Skip to Content

Depression-Era Baking: Think Like Your Grandmother

Nearly one hundred years ago, America went through a terrible depression. People in every economic class struggled to make ends meet. In the big cities, many ended up in soup lines. Those who were fortunate enough to farm their own land learned how to take care of themselves by canning, preserving, and so on.

No doubt your grandmother (or great-grandmother, depending on your age) fell into one of those categories.

We have a lot to learn from her. Lean in close as we give away some of her secrets.

Supplies Were Short During the Great Depression

During the Depression era the situation was dire and supplies were short. Grandma had to think on her feet. Many of the items she counted on were no longer available or were out of reach financially. Still, she managed to put food on the table every night. How did she do it? What did she know that we don’t?

While researching for this topic I stumbled across an article worth sharing. It’s called 35 Depression-Era Cooking Tips Worth Trying Today. It covers topics like canning and preserving your foods, gardening, and food substitutions. Basically, it’s all good advice for today.

More than anything, Depression-Era cooks knew what it meant to economize. They learned to bake on a budget. And I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought in recent weeks. Baking on a Budget was key back then. . .and it’s key today.

We can (and should) be looking for new and exciting ways to bake economically.

Granny was Creative

Grandma had to get creative. . .and so do you, especially in today’s economy. Things are rough out there, after all. Prices are up, grocery store shelves are depleted, and bakers are having to get creative. Just like Grandma had to do in the 30s.

Back in those days, she learned to use what she had on hand. She had to make a little go a long, long way. So, she turned things like corn flakes into Poverty Pudding. When she didn’t have milk, butter, or eggs, she whipped up a Depression Cake.

In short, she punted. And you can do the same, with a little imagination. Her recipe box was filled with clever recipes, perfect for the era she lived in.

Instead of panicking over the price of eggs (ack!), instead of fretting over the rising costs of butter (gasp!) you can get creative. Put on your thinking cap and whip up something fun, just like your grandmother did.

It’s time to adjust your thinking so that you can stretch your budget during these trying times.

Here are a few of my favorites Depression Era Baking Sites:

I stumbled across another article titled 22 Ways People Saved Money During The Great Depression. It’s chocked full of great information that you might find helpful. Bartering is high on the list. Maybe you can swap out baking for other services. It’s worth asking, anyway!

Pinch Those Pennies!

Remember, to think like your grandmother you have to have a penny-pinching mentality. That’s not always easy, but if you’re more willing to say “no” to the things you want you’ll be better able to say “yes” to the things you need.

This mindset was prevalent in the 1930s and even during the 2nd World War. Saving money was key. Pinching pennies was more than just a good habit. It was essential for survival.

To prove that point, check out this article titled 20 Great Depression Era Money Saving Tips. Waste not, want not was more than just a slogan back then. We need to adopt it once again. And we need to use what we have in front of us, rather than heading to the grocery store on a whim.

So, what do you have on hand today?

What about. . .Mayonnaise?

I know. The mind reels. What does mayo have to do with anything? Simple! It was during the depression era that mayonnaise became a popular substitute for eggs, oil, and so on.

With that in mind, I put together several posts on baking with mayonnaise. You really can pinch pennies like your grandmother once did. These depression-era recipes are (I’m afraid) going to come in very handy in our current environment. 

Here are some of my favorites mayonnaise recipes:

I’ll be writing more posts in the coming weeks on the topic of Baking on a Budget. This is just the first of many, I promise. But I wanted to start with the Depression for a reason. Things were hard back then. They’re hard now.

But, if Granny could do it. . .so can we.

Granny’s Favorite Recipes

Before I close out this post, let me leave you with a few of my favorite economical recipes that Granny probably enjoyed. Enjoy!

That’s it for this post, friends!

If you have other Depression-era recipes, feel free to leave them in the comments. I’m always excited to try new things.

Stay tuned for more Baking on a Budget posts!

About the Author

Janice Thompson is an author, baker, and all-around mischief maker! She has overcome a host of baking catastrophes, including a toppled wedding cake, to learn more about the baking process. Janice has published over 150 books for the Christian market but particularly enjoys writing recipes and baking devotions. To learn more about Janice or to drop her a note, visit her About the Author page.


Friday 26th of August 2022

I love this article. My parents lived through the Great Depression. My Mother especially taught me so much about cooking on a budget. There is so much great info in this. As good stewards of the earth we should practice this advice.


Friday 26th of August 2022

Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Sharing is Caring

Help spread the word. You're awesome for doing it!