Sunday, December 4, 2016

Christmas Dinner during the Great Depression and a Giveaway!

By Pamela S. Meyers

As Christmas day fast approaches, I thought it would be fun to interrupt our tour of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin mansions to time travel back to the town of Lake Geneva in 1933 and drop in on the Alden Family. Meg Alden is the heroine in my book, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

The Alden Home (an actual house in the town)
I have several cookbooks I used for research when I was writing the book and thought it would be interesting to plan a simple Christmas dinner for the family and see how much it would cost to prepare it. 

The average yearly income in 1930 was about $2000 and by the end of the Depression it was a couple thousand dollars less. Mr. Alden is an attorney and makes an adequate salary for the time, despite having less of a client load than before the stock market crash. Still, the family has had to tighten their budget and that job falls mostly to Mrs. Alden who shops and prepares the meals.
My mom during one of her Depression

Two years ago, she turned part of her lavish flowerbeds into a vegetable garden and cans much of the harvest to sustain them through the winter months. Also, she  picks berries at local farms during strawberry season and brings them home to make preserves.

Sunday dinners usually mean roast chicken that she stretches into two more meals, so for Christmas dinner, she has set a dollar or two aside to splurge on a beef roast at 15 cents per pound. Sounds like a bargain today, but back then a six or seven pound roast costing 85 cents, could easily be a stretch for people on their meager salaries. 

She plans to serve mashed potatoes at 19 cents for ten pounds (She will use the remaining potatoes for other dishes in the coming days.) and green beans  that were canned last August from the summer garden. 

A humorous Christmas card from the Great Depression,
laughingis always better than crying.
Christmas dinner always calls for a special dessert. She hopes to make Mr. Alden’s favorite—a chocolate soufflĂ© if eggs can be found. A dozen eggs costs about 18 cents, but since the grocer buys his eggs from local farmers, cold winters mean fewer eggs because hens don’t lay eggs as much during cold temperatures. 

So far, the cost of the meal comes to $1.22, but other items like milk for the soufflĂ©, coffee or tea, etc. will add to the cost. I couldn’t find prices for those items. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could pay these prices today for Christmas dinner on our current incomes? We can dream.

At the front of Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes is a list of helpful hints. Some may still be useful today! 

What are you planning to serve for Christmas this year and how much do you estimate it will cost? 

Is anyone willing to replicate the meal I just described and calculate how much it would cost today?  

Here's the giveaway! Did you think I forgot? 

Leave a comment and contact info and I'll put your name in the 'hat' to draw for a copy of my book Love Finds You in Lake Geneva Wisconsin. If you already have a copy of the book, I'll send you a copy of my newest release, The Bucket List Dare--a contemporary novella collection of four stories written by four different authors. 

I will draw a name on December 11.

Sources:  Ruth Wakefield’s Tried and True Recipes; M. Barrows and Co., 1946

  Metropolitan Life Cookbook, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, 
  copyright unknown. 1930s Food & Grocery Prices

A native of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, author Pamela S. Meyers lives in suburban Chicago with her two rescue cats. Her novels include Thyme for Love and her 1933 historical romance, Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin Her novella. What Lies Ahead, is part of a novella collection, The Bucket List Dare, which is now available at Amazon in both print and Kindle formats. Second Chance Love from Bling!, an imprint of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, will release in January 2017. When she isn’t at her laptop writing her latest novel, she can often be found nosing around Wisconsin and other Midwestern spots for new story ideas.



  1. We will probably be having a meal similar to our Thanksgiving dinner....Turkey, ham, mashed potatoes....etc. Everyone helps out with the meal, so that no one is financially hurt by it. Thanks for sharing...this was very interesting.

  2. We will be having turkey and ham, dressing, sweet potato casserole and green bean bundles, plus desserts. Different ones bring their specialities so it doesn't hurt the pocket book too much.

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

  3. Wouldn't it be great to pay those prices today?? I'd make SO many more meals for SO much less :-)

    Here's what I come up with for today's prices with only the food you mentioned here (excluding coffee or tea). My best estimate anyway :-)

    Chuck boneless roast: $5.48 lb (7 lbs would run a little over $38)
    10 lb potatoes: I figure runs about $3 on sale
    Green beans: 79 to 89 cents a can
    Dozen eggs (depending) $3-$4
    Milk can run another $2-$3 a gallon

    Thanks for the fun facts and giveaway!
    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com