17 Cheap Foods Your Parents Fed You That Actually Taste Amazing

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By Darryl Henderson

Cheap doesn’t always mean bad! When you were young, your parents probably fed you a few cheap meals from time to time to save money, and a lot of them actually tasted great. Let’s take a look at 17 cheap foods your parents fed you that tasted amazing.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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The simple yet classic grilled cheese sandwich – a combination of gooey melted cheese and crispy toasted bread. It was perfect for busy households as it was so easy to make, with just a couple of cheap ingredients, and was incredibly versatile with endless variations available, such as adding tomato or ham.

Instant Ramen Noodles

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The Guardian says that the popularity of instant noodles is spreading across the world. This budget-friendly option was quick to cook and so satisfying! You could customize ramen noodles with a bunch of cheap ingredients to bulk them out and make them healthier, such as vegetables, meat, and spices. 

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

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The timeless peanut butter and jelly sandwich was a staple in many children’s lunchboxes. It was well-loved because of the delicious combination of sweet and savory flavors, plus it was quick and easy to make and cheap to buy with minimal ingredients. 

Tuna Salad

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Tuna salad was easy to prepare and an excellent source of protein. Frontiers mention that regularly eating tuna and other fish is linked to diverse health benefits, including lower risk of obesity and heart disease. It was an affordable meal with flexible recipes, including mayonnaise, celery, onions, and more. 

Spaghetti with Canned Sauce

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This quick, inexpensive meal actually tasted great. The canned pasta sauces offered a variety of diverse flavors, and potential add-ins like ground beef or vegetables could be used to make it more robust. 

Rice and Beans

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Rice and beans – a hearty and cost-effective combination, complete with a high protein content and a variety of important nutrients. While simple, it was really tasty when flavored with a range of spices, herbs, and sauces.

Scrambled Eggs on Toast

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Scrambled eggs on toast was a quick breakfast or dinner option packed with protein. According to Forbes, a large egg has around 6 grams of protein – so scrambling a few of these was a great way to get your daily protein intake and fill you up.

Fried Bologna Sandwiches

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This old-school favorite had a unique taste and was made with only a few simple ingredients – often featuring mustard or mayonnaise to boost the taste. The frying process added a distinct, satisfying texture – making it an affordable option for parents with a few children to feed.

Mac and Cheese

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Macaroni and cheese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s also seriously budget-friendly, with just a few cheap ingredients needed to prepare it. Boxed versions were available for quick preparation, and the recipe could be enhanced further by adding breadcrumbs, bacon, or hot sauces.

Baked Beans with Hot Dogs

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This dish wasn’t just cheap and easy to make – it was also really filling and delicious. The canned beans made it a convenient, healthy option, and adding sliced hot dogs created a tasty family meal for a low price.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

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This comforting and warming home meal was so simple to make – with just canned tomato soup for quick preparation and a crunchy grilled cheese sandwich to perfectly complement the soup. Great for winter nights and days off school!


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A simple bowl of cereal might not sound like much – but it was an easy, cheap breakfast option that could also be eaten as a snack or light meal throughout the day. With a huge range of breakfast cereals to choose from and the option of adding nuts or fruit, this was always a great choice.

French Toast

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French toast is bread covered in a mixture of eggs and milk and fried at low heat. It was the perfect way to use up leftover bread and is super simple to make. To increase the flavor, it could be topped with syrup, fruit, cinnamon, or powdered sugar.

Chicken Noodle Soup

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Chicken noodle soup was a classic comfort food made with cheap canned ingredients. It was hearty and warming – and many people believed it helped with illnesses like the common cold. You could add extras such as vegetables and herbs to boost the flavor and nutritional value.

Tater Tots

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This crispy potato-based side dish is a nostalgic reminder of childhood evenings spent watching cartoons. They could be cooked in an oven or air fryer for convenience, and were often paired with ketchup and other dipping sauces for an easy yet satisfying meal. 


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Cornbread was a budget-friendly side dish that was both filling and versatile. It could be made from scratch or by using boxed mixes. It paired well with a range of different foods, such as chili, soup, or barbecue foods.


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Classic pancakes were a common breakfast treat on Sunday mornings in many households. They were easy to make and only required a few basic ingredients. You could enjoy them with lots of different ingredients, such as fruit, chocolate chips, nuts, syrups, and honey.