17 Cheap Foods Everyone Eats Regardless of Social Class

Foods that are popular across various social classes and economic backgrounds tend to be those that are affordable, versatile, and widely available. These foods can be easily incorporated into a variety of dishes, making them staples in many households around the world. Here are 17 foods you can find on the tables of the rich and poor.


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A staple in many cultures, rice is inexpensive and can serve as the base for a variety of dishes. The less financially blessed often eat rice as a cheap energy source, while the more economically blessed use it as a base for rich sauces and proteins in many ethnic foods.


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“A food rich in protein, chicken can help with weight management and reduce the risk of heart disease,” states WebMD. It is also a great source of serotonin-releasing tryptophan. Chicken is a versatile protein that can be used in almost any type of cuisine, making it appealing to a wide range of people.


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All you need to make your own pasta is some flour and eggs, and maybe a little patience. If that’s not your speed, grab a box at the grocery store for $1–$8, depending on how fancy you want to be. And naturally, you can find it on the menus of all your favorite Italian restaurants. Pasta doesn’t care about your income; it wants to make everyone smile.


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Except for that weird period in 2022 when eggs became little orbs of gold (and NerdWallet warns it is about to happen again), eggs have always been an affordable source of protein. Scrambled alongside a short stack at a local diner or poached with lox at Sunday brunch, they’re eggceptional.


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Sandwiches, bread and butter, garlic bread… bread is a staple in many diets. You can, however, find a wage discrepancy in the types of bread people eat. In 2016, StatNews noticed, “Everyone is eating more whole grains, but a wealth gap persists. Only high-income people are dropping their consumption of refined grains like white bread.”


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Potatoes are filling, inexpensive, and can be prepared in countless ways. And everyone loves them. They are popular at fast food restaurants as fries and wedges and on fine dining restaurant menus as a variety of concepts. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like some form of potato.


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Bananas feel exotic, and during WWII they weren’t even available because they were hard to get, which changed the course of Twinkies forever. Bananas are a low-cost fruit, containing vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, and potassium, as well as antioxidants that support health. They also pack heart-healthy fiber.

Canned tomatoes

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Canned tomatoes are cheaper than fresh ones and are essential for sauces, soups, and stews. This one is rarely about saving money and is mostly about saving time. You can get a cheap store brand or splurge on imported Italian tomatoes; either way, your sauces and soups will be delicious.

Frozen vegetables

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You can buy frozen vegetables because they are cheaper, usually about $1 a bag, or because they last longer than buying fresh. Today, frozen veggie options expand far beyond just broccoli or peas into Mediterranean mixes, stir-fries, and even cauliflower dressed up as rice. Exploring your options can make you feel like you’re eating like a millionaire for the change you found in your car.

Canned tuna

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Canned tuna offers a cheap protein option that’s versatile for many recipes. The canned fish is far more approachable than buying tuna fresh for those who don’t have a culinary degree. It makes a great quick snack with some crackers, and it also works as cat food in a pinch.

Macaroni and cheese

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The quintessential comfort food in the U.S. and parts of Europe. Our love affair with these gooey noodles begins as children and never leaves us as adults. You can eat a store-brand box of cheesy goodness for less than a dollar or get a $28 plate of artisan lobster mac ‘n cheese; both are equally cozy.


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According to Anne VanBeber, a university professor of nutritional sciences, while dry beans are cheaper, canned beans are easier to cook. No matter what you do, beans are delicious, and you can’t make them expensive. So whether you’re living on beans and rice to survive or enjoying some black beans with your octopus tacos, beans are for everyone.


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Cheese can add flavor to dishes and, when bought in bulk or on sale, can be quite economical. Though the preferences for cheese vary from person to person, its place on crackers and baked dishes will never change.


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Cabbage has been known as “poor” or “peasant” food, but regardless of how much money you make, it is a delicious staple for many meals. Whether corned beef and cabbage, sauerkraut, detox cabbage soup, or stuffed cabbage, this veggie is versatile and healthy for everyone.

Peanut butter

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Peanut butter is a filling spread that’s rich in protein and healthy fats, making it a cost-effective food item. Kids across America eat them for lunch or as snacks with some celery.

Hot dogs

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It doesn’t matter if you are in the Diamond Club or the cheap seats at a ballgame, nothing will hit the spot quite like a good old-fashioned hot dog. These cheap, delicious tubes of meat grace BBQs in backyards regardless of zip code.

Taco Bell

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Go to a Taco Bell drive-thru at 1 a.m., and you could be behind a $200K Mercedes or a car covered in rust a week away from the junkyard. Taco Bell is the great equalizer when it comes to late-night eats.

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