20 Money-Saving Meals People Actually Ate In The 1920s and 1930s

By Sophia Maddox | March 14, 2024

Rabbit Stew

The Great Depression wreaked havoc on the United States between 1929 and 1941, leaving millions without jobs, money, and resources. Out of the growing need of the American public came some unique and even strange recipes. To keep food on the table with what little they had, families turned to unusual ingredients since some were not available. Check out the unusual foods people had to eat during the Great Depression, and you'll never complain about your mom's cooking again.


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Rabbits might be a common pet today, but they were once a major food source. During the Great Depression, hunting allowed people to get free food that they could stretch across multiple meals. They could even dry and cure the meat to ensure they had enough food through the winter. Rabbit stew started in the south and spread across the country. Hunters could also sell or reuse the pelts, making this stew a double-duty dish.

While the recipe differed across regions, most called for a rabbit and some simple ingredients. The cook dredged the rabbit in flour and seared it in a Dutch oven. They then added carrots, onions, potatoes, and any other vegetables they had. Adding a little more flour with some liquid created a rich and flavorful gravy. Rabbit stew cooks long and slow over low heat.

Mulligan Stew

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Library of Congress

Though many call it Mulligan stew, some also know it as hobo stew due to its early roots. Food historians can trace it back to the early 1910s when migrant workers known as “hobos” began whipping it up with whatever they had on hand or could find. The dish also became known as community stew as groups of people shared their limited ingredients to make one big soup that could feed a crowd. Mulligan stew grew out of the idea that combining resources would create a dish that was better than anything one person could make on their own.

Since Mulligan stew changed based on who made it, it doesn't have a specific recipe. It usually consists of root vegetables like potatoes and carrots and some meat. While recipes today call for chuck roast or other large cuts, during the Great Depression, squirrel and possum were quite common.