (This was now viable thanks to more homes being hooked to electricity and now having refrigerators.) Frozen foods can be as much as 50% cheaper than fresh food. So, next time you shop for groceries, save a little by choosing frozen foods. I suggest staples like cauliflower, peas, carrots, frozen onion, broccoli.

The Innovations: Canning

Canning became important in the midst of WWI. The government promoted people growing War Gardens. (In WWII, these were called Victory Gardens.)

According to the USDA, home demonstration agents went into homes across America, showing housewives how to can goods in their own homes! (These people were employed by the Department of Agriculture.) As the Great Depression roared on, they developed community canning centers to teach safe pressure canning techniques with community equipment.

Community Canning Center in Nebraska

Growing your own garden is nice and all, but it is not something one can do instantly. This is a nice long term goal. In the mean time, purchase fresh fruit that is in season. This ensures a low price. Find different and creative ways to preserve this produce to last in your pantry.

Making It From Scratch

Making things from scratch is often cheaper than the convenience of buying it pre-made. However, doing some research, I learned it is more expensive some things from scratch. (Here is a deeply broken down example for chocolate chip cookies.) But let me offer you this theory, that held true in the Great Depression. “Use what you have,” and “Waste not, want not” were key phrases. People used what they had on hand. So, instead of spending that extra $3.50 on store bought cookies, spend that $3.50 on pantry or frozen staples. Instead, use that sugar, flour, and such that you have at home to treat your family to cookies!

Carcasses and Drippings

For added flavor, save bacon grease! Have a chicken carcass? Make chicken bone broth. Ham bone? Take leftover ham, dried split peas and make a split pea soup! Made bone in beef pot roast? All of this broth can be canned or frozen.

Your Pantry

Now, let us talk about your pantry. If you are in thrift mode, may I suggest rice, dried beans (even cheaper than canned beans), canned meat, canned fish, etc.

Yes, I know these are not the meals you are dreaming of. Many of our generation have been spoiled by a world of instant gratification and an easy life. Many of us have forgotten how to make sacrifices of things we want to have the future we desire. We have forgotten how to grind through to victory. We have become complacent to convenience. For others, it is simply that we are so far removed from having to be thrifty in our own lives that when crisis hits or money needs to be saved, we do not know how to shift gears. This blog post should help each of these scenarios.

Water Pie!!!

Speaking of making do, my daughter and I just put a water pie in the oven! You might be thinking “YUCK!” This is a Great Depression Recipe made with things you most likely would have had in your kitchen: sugar, water, vanilla extract, flour, and butter.

Putting this pie in the oven, I was skeptical. “It must work,” I thought to myself. After all, it is a recipe that has been around since the very early 1930s. This is, at least, the earliest I can trace this recipe back. Check out the recipe I used, here.

One of the best resources I have found for Great Depression cooking, is on Clara’s Kitchen YouTube channel.

No, of course, you would rather be eating a gourmet dinner, but sometimes life throws us homemakers lemons. It is truly our job to make lemonade.

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