Recession Cooking

Videos of a 93-year-old lady cooking Great Depression-era meals are making multiple rounds on the Internet. While I liked the videos, I thought to myself: what do you people eat that makes these meals look like poor man’s food to you? I watched a few and didn’t see anything that I wouldn’t normally cook and eat on a regular non-depression day. Some of my favorite foods are simple, few-ingredient recipes that are easy to cook and hard to screw up. Low cost comes as a bonus, not a goal. Are XO Burgers or Greg’s Fried Chicken supposed to be Depression foods? Certainly not! Yet I bet they cost less than 2 dollars per serving.  Here is another recipe that doesn’t cost a lot and is easy to cook:


  • meat (beef, pork, if chicken – use dark meat)
  • potatoes
  • tomato paste
  • cabbage (optional)
  • salt,pepper,bay leaf

Pour a little bit of oil (olive or not) into your dutch oven or a heavy pot. Cut some onions (I used 1.5 medium onions) and saute them on a medium-low heat until they are soft and brown(ish) for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, cut your meat in a bite-size chunks. You don’t want them to be too big (you may tend to overestimate your “bite-size”  and make your meat too big to fit in your mouth), nor do you want to cut it too small (you won’t be able to taste your meat). When onions are ready, move them to one side of the pot and raise the heat to medium or little higher. In the free space, brown your meat in batches, keeping an eye on the onions and not letting them burn. Do not dump all the meat at once, it will not brown properly, instead releasing unsightly liquid. When the first batch is browned, mix it with onions, move to the side and proceed with other batches as necessary. Add salt, pepper and bay leaf. You could brown your meat in a separate skillet, but remember that dishes don’t wash themselves. Now add cubed potatoes and mix it all up. Skip the next step if you were born and/or raised in America. Add about half of a medium cabbage, sliced. Americans, get back on board here. Add 1 tablespoon of tomato paste. You can also use salsa if you wish. Lower the heat, cover and cook until potatoes (and cabbage) get soft, mixing periodically. If you notice that your food is burning on the bottom, add a little water. That’s it. Delicious meal  in no time and for almost no money.

clipboard01Remember: a pound of hot dogs costs more than a pound of chicken. You don’t need to be on food stamps to start eating delicious cheap meals. Of course when you “claim your check now” (actual advertisement from my Yahoo Messenger is on the left) you can go back to eating lobster, until then – stop eating crap.

  • I agree with you. Cliff and I have a lot of bean dishes three or four times a week. They’re cheap, they’re good, they’re nutritious.

    I don’t spend a lot of money on groceries. I buy those 10-pound bags of chicken legs, ground beef and turkey when they’re cheap (we won’t be buying any ground beef for awhile thanks to the steer we butchered), and lots of frozen and canned veggies, which aren’t that pricey. We buy fruit when it’s cheapest, and cabbage all year around because it’s never that expensive.

    And then there’s the neighbor who gives us catfish all the time.

    We eat quite well, thank you very much. I still would like to taste borscht, though. I expect you to give me a recipe one of these days.

  • Is there some sort of cabbage-hating stereotype about Americans that I don’t know about? ‘Cause I love cabbage!

    • Quick, ask your co-workers how much cabbage they ate in the past 12 months.

  • I think a lot of American’s don’t like cabbage for some odd reason. My kids’ friends all turn up their noses at it. We eat a lot of beans, rice and cabbage because they are good for you and cheap. I make waffles a lot too – not so good for you, but still cheap. Kids’ friends seem to like those. 🙂

  • I kind of like coleslaw, but that’s as far into eating cabbage as I get. Unless your saying “eating cabbage” as some kind of euphemism, then I’d have to rethink my policy.

  • I travel for JOOLS

    I use cabbage quite a lot with my beef roasts along with carrots, potatoes and onions. I put it all in the crockpot or if the roast is big, I steam the vegetables. I grew up in a perpetual recession, sometimes depression, so have a lot of comfort food recipes.

  • I think the point people are missing is that I eat it because I like to, not because I can’t afford something else.

  • Anything we eat around here, we eat because we like it.

    I think the biggest problem with cabbage is that the previous generation cooked it to death, which made it stink.