Cheap & Easy Poor Man's Dinner Recipe From the Great Depression

All Things Mandy
by All Things Mandy

I'm going to make a recipe for poor man's dinner or Great Depression cooking. With inflation and food prices, a lot of people want to see poor man's dinners or recipes that were cooked during the Great Depression.


So today I'm going to be sharing a poor man's meal, a Great Depression recipe that is called the poor man's dinner.


Ingredients for poor man’s dinner

Ingredients for poor man’s dinner

As I was doing my research, I found something from a sweet, beautiful lady on YouTube named Clara. She is 91 years old and she shared meals that she helped her parents cook during the Great Depression. The one I’m making was one of the most popular ones.


So today I'm going to be cooking with Clara's recipe in mind, and then we're going to taste it, and we're going to see if it is enough food to fill us up. So let's get in the kitchen. 

Chopping the onion

1. Dice the onion

For this poor man's dinner recipe, the recipes I found called for an onion. I'm going to get that chopped up.

Cubing the potatoes

2. Cube the potatoes 

It called for one potato per person. I tried to find the four biggest in my five-pound bag. So I've got russet potatoes, and the recipe calls for one hot dog per person.


This recipe is customizable for you and your family and uses very minimal-cost ingredients. I didn't have to go to the store for any of this. If you keep a good stock of staples in your pantry, in your fridge, and freezer a lot of these meals that they made in the Great Depression can be made from things that you have on hand. 


So let's get started peeling these potatoes. One thing that Clara said is that during the Great Depression, her father would buy big, huge sacks of potatoes, and they used potatoes in almost every meal because they were cheap, they were filling, and they could stretch a meal. After you peel the potatoes, cut them into cubes.

Sautéing the potatoes and onions with olive oil

3. Sauté the potatoes and onions

Now I'm going to take my potatoes and onions, and I'm going to put that into a skillet. I have put a little olive oil in my skillet. I'm going to add the potatoes and onions and get those to start browning up or frying up and sauteing. 

Seasoning with salt and pepper

4. Add salt and pepper

I am going to be seasoning these potatoes and onions with only salt and pepper. I am going to be adding in a couple of good pinches of salt and a good pinch of pepper. I'm then going to give this a good stir just to combine, then I'm going to let these fry up for about 5 minutes to get a good start on the saute. 


Money-saving ideas from the Great Depression

For more ideas, check out this list of frugal tips from the Great Depression.


5. Add water

I'm going to be adding half a cup of water just to help cook those potatoes through. The steam from the water will help to cook the potatoes, and then they will be nice and fork-tender, and we will be ready to add in the hot dogs.

Poor man's dinner recipe with hot dogs

6. Add the hot dogs

Once the potatoes are fork tender, I'm then going to add in my hot dogs. I've just cut up my hot dogs into small pieces. I'm going to let this cook for about another five to 8 minutes, just until those hot dogs are cooked through. 

Frugal recipes from the Great Depression

7. Add tomato paste

Add a few squirts of tomato paste


I tasted it first without the tomato sauce and it's good just like that. But I had a tube of tomato paste in my fridge I needed to use up anyway, so I put that in.


In Clara's video, she used a couple of tablespoons of actual pasta sauce, so that would have a lot more flavor. I did see a Southern recipe where they just ate it without adding any tomato sauce.


You can make this meal as much or as little as you want it to be. You can bulk it up with more potatoes and more hot dogs. That's all up to you. 

Poor man’s dinner

Poor man’s dinner

Here is my poor man's dinner with a little bit of tomato paste in it. I'm going to take a taste test and I'm going to tell you what it's like.


It's good. I think this would be a great meal to feed your family with or without the tomato product. I think I liked it better without it. It's good, though. I think that this is enough to feed my family of four. It's very affordable. I didn't go buy any of these products. I had it all just in my house already. 


This poor man's dinner is really good and you can tweak it however you want. You can add more potatoes, more hot dogs, or whatever you have on hand. Cooking recipes from the Great Depression can save you money while giving your family filling meals.


For another great meal from the Great Depression era, check out my cabbage pasta recipe.


What’s your favorite poor man’s meal or frugal meal that costs a little but goes a long way? Please share it in the comments!

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  • Marla.stella Marla.stella on Oct 27, 2022

    My Father would make something like this sometimes on the weekends for breakfast. He would add leftover potatoes and meat, what ever was in the fridge and then add eggs to it and scramble it up. It was always good!

  • Anne Anne on Nov 06, 2022

    Make it a little more healthy - I would forage in my garden for dandelion greens, wild chicory or fennel or any other greens growing in the spring or summer. The tops of beet root would work as well.

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