17 Foods Your Parents Fed You That Tasted Amazing But Were Super Cheap

Written By Jill Taylor

From childhood classics to nostalgic favorites, many of the foods we loved as kids were not only delicious but also incredibly cheap. These 17 beloved meals that our parents made for us were so tasty and actually saved them money, too.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

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Peanut butter and jelly are pantry essentials creatively combined to make the iconic peanut butter and jelly sandwich! These ingredients are affordable and have a long shelf life. This lunchtime treat has good nutritional value, with the protein content of peanut butter and the energy boost from the sugar in the jelly; however, the sugar content isn’t so good for your teeth!

Canned Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

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Pairing canned soup with a grilled cheese sandwich was a genius idea! The New York Times says, “American or Cheddar on white sandwich bread, toasted in a skillet, is the basic (and arguably best) model.” These cheap ingredients, along with affordable canned soup, create a masterpiece.

Macaroni and Cheese

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Whether your parents bought boxed macaroni and cheese or made it from scratch themselves, this comfort food always tasted delicious. Both ways are also cheap, as boxed macaroni doesn’t cost much, and you can also buy the individual ingredients on a budget.

Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce

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It might sound simple and boring, but spaghetti with tomato sauce was a favorite for many kids. Spaghetti and canned tomato sauce are cheap pantry staples, and home-grown herbs like basil or oregano can be added to these two main ingredients to enhance the flavor cost-effectively.

Mashed Potatoes

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Probably one of the cheapest foods to make, mashed potatoes are a favorite for both kids and parents. There are many different ways to make mashed potatoes, for example, using different types of potatoes for various tastes and textures, using chicken broth or yogurt instead of butter and cream, and adding toppings.

Rice and Beans

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Raise your hand if you also grew up with rice and beans! This highly nutritious meal is full of protein and has a range of health benefits. Rice and beans are also extremely affordable and ideal for families on a budget.

Hot Dogs

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Hot dogs are an affordable and incredibly versatile meal! You can either grill or boil the weiner, and there’s a never-ending variety of options for toppings, such as mustard, ketchup, and chili. CNN points out that “hot dogs have become part of a certain American cultural narrative.”

Baked Beans

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There’s quite a lot of debate as to whether baked beans are best as a meal on their own or as a side dish, but either way, they’re loved by many! Baked beans are a popular, budget-friendly food, with many possibilities of things to add for more flavor, including spices or bacon.

Tuna Casserole

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Tuna casserole is another appetizing dish that is made mainly from pantry items like canned tuna, noodles, and cream of mushroom soup. Your parents would’ve whipped this dish up for a low cost, as the ingredients are all affordable. This meal is ideal for community gatherings or family potlucks.


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Pancakes have always been a much-loved breakfast treat, but the creation of the concept of ‘brinner’ (breakfast for dinner) made these into a fun, inexpensive meal option! You can customize pancakes to make them sweet or savory by mixing in different fruits or chocolate or adding toppings like bacon.


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Oatmeal is a famously nutritious and budget-friendly breakfast option. Oats have various health benefits, such as cholesterol reduction and heart health. Your parents probably added cheap extras like cinnamon, apples, or raisins to make your breakfast more flavorful.

Sloppy Joes

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According to the BBC, “sloppy joes are a simple, American staple the whole family can get stuck into.” These tasty and messy sandwiches are fun for kids, and the recipe allows you to stretch a small amount of meat to feed many!

Chicken Noodle Soup

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You can choose to make homemade chicken noodle soup or alternatively buy the canned version; they both taste yummy! Your mum or dad likely made you this when you were sick, as soup has a reputation for being comforting and healing.

Egg Salad

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Eggs are a great budget-friendly food with good nutritional value and a high protein content. This makes them the ideal food to create cheap meals with! You can use egg salad in wraps or sandwiches or serve it with potatoes to get your carbs in.

Bologna Sandwich

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Bologna sandwiches are an iconic piece of American food culture! Southern Living says, “the smell of fried bologna can take you right back to Mama’s kitchen table.” Whether you have them fried or cold, bologna sandwiches are popular for kid’s lunches due to their simplicity and low cost.

French Toast

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Using just the basic ingredients of bread, eggs, and milk, you can make the most affordable meal you could imagine. French toast tastes great, too! Add protein or fruit toppings to your French toast to create a more balanced meal, or add more flavor by using cinnamon, vanilla, or nutmeg.


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Tortillas and cheese have always been cheap, and hopefully, they always will be because you can make the mighty quesadilla with them! This delicious meal allows you to use up whatever leftovers you have, as it can have a variety of fillings, such as chicken, vegetables, or beans.

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