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35 Thrifty Recipes Grandma Made During World War II

The World War II years were all about making do with less. In the kitchen, home cooks found thrifty ways to stretch the family’s food.

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Melt-in-Your-Mouth Meat Loaf

When my husband and I were first married, he refused to eat meat loaf because he said it was bland and dry. Then I prepared this version, and it became his favorite meal. —Suzanne Codner, Starbuck, Minnesota
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Giant Molasses Cookies

My family always requests these soft molasses cookies. These chewy molasses cookies are also great for shipping as holiday gifts or to troops overseas. —Kristine Chayes, Smithtown, New York
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Judy's Macaroni Salad

After finding this vintage macaroni salad recipe years ago, I tweaked the flavor and bumped up the pickles. Tuck this dill pickle pasta salad inside your picnic basket. —Elizabeth Kirchgatter, Maysville, Kentucky
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Lima Bean Soup

A yearly Lima Bean Festival in nearby West Cape May honors the many growers there and showcases different recipes using their crops. This comforting chowder was a contest winner at the festival several years ago. —Kathleen Olsack, North Cape May, New Jersey
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Salisbury Steak Deluxe

This recipe is so good that I truly enjoy sharing it with others. I've always liked Salisbury steak, but I had to search a long time to find a recipe this tasty. It's handy, too because it can be prepared ahead, kept in the refrigerator and warmed up later. —Denise Barteet, Shreveport, Louisiana
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Zippy Egg Salad

Egg salad is a refreshing, tasty change from lunchmeat or peanut butter sandwiches. The touch of mustard and lemon juice gives it extra zip. —Annemarie Pietila, Farmington Hills, Michigan
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Creamy Raspberry Dessert

Do-ahead and delicious, this dessert is a favorite because of its pretty color, creamy texture and terrific flavor. A light, no-bake filling makes it easy. Try garnishing with fresh berries and sprigs of mint. —Julianne Johnson, Grove City, Minnesota
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Pimiento Cheddar Spread

I was a theater major in college, and our director's mother always made sure we were well fed. I was particularly fond of her pimiento cheese sandwiches and tried making a similar spread for crackers. It tastes just as good as I remember! —Katrina Jameson, Brandon, Mississippi
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Cherry Tomato Salad

This recipe evolved from a need to use the bumper crops of delicious cherry tomatoes we grow. It's one of my favorite cherry tomato recipes, especially at cookouts. —Sally Sibley, St. Augustine, Florida
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Old-Fashioned Applesauce

We had all kinds of apple trees in the yard when I was growing up, so I don't know for sure which ones Mother liked best for applesauce. (Today I use Cortlands.) I do know that her applesauce was very white. The secret, she said, was to keep the apples in salt water while she peeled them so that they wouldn't darken. —Doris Natvig, Jesup, Iowa
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Best Spaghetti and Meatballs

One evening, we had unexpected company. Since I had the ingredients on hand, I made this spaghetti and meatballs recipe. Everyone raved! This classic recipe makes a big batch and is perfect for entertaining. —Mary Lou Koskella, Prescott, Arizona
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Three-Bean Baked Beans

I got this recipe from an aunt and made a couple of changes to suit our tastes. With ground beef and bacon mixed in, these satisfying beans are a big hit at backyard barbecues and church picnics. I'm always asked to bring my special beans. —Julie Currington, Gahanna, Ohio
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Old-Fashioned Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

A pleasingly moist cake, this treat is the one I requested that my mom make each year for my birthday. It's dotted with sweet carrots and a hint of cinnamon. The fluffy buttery frosting is scrumptious with chopped walnuts stirred in. One piece of this homemade carrot cake is never enough—better than all the other carrot cakes recipes I've tried!—Kim Orr, West Grove, Pennsylvania
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Quick Tomato Soup

There's nothing like a steamy bowl of classic tomato soup on a cold February day. The addition of sugar puts a sweet spin on this version. For extra loveliness, top with homemade heart-shaped croutons. —Jane Ward, Churchville, Maryland
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All-American Hamburgers

We do a lot of camping and outdoor cooking. This all-American, homemade hamburger recipe is on our menu more than any other food. —Diane Hixon, Niceville, Florida
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Old-Fashioned Rice Pudding

This comforting dessert is a wonderful way to end any meal. As a girl, I always waited eagerly for the first heavenly bite. Today, my husband likes to top his with a scoop of ice cream. —Sandra Melnychenko, Grandview, Manitoba
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Whole Wheat Bread

I'm 12 years old and make this bread with my mother, who got the recipe from her mother. I usually make the dough, and my mom bakes it.
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Calico Scrambled Eggs

When you're short on time and scrambling to get a meal on the table, this recipe is "eggs-actly" what you need. There's a short ingredient list, and cooking is kept to a minimum. Plus, with green pepper and tomato, it's colorful. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Mom's Swedish Meatballs

Mom fixed this Swedish meatball recipe for all sorts of family dinners, potluck suppers and PTA meetings. The scent of browning meat is intoxicating. Add to that the sweet smell of onions caramelizing, and everyone’s mouth starts watering. —Marybeth Mank, Mesquite, Texas
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Homemade Butterscotch Pudding

Homemade pudding reminds me of my grandma and how she turned milk and eggs into creamy textures before my eyes. The butterscotch in this recipe adds a caramel-sweet touch. —Teresa Wilkes, Pembroke, Georgia
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Great-Grandma's Italian Meatballs

My great-grandmother started this easy meatball recipe with our family. We use ground beef and turkey for these meatballs, and the flavor’s so good, you won’t miss the extra calories. —Audrey Colantino, Winchester, Massachusetts
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Beef Barley Soup with Roasted Vegetables

Beef Barley Soup with Roasted Vegetables

The beauty of this soup is that you can roast the vegetables separately in the oven while it's simmering away. Then simply add them in during the last minutes on the stovetop. I love that the roasted vegetables keep their own bright flavors that add to this earthy bowl of warmth. —Gayla Scott, West Jefferson, North Carolina
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Wonderful English Muffins

When I was growing up on a farm, my mom always seemed to be making homemade bread...nothing tasted so good! Now I like to make these simple yet delicious muffins for my own family. —Linda Rasmussen, Twin Falls, Idaho
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Scalloped Potatoes & Ham

I adapted an oven recipe to cook itself while I’m away. It’s ready to serve when I get home, making it a real winner in my book! —Joni Hilton, Rocklin, California
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Best Deviled Eggs

Herbs lend amazing flavor to these deviled eggs, which truly are the best you can make! The recipe includes tasty variations that feature bacon, chipotle peppers and crab.—Jesse & Anne Foust, Bluefield, West Virginia
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Favorite Chicken Potpie

This is the best chicken potpie recipe! Chock-full of chicken, potatoes, peas and corn, this recipe makes two golden pies, so you can serve one at supper and save the other for a busy night. —Karen Johnson, Bakersfield, California
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Surprise Spice Cake

Canned tomato soup replaces some of the oil in this spice cake, decreasing the fat, boosting the color and (surprise!) enhancing the taste. —Hannah Thompson, Scotts Valley, California
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Gingerbread Oatmeal Cookies

Cookie butter and ground ginger add a new layer of flavor. The recipe makes about 2 dozen cookies, and they go fast. You may want to make a double batch. —Carole Resnick, Cleveland, Ohio
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Chicken Salad Party Sandwiches

My famous chicken salad arrives at the party chilled in a plastic container. When it’s time to set out the food, I stir in the pecans and assemble the sandwiches. They’re a hit at buffet-style potlucks. —Trisha Kruse, Eagle, Idaho
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Great-Grandma's Oatmeal Cookies

Not only is this recipe a favorite of my husband's, it's extra special to me because it goes back to my great-grandmother. For holidays, we like to sprinkle on colored sugar for a festive touch. —Mary Ann Konechne, Kimball, South Dakota
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Corned Beef Hash and Eggs

Sunday breakfasts have always been special in our house. It's fun to get in the kitchen and cook with the kids. No matter how many new recipes we try, they always rate this corned beef hash recipe No. 1! —Rick Skildum, Maple Grove, Minnesota
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Party Franks

These tiny, tangy appetizers have broad appeal. I prepare them often for holiday gatherings, weddings and family reunions. They're convenient to serve at parties since the sauce can be made ahead and then reheated with the franks before serving. —Lucille Howell, Portland, Oregon
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Twice-Baked Red Potatoes

Before my baby was born, I was in nesting mode and made lots of freezable recipes like these creamy red potatoes. The yogurt is a healthy swap for sour cream. —Valerie Cox, Secretary, Maryland
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Lemon-Garlic Lima Beans

When I was growing up on Cyprus, my mother would often make this side dish to have with roast lamb. Although I hated lima beans when I was a kid (who didn't?), I love them now. They always remind me of home. —Paris Paraskeva, San Francisco, California
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Cape Cod Bay Brown Bread

This reminds me of the brown bread my grandmother made whenever we went out east to visit. The aroma evokes fond memories of her New England home during the peak of fall. I use blackstrap molasses and agave nectar to make mine a little different without sacrificing any of the flavor. Cranberries are another special touch, but this would also taste delicious with raisins. —Kellie Foglio, Salem, Wisconsin

Lara Eucalano
Lara is a writer, editor and gardener who loves to cook almost as much as she loves to eat. She will absolutely hop on a plane in search of good food!
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