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Old 02-22-2020, 03:40 PM   #1
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The Great Depression

Talking about peeling vegetables in another thread got me thinking about the "waste not, want not" (an expression my mom always used to say) attitude when it comes to food. My mom was a young girl during The Great Depression and, knowing my grandmother, my mom was no doubt put to work to help out with kitchen chores and was probably taught by my grandmother how not to waste anything. In fact, my mom told me that after peeling potatoes, they ate the skins of the potatoes as well, tossing them in oil and salt and baking them in the oven until crispy. She said they were a yummy snack for them. Carrot and other vegetable peels would go into soups. Heels of bread would be turned into stuffing, etc.

I suppose when you grow up with that mindset, it never really leaves you. My mom would save things like aluminum foil and now I do the same thing. If the foil from covering food isn't dirty, I'll fold it up and stick it back in the drawer for another use. I'll also reuse zipper bags if they're still in good shape. Some of her little habits rubbed off on me.

How about you? Did you or your parents live through the Depression? What do you do to save things and/or what foods do you reuse again for another meal?

I really enjoy the idea of not wasting food, if I can help it, and turning leftovers into something else instead of throwing them away. For example, leftover mashed potatoes are turned into potato soup or potato pancakes. That's another thing I learned from my mom. And about once a week, we would have what my mom called "CORN night." CORN stood for Clean Out Refrigerator Night and when we would ask what was for supper and she would say "CORN night tonight", we knew what that meant. And we were excited because my mom was a wonderful cook that did amazing things with leftovers, turning them into completely different meals. Even though we lived in a beautiful house in an upper-middle class neighborhood and my parents made very comfortable livings, she never lost that "waste not, want not" mindset. Every summer my mom and dad would plant a large garden chock full of beautiful vegetables and my mom would spend hours in the kitchen canning everything. I used to love helping her snap the beans and shuck the corn. Wandering through the garden picking the vegetables was my absolute favorite thing to do.

Would love to hear your "waste not, want not" practices or even stories you or your parents have from The Great Depression.

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Old 02-22-2020, 04:30 PM   #2
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We had to pinch pennies when I was a kid. Mom would make meals from inexpensive ingredients. When she roasted a chicken, she always made stock from the bones for soup or to make pilaf. We ate a lot of pilaf.

A large fowl and some hulled wheat tossed into a pot and cooked for hours would yield a gruel that we topped with brown butter. My sister and I ate it with great enthusiasm. I still make it today and share it with my sister.

I later years we used to joke that mom reused both aluminum foil and saran wrap, even washing it off if necessary.

We made our own mixed vegetable pickles, yogurt, soups and more. We often had eggs for dinner, sometimes topped with yogurt and crushed garlic or scrambled eggs with tomato.

I was not exposed to processed food until I was in my teens. The first time I had canned soup, I thought it was awful. My friend loved it.
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Old 02-22-2020, 04:46 PM   #3
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Linda, what a lovely story. And thank you, now we have a new name for our "clean out the refrigerator night." CORN NIGHT - Love it!!!!

I don't know if this is what you are asking for, but one thing we always do is save certain leftovers for breakfast. Like right now we have 2 slices of pizza in the refrigerator which I think are going to be cut up and have eggs scrambled with them tomorrow morning. lol
My favorite use lately is leftover Yuca and scrambled eggs. We even save egg rolls from our Chinese takeout for the same thing.
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Old 02-22-2020, 04:47 PM   #4
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We had to pinch pennies when I was a kid. Mom would make meals from inexpensive ingredients. When she roasted a chicken, she always made stock from the bones for soup or to make pilaf. We ate a lot of pilaf.

A large fowl and some hulled wheat tossed into a pot and cooked for hours would yield a gruel that we topped with brown butter. My sister and I ate it with great enthusiasm. I still make it today and share it with my sister.

I later years we used to joke that mom reused both aluminum foil and saran wrap, even washing it off if necessary.

We made our own mixed vegetable pickles, yogurt, soups and more. We often had eggs for dinner, sometimes topped with yogurt and crushed garlic or scrambled eggs with tomato.

I was not exposed to processed food until I was in my teens. The first time I had canned soup, I thought it was awful. My friend loved it.
Haha, I never go quite that far. If it's dirty, I pitch it. But I imagine my mom washed it off if it needed it.

That gruel sounds interesting. I don't believe I've ever had anything like that.
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Old 02-22-2020, 04:58 PM   #5
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Linda, what a lovely story. And thank you, now we have a new name for our "clean out the refrigerator night." CORN NIGHT - Love it!!!!
Thanks and I'm glad mom's famous CORN night will be utilized by someone other than me, because I say it to my son on occasion. He too knows what it means

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I don't know if this is what you are asking for, but one thing we always do is save certain leftovers for breakfast. Like right now we have 2 slices of pizza in the refrigerator which I think are going to be cut up and have eggs scrambled with them tomorrow morning. lol
My favorite use lately is leftover Yuca and scrambled eggs. We even save egg rolls from our Chinese takeout for the same thing.
That's perfect! Any way leftover food can be used to make other meals is exactly what I'm talking about. Very interesting ideas with the eggs.
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Old 02-22-2020, 05:26 PM   #6
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I always save the onion skins and carrot skins. I leave the skins on potatoes. And I always use the celery leaves. Foil, yes, saran wrap.
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Old 02-22-2020, 05:40 PM   #7
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I always save the onion skins and carrot skins. I leave the skins on potatoes. And I always use the celery leaves. Foil, yes, saran wrap.
Curious, what do you do with the onion and carrot skins?
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Old 02-22-2020, 07:21 PM   #8
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Linda, I'm down here in the southern end of the state but once lived, went to school, and worked in Columbus. Most of my old family members were depression era people. And yes, I could tell some stories.

One of my prized cook books I purchased from the Gurney Seed Catalog and was titled, "Recipes from the Great Depression". I bought it a long time ago when several of them were still alive and they couldn't leave it alone. "Cornmeal Scrapple", Field Greens, American Chop Suey, Vinegar Pie, Water Puddings, Poor Man's Pudding were staples when I was growing up. And I'm still doing a lot of the things you mentioned in the OP. Saving foil, searching the grocery store for mark down's like a hound dog on the hunt.

I can use cornmeal and a pound of sausage and make a bread pan of Scrapple
that goes like three pounds of sausage. It rides well on my stomach as it is easily digestible and is just as easy on my wallet.

What I've learned that those who were able to survive the Depression and make out fairly well will talk about it with nostalgia. Those who really had it bad and suffered, don't want to remember any of it.
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Old 02-22-2020, 07:56 PM   #9
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Linda, I'm down here in the southern end of the state but once lived, went to school, and worked in Columbus. Most of my old family members were depression era people. And yes, I could tell some stories.

One of my prized cook books I purchased from the Gurney Seed Catalog and was titled, "Recipes from the Great Depression". I bought it a long time ago when several of them were still alive and they couldn't leave it alone. "Cornmeal Scrapple", Field Greens, American Chop Suey, Vinegar Pie, Water Puddings, Poor Man's Pudding were staples when I was growing up. And I'm still doing a lot of the things you mentioned in the OP. Saving foil, searching the grocery store for mark down's like a hound dog on the hunt.

I can use cornmeal and a pound of sausage and make a bread pan of Scrapple
that goes like three pounds of sausage. It rides well on my stomach as it is easily digestible and is just as easy on my wallet.

What I've learned that those who were able to survive the Depression and make out fairly well will talk about it with nostalgia. Those who really had it bad and suffered, don't want to remember any of it.
I can believe that. And that's so cool you bought that recipe book because I've watched several videos of a woman named Clara (who is now deceased, the videos were uploaded by her grandson) on youtube who shares not only her Depression era recipes, but stories from that time. And I made one of her recipes called Pasta and Peas. Fabulous stuff. The aroma that filled the house was amazing. It made a lot. I ate it for 3 days.
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Old 02-22-2020, 08:00 PM   #10
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My Dad and Mom were born in 1910 and 1913 respectively. They married in 1934, the height of the depression.
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She was a pistol for certain. Probably called a flapper in her day. Went to business school on a basketball scholarship. They moved from Western Pennslyvania to Los Angeles shortly after marriage. Might properly have been called economic refugees today. Virtually all the relatives from both sides of the family ended up following them. Way too many relatives from Dad's point of view. So they moved to the gold country, the Sierra Foothills, first Angels Camp then Murphys.

He became an overseer for a produce crate manufacturing operation that supplied a fair portion of the San Joaquin Valley. They weren't rich but by depression standards, they were doing okay.
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Then World War II happened. Among the oldest draftees, Dad went to England and then, as he told it, mostly built square toilets all across the countryside of France, Belgium, and Germany. Mom moved nearer to kin who had mostly settled in the San Bernadino area and went to work as a bookkeeper for the Santa Fe Railroad, later becoming a policewoman, court clerk, and legal secretary. Dad rejoined her and became a sporting goods manager for Sears and Roebucks, which I thought, as a boomer in the 1950's, must be the coolest job a Dad could have.

But this is a cooking forum and the original post asks about the effects of the depression on the first and second generation. My parents could squeeze three nickels out of a dime but cooking was just never their thing. By the time I came around in the early '50s, cutting edge kitchen technology was an electric can opener, only later to be eclipsed by TV Dinners.

My mom wasn't Jane Wyatt from Father Knows Best.
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Old 02-22-2020, 08:27 PM   #11
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My Dad and Mom were born in 1910 and 1913 respectively. They married in 1934, the height of the depression.
Attachment 39284
She was a pistol for certain. Probably called a flapper in her day. Went to business school on a basketball scholarship. They moved from Western Pennslyvania to Los Angeles shortly after marriage. Might properly have been called economic refugees today. Virtually all the relatives from both sides of the family ended up following them. Way too many relatives from Dad's point of view. So they moved to the gold country, the Sierra Foothills, first Angels Camp then Murphys.

He became an overseer for a produce crate manufacturing operation that supplied a fair portion of the San Joaquin Valley. They weren't rich but by depression standards, they were doing okay.
Attachment 39288
Then World War II happened. Among the oldest draftees, Dad went to England and then, as he told it, mostly built square toilets all across the countryside of France, Belgium, and Germany. Mom moved nearer to kin who had mostly settled in the San Bernadino area and went to work as a bookkeeper for the Santa Fe Railroad, later becoming a policewoman, court clerk, and legal secretary. Dad rejoined her and became a sporting goods manager for Sears and Roebucks, which I thought, as a boomer in the 1950's, must be the coolest job a Dad could have.

But this is a cooking forum and the original post asks about the effects of the depression on the first and second generation. My parents could squeeze three nickels out of a dime but cooking was just never their thing. By the time I came around in the early '50s, cutting edge kitchen technology was an electric can opener, only later to be eclipsed by TV Dinners.

My mom wasn't Jane Wyatt from Father Knows Best.
Wonderful story and love the pics. Thank you for sharing
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Old 02-22-2020, 09:13 PM   #12
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As it's Satuday nite I'll relate a Depression era story.

Great Grand Folks and my Grand Folks lived in this hollow where they operated a dairy farm. All the neighbors around in that area were kind of like family to each other realizing it was hard times and they needed each other. Rural Electrification hadn't came there just yet (FDR Program)

Each family had it's struggles so they worked, and pulled together to share
scarce resources to make life easier and better.

This one older man and woman had literally nothing.....except before the Depression they had acquired a nice short wave radio with AM. (FM wasn't around then I don't think) These people went out and picked greens in the field and on the hillsides and that was in large part what they had to eat and how they survived thru the ordeal.

So Great Gran dad and Gran dad would pull the generator from the farm up to their cottage so the radio was made usable. They were the only ones who owned a radio where news from the outside world and entertainment could be had. So the neighbors would pack along any kinds of things that they had surpluses of and take it there on Saturday night. It was like their weekly party and get together. They could enjoy some foods together and would leave what wasn't eaten for their host.

In the nearby city there is a College where a lot of kids were in from New England areas. Someone got the idea to get these folks to give lessons to the College students on how to pick and cook greens. So they put up fliers
around the College advertising these events. They made some good money doing it and the students were delighted. Picking field greens is an almost lost skill today..let alone cooking them so that they're tasty.
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Old 02-22-2020, 09:24 PM   #13
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As it's Satuday nite I'll relate a Depression era story.

Great Grand Folks and my Grand Folks lived in this hollow where they operated a dairy farm. All the neighbors around in that area were kind of like family to each other realizing it was hard times and they needed each other. Rural Electrification hadn't came there just yet (FDR Program)

Each family had it's struggles so they worked, and pulled together to share
scarce resources to make life easier and better.

This one older man and woman had literally nothing.....except before the Depression they had acquired a nice short wave radio with AM. (FM wasn't around then I don't think) These people went out and picked greens in the field and on the hillsides and that was in large part what they had to eat and how they survived thru the ordeal.

So Great Gran dad and Gran dad would pull the generator from the farm up to their cottage so the radio was made usable. They were the only ones who owned a radio where news from the outside world and entertainment could be had. So the neighbors would pack along any kinds of things that they had surpluses of and take it there on Saturday night. It was like their weekly party and get together. They could enjoy some foods together and would leave what wasn't eaten for their host.

In the nearby city there is a College where a lot of kids were in from New England areas. Someone got the idea to get these folks to give lessons to the College students on how to pick and cook greens. So they put up fliers
around the College advertising these events. They made some good money doing it and the students were delighted. Picking field greens is an almost lost skill today..let alone cooking them so that they're tasty.
That's a nice story. But would of thought sure there'd be some banjo pickin' and fidlin' in there somewheres.
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Old 02-22-2020, 09:27 PM   #14
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As it's Satuday nite I'll relate a Depression era story.

Great Grand Folks and my Grand Folks lived in this hollow where they operated a dairy farm. All the neighbors around in that area were kind of like family to each other realizing it was hard times and they needed each other. Rural Electrification hadn't came there just yet (FDR Program)

Each family had it's struggles so they worked, and pulled together to share
scarce resources to make life easier and better.

This one older man and woman had literally nothing.....except before the Depression they had acquired a nice short wave radio with AM. (FM wasn't around then I don't think) These people went out and picked greens in the field and on the hillsides and that was in large part what they had to eat and how they survived thru the ordeal.

So Great Gran dad and Gran dad would pull the generator from the farm up to their cottage so the radio was made usable. They were the only ones who owned a radio where news from the outside world and entertainment could be had. So the neighbors would pack along any kinds of things that they had surpluses of and take it there on Saturday night. It was like their weekly party and get together. They could enjoy some foods together and would leave what wasn't eaten for their host.

In the nearby city there is a College where a lot of kids were in from New England areas. Someone got the idea to get these folks to give lessons to the College students on how to pick and cook greens. So they put up fliers
around the College advertising these events. They made some good money doing it and the students were delighted. Picking field greens is an almost lost skill today..let alone cooking them so that they're tasty.
Another great story. Thank you, Joe. I'm truly enjoying these. I wish I had talked with my mom more about those years and what they endured. Although she was just a kid, I do remember her telling me that her and her sister had to grow up quickly and lost out on a good portion of their childhood because instead of playing outside like most children do, they were doing heavy chores and helping my grandmother in order to simply survive those difficult times.
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Old 02-23-2020, 04:38 AM   #15
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Being thrifty or frugal is a mindset/attitude towards life that always leaves you in a better place than where you started.

It's not about being cheap or miserly it's about understanding what is important to you and your family.

If you enjoy stopping at Starbucks every morning for a $5.00 cup of coffee or ordering take out after a busy day then, by all means, do it. If it's just a mindless habit then fill a travel mug before you leave the house or go home scramble some eggs and make some toast.

"Economy is a distributive virtue and consists not in saving but selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment." - Edmund Burke


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Old 02-23-2020, 09:14 AM   #16
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I can remember my grandmothers using coffee grounds and egg shells in their vegetable gardens, wiping off aluminum foil to reuse, and saving plastic bread bags to put wet garbage in before throwing it in the trash can. They also saved wrapping paper and reused it several times.
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Old 02-23-2020, 10:20 AM   #17
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Being thrifty or frugal is a mindset/attitude towards life that always leaves you in a better place than where you started.

It's not about being cheap or miserly it's about understanding what is important to you and your family.

If you enjoy stopping at Starbucks every morning for a $5.00 cup of coffee or ordering take out after a busy day then, by all means, do it. If it's just a mindless habit then fill a travel mug before you leave the house or go home scramble some eggs and make some toast.

"Economy is a distributive virtue and consists not in saving but selection. Parsimony requires no providence, no sagacity, no powers of combination, no comparison, no judgment." - Edmund Burke


"I would rather have people laugh at my economies than weep for my extravagance." - King Oscar II of Sweden
I love this. My economies may seem silly to some, but in all they allow me to pick what I do want to spend my money on.
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Old 02-23-2020, 10:27 AM   #18
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I haven't heard of any of the ways my Grandparents and Great Grands made it through the Depression.

On my Mother's side they were farmers in the area I live now and each Great Uncle had his own farm. My Great Grandmother was a bean picker in season.

On my Dad's side, My Grandmother ran a shift of metal workers in the San Diego area. She met my Grandfather there and they moved to Wyoming where they began a paint business. The needs for economy there began after my Grandfather was in a plane accident and was paralyzed, my Dad was 7.
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Old 02-23-2020, 05:24 PM   #19
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I'm loving this thread and thanks for starting it Linda.

My parents were married in 1933 right here in California. Both of them lost their jobs, and Dad had chance to go back to Minnesota and take over the family farm with only $100 in his pocket. They talked about how rough it was there but because of the farm they did ok. They remained frugal even after returning here 10 years later to eventually buy their Mom&Pop grocery/meat market. That's where I learned from them how to be frugal about food. What couldn't be sold, as long as it was safe, we ate it. Dark steaks, stemless grapes at the bottom of the box, mystery canned goods with no labels, mold cut off from the cheese, soups made from the wilted produce are examples of my childhood. We certainly always had enough to eat and I lived very well because of them. I couldn't have wished for better parents.
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Old 02-23-2020, 05:35 PM   #20
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My Dad and Mom were born in 1910 and 1913 respectively. They married in 1934, the height of the depression.

What a coincidence; my folks were born in 1911 and 1913. They were also married in 1934.
The pictures of them are when they got engaged. They never spoke of the

Depression. I was very young when WW2 started and remember very little of it.
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