Cook Some Depression Era Meals – Frugal Challenge Monday

It’s Monday again and time for another frugal challenge. This week’s challenge is based on the videos of depression era cooking that I’ve shared on the blog over the past few days. Your challenge, should you accept it is to try at least one of the dishes this week. What I’ve made so far (the poor man’s meal) has been really good. I’m going to fix the pasta and peas as well as the pepper and egg sandwiches this week.

How about you?

56 Responses to “Cook Some Depression Era Meals – Frugal Challenge Monday”

  1. michele Says:

    I made the potatoes, onions, and hot dogs and my husband loved it. Two of my kids picked the hot dogs out and left the potatoes while one at the whole meal. thanks for these great money saving ideas!

  2. Faye Says:

    Tonight I made the Poor Man’s Supper. My husband and I liked it very much and he would like to have it again. It was very easy and used only an electric frypan. It has quite a few calories so I won’t make it often. Just when we need some comfort food.

  3. Lisa Says:

    I am totally loving watching the Clara meals. Thankyou so much for sharing them with all of us.

  4. Jayna Says:

    I made the Poor Man’s Supper. My kids love hot dogs, so it was a hit. I had to put ketchup on it for my two-year-old, but the older one gobbled it up. My children don’t normally like anything with 2 or more ingredients mixed together (i.e. casseroles and goulashes), so this is truly amazing. I’m going to file it in our regular meal box.

    And thank you for your fantastic website. I did a review of it on my blog and I told my co-workers about it today.

  5. Krysta Says:

    We love the Poor Man’s meal. And I am trying the pasta and peas this week. Love these videos. Clara made me really re-think our eating and spending. I thought I was doing really well, and now I see I can do even better.

  6. Stephanie Says:

    Adding up poor man’s supper, it costs as much as just about anything else I make – but I’ll try it.

    I’d like to contribute Poverty –

    2 cans vegetable juice (free on wic)
    1 pint canned tomatoes (from last summer’s garden)
    1 pound elbow noodles (1.07)
    1 pound ground turkey (1.74)

    Make meatballs, fry in a little grease, dump vegetable juice and tomatoes, boil, add elbow noodles. Cook 10 minutes.

    This is an every Friday night (and Saturday lunch) at my house, and Saturday night we make biscuits to drench up the rest of the tomato gravy.

  7. Anne Says:

    RE: Stephanie:
    What size are the cans of vegetable juice you use in Poverty? (How many ounces). Thanks!

    It is fun watching Clara! I just think it’s too bad that cheap meals usually mean high carbohydrate meals. That’s a problem in our household since my husband has type 2 diabetes. I love potatoes, but they are basically like eating sugar.

  8. Beth Says:

    Sharing a depression era meal from my Grammy

    Kidney Beans and Rice (4 servings)

    3 slices bacon-diced
    1 clove garlic-minced
    1/4 tsp thyme, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper
    1/2 C uncooked rice, 22 oz kidney beans

    Brown bacon & garlic in saucepan. Add seasonings & rice. Then add liquid from beans plus enough water to make 1 1/2 C. Cover, bring to boil & simmer 10 minutes. Add beans, cover, cook 15 minutes. Enjoy!

  9. miss mary Says:

    The poor man’s meal is easy and cheap and good. She is wonderful and it’s great that she shares all these recipes with us. God Bless you clara

  10. Michelle Says:

    Last night my 5 year old son asked for peas and macaroni! We have this alot but tonight I will delightfully make it exactly the way Clara did. I am really rethinking the cost of meals and trying to be more economical about things in general. Clara is such an inspiration to all of us – can’t thank you enough for sharing her videos.

    On another note, sometimes we get a little tired of meat and potato dishes so we have eggs and pancakes for dinner. Sometimes there’s bacon if I remember to buy it. If not, no one minds because this is a treat for the kids. They even help us prepare the dinner. They love to help, even if it’s just mixing something quickly.

    The other night I made homemade stuffing and my son helped me prepare it from start to finish. He had two helpings of it for dinner, and was very proud of this side dish. Sometimes if he helps make something-he’s more inclined to eat it. My daughter helps me bake too and it is a precious time for me. I share stories with them about the times I spent with my grandmother and how I learned to cook. They are very eager listeners and it’s great family time.

  11. Lois Clark Says:

    I love Clara. I had a dear aunt named Clara Pearl who passed away a year ago-she was in her eighties.
    The videos remind me of my older relatives. I love the inspiration she shares along with the recipes. I am trying the Poormans Meal for our lunch today. My grandson, who is almost ten watched some of the video clips with me, and wants to try a few of the other recipes as well.

  12. Jess Says:

    The ‘Poor Man’s Meal’ has long been a staple with my family, where we called it Fried Taters and Onions. If we want to add some meat to it, we usually only add Polish Sausage. I tried this last night with the hot dogs. You can’t really tell a difference between Polish Sausage and hot dogs in this particular dish. I figure, why pay more?

    Also, thanks for sharing Clara’s videos with us. She has been a delightful treat.

  13. ROSE ANNE Says:

    Watching these videos helped me remember the meals my mother and grandmother made when I was young. With seven kids, her husband and her parents living with us, we had to “make due” many nights. But we never went hungry. The food was good, tasty and we all grew up fine. Thanks Clara

  14. Jana Says:

    I can’t believe that so many people have never tried fried potatoes with hotdogs and onions! I’ve eaten it all my life, and it is one of my favorites. Very easy to make, fairly economical, and kid pleasing. My Mom never put the onions in it, but I love it with them in it.

    Of course, I’m from the South, but my Mom was from Oklahoma and had made this long before moving here.

    I LOVE Clara, she can adopt me anytime — I don’t have a grandma! I love her videos and plan on trying some of her recipes soon. (I’m on a low carb diet, so I will have to use them on splurge day! ;p )

  15. Barbara Says:

    I have watched every video and love them. I improvised on the potatoes and just about every video… family had not idea they are from the depression and they love them. Did not make the egg soup yet not too sure if I can pass that one. I make my bread and grind my own wheat so all these bread ideas are welcomed.

  16. Sue Says:

    Thanks for posting the Clara videos. She reminds me so much of my Grandmother (who just passed away 5 months ago). She would stay with us once a year and tell me stories of the depression era and how they survived it. I wish I had video taped her, but Clara is the next best thing. We got the ingredients to make the Poorman’s meal and peas and pasta this week. Thanks.

  17. Deborah Says:

    It was inspiring to watch this dear person cook, and share her life with story telling. I loved the little insert in one, of her videos about her mother’s way, of doing it. Does she have any gleanings from her grandmother’s home industry?

    Her story telling reminded me, of the days when our children were young, and we lived very rural on an Indian reservation. Where our neighbor’s cow’s milk was free!!! The treat was knowing the cow, and visiting the farmer. The milk could be diluted, and the cream used, for cheese, and butter. At that time we grew a huge garden in the back yard and squash around the house. Out, of these gleanings we ate homade soups and found you could buy yeast in large amounts, so we could bread at every meal. Please see the co-op AZURE STANDARD. It is owned by SEVEN DAY ADVENTISTS. It’s very clean co-op located in DUFUR, OREGON!

    The kids also loved eating the homemade bread with peanut butter, and( don’t (honey is leathal to children 3years, and under) honey. At times we had chickens, and quiet rabbits to love, and share. Those simple days were truly the golden years, of my life to raise our little ones with simple quality care even though my husband made less than $1,000.00 monthly in the mid 80′s.

  18. Karol Says:

    I feel sure that one of my husband’s favorite meals had its origin in the Great Depression. It is Eggs ala Goldenrod. I hardboil half a dozen eggs. Take the hardboiled yolks out and chop up the hardboiled egg whites. Make a white sauce (melt 2 tbs oleo and whisk in 2 tbs flour, cook until it is thickened, then add 2 cups milk and let simmer until thick) add the chopped egg whites. Chop up the egg yolks. Pour the white mixture over toast and sprinkle the chopped egg yolks on top. Easy, easy, easy.

  19. Anita Racine Says:

    Am loving the Clara depression cooking. I like to modify most recipes anyway, and so I added some powdered cheddar soup mix to my peas and pasta and we had shrimp cocktail, homemade as our meat. I just keep adding our homegrown horseradish and ketchup to the seafood cocktail sauce jar and my husband never knows the difference. He refuses to eat horseradish/ketchup when I mix it otherwise for cocktail sauce, oh well, what he doesn’t know will NEVER hurt him.
    And like Clara, I rarely measure anything, just keep adding to taste.
    I love my Lodge castiron 5 qt pot for so many meals too. Makes things nice and moist.
    well worth the $40 we spent at an outlet kitchen store. I love cooking with castiron and use my skillets all the time. Got them at goodwill stores or thrift stores years ago.
    Thanks again for the Clara series and other stuff on your site. Am looking fwd to starting our gardens again, looking at the seeds I have and getting organized.

  20. Cindy Says:

    When my mom was growing up during the depression they ate meals similar to these. But there was very little meat for their family. She can remember eating another meal that was noodles and rice cooked in milk. It filled the tummies up and was something they could afford

  21. jeanne Says:

    Loved the hot dog recipe! I make a similar one only I saute green peppers, onions and add small french fried potato cubes. Toss. Brown Hot Dogs. Place is a nice hard roll with Mustard These are called “Jersey Grease Jobs’.

    Pepper and Egg sandwiches, likewise on a nice hard roll, are delicous hot or cold.

  22. Becky Says:

    I love watching Clara and hearing her stories. She reminds me of my husband’s Italian Aunt Antoinette, who passed away several years ago.

    Here’s an easy frugal recipe from Antoinette:

    Pasta Ceci

    2 cups (dry) elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
    1/2 – 1 lb. ground beef
    1 chopped onion
    2 cans diced tomatoes (don’t drain off the juice)
    1 can ceci beans, drained (chick peas)
    salt and pepper
    grated parmesan

    While macaroni is cooking, brown ground beef and onion in large skillet. Drain off grease. Add tomatoes, ceci beans, cooked macaroni, salt and pepper and cook on medium heat until beginning to boil. Simmer for a few more minutes to allow flavors to blend. Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan on top.

    When times were hard, they often did not have meat in this dish. The ceci beans are a good protein source.

    Polenta (corn meal mush) was another staple dish in their home. They ate it with tomato sauce, as you would expect an Italian family to do!


  23. Cristy Says:

    I tryed the poor mans meal last night, it was good. While my family and I were eating we discused other veriations we can do. My hubby hunts so venison is a good op for the hot dogs. Also he knows his wild mushrooms, that is another additive we will be trying. I used turkey kubosa last night instead of hotdogs, I found them on sale awhile ago on sale for $1.00 each and stocked up. I plan on trying more of Claras dishes soon and will comment on them later. Thank you again, and please keep up the wonderful work that you do!!!

  24. Kim Says:

    There are many ways to eat healthy and cheap. Cooking with beans (kidney beans, legumes, etc.) is a good option. Beans are chock-full of good carbs, fibre and protein – and are good for diabetics, too!

    I make a vegetarian chili for under $5 for a batch.

    3 cups of dried beans, already soaked and cooked (kidney beans are traditional, but I like to mix it up)
    1 med to large onion, chopped
    2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 to 3 stalks celery, chopped
    1 tablespoon of oil
    1 large can of diced tomatoes (do not drain)
    1/2 small can of tomato paste
    2 tablespoons chili powder
    salt and pepper to taste
    dash of cyanne pepper

    Brown the veggies in the oil (olive oil’s best) until they are softened. Add the beans (you can use canned beans if you want, just rinse and drain them well) and the remaining ingredients and simmer until the flavours blend, stirring occasionally. If you want, you can throw in a drained can of corn or some diced sweet peppers or mushrooms. One trick my mother taught me is that the heat doesn’t come from the chili powder, but from the pepper! This can easily be made in a crock-pot, too.

    Serve with some home-made biscuits if you want, or some plain tortilla chips.

  25. Kedi Says:

    These meals are gourmet compared to the cornmeal mush and buttermilk my mother and 11 brothers and sisters ate daily in Europe before coming to the US for a better life. They all were healthy and lived to their 70′s and 80′s. No preservatives, sodium etc.

  26. Krystall Says:

    I’ve eaten many of the recipes most of my life. The Poor Man’s Meal was gourmet whilest I was growing up! Now to try some of the recipes with my kids… We eat VERY frugally here. Tonight is a version of one of the recipes, though I don’t recall which, leftover rice, with leftover chicken, brocolli and a sauce – we’re using a cheese sauce.

    My great grandmother once said using leftovers saves, and one should NEVER waste. You can always make one dish into something else – IF you start with basic foods. Almost anythng can be made into a casserole.

  27. Keri Says:

    I’m going to try the Pasta and Peas as well as the Peppers and Eggs. I already make all the bread my family eats, so we’ll have the Pepper and Egg sandwiches on one of my tried and true bread recipes instead of using Clara’s (it seems like it would be kind of dry and I’d hate to waste the ingredients if my kids end up refusing to eat it!). We might try the Poorman’s Supper as well, but not sure about that. I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs. They may be cheap, but the heart attack they induce later in life isn’t!

  28. Steph Says:

    I love her videos!. I’ve been making a soup similar to her potatoes and peas for years. My grandmother taught me how, and she called it Poor Man’s Soup.

    3-4 quarts tomatoes (depending on the size of your pot & how many you’re feeding)
    4-6 potatoes (depending on size), peeled and cubed
    1 large onion, chopped
    1 Tbs. bacon drippings
    1 can of vegetable soup (can leave out or change to a vegetable)
    elbow macaroni or other small pasta
    salt & pepper to taste

    1. Peel and cube potatoes and boil until soft. Drain.
    2. Add chopped onion, soup/veggie, tomatoes, bacon drippings, salt, & pepper to pot and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until desired tenderness.


    This makes a lot and is delicious! It has been my favorite soup for many years! I look forward to trying many more depression era recipes in the future!

  29. Robyne Says:

    I make a left over pie.
    Line a cake tin with pastry any you want to make.
    Put left over cooked vegetables and mashed potatoes till it is full and put crust on top
    You can can put 2 hard boiled eggs in the center of the pie
    Bake in 180C oven till pastry is golden Brush top with water or butter

    Another one my mother made with left over pastry was to make into small circles about the size of a saucer. Bring up sides to make a basket fill with sultanas and a bit of sugar. Close top roll basket out to a nother circle brush with butter and bake till golden serve hot or cold with real butter spread on top.

  30. Sharon Garrity Says:

    i can’t see the Clara videos you all are talking about, we don’t have broadband and i
    can’t see them. where can i at least find the recipes? i can always use a helping hand to stretch our budget. many thanks in advance if you can help! sharon garrity.

  31. Gloria Says:

    I am enjoying Clara’s stories and recipes. First of all I congratulate Clara on her very own cooking show. I will try out her recipes real soon and let you all know how we liked the meals.
    One of the ways that I ate while growing up in the 50′s and that was fried potatoes with a can of corned beef chopped up in it. I was born in ’45 and my folks said back then during the 2nd World War money was tight and that the meals were very simple and sparse. They didn’t have much. I suppose that they bought the corned beef only on sale, and they used to buy bologna in a large chunk they would grind it in a hand grinder with sweet pickles and add mayo and make sandwiches . These sandwiches were always served at their house parties (family, friends ) all would come to that family members house and bring something , they would move the furniture out of the way and dance. My brothers and I and cousin had to stay out of the way, I think they wanted us to sleep. We would sneak into the room that had the food and take sandwiches. Boy were they ever good. Love your website. Thanks.

  32. Mary in MO Says:

    The poor man’s meal, using fried hamburger instead of hot dogs has long been a staple in our family.
    It is called ‘tatie hash’, and i ate it growing up, gramma madeit, mom made it, I make it, my DD’s make it. . .. . . .

    another one passed along the same way :) Gramma called it “”bacon and tomatoes”, I have had it at a friend’s house as “depression spaghetti”

    chop up 6 – slices of bacon,
    1/2 c chopped onion,
    !/4 cup green pepper, fry slowly until baon is crisp and veggies tender crisp

    boil up 2 1/2 c elbow macaroni until done and drain

    add a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and bacon, veggie mixture to macaroni.

    Make sure it is heated through, serve with something green and buttered bread.

    this works for 4 servings

  33. Kari Says:

    We made the Poorman’s meal for lunch today. So simple and great! Really good with ketchup! This will be one I keep for the days I don’t want to cook! Very good! Go Clara!!

  34. Jacqueline Says:

    For all those who have really slow dial-up connection, how about some typed versions of the recipes that Clara shares in the videos?

  35. Meg Says:

    i know a lot of people enjoy bacon but it is really high in fat and other not so good things for you..i have a healthier and far more frugal suggestion

    i buy a steak – 50% off of course, and this is the one time you look for one with some fat on it. bring it home and freeze it. then with a super sharp knife – or a meat slicer if you are lucky enough to have one – slice in super thin long strips, season with a little salt and pepper and fry up. cooks quickly, gets crispy and a whole steak will last three of us for two meals and leave me enough to make one or two pizzas as well. i am able to get a HUGE steak for about $3 – in canada that is a good deal. i usually buy higher end meat because i am getting it 50% off by buying at close.

    just a heart healthy idea

  36. Paulina Says:

    I tried the “Poorman’s Meal” except I left out the onions and instead of using tomato sauce, I used ketchup. It was really good, filling and very cheap. I usually buy 20 pounds of potatoes when they are buy one 10 pound bag, get one 10 pound bag free. I do buy Hebrew National Kosher hot dogs, but always buy them at Sam’s, so they’re not terribly pricey. It definitely will be something I will make again – probably once a week! My husband insisted we make cornbread with it…and I’m glad he did, it really was a tasty extra. By the way – I love your website and am SO pleased you posted these Clara clips, she’s absolutely precious!

  37. Bobbi Says:

    I made the potatoes, peas and pasta. Very tasty and filling! Tonite I made it with a can of corn instead of the peas for variety. I’ve been using the Great Taste, No Pain way of eating and this dish works wonderfully! (I’m always looking for better ways to combine my foods to reduce acid.)
    Clara is a treasure! Thanks for finding her and sharing her with us!

  38. Linda Says:

    I made the potato onion and hotdog supper tonight. It was an overwhelming
    success! Everyone wants it on the regular menu.

    When I try a new recipe, we vote on the recipe itself, rather than if they like the dish or not. Sounds like a subtile difference, but then the kids do not think they are hurting my feelings if they don’t like it.

  39. Vicky Says:

    Peppers and eggs is now on the weekly menu. I made italian flatbread (because I didn’t have a five pound bag) to go with it. This weekend will be the Pooman’s meal for Saturday and Sunday. I now watch Clara every night. I’ll be trying out some of the reader recipes too. They all sound wonderful!

  40. Nancy Says:

    Loved the sweetness of these videos. Clara does a great job! :)

    To Anne (I think) above, whose husband has T2 diabetes – have you tried subbing sweet potatoes for white potatoes? It’s not the exact same taste, of course, but sweet potatoes (contrary to their name) are much gentler on blood sugars – something about their fiber, I think. I have T1 – I still sometimes have white potatoes, but often try to substitute the sweet to reduce carbs – love them baked, with butter, salt and pepper. :)

  41. Lisa Says:

    I made the pasta & peas as well as the poor man’s feast! it was all awesome. My husband is definitely a potatoey man, so it’s all good stuff for us. :)

  42. Steph Says:


    I use home canned tomatoes (quarts). I have used store bought canned tomatoes, but it’s much better with home canned.

  43. Mary in MO Says:

    Oh, yes, I agree with Steph, home canned is much better than store bought!

  44. Rane Says:

    At our house we eat Lentils and rice often, the rice with the lentils makes them a complete
    protin so it is healthy.

  45. Jessa Cornwell Says:

    I love Clara and I love the concept of the Hillbilly Housewife. All my people come from the hills of West Virgina. My grandmother was the best cook I’ve ever seen, like most grandmas. That woman could make bleach and newspaper taste good!

    Anyway, I remember a soup she would make that we would eat with a fresh loaf of bread she would bake (i’ve finally been able to master bread baking with no measuring). She called it “meatballs and cabbage.” Of course back then, the meat, cabbage and tomotoes were everyting she got of the farm, including the herbs. Depending on the size of crowd your feeding, you may want to double the recipe:

    1 lb ground beef
    1 cup cooked rice
    large head of cabbage
    2 cans whole tomotoes
    dill weed (this is VERY important)
    salt & pepper

    Start by tearing leaves off cabbage, leaving them whole if possible. Put cabbage into large pot and add enough water to JUST cover the cabbage; add a little salt. Cover and simmer until cabbage is reduced. While cabbage boils, put into a large bowl the rice, beef salt and pepper. Form large meatballs. Add crushed tomatoes with the juice to cabbage, along with a little more water if needed. and bring to slow boil. Drop each meatball in, stirring gently. Add 1 tablespoon of dillweed, and a little more salt if desired; cover and boil for 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

    Serve with fresh baked bread and butter. The smell of the dillweed permeates the house and is wonderful! The meatballs give great flavor to the “soup” as well as absorb some of the juice. The soup is twice as good as leftovers! God Bless, Jessa

  46. Suzzanne Says:

    First off– frugality is in my nature– my grandma was from the W. Virginia Hills and thanks to the hillbilly housewife– I discovered some recipes she used that I thought were lost.
    I love Clara’s recipes– and am so glad that everyone shared other frugal recipes as I am always looking for ways to save money. I am going to fix the pepper and egg sandwhich for lunch this week and can’t wait to try others. Thanks Susannah for the great website you produce and for helping me to find Clara too…

    God Bless you–

  47. Angie Steele Says:

    I loved watching Clara too. The stories are what really make her come to life. She just has a clamness about herself. We had the Poor Man’s Meal tonight. I would love to have the pepers and eggs but the price of peppers here are just awful! I’ll be waiting for the peppers to go on sale! I really enjoy HBHW and have told others to come here for your wonderful tips and ideas.


  48. Gwen Says:

    I got a bargain on green peppers this morning (7/$1), so we’re having pepper and egg sandwiches for lunch. I hope they are as good as the recipe sounds because I love sauted peppers.

  49. Briana Says:

    the best recipe I have tried in a long while:
    frugal too.
    make meatballs. while they are baking dump into a pot ( or crockpot as you wish) one can sauerkraut, one can cranberry jelly, and one cup spaghetti sauce. when the meatballs are done mix into the sauce in the pan and simmer. These are the best sweet and sour meatballs I have ever ate. They hit the spot. we had them with instant potatoes and tomorrow I will have them with brown rice. I heart these!!!



    PAT S.

  51. tammy Says:

    I have been using what I have and making things from scratch for years just to stretch a buck with a family of six. I didn’t have the exact ingredients for the potato and hot dog meal that Clara made so I used mash potatoes.I was out of milk so I used water for the mashed potatoes, cut up the hot dogs and added those and a cup of peas and a generous sprinkling of onion powder since I had no onions.I spooned it all in a 13 x 9 pan ( since I have to double the recipe for my family ) and topped it with just a bit of cheese.The cheese took the place of the milk and it was very yummy.I will make it again.

  52. Linda Says:

    Thanks for sharing these wonderful videos with us and a “Big Thank You” to all who’ve shared they’re own personal frugal recipes with us to! Clara looks like such a beautiful soul and reminds me so much of my own grandmother who’s since past…we all miss her dearly.

    God Bless, Linda

  53. Faye Says:

    Tonight Ihad my 2 grans here so we tried the milk shake….darned if it wasn’t really good!! I used exactly what the recipe listed. The only problem was that my blender is smaller and ice had to added in 2 stages. One grandchild disliked it and the other one loved it. Go figure…Faye

  54. Patty Says:

    Loved the pasta and peas. That was a true comfort food. YUM. Also, thanks for starting to summarize the recipes. I’ll watch them once and put them on my menu for the coming week, and all of a sudden it’s dinner time and I have to sit and watch the thing again to get the “recipe”! Much easier this way.

  55. Sheri Says:

    The potatoes, onions and hotdog meal is a real hit at my house. The kids actually yell, “yes”, when they see it on the stove. Thank you for the recipe!!

  56. Kathy Says:

    If you don’t have hot dogs you can use bologna or Spam. I have done both w/ good results. LOVE the frugal recipes as I live alone and trying to stretch my money w/o eating the same meals over and over.

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