Great Depression Recipe: Poor Man’s Meal

I love this video.

Go on, watch it. I’ll wait.

Back? Okay, good. How fabulous was that? I love Clara.

And I wanted to try one of her recipes. Nick helped me pick one, and Poor Man’s Meal it was.

This recipe made me think of Stone Soup. You know the story of the traveler who comes through town and says he can make soup out of a stone, but wouldn’t carrots make it better? And a turnip? Maybe some chicken bones? And each person adds something to the soup, making it both enough to feed everyone more than they had and something infinitely better than it would have been without each person’s contribution.

I think in hard times, maybe Poor Man’s Meal could be like Stone Soup. Everyone adds what they have, and before you know it your Poor Man’s Meal is something pretty spectacular. Especially considering the humble ingredients that starts it out.

I started with a few potatoes, like Clara did. I had three remaining polish sausages from the pricey but ethical pack I bought last week, so I used those instead of the cheese hot dogs that Clara uses in her video. As I was looking at this in the pan I thought, what about a non-potato veggie? Green beans. I only had canned, which combined with the pantries from my cold storage made this a pantry meal. Sweet.

So I stirred them in, taking a departure from Clara, but holding to the idea. A Poor Man’s Meal. Something hearty and nutritious, but inexpensive and simple.

So was this cheap? My pan of potatoes, onions, sausage, and green beans was easily enough to feed six. A pound of storage potatoes, ten cents. An onion, twenty-five cents. Sausage, (1/3 of a $7 package)  $2.35. A can of green beans, 35 cents. Total: $3.05.

Yeah. I’d say that even with expensive sausage, it qualifies as a Poor Man’s Meal. And if you needed to feed more than six? Well, add a few more sausages or hot dogs. Or another meat. Maybe a different vegetable. Stone Soup! (It didn’t hurt that my kid’s reaction to this meal was the good grubbin’ back-of-the-throat moan. I wasn’t expecting that.)

Poor Man’s Meal

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4-5 regular Idaho potatoes
  • 12 ounces of smoked sausage (or 4-6 hot dogs)
  • green beans (I used canned, but fresh would be amazing in this.)
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Start by putting a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into a big pan, and letting the onions cook while you cut the potatoes.

Clara peels her potatoes, but here’s how I did mine. I cut a little sliver off two long sides of each potato to take away a lot of the skin. Then I cut each potato into lengthwise slices about 1/4″ thick. Then into French fry shapes, and finally into 1/4″ cubes. Ruby helped me put it into my big measuring cup so I could be more specific than just ‘potatoes.’ You want about four cups of potato cubes.

Add the potatoes to the onions, and let them cook up some while you cut the sausage.

Just cut the sausage, or hot dogs, into slices. It’s obvious in the video that Clara’s hot dogs are frozen. That’s a great idea, because it was a little difficult to cut my sausage into even pieces. It was too soft.

Add the sausage to the pan and give everything a stir.

Add about 1/4 cup of water and cover the pan. Let everything cook about 10 minutes, so that the sausages will heat and the potatoes will be nice and soft. If you’re using canned veggies, add after this step and just let heat through. If you’re using fresh, you might want to let them steam with the potatoes.

There you have it. Not the most beautiful meal in the world. But tasty goodness just the same.

Thank you, Clara.

More recipes here. And here.



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9 responses to “Great Depression Recipe: Poor Man’s Meal

  1. Penny Saver

    Isn’t Clara awesome! She’s exactly who I thought of with your Nana project!

  2. I LOVE Clara too. I was able to do some reviews of her book. She’s such a sweetie!

    This looks yummy!!

  3. This looks so easy and I bet its delicious. Will definately give it a try.

  4. Brianschef

    We ate this as a kid on the farm. Gram would make it with new baby potatoes, fresh green beans, home made keilbasa from the smoke house and cover it with peppered milk gravy. Heavenly memories…

  5. I absolutely love Clara. I want to be her. (In 70 years.)

    Your photographs of the Poor Man’s Meal make it look fun and delicious!

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