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Great Depression Recipes: Hearty 6 Layer Casserole

Great Depression Recipes: Hearty 6 Layer Casserole

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The great depression was a challenging time for this country. The era of excess was over. The dust bowl was occurring to disrupt our food supply, and break the hearts of many families tying to eek out a living on the land. The stock market had crashed, changing the financial situation of millions. It was time to buck up, tighten the belts, and make due with what was available. The Great Depression recipes we look through today were filled with potatoes and pasta to stretch them out and account for the less abundant fresh ingredients.

Carrots were a staple veggie, with a handful of other tubers, and water often thinned it down. Sausage or hot dogs were the budget meats and used sparingly; one pound might make 3-4 meals as it barely graced the pan to flavor the other ingredients. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle was the un-offical motto of the times and innovation was abundant.


Let’s talk about that one pound of sausage for a minute. One fourth of that could be used with a large pot of beans. Either baked style beans or a pan of beans like Lima beans or navy beans. Plenty would have been made, mostly beans, and lasted anywhere from 1-3 days. Another quarter pound could be used in a very popular creamed dish and served over toast or biscuits. Think of creamed chipped beef or chicken a la king, Biscuits ‘n Gravy is a popular dish yet today, at many breakfast joints. Another quarter pound could be mixed with diced potatoes and turned into patties, then pan-fried. Think corned beef hash here. Granted, it would be more potato than sausage, but when fried up? It would be darned tasty – and probably served with baked apples from the root cellar. That last quarter pound of sausage? Would be used in this 6 layer casserole. Talk about Great Depression Recipes! That one pound of sausage was just turned into a family’s meals for a week.

This 6 Layer casserole is a great example of one of the great depression recipes: it uses both rice and potatoes to fill the belly, tosses in a little bit of carrots and sausage. The tomatoes were in almost every woman’s pantry, as she quickly became an avid canner. This recipe could be a great one to make with the kids for a history lesson – or just to have on hand for feeding your own family. It is inexpensive, easy, and best of all? Tasty!

Compare this to some of the other top recipes of the time? Egg drop soup used one or two eggs to make a big watered down soup that had diced potatoes in it. Spaghetti with carrots and white sauce? That was a gem from the first lady: Elinor Roosevelt, and baked. There was always the Poor Man’s Meal, which included peeling and cubing a potato, frying it in a pan with fat, oil, or butter and chopped onions until browned and softened; then adding slices of a hot dog, cooking a few minutes more, and serving.

Great Depression Recipes: 6 Layer Casserole

You will need:

  • 1 lb pork sausage, cooked and drained – this time? I used what I had on hand – a kielbassa that I sliced. It was OK taste wise, but I liked the sausage better.
  • 1 ½ c raw potatoes, sliced
  • ½ c raw onions, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • ½ cup uncooked rice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 1 Qt stewed tomatoes or tomato juice

Preheat your oven to 350, then grease or spray a 2 quart casserole dish.

Great Depression Recipes: Hearty 6 Layer Casserole with sausage layer

Place the layer of sausage in the bottom of the dish.

Great Depression Recipes: Hearty 6 Layer Casserole with rice layer

Top with the layer of rice.

Great Depression Recipes: Hearty 6 Layer Casserole with potatoes

Cover the rice with the layer of potatoes.

Great Depression Recipes: Hearty 6 Layer Casserole adding onions

Sprinkle the onions over the potatoes.

Top the onions with the sliced carrots. Add the seasonings over the onions.

The final layer? Cover it all with the stewed tomatoes or tomato juice. This will give the rice the moisture it needs to cook.

Cover it, to keep it from drying out, and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Just look at how magnificent that is!

It is incredibly filling and delicious!

Other recipes that are budget friendly:

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