Cheap and Easy Hobo Stew Recipe

Cheap and Easy Hobo Stew Recipe

One thing I think we’ve established in the short time this blog has been live is that I’m definitely not Betty Homemaker. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to most household stuff and I don’t really care that I’m that way, although I do try to be different. I really admire people who do have their households together. However, I do have one thing I do that almost always turns out great. It saves time, money and effort. I have a little meal I make called Hobo Stew.

Tasty hobo soup recipe in a red bowl with handle and small white polka dots sits on a wooden board with fresh cherry tomatoes scattered about.
Hobo stew is easy to make and a super cheap recipe.

I discovered hobo stew while snowed in at a mountaintop campground at the Grand Canyon when the girls were little. The people who ran the camp made this stew for those unfortunate few of us who were trapped up there and I got the recipe from the owner. Did I mention that the campground had an indoor, heated pool and we were in an RV? It actually turned out to be a really fun experience.

History of Hobo Stew

I actually shouldn’t be surprised that I learned of this recipe at a campground. This stew is also known as campfire hobo stew, community stew. It’s thought it originated in the hobo camps in the early 1900s. The general idea was that each person would bring what they had or could gather and threw it into the pot to create a stew.

The basic recipe is a bunch of leftovers in a pot, cooked. 

Cheapest Recipe on the Planet

For those of you who love to measure and have exact amounts, this recipe is not for you. But if you have a spirit of adventure, I promise that you will love the result. What is so great and cheap about this recipe is that you use up bits of things you have leftover. I actually keep a small container in my freezer and throw items in that until I have enough to make hobo stew.

Here is what you do:

  • If you have a spoonful of veggies left (green beans, carrots, corn, potatoes, peas work best) or a little beans or noodles from where you made spaghetti, put them in a big plastic tub in your freezer.
  • Keep adding a bit of this and that until the tub gets full. I use an old 3 gallon ice cream tub for this.
  • Once that tub is full, cook a pot roast and save part of the meat and all the juice. The next day you add the tub of leftover veggies, a couple of bullion cubes and an onion and simmer all day on the stove or in a crock pot. (I prefer the crock pot, because you can leave it and it’s ready later).
  • If you can’t afford a pot roast or there aren’t enough left overs, you can alternately brown one pound of ground beef or ground turkey and add that to the mix instead.
  • Season at will.

Hobo Stew FAQs

How do I know what to put in the soup?

One basic tenant of vegetable soup is a tomato base. You can throw just about any other type of vegetable into the pot, but you need tomatoes in there. Use whatever you have on hand. If you have extra tomatoes, save those, or add a $0.50 can of diced tomatoes or even tomato paste. Use what is cheap and what you have. I’ve even used tomato juice before that was getting ready to expire and needed used up.

How many people does hobo stew recipe serve?

The short answer: as many servings as you want. Because you’re using up leftovers, you can collect them as long as you like. You could also invite family and friends over and ask each to bring a component of the hobo stew. So, one person might bring a bag of frozen corn, another some boiled potatoes and so on. 

If it’s called campfire hobo stew, do I have to cook it over a fire?

You could, but I make mine in a big pot on the stove or in a crock pot if I have all day to cook it.

What sides go with different types of stew?

You can serve with crackers, corn bread, crusty bread or a salad. If you want to get a bit fancier, buy round bread, tear out the middle and make soup bowls. 

Why do you make so much at once?

I make a huge pot of hobo stew. I am into minimal efforts and maximum results. The great thing about this stew is that there are always leftovers with our family of four. That means another meal a day or two later or leftovers for lunch, but usually both. This means minimal effort with maximum results. I can cook one very simple meal and we can eat it again later. This is my all time favorite recipe and the only thing that keeps me from using it more often is that my family gets tired of eating the same thing all the time.

Every recipe I read is different. How do I know which one to use?

The truth is that my hobo stew is never the same twice. Every time I make it, it is a little different, because my leftovers are a little different. One time, I might not have a single potato, so I throw a few boiled diced red tomatoes in there. Another time, I might add a can of whole tomatoes because that’s what’s in the pantry. It never tastes the same, yet it always tastes similar. 

Make Campfire Hobo Stew without Leftovers

If you wanted to make this simple stew, but didn’t have the leftovers, you could use the following recipe. Again, measuring is for pansies. I don’t really cook that way, so you may not like my recipes.

Simple and Inexpensive Hobo Stew - Frugal Recipe
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
10 hrs
Total Time
10 hrs 10 mins

If you want a frugal recipe that sticks to your ribs and feeds a large crowd cheap, then this inexpensive hobo stew recipe is simple to throw together.

Servings: 10
Author: Crabby Housewife
  • 1 bag frozen mixed vegetables avoid okra - yuck!
  • 1 can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can cooked potatoes or you can boil the potatoes or buy them frozen
  • 1 pound ground beef or turkey browned
  • 1/4 onion
  • 2 bullion cubes
  • water to cover mixture
  • seasoning to taste
  1. Brown ground beef and drain grease.

  2. Add browned meat, canned goods, frozen items, onions and bullion cubes to pot or crock pot.

  3. Cover mixture with water.

  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. (can also add a punch of rosemary)

  5. Cook in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours or in a pot on a low simmer for 2-3 hours (stirring occasionally if on stove top).

You can also add some noodles if you’d like, beans and additional veggies. This is a great way to use up things in your fridge that you are scared might go bad or to pull together a canned and frozen veggie meal when it is almost time to head to the store again.

Crabby Housewife

AuthorCrabby Housewife

Lori is a full-time housewife and writer, living in the Midwest with her husband of 27 years - they have two daughters. They have a house full of pets and her house is never quite perfect.