Podcast #45 Great Depression Era Money Saving Tips w/ Potatoes

By Melissa Norris | How to articles

Nov 21

Tired of the rising cost of groceries? These frugal tips and recipes from the Great Depression Era will help you stretch your food dollars, increase your food storage, and give you some fun new ideas in the kitchen. I adore old-fashioned recipes and the pie recipe may be my favorite ever. Who would have thought you could use potatoes in a chocolate pie!Tired of the rising cost of groceries? The Great Depression Era frugal tips and recipes show how to use potatoes to stretch your food dollars, including how to use potato water in place of milk in your baking. I love the 1920's recipes and learning how to increase my independence from the grocery stores! Read this now if you need new ways to save money in the kitchen. I can't wait to the try pie, I'd have never thought you could use potatoes that way.


Potatoes are often an overlooked frugal meal. They have a bad rap as being just a starchy food, while they are a starch vegetable, it’s not like they’re bad for us. They have a lot of vitamin C and potassium in them, as well as fiber if we eat the skin.

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This has been on my heart as of late, and I’ve been guilty of this a time or two, so please don’t think I’m pointing fingers. Lately I’ve seen a lot of this online, if you eat gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, only organic, non-GMO, or any variation there of, people can get really rude and judgmental with others who don’t follow the exact same thinking or diet as them. No matter what foods you eat, it’s not right for us to condemn someone if they differ from our way of eating. We do try to eat as much organic and unprocessed food as possible, just because someone else might not be at that same point, doesn’t give us the right to put them down. I think we can hurt people’s feelings and turn them away when they might have been open if we’d broached the subject nicely.

This is for myself as well, there’s been many times I’ve said you shouldn’t eat that because… and I might not have presented my case in the best light or as kindly as I should. I believe we should encourage one another, but when we treat people rudely, they’re not going to listen to us. I want to share a reminder of kindness, not just to you, but to my own self as well.

Now, back to potatoes!

In our home the food bill is one way I can cut back if I really need to use my funds for something else. Our mortgage and insurance stays the same, and we can cancel cable or do without, but I really have the most control over my food bill. We use cold water to wash most our clothes, turn of lights, use the clothes line, and have our electronics on a surge protector so I can unplug all off them at night and when we’re at work to avoid phantom power in effort to save on our utility bill.

We’ve worked on building up our food storage  (here’s 8 foods you should be storing and how to get you started) and there have been weeks, almost a month once where I don’t go to the grocery store except for milk and cheese. I don’t yet produce dairy on our homestead. Organic does usually cost more, though some aren’t much more, but there are times I can’t afford organic and that’s okay. We do the best we can with the funds we have and the same should go for you as well.

I love reading all the recipes and stories you guys have shared with me. You’ve given me some great recipes and ideas to implement in my kitchen!

Potatoes. Potatoes are a very frugal crop, both today and during the Great Depression Era. It’s a fairly easy an inexpensive crop to grow. Potatoes are also very easy to store for a long period of time. We store potatoes (including our own seed potatoes) all winter and into spring. If you can purchase something once and continue to grow it or produce it becoming self-sufficient, well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Want more tips from the Great Depression Era as well as over 100+ recipes and tutorials?In my new book, Hand Made: the Modern Guide to Made-from-Living, passed down from my grandparents, my father (whose earliest years and memories are from the Great Depression), and many other dear friends and family members, that their wisdom may bless you and not be forgotten.

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You plant your seed potatoes in late spring here.

Sometimes potatoes will store in the ground over winter… I discovered in the spring I haven’t always gotten all of them harvested and when we went to plant, I discovered more potatoes that had been left behind. They were fine and we ate them up. Talk about easy preserving and food storage! The biggest thing in storing potatoes is to keep them cool and in the dark.

You can purchase a large amount of potatoes (right now at Costco 50 pounds of potatoes is $9.65) inexpensively and store them. You’ve got lots of varieties, both reds, russets, golden, and our favorite is an a heirloom purple potato. We love it because of it’s dark purple color and like any dark colored food, it has more anti-oxidants than a regular potato. Plus, how awesome is having lavender mashed potatoes, right?

There are many ways to use potatoes, but some Depression Era recipes are of course mashed potatoes. They make a side dish topped with gravy.

Disclosure: Some of the below links are affiliate links. My family and I thank you kindly for your support of this website.

Resources for Great Depression Frugal Tips and Recipes

A programmable slow cooker is perfect for days when you can’t be home to prepare a meal. This keeps me from buying dinner out or buying more quick ready made processed ingredients. Who doesn’t want to come home to a perfectly homemade cooked supper ready to eat when they walk through the door?

Instant Potato Flakes in a 1.5 pound can-sometimes you don’t have time or have potatoes on hand. These are a great addition to food storage and can be used when you don’t have regular potatoes for a thickener, mashed potatoes, or potato water for bread products.

Last week’s episode was from my mother’s side of the family with cornmeal and wild game.

A recipe she had growing up when money was tight and cupboards were bare was boiled potatoes. She loved the cornmeal mush and bear mince meat pie, but she hates boiled potatoes. My grandmother would just boil potatoes, drain them, and add some salt. They might not have had cream or milk to make mashed potatoes. My mother hated them… but they will fill a belly. Which is what a Great Depression Era meals is about, keeping hunger pains at bay as frugally as possible.

One of our favorite potato recipes is to used leftover mashed potatoes and make potatoes cakes for breakfast. We use the leftover mashed potatoes and add an egg and a dash of milk with some onion and garlic powder. I shape them into a patty. I preheat a cast iron skillet with a small amount of oil and then fry the potato patties. When I pull them out, I grate a little bit of cheese on top. It’s a great way to shape your breakfast. You don’t have to use an egg, making it even more frugal.

Use a potato for your bread and rolls. The water you use from boiling your potatoes has starch in it. Save the water to use as a replacement for milk in your bread recipes. This is big carry over from the Great Depression Era when cows ran dry or there was no money to purchase dairy. You can put the potato water in the fridge for up to a day before using in your recipe. You could freeze it, but it’s best used in a recipe immediately.

A family friend who is in an excellent baker only uses potato water in her cinnamon rolls. These are tips slowly being lost and I’m so glad to be able to share and retain these tips with others. If you have tips I haven’t heard of, please share with me! I love learning from you as well.

I came across some old vintage cookbooks. This is from a copy of a 1922 Good House Keeping Book of Menus. It’s a chocolate nut pie recipe with mashed potatoes, melted butter, sugar, and melted chocolate for a chocolate pie. What an amazing idea! When I make this I’ll share how it turns out and the exact recipe after I have a chance to work with it.

This is a recipe from my dad. One of his favorite recipes is creamed potatoes, peas, and carrots. We were just pulling up carrots from his garden. He said he couldn’t wait for a dish of creamed potatoes, peas, and carrots. This is a great way to stretch out a meal. Soups and sauces really make a larger meal and allow it to feed more mouths. Finding ways to make more out of little is a Depression Era tip for sure.

Cube up your potatoes and boil them. You can roast the carrots and peas, or boil them. After the veggies are cooked you’ll make a cream sauce (here’s my cream sauce tutorial) I don’t buy condensed cans of soups, one due to ingredients, and two due to cost. They’re not cheap. The brand name was over $1.30 when I stopped buying them about 4 years ago. I can make a 3 minute cream sauce with organic ingredients for about $.50 or less. If you can make it at home from scratch, it’s almost always cheaper. 

After you’ve cooked your veggies, you make your cream sauce and add the vegetables to it and serve.

With potatoes you can always make cream of potato soup. My mom likes to add a little bit of bacon to her soup. Can you ever go wrong with bacon?

When cool weather hits I use my slow cooker all the time. When I’m not home I can still prepare food from scratch and serve a home cooked meal, which makes my slow cooker my fave kitchen tool. This is my slow cooker cream of broccoli soup.

Reader Question of the week: Is the All American Pressure canner *affiliate link safer than other brands?

Answer: Any pressure canner is safe if you’re following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Today’s pressure canners have pressure relief valves and are safe. The All American pressure canner has a metal on metal seal and is made in America. I have a cheaper model, but the All American is considered the Cadillac of canners and what I plan on purchasing when I buy a new one. The All American pressure canner is very well made and can be handed down. The All American pressure canner isn’t any safer than any other model as long as you follow the manufacturer guidelines.

New features:

What I’m reading this week? I read a huge variety of books, but this week I’m reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young *affiliate link. It’s a devotional with a devotion of every day of the year. It’s just a paragraph or two for the day. The first three days I read it, I cried, because it was a message God knew I needed to hear at that moment. I’d love to hear what you’re reading as well.

Inspiring Your Faith:

I’ve been studying the Bible more than usual these last few months. I’ve been going through some emotional and spiritual things and when stress is high, that’s when I cry out and rely on God. I know I don’t have it in me to do it on my own and I need Him. Not that i nejoy going through hard times, butt they make me rely on him and are growth times for my faith. Verse of the week-  My times are in your hands. (NIV) Psalm 31:15 This hit me the other day when I was reading it. Anything we are going through, anything that happens to us, is in His hands. We might not be able to see what He’s going to do with it, but we can rest and be assured He is going to do something with it. He is bigger than any circumstance or anything the enemy or life throws at us, because He is our deliver. Trust our time is in His hands.

I’m so glad you joined us today and learned some new tips. Share your potato recipes or frugal life living tips you have!

About the Author

Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.

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