19 Cheap Foods Your Parents Fed You That Actually Taste Amazing

Simple, cost-effective, and completely nostalgic, recreating the food you ate as a child will transport you back to your younger years and leave you feeling comforted and connected to your roots. This list of 19 foods most likely featured on your family menu as you grew up, and they probably still taste as good as you remember!

Grilled Cheese Sandwich

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According to a YouGov survey, the humble grilled cheese is America’s favorite sandwich. “The ooey, gooey grilled cheese—a comfort food staple—earned the most nods for ‘like’ or ‘somewhat like’ and came in with a 79 percent likeability rating.” Rich, easy to make, and suitable for any budget, grilled cheese is a true classic.

Bean and Cheese Burritos

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High-protein, filling, and inexpensive, beans and cheese make a comforting burrito that is sure to hit the spot. Totally customizable with toppings or flavors of your choice and super easy to prepare, they also make great meal prep for quick grab-and-go meals throughout the week.

Ramen Noodle Soup

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Made from scratch or prepped from a packet, ramen noodle soup has become a beloved staple in kitchens across the world. Very cost-effective and completely versatile, you can elevate your ramen by adding vegetables, eggs, or leftover meats for added protein and nutrients.

Baked Potatoes

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In a recent survey, BNN reported that 70% of Americans prefer comfort food over gourmet dishes, suggesting that these foods “evoke memories of family, home, and simpler times [and] hold a nostalgic place in American hearts and stomachs.” Cheap, completely versatile, and high in fiber, the humble baked potato is a classic comfort food guaranteed to warm the soul.


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A cheap source of protein, eggs are the perfect way to add substance to any meal, and with endless ways to prepare them, you’ll never get bored! Boiled, scrambled, poached on toast, or whisked with cheese and vegetables for an omelet or frittata, they really can be enjoyed any way you like.


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High in fiber and a great way to lower cholesterol, oatmeal is a healthy way to start your day and a super budget-friendly option. For added nutrition, mix in fruit, nuts, and seeds, or add flavor with cinnamon and a drizzle of honey.

Fried Rice

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Perfect for using up all those leftovers in the fridge, fried rice is a versatile and nutritious meal. Whether you add in vegetables or cooked meats, this dish is loved worldwide. Use brown rice for more fiber, and cook over a hot flame for the best result.

Macaroni and Cheese

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Whether you make it from scratch or mix up a boxed version, mac and cheese is an undeniably classic comfort food, and according to Smithsonian Magazine, its popularity comes from America’s long-running quest to find the “cheapest protein possible.” Customizable with toppings and flavorings, mac and cheese really is a comfort food icon.


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Warming and welcoming, chili is a hearty dish that can be adjusted to suit every dietary requirement, from rich chunks of beef to a mix of beans for vegetarian diners. An ideal meal prep dish, making chili in bulk makes it really affordable; simply heat it up for a quick, comforting meal.

Cottage Pie

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Cottage pie epitomizes hearty, homestyle cooking with its comforting blend of ground beef, vegetables, and creamy mashed potatoes. Made with inexpensive ingredients, this dish is a filling and nutritious meal. Why not try switching it up with vegetarian versions or adding some different vegetables to the filling?

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

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A classic American staple, it’s debated when the PB&J first came about, but Reader’s Digest says that it became commonplace after World War II. “The U.S. military ration menus featured jars of peanut butter and jelly and soldiers would spread both on pre-sliced bread for an energy boost.”

Stuffed Bell Peppers

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Versatile and nutritious, colorful stuffed bell peppers make a great meal, filled with a mixture of rice, ground meat, and spices. The budget-friendly ingredients can be switched up for variety, and it’s a great way to use up leftovers from the fridge.

Vegetable Stir-Fry

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Quick to prepare, healthy, and budget-friendly, a stir fry is a fantastic way to use up the veggies you have left in the fridge. Add noodles or rice to make it a filling meal, and try experimenting with different sauces and seasonings to keep it varied.


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The breakfast of champions, pancakes are the perfect way to start a slow day, finding joy in the process of whisking up the batter and flipping the pancakes into your perfect stack. Homemade pancakes are much more budget-friendly, plus you can mix them up with additions to the batter such as berries, nuts, or chocolate chips.

Sloppy Joes

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Take delight in the nostalgic mess of the classic Sloppy Joe, known for its savory, tangy sauce and ground meat sandwiched between soft buns. Change it up by switching out your spices, or try a vegetarian option for a healthy midweek meal.

Rice and Beans

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A staple in many cultures around the world as a cost-effective source of protein, the simplicity of rice and beans is a smart, nutritious choice for budget-conscious families. Add variety by seasoning your beans in different ways; try taking inspiration from Caribbean, Latin American, or African recipes.

Chicken Noodle Soup

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Universally appealing and often used as a medicinal meal during cold and flu season, chicken noodle soup is a comfort food like no other. Making it from scratch is healthier, cheaper, and a great way to stretch ingredients like chicken, vegetables, and broth, making your grocery shopping go even further.

Potato Soup

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Rich, creamy, and comforting, potato soup is perfect for chilly winter evenings. Potatoes are super cheap, so making a bulk batch of this soup makes each meal really affordable, plus you’ll be able to pull a portion out of the fridge or freezer whenever you need. For variety, try making it with sweet potatoes, or add cheese for extra flavor.


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A versatile side dish, cornbread pairs well with chili, soups, and stews. Easy and very cost-effective, making cornbread from scratch is simple and affordable, plus you can add variety by including jalapeños, cheese, or corn kernels to the batter for extra flavor and texture.

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