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We’ve all heard stories about just how frugal and creative most folks had to be during the Great Depression. From hacks on how to make your own cough syrup to makeshift kitchens, they had make the best of every situation in order to make ends meet at all. Some of the ways they cut down costs in the kitchen were by using simple, inexpensive ingredients as the main element in a dish. Have a look at 8 resourceful macaroni recipes from the Great Depression.

Hoover Stew

Via/ Library of Congress

There are many variations on the recipe for Hoover stew, so named for the many camps called Hoovervilles which were full of folks just barely getting by. The two most important ingredients are hot dogs and macaroni, but beans and canned veggies can be used instead.

Macaroni & Cheese

The classic mac & cheese was introduced in 1937 and simplified the process (and cost) for American families. When first sold in stores, advertisements touted this box meal as a main dish serving four people at an appealing 19 cents per box. While the recipe had been around since the 18th century, it never before been so simple to make or inexpensive.


Rag Soup

This simple soup only has a few ingredients: spinach, macaroni, and broth. We bet a can of beans would not have been a bad addition to such a sparse soup.

Via/ Library of Congress

Macaroni Pudding

It wouldn’t be a proper list without at least one dessert. Macaroni pudding is very much like rice pudding, except you use macaroni instead of rice.

Via/ Library of Congress

Macaroni Papoose

When you’ve got the luxury of ham, you can make macaroni papoose. Elbow macaroni is cooked and drained, then used to fill slices of ham and the the whole thing is baked in milk. Later versions of this recipe would sometimes call for cheese and/or pineapple, but many families would have found it unusual to have all those ingredients in the pantry at the same time.

Via/ Library of Congress

White Meat Sauce with Macaroni

When they had just a little bit of ground beef, many 1930s cooks would make a white gravy with it which is good over bread, biscuits, or even macaroni. We can also imagine this one going well with sausage, too.

Via/ Flickr

Macaroni with Ketchup

This incredibly simple meal was a version of something like an Italian dish. But, when ketchup is cheaper than tomato sauce, it was what many families ate for dinner. Lucky you if there was some meat to go in the pot as well!

Via/ Library of Congress

1) Pasta with Peas

Watch as Clara, our favorite Depression Era cook, shows how to make this simple dish in the video below.

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