Ship Wreck Casserole – Vintage Recipe

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on October 13, 2010

It’s Vintage Recipe Week.  And all I can think about is my Grammy in the kitchen.  I have many a memory of her working hard in the kitchen…working to feeding her brood.

As I made this Ship Wreck, I could only think about her in 1940.  She would have been a teenager, and it would seem that cooking was already an interest of hers.  She signed this cookbook with her maiden name.  Years before she would become a wife. A mother. A grandmother.

I thought of her in her apron.  In her vintage kitchen. With rollers in her hair.

Making this Ship Wreck.

The Original Recipe. (Which I am now calling Ship Wreck Casserole.)

Nope…not a lot to work with. No dish size. No specific ingredients amounts.

But, I got this one.  I got it!

Shall we…

2 onions, sliced into a 9×13 pyrex buttered dish

4 medium-ish baking potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick. Yes, out of sheer laziness did I not peel them.

In what could be full retail prices from 1940, $.39 tomato sauce and $.19 tomato paste.

Pour about half the sauce.

Breaking from the oh-so-detailed recipe here. (Not that it matters!) Added celery and some garlic powder and Italian seasonings.

I decided that it needed some flavor. And it made me wonder if Mrs. J. O. Foley could even find garlic powder and Italian seasonings at the corner store.

Then add 2 cups cooked rice.

Browned ground beef mixed with can of red kidney beans. (Yes. “Breaking” the recipe again. And I’ll likely do it again before the recipe is over.)

I only used a pound, so I took the other pound of ground beef and beans and made it into taco meat by mixing in some homemade taco seasoning and then freezing the meat.

Top with the remaining tomato sauce.

Spread the sauce around with a pastry brush.

Bake covered for 40-45 minutes, or “until potatoes are done.”

(Add some shredded cheese if you like. Last time I’ll mess with the recipe. Promise!)

I must say. Mrs. J. O. Foley really knew what she was doing back in 1940.

A surprising YUM on this one!!!

Ship Wreck Casserole

Adapted from my Grammy’s 1940 Church Cookbook


  • 2 small yellow onions, sliced ($.60)
  • 4 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed and sliced ($.60)
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste ($.19)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce ($.39)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped ($.20)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • Few dashes pepper
  • 2 cups cooked rice ($.40)
  • 3/4 lb. ground beef, browned ($1.34)
  • 1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained ($.67)
  • About 1 cup shredded cheese ($.75) Use 2 cups to cover the entire dish


  1. Place the sliced onions into a 9×13 baking dish. Top with potato slices.
  2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the tomato sauce and the tomato paste plus 1 paste cans worth of water. Pour half of the tomato sauce over the potatoes and onions.
  3. Sprinkle the chopped celery over the top. Season with garlic salt and some pepper.
  4. Spread the cooked rice over the top of the celery and seasonings.
  5. Combine the browned ground beef and red kidney beans in a mixing bowl, then top with the remainder of the tomato sauce. Spread the sauce over the entire dish with a pastry brush. Top with shredded cheese. Cover tightly with foil.
  6. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until potatoes are done.
  7. Serve as is, or with side of corn or green beans.

Cost $4.05

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Q October 13, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Out of curiosity, does it say why it is named Ship Wreck? Inquiring minds want to know ;)


Toni October 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm

This sounds so good. I’m going to add it to my menu for next week. Thanks!!


Missy_in_WV October 13, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Oh my goodness, THIS recipe must be where our family favorite recipe comes from!! We use diced potatoes (like if you were going to fry them), sliced carrots, cooked ground beef (with onion), layer in a 13×9 pan and cover with a can of condensed tomato SOUP (do not add water). Add spices that you like – garlic and onion powder, seasoning salt, etc. Cover and bake until veggies are tender, 350 for 45-60 minutes. This can be so easily added to or reduced to feed more or less. If I’m making it for more than four people, I usually have to use 1 1/2 to 2 cans of soup. We have it with a salad and applesauce.

How cool! Thanks for sharing!


Hope :) October 13, 2010 at 8:20 pm

This sounds fantastic! I adore old cookbooks — particularly locally printed ones like this! — and old recipes, too. This Ship Wreck will be added to my menu plan in short order!


Christina @ Northern Cheapskate October 13, 2010 at 9:35 pm

We had Ship Wreck tonight! I made a few changes to a recipe I found on All Recipes a couple of years ago (adding garlic powder for one)… the recipe I have doesn’t have rice in it… and uses a can of tomato soup instead of the paste and sauce. I’ll have to try this version soon!

Not sure of the name, but it’s certainly not a very “pretty” dish when it’s served up. :-)


jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal October 14, 2010 at 7:54 am

yum! perfect for left over rice, home made tomato sauce or salsa. always looking for new recipes using ground beef.


Heather Johnson October 14, 2010 at 8:18 am

Rice AND potatoes? wowza!


Rona October 14, 2010 at 11:49 am

This recipe incorporates many staples. And it’s budget conscience.


Tina October 14, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I saw your recipe for shipwreck casserole and it reminded me of my grandma’s potato and egg recipe. I wonder….I bet it only costs $3.00 and soo good.


Susan October 14, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I just happened to have ALL the ingredients (including exactly 2 cups of leftover rice!) so have put this together for dinner tonight. It makes a lot!! Smells really good. Thanks for the recipe :)


Erin October 14, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Making this up… but if it’s really good, maybe if you were ship wrecked on a deserted island, this casserole would be enough to sustain you. :)
It sounds like one of those basic jumping off point casseroles. If you don’t have celery, no big deal. White onions instead of yellow? that’s ok. Only a half lb of ground beef, add another potato…


Annie-Savor This Moment October 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm

Similar to a recipe of my mom’s, which has onions, gr. beef, potatoes and kidney beans; no rice, and the ground beef is the first in the pan. It’s called Cowboy dinner. Yum! Ship Wreck is also a cool name. Much better than “Hamburger Layered Casserole” or another way too descriptive title like that.

P.S. New to the site, and I’m loving it! My hubby and I always discuss how much dinner cost to prepare, and we’re pretty impressed when it costs less than $10 for our family of 6.


Elizabeth October 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Mine is in the oven right now and smelling so delicious! The only change I made is that I used a can of corn instead of celery because I didn’t want to buy the whole bunch just to use a couple of stalks (I live alone so low chance of using it all up). I found a can of corn for $0.50 so not a huge change. Also, I only used 2 of the smallest potatoes I could find because it seemed like so much! I’m assuming the smallest ones I found were still larger than your “medium” potatoes. So excited to try it!


Allana March 7, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I don’t use celery often enough to warrant keeping it on hand for recipes, but I love having it when I need it for recipes. I bought a huge bunch at Sam’s Club, chopped it up and put about 1 cup worth in ziplocs and put them in the freezer. Super handy!


Tami August 29, 2011 at 7:06 am

Alana – great idea! I also buy my veggies in bulk, chop them up, and freeze in baggies. So handy to pull one serving out of the freezer, and it’s as good as fresh when used in recipes!


Sharon May 25, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Wrap celery in tin foil to keep much longer. I break it apart (do not cut with knife) and wrap with foil in small bunches. If it does get a little limp soak for a few minutes in a bowl of cold water and ice. It will perk right up.


christine simoneau September 9, 2012 at 12:18 am

I can tell you if you wrap your bunch of celery in tin foil it will last for weeks, a Martha Stewart tip, not that I am a fan but give the dog its day.


Claire October 15, 2010 at 12:44 pm

I am so hungry right now and this sounds great! budget friendly also. My family of 8 is getting this for dinner soon.


kelli October 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm

just wondering where you found the sauce and paste so cheap


Rachel January 18, 2011 at 10:08 am

Kelli, I was wondering about 19 cent tomato paste too! :) I noticed the prices are linked above and upon following it the tomato paste was bought with a 75 cents off coupon at Krogers.


Darce September 21, 2014 at 10:15 am

The prices are from a long time ago, likely in the 1940’s. I highly doubt someone paid $1.34 for ground beef in this day and time. LOL!


Becky Lowmaster October 16, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I made a similar recipe a few years ago from a recipe book. It was a bit different but we liked it. Shipwreck probably means it’s like all the stuff from when a ship gets wrecked and floating around. A little bit of everything. I’m gonna hunt for my recipe and see what’s different. I’m thinking it was my taste of home cookbook, one of the few I have!


Janice October 25, 2010 at 2:28 pm

We are having this tonight I have put it together using sweet potatoes, tomato soup and 1/2 a green pepper instead of the celery. I can’t wait to see hubby’s face when I tell him what it’s called :)
It smells really good!


Linda January 13, 2011 at 11:22 am

This was a huge hit with my hubby! I didn’t have red kidney beans so I used black beans instead. Very hearty.


Melissa Lilley January 24, 2011 at 12:49 am

What can I use instead of tomato paste & tomato sauce?


Dawn Caldwell June 20, 2012 at 9:01 am

I’m not a big tomato paste or sauce fan either, so I have experimented over the years by using condensed cream soups. I use mushroom if the recipe has beef in it, cream of celery if pork and of course cream of chicken if the recipe has any kind of poultry. I plan on making this by using the cream of mushroom with a can of 1/2 milk and 1/2 water and see how it does. hope this tip might help you.


Mindy February 4, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I was thinking that a layer of cabbage might be a good addition!?!


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom February 4, 2011 at 11:36 pm

That would be delicious Mindy! Would “melt” right in!


cathy nicolette March 7, 2011 at 5:57 pm

This sounds like you could throw in just about anything and make it turn out. sounds yummy!! can’t wait to try it! It may become a staple in our house.


Jennifer March 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

This is lovely to see in an actual cookbook. I truly believed my grandmother invented Shipwreck. Slightly different, yet enough like yours to bring a few sentimental tears to my eyes. My grandmother’s recipe did not include onions or rice and she spiced things up a bit by sprinkling brown sugar over the soup and “many dashes A-1″ over that. Our tradition holds that it was called “Shipwreck” because that’s what you do to it just before you serve it! Thanks for the memories!


Meredith March 18, 2011 at 9:00 pm

My mother used to make Shipwreck Casserole when I was young, and I loved it! This recipe looks delicious. I’m definitely giving it a go soon.

I always believed it was called “shipwreck” because it generally contained a lot of random leftovers thrown together. Not sure if that’s the real reason for the name, but it works for me. ;)


Sarah T October 5, 2011 at 11:09 pm

We just tried this for dinner tonight, and even my picky husband likes it. We did our own modifications, of course, and the potatoes took much longer, but it’s quite good.


Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom October 6, 2011 at 8:09 am

Glad you enjoyed it Sarah! It’s always nice when picky husbands like something!


mary jane January 15, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Just to let everyone know, I originally learned this recipe and it uses tomato soup and white progress o beans. Nothing else changes and it is a great tasting meal.


Gloria April 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm

have made this for many years but used a can of pork and beans instead of kidney beans
Was a often called for casserole


Gloria April 24, 2012 at 3:52 pm

made this for many years when family was growing up was a casserole that was requwsted often used a can of pork and beans instead of kidney beans


Gloria May 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

To Gloria from another Gloria this is the way my mom made and it was the way my late hubby preferred it was served often as we were “depression people” and every penny counted


BILL September 8, 2012 at 11:06 am



Ramona September 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm


Copy the recipe and paste it into a word document. Then you can print it.


Geneo B September 24, 2013 at 5:36 pm

You can also copy and paste it to a letter and e-mail t to yourself


Sandra January 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Does anyone know how many calories this recipe contains? It sounds great but I am on a strict diet that involves calorie counting.



Janet May 24, 2013 at 3:14 pm

The way I add, this comes to $5.14 not $4.05- or did I miss something?


Maria July 13, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Not a fan of kidney beans, I’ll use Roman ( Cranberry) beans. About the rice and potatoes together, my mother cooked cut potatoes with stuffed peppers. Since I am pre-diabetic, I’ll use brown rice. Thanks for the recipe.


Alana August 20, 2013 at 12:41 pm

I found my recipe for Shipwreck in an old church recipe book published in 1951 in Whitehorse, YT, Canada. Have made it many times. But I had a lot more “guessing” to do than you did – my recipe did not specify that the beef or rice be cooked before they were put into the casserole. And it called for tomato soup as the top layer, not anywhere else in the layers. Because I used uncooked hamburger meat, I started mixing a can of tomato soup into the meat, to make it a lot more palatable.


Brook January 21, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Sounded good, but mine has been in the oven for almost an hour and a half now :/


Judy Vance June 8, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I have been making this forever for my grandchildren who love it. I crumble up chips for topping. No onions though for my grand kids.


Rebecca August 20, 2014 at 11:15 am

My family has a very similar recipe, just that we refer to it as a stew instead of the casserole. Works well when adapted a bit for a slow cooker. I once took a batch to school for a family heritage day, and everyone loved it


Laurel September 19, 2014 at 6:46 pm

The recipe my Mom used didn’t have rice in it. At the end it said the reason it was called Shipwreck was because when the ship wrecked the canned food all floated to the island but the labels had soaked off so the recipe was born from adding whatever was in the cans( kidney beans, carrots, soup ect) Nice story to explain why sometimes the beans or other veggies were different depending on what was on hand. Always had tomato soup & potatoes at our house tho!


Dorothy September 20, 2014 at 11:21 am

Everyone loves this recipe. We had it a lot while growing up. My mom used to use breakfast sausage or whatever meat was in the freezer and different veggies as well. It goes a long way. Some of these older recipes are definitely the best


MaryKate Dempsey October 15, 2014 at 10:53 pm

My aunt’s ship apparently wrecked in Lake Ponchartrain because she used red beans, brown rice and a small amount of cajun seasoning. She also chose red bell pepper, just for the color I guess, and always the celery tops, too, with sweet onions. Back then she wrote ‘Texas’ onions. I ate it her way as a kid and tweaked it a little with no tomato paste or sauce but pureed Rotel tomatoes with peppers which kicked it up a notch, but then I went back to adding the tomato paste, too, and always use a bunch of shredded cheddar because I am bad. Love it. Goes great with coleslaw, but I am not sure why.
The story about cans with no labels I have heard before and experience when my now 33 yr old son was 4.


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