Poor Man’s Ham Salad

Mom used to make ham salad for a sandwich spread back in the 1960s. It’s what they call Poor Man’s Ham Salad because it used a chunk of bologna, not ham, that was ground up for the spread. We called it baloney, and looked forward to those tasty sandwiches in our school lunch boxes. It was much cheaper, but tasted exactly like ham spread.

Old-fashioned meat grinder (from pixabay)
  • Here’s the recipe:
  • an unsliced roll of Bologna
  • Miracle Whip (or salad dressing of your choice
  • Sweet Gherkins (or pickle relish)

The amount of each isn’t crucial. You needed a meat grinder. Ours fastened onto the kitchen counter. Grind up the hunk of Bologna in the meat grinder and the sweet pickles too. Mix enough salad dressing in to make it spread easily on the sandwiches. Done!

We never put boiled eggs in it but other people did. The boiled eggs were used another day for egg salad sandwiches. Our bread back then was often Rainbow brand or Sunbeam.

A Lunchbox Like Dad Had

Black lunch box on Etsy (seller: LeepsAntiques)

Fixing the School Lunches

With six children, packing the lunch boxes on a school day took teamwork. Someone would get the cookies and wrap them for each box. Another child would get the fruit (a banana, an apple, or some raisins). Someone else assembled the sandwiches, then cut them in half.

I was good at wrapping the sandwiches with the wax paper. Mom had taught me how to make the double fold where the edges came together, just like the butcher would wrap meat at the supermarket. Then I’d make a triangle at each end and fold that to the back.

We had those metal lunch boxes with colorful designs of our favorite television shows. I browsed around on Etsy which is a good place to find vintage items. Wow, some of these are for sale for over $100. I should have saved mine.

Vintage Lunch Boxes on Etsy

Did you have a rectangular metal lunch box like these?

6 thoughts on “Poor Man’s Ham Salad

  1. Most day we walked home.for lunch.. there was a crossing guard to get across the busy main str. My mom made salami sandwiches if we stayed at school for lunch.

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  2. In the 50’s, my family never ate what we called “lunch meat” (bolgona, salami, etc). It was considered too expenive. We did have freezer space (since we rarely had frozen foods – mom also canned for winter and had a garden in summer) so she bought shank or but portion hams when on sale and froze slices for lunches while in school. TBH, I sometimes traded my ham for some bologna. I don’t know if it is cheaper now or not. I suspect so, especially if you make ham broth or ham and beans, which we had weekly. But again, you had to have freezer space.

    I only learned about bologna salad sandwiches lately and have been intended to try it, though. I’m not a fan of ham salad but bolgna salad sounds good.

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    • We had our flock of chickens and raised rabbits, so sometimes our sandwiches were a spread like chicken salad (or rabbit). Sometimes it was just peanut butter if we didn’t have meat ready when it was time for packing the lunch boxes. I do remember Mom buying on occasion pickle and pimento lunch meat or sometimes Brunswieger, but never lunchmeat like chicken or ham slices.

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  3. Wonderful memories. This spread was used in my family too except onions were also used in this spread. Folks had same grinder. I had a Flintstone lunch box. Had a thermos included but was dropped,broke early on. Mom’s folks got me the lunch box when I started 1st grade. 1962-63 school yr.,I think.

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