A very special school cafeteria cook is my Aunt Gloria, and she gave me this school recipe which I have treasured through the years and made it for my own family.

I used to look forward to the day this was on the menu at school! This was back in the day when school cafeterias served all homemade food from scratch! Even their bread and rolls were homemade!   

The old school lunch recipes are regional variations throughout the country as the cooks used  many  of their own favorite recipes. Barrington, Rhode Island was the beautiful town I grew up in.  

There are  a lot of little ingredients in this recipe so it is helpful to get them all measured out ahead of time.  

Forget those instant Sloppy Joe mixes in an envelope or a can.  They don’t even come close to this exceptional recipe!  

See more pictures in the slideshow below.


School Lunchroom Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes from scratch are so delicious! Forget packaged mixes! It is easy to make! It takes a lot of ingredients you probably already have, so prep them before you begin to cook, then it is easier! A special trip down memory lane for some who remember the days of homemade school lunches by real cooks! This is a very special recipe!
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Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Course: Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 6


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons onion finely chopped
  • 1 cup celery finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 can condensed tomato soup
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/8 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/8 tablespoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 pound American cheese grated


  • In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, onions, and celery together. Drain the fat. Set aside.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice, white vinegar, condensed tomato soup, brown sugar, onions, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, and American cheese until well-blended and heated through.
  • Add the drained ground beef mixture to the saucepan mixture and heat it all together for a few minutes. Do not overcook because you want the celery to be a little crunchy.
  • Serve over split buns.


NUTRITIONAL INFO is calculated without the split buns because there are so many kinds of buns people like to use.
LEFTOVERS?   This freezes really well for a few months! 


  1. Basia P February 18, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    Tastes like how I remember it. This takes me back years and years. I’ll be making this again and again, thanks for

    1. Angie February 18, 2022 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks, Basia for letting me know! So glad you also have fond memories of it! It is unique! Enjoy! I need to update this recipe to my new format!

  2. dianefox106 May 31, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    Oh, these sound absolutely wonderful ! Thanks for sharing such great recipes.

    1. ang1m May 31, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      Thanks, Diane! Love to share them!

  3. ang1m May 29, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    You are quite welcome, Lily! Let me know if you try it! 🙂

  4. Lily May 29, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Sloppy Joes is a classic, thanks for sharing your recipe:)


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