The Great Depression era was a difficult time in United States history. Families were struggling to make ends meet, and food was often scarce. On the bright side, people learned how to make do with what they had and be resourceful.
There are plenty of things to learn from this part of history, The Great Depression, including how to stock a pantry. If it’s your first time reading about this, here are some pantry staples that can last a long time and are perfect for those hard times:
Flour has always been necessary for any household, but it was essential during the Great Depression. Most homes used flour for baking bread which was a staple food. You could use it to make other items such as pancakes, biscuits, and even pasta.
It’s excellent for food storage since it has a long shelf life and is relatively inexpensive. You can buy it in bulk to save even more money.
Yeast is another Great Depression pantry staple used to make quick bread, one of the mainstay depression-era foods during that time.
Yeast is still a popular pantry item today and can make all sorts of pastries and baked goods. It can last a long time since you only need a small amount for each recipe.
Sugar is added to almost everything nowadays, from coffee to cereal, so it’s hard to imagine a time when it was scarce.
However, during the Great Depression, sugar was one of the most valuable commodities. Not only did it add sweetness to food, but it could also use as a form of currency.
Sugar was often traded for other goods, such as coffee or flour.
In addition to being a sweetener and a currency, you can use sugar for medicinal purposes. It was thought to help with colds, coughs, and even sore throats.
You can use sugar to make homemade alcohol, which was often traded or sold for profit.
Corn meal is a versatile ingredient for several different dishes and new recipes. It can be used as a flour substitute in baking or as a thickener for soups and stews.
You can use it to make cornbread, which was a popular food during the Great Depression era.
The cornbread was useful during food shortages since you could make it with simple ingredients, and it did not require eggs or milk.
Of course, you’ll need oil to cook with, but it also has other uses. You can use it to lubricate door hinges and window sashes, to make soap, and as fuel for lamps.
During the tough times of the Depression, your great-grandparents may have used whatever oil they had on hand, including bacon grease.
Baking Powder and Soda
Baking powder and soda are two critical ingredients in many recipes, especially those for baked goods. Baking powder is a leavening agent that helps cakes and other desserts to rise, while soda gives them a light and airy texture.
Aside from baked goods, there are other different things you can do with these products. You can use baking soda for cleaning products and baking powder as a fire starter in an emergency.
You should get a few extra cans of these items to keep in your pantry when you’re at the grocery store. That way, you’ll always have them on hand if you need them for a recipe or other purpose.
Dried fruit was a popular item to keep in a Depression-era pantry. Apples, pears, and peaches were common fruits to dry.
Dehydrating fruit was done by slicing the fruit thin and then placing it on a rack to dry in the sun or an oven set on low heat. Once dried, you can store the fruit in jars or bags for later use.
These days, you can find dried fruit at most supermarkets. However, it is often more expensive than fresh fruits. To save more money, you can dry your fruit at home.
That is a great way to use up fruits that are starting to go bad, especially if you have victory gardens.
Dried fruit is an excellent addition to baked goods, trail mix, and granola. It can also be enjoyed as a healthy snack or incorporated into ice cream or a dandelion salad.
Canned Fruits and Vegetables
One of the best ways to keep families fed during tough economic times is to stock up on canned fruits and vegetables.
Canned goods have a long shelf life and can be a lifesaver when money is tight. Plus, unlike dried fruits, they are often less expensive than their fresh counterparts.
Although they may have canned their own with their gardens, we can inexpensively find decent canned goods without the work of growing a garden and orchard.
Another food that was popular during the Depression was oatmeal. That is because oatmeal is a filling food you can make quickly and easily.
It is also a very inexpensive food, making it perfect for families struggling to make ends meet with little money.
Soup kitchens were also popular during the Depression. These were places where people could go to get a hot square meal, such as potato soup, often for free or for a meager price.
Churches and other organizations started soup kitchens to help those struggling to feed themselves and their families with enough food.
Spices And Salt
Spices are a vital part of any pantry and were especially important in the Depression Era. They could help make even the most essential ingredients taste good. Some popular spices during this time include pepper, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.
During the Depression era way of life, people had to be careful with their money, and food was often scarce.
So, ensuring you have a good supply of spices is essential. You can use these to create simple but tasty meals that will last a long time.
Salt was vital as it was used to preserve food. Salt was the best way to keep meat and other perishables from going bad without refrigeration.
You can use salt to add flavor to food since many Depression-era dishes were quite bland.
Pasta is a great thing to keep in your pantry during tough economic times. It’s relatively cheap, and you can use it in various dishes. Plus, it has a long shelf life, so you can stock up on it without worrying about it going bad.
Making spaghetti and meatballs is a classic dish for a Depression Era pantry. This dish is hearty and filling; you can easily stretch it to feed a family of four.
All you need is some ground beef, bread crumbs, eggs, tomato sauce, and pasta.
Another great pasta dish to keep in your repertoire is macaroni and cheese. This one is even easier to make than spaghetti and meatballs, and it’s just as filling.
You only need a box of macaroni, butter, milk, and cheese. You can add some diced ham or hot dogs to make it a complete meal.
You can make your food during tough economic times, and pasta is the perfect ingredient to help you do that.
Keep it on hand in your pantry, and you’ll be able to whip up various delicious meals without breaking the bank and racking up hefty credit card bills.
Canned meat was a common sight in Depression-era pantries. It was a way to stretch the family budget and make sure there was always something on hand to eat.
Many brands of canned meat were available, but one of the most popular was Spam.
Spam was introduced in 1937 and became a staple during World War II when the government included it in soldiers’ rations.
After the war, it remained popular because it was cheap and easy to find.
A good thing about canned meat is pairing it with green beans or other vegetables, and you have a meal without spending much money. It could help you ride the tide during a stock market crash.
Grains are filling and can be used to make various dishes, so stocking up on them is wise. Some of the best grains to keep on hand include rice, oats, quinoa, and pasta.
These all have a long shelf life and can be used to create several different meals. Having a few other options available to mix up your meals and not get bored is a great idea.
You can make rice pudding, oatmeal cookies, quinoa salads, and so much more, even wacky cake. Grains are versatile and can be used in sweet and savory dishes.
They’re also a great source of fiber and other nutrients, so they’ll help keep you full and satisfied.
Nuts and Nut Butters
Keep a variety of nuts and nut butters on hand, such as almonds, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts.
Nuts and nut butters are excellent sources of protein and healthy fats, both of which are essential during times of stress or hardship. They can be used in sweet or savory dishes or simply as a snack.
Home cooks can also make nut butters, which can be a great way to use nuts nearing the end of their shelf life.
Roast the nuts in a dry pan over low heat, then add them to a food processor with a bit of oil and process until smooth.
As such, you can then enjoy your freshly-made nut butter without adding preservatives or sugars and without spending much money.
Potatoes of all colors are loaded with vitamins and nutrients. They are versatile, can be eaten at every meal, and can be dressed nicely with spices and condiments.
They are frugal food that you can use as a main dish, a filler for other meals, or a side for dinner. Mash, bake, fry, or boil potatoes for delicious and cheap food.
Final Thoughts On Things To Keep in a Depression-Era Pantry
Stocking your pantry with these items will help you stay prepared during difficult times like the Great Depression.
Many of these items last for months or even years if kept in dry areas away from direct sunlight or heat sources.
Be sure to check expiration dates before purchasing anything to ensure your food will be safe when it comes time to eat it!
With these tips in mind, stock your pantry today to be ready if times get tough again.