11 Thrifty Recipes from Depression-Era Canada

Cakes without butter? Eggs instead of meat?

During the Great Depression, many Canadians needed to make their food budgets stretch farther. So the nation’s newspapers responded by publishing economical recipes that helped families eat nourishing meals for less money.

“Province Low Cost Menu Contest” 31 Oct 1931, Sat The Province (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com

Stretching the Food Budget

In these “thrifty” newspaper recipes, lower-cost foods like eggs, beans, milk, and cheese regularly replaced meat as a protein source. And when meat was included, recipes often avoided expensive cuts and called for more affordable meats instead (like organ meats and pot roasts). In dishes like meatloaf, extra breadcrumbs might be mixed in so less meat was required.

Other newspaper recipes cut costs by calling for fewer or cheaper ingredients. A Depression-era cake might be made with just one egg instead of three, for example. Or a recipe might substitute less-expensive lard for butter.

Little food went to waste, and recipes for using up leftovers were common. Molded gelatin salads were one popular way Canadian households could stretch leftover meat and vegetables while still producing an eye-catching dish.

“Thrift Recipes Cut Kitchen Costs” (1931) 14 Aug 1931, Fri The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com

Great Depression Recipes

The 1930s Canadian papers on Newspapers.com™ are full of Depression-era recipes, and today we’re sharing 11 of them!

If you plan on making any of these recipes, we suggest first checking out our post “7 Helpful Hints for Making Vintage Recipes.”

(We’ve transcribed the newspaper recipes below to make them easier to follow. Click on any image to see the original recipe on Newspapers.com™.)

1. Economy Meat Pie (1930)

Recipe: Economy Meat Pie (1930)Recipe: Economy Meat Pie (1930) 02 May 1930, Fri Drumheller Review (Drumheller, Alberta, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • Leftover meat and vegetables
  • Cream sauce (1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons butter)
  • Leftover gravy (optional)
  • Onion
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Thick pie crust, biscuit dough, or leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1 slightly beaten egg (optional)


  1. Cut leftover meat and vegetables into uniform medium-sized pieces.
  2. Mix with an equal amount of medium cream sauce (1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons butter). Season well with onion, salt, pepper, etc. (Use leftover gravy with cream sauce if possible).
  3. Cover with a thick pie crust, biscuit dough, or layer of leftover mashed potato mixed with milk (one slightly beaten egg can be added to potato if desired).
  4. Bake in a moderate oven until the crust is cooked, or until browned and heated through if potato is used.

2. Mushroom Roly Poly (1936)

Recipe: Mushroom Roly Poly (1936)Recipe: Mushroom Roly Poly (1936) 30 Oct 1936, Fri The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • Biscuit crust
  • Butter
  • 1 cup finely minced leftover meat
  • ½ pound chopped mushrooms, seasoned well
  • Leftover gravy or parsley sauce (optional)


  1. Make a rich biscuit crust and roll out.
  2. Spread liberally with butter and cup of finely minced leftover meat and ½ pound of chopped mushrooms seasoned well.
  3. Roll up as a jelly roll and bake 20 minutes in a hot oven of about 450 F., or until the biscuit crust is done and the filling hot.
  4. Serve immediately with any leftover gravy or parsley sauce.

3. Casserole of Baked Corn and Eggs (1933)

Recipe: Casserole of Baked Corn and Eggs - Low Cost Supper Menu (1933)Recipe: Casserole of Baked Corn and Eggs – Low Cost Supper Menu (1933) 06 May 1933, Sat Edmonton Journal (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 1 can corn
  • 6 hard-cooked eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup milk
  • A little butter
  • Paprika
  • Salt


  1. Make alternate layers of corn and bread crumbs in bottom of casserole, and when it is half full put a layer of hard-cooked eggs which have been cut in halves lengthwise.
  2. Then add remaining corn and crumbs and pour over milk—a little more may be necessary to moisten it sufficiently if the corn is not liquid enough.
  3. Have crumbs on top and dot over with bits of butter and sprinkle with paprika and salt.

Note: Tomatoes stewed with onions are delicious with this meal.

4. Vegetable Loaf (1936)

Recipe: Vegetable Loaf - Economical Recipes for the Careful Housewife (1936)Recipe: Vegetable Loaf – Economical Recipes for the Careful Housewife (1936) 27 Oct 1936, Tue The Winnipeg Tribune (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • ¾ cup split peas (soaked overnight)
  • 2 cups peeled and small diced potatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato juice (from canned tomatoes)
  • 1 egg beaten until light
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2 tablespoons beef or bacon dripping


  1. Mix all the ingredients together, and place in a deep, well-greased loaf tin.
  2. Cover with a greased cover, and bake in a moderate oven (350 degrees) for about 2 hours.
  3. Serve hot sliced.

Note: Remember, the peas are soaked overnight then cooked as you would for using them as a vegetable.

5. Ham Moderne (1935)

Recipe: Han Moderne using leftover ham (1935)Recipe: Han Moderne using leftover ham (1935) 08 Jan 1935, Tue The Vancouver News-Herald (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 2 ½ cups chopped, cooked ham
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • ¼ cup green pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons gelatin
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup cream
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ cup peas
  • 1 tablespoon onion, minced


  1. Soak gelatin in cold water and dissolve over hot water.
  2. Combine ham, celery, peas, green pepper, parsley, onion, and eggs.
  3. Add dissolved gelatin to mayonnaise. Whip cream stiff and fold into mayonnaise. Combine with ingredients and pour into mould.
  4. Chill in refrigerator until firm, or until serving time.
  5. Unmould on a bed of crisp lettuce. Garnish with slices of tomato, green pepper rings, and hard-cooked egg. Serves eight.

Note: Substitutions: Chicken or other leftover cooked meat may be used in place of ham. If substituting a cooked fish, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to mayonnaise and omit the minced onion.

6. Surprise Baked Potatoes (1936)

Recipe: Surprise Baked Potatoes - Recipe: Surprise Baked Potatoes – “These recipes make apologies for cheap dishes unnecessary” (1936) 22 Jan 1936, Wed The Montreal Star (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 4 good-sized potatoes
  • 1 ½ cups cooked and diced liver
  • 2 tablespoons butter or bacon fat
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Bake potatoes and cut a slice from the top of each.
  2. Scoop out the inside and mash and season with salt, pepper, butter, and milk. Beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Melt butter, stir in flour, and when bubbly stir in tomato juice. Cook and stir until mixture boils. Season with salt and pepper and add cooked and diced liver. Heat to boiling point.
  4. Line potato shells with mashed potato and fill with liver in its sauce.
  5. Cover with mashed potato and put into a hot oven to brown on the top.

Note: Beef liver requires longer cooking than calves’ liver. Put it into a saucepan of boiling water and simmer twenty minutes. Then dice it or use it any way you prefer.

6. Economy pudding (1936)

Recipe: Economy Pudding (1936)Recipe: Economy Pudding (1936) 03 Jun 1936, Wed The Sault Star (Sault St. Marie, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com



  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup milk


  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon (small) ground nutmeg
  • Butter size of an egg


  1. Put batter in hot sauce and bake in quick oven.

8. Economical Oatmeal Cookies (1932)

Recipe: Economical Oatmeal Cookies (1932)Recipe: Economical Oatmeal Cookies (1932) 19 Mar 1932, Sat The Expositor (Brantford, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 4 cups oatmeal, fine or rolled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Milk


  1. Mix and sift dry ingredients; cut in shortening.
  2. Add sufficient milk to make a stiff dough.
  3. Roll thin and cut cookies. Place together on a baking sheet or tin in a moderately hot oven for 12-15 minutes.
  4. Allow to cool; place in tin can to keep crisp.

Note: This recipe makes at least 100 medium-sized cookies for a cost of 10 cents.

9. Eggless, Milkless and Butterless Cake (1933)

Recipe: Eggless, Milkless and Butterless Cake (1933)Recipe: Eggless, Milkless and Butterless Cake (1933) 25 Mar 1933, Sat The Expositor (Brantford, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 1 pound raisins
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons lard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 heaping teaspoon soda


  1. Take 1 pound raisins, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups hot water, 2 tablespoons lard, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon each of cinnamon and cloves; boil all together for 5 minutes.
  2. Cool, then add 3 cups flour with heaping teaspoon soda sifted into it.
  3. Bake in a slow oven.

10. Banana Cake (1936)

Recipe: Banana Cake, Inexpensive Cake Recipe (1936)Recipe: Banana Cake, Inexpensive Cake Recipe (1936) 09 Jan 1936, Thu The Sault Star (Sault St. Marie, Ontario, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas
  • ½ cup lard
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon soda dissolved in a little warm water
  • 4 teaspoons sweet milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 ½ cups flour


  1. Bake In layers.

11. Economical Chocolate Cake (1932)

Recipe: Economical Chocolate Cake (1932)Recipe: Economical Chocolate Cake (1932) 21 Jul 1932, Thu The Vancouver Sun (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada) Newspapers.com


  • 1 tablespoon lard
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa or chocolate powder
  • 1 ¼ cups flour
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 small eggs or 1 large
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  • Put ½ cup of milk in saucepan; add butter and lard. Let came to boil.
  • Remove from the fire and cool.
  • Beat eggs and sugar until light. Add remainder of milk and the cooled milk and fat. Stir in cocoa or chocolate gradually.
  • Sift the flour twice with the soda and baking powder, and stir into the other mixture.
  • Then pour into an oblong pan and bake in moderate oven about 30 minutes.
  • Cover when cool with chocolate or marshmallow icing.


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3 thoughts on “11 Thrifty Recipes from Depression-Era Canada

  1. One day when I was in High School, one morning during summer vacation, I helped my mom to make breakfast. Mom taught me how to make coffee. Whole family sat down and enjoyed eating breakfast together. Will later on in the early afternoon, I was making dinner. Told my family just sit in the living room and watch the news of TV. Called every one to dinner. I served the coffee I forgot to put in new grounds and new filter. OOPS! I was so embarrassed. Mom and my aunt both mentioned to me when they were growing up in the depression, they heard on the radio that Mrs. Roosvelts had a radio program to help out all Americans by giving hints and recipes. That was one of the recipes that was given. COFFEE. To this very day, when I see an article about recipes during the depression, I will never forget about the COFFEE incidents.

    1. Thanks for sharing this memory, Mary! There’s always so much to learn from the stories passed down by family members about what life was like during the Depression.

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