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Grandma's "Poor Man's Meal" Recipe From The 1930's Kept A Lot Of Bellies Full For Cheap

Using anything they had on hand was a skill, not a chore.

By Richelle Gerner, Rootbound HomesteadPublished about a month ago 3 min read

This is a real recipe from the Great Depression Era, right from my own grandma's memory and recipe box. However, this recipe was not at all confined to just my family's recipe box. Thousands of families prepared and ate the Poorman's Meal during this time. The purpose of this meal was to be extremely cheap and filling, which is what people needed to survive in the 1930's. You had to be creative and think on your feet to keep your hungry household fed and happy. Learning to stretch food and ingredients became more of an artform and less of a chore. Let's take a look at the components that were combined to fill so many hungry bellies and why they worked.

Hot Dogs:

Ever since they were first introduced, hot dogs have been associated with the working class as an affordable dinner option. However, it was during the Great Depression that they truly made their mark. They provided a family with food at a reasonable cost. In fact, it's thought that the Great Depression is when the famous Chicago Dog was invented. It's been fun read about the hot dog and how far it's come in our culinary history!


Potatoes were also widely utilized and reasonably priced. The potato holds it's spot in the Great Depression Hall of Fame, right up there with chipped beef and pinto beans.

Onions and Tomato Sauce:

My great-grandmother had a huge garden out in the beautiful country of Washington State. Because of this, she grew just about all of the veggies the family needed to survive from spring until fall, canning and preserving most of them. She grew big, fat onions and canned her own tomatoes and sauce, as well as potatoes. Others weren't so lucky. Potatoes, onions and hot dogs were pretty cheap even for most families, which is why this recipe was so darn popular.

Depression Era Poorman's Meal


  • Two onions
  • Three hotdogs
  • Four potatoes
  • Two tablespoons oil
  • Two tablespoons tomato sauce
  • Half a cup of water


Dice the potatoes and onions and place them in a saute pan with 1 tablespoon of oil, lard or bacon grease.

Cook over medium-high heat until the potatoes and onions are browned, adding more oil if needed.

Add half a cup of water once the potatoes and onions are browned a bit, keep on boiling.

Once the potatoes are almost fork tender, add the chopped hotdogs and tomato sauce.

Serve hot.

Now, of course adding other things to this meal will make it more tasty. Things like cheeses or the use of different types of sausages. The recipe above is exactly as it was back then. However, feel free to spice it up how you like. Some people like to add kilbasa, sweet potatoes, green peppers, or spinach. They even take a spin at making their own fancy sauces to pour over the top. Anything that is butter or cream based, or vinegar based, does well with this recipe. Sometimes I even fire up the grill and put this dish on the smoker to add another layer of awesome!

Have you ever made or been served this recipe? It seems people either have fond memories of this dish, or they had to eat it so much they never want to eat it again. I know the elders in my family were split down the middle on how they felt about this dish. Let me know in the comments below what you think, and next time you're looking for a cheap, easy, and filling supper, try Poor Man's Meal!

recipehumanityhow tohistoryhealthyfeaturefact or fictiondiycuisine

About the Creator

Richelle Gerner, Rootbound Homestead

Rootbound Homestead is a community bound by roots. Leaving our old comfy life in FL to move to NY to start living cleaner, more simply, and with purpose. Garden hacks, tips and tricks, natural medicine, healing, animals, recipes and more!

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