21 Of The Best Budget Meals People Made When They Used To Be Broke And Still Get Hungry For Today

Now that inflation is trying to save eggs for aristocrats, you may find yourself resorting to more safe, simple, "struggle" meals to keep yourself fed but keep your money in your bank account where it belongs.

Reddit user u/diazdesire267 recently asked, "What was your favorite food when you didn't have much money and you still crave to eat now even when you can now afford more decent meals?" Similarly, Reddit user u/plremina recently asked, "What's your favorite 'struggle' meal?" Here are a few recipes that won't break the bank:

1."Elbow macaroni, butter, and black pepper."


2."Tomato sandwiches. Sliced tomato, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar if you like, and you’re set. It's cheap, hits a lot of different flavor profiles at once, and is kinda filling."


3."Arrozcaldo. I came from a poor family living in a mining town. Anything that was affordable to most was a luxury for us. I didn't have spaghetti or cake for my birthday or any other fancy meals the other kids have. But, my grandmother would prepare Arrozcaldo. She could only buy a piece of chicken, so she boiled and shredded it, then boiled the bone for broth. Then, she added a combination of sticky rice and normal rice and got a couple of eggs that we share as toppings. It feeds the whole family. It wasn't as fancy as cakes or spaghetti, but I'm very happy my family could prepare something for me knowing that it isn't within our budget."

"I'm 29 now, and the family is living decently. I could afford to eat in a fancy five-star restaurant, but I still crave Arrozcaldo. I'd still choose to have Arrozcaldo over a cake for my birthday."


4."Ritz and crunchy peanut butter."

Peanut butter on crackers
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5."We had 'steak and noodles' a lot as a kid. The cheapest cut of meat possible sliced super thin and stir-fried with soy sauce. Ramen noodles boiled without seasoning. Drain water, mix steak slices with noodles, and more soy sauce. Mom fed four kids for super cheap in those days. I still eat it when I am feeling nostalgic."


6."Egg drop pastina. I don't know what my grandmother called it, and it's not cheap now, but it's just chicken broth with a little star pasta, Parmesan cheese, wisps of egg, and less of anything else."


7."Poached eggs on buttered toast (this was when eggs were cheaper)."

Poached eggs on toast
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8."'Fancy' ramen. Instant ramen, soft egg, green onions, and whatever other veggies I have like mushrooms, carrots, and spinach. Then, I add extra seasonings like chili garlic sauce, soy sauce, and sesame sauce. When I was really struggling, I made a lot of vegetarian dishes because the meat is the most expensive part of the grocery bill."


9."Grilled cheese and Campbell's tomato soup"


10."A can of corn, a can of peas, a can of green beans, salt, pepper, and butter. Heat it in the microwave or on the stovetop."


11."I learned to make pizza, including the dough, from scratch. It’s cheap, and once I had enough practice, I was able to make pizza better than any delivery place for a fraction of the cost. Plus, because I can control what I put in the dough and toppings, I can make the pizza healthier by using less salt, sugar, and oil than delivery pizza. It’s not even that much work. Like, I spend 10-15 minutes on the weekend making the dough. Then, I let it cold ferment in the fridge for a couple of days. When I feel like pizza, I spread the dough on a cast iron pizza pan and let it proof for a bit. Then, I preheat the oven, add the sauce, cheese, and toppings, then bake for less than 20 minutes. It’s honestly just five minutes or so of work the day I cook the pizza."

Slices of pizza
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12."I ate so much Hamburger Helper 'lasagna' as a kid. I love it as comfort food now."


13."A potato chips omelet. Just buy some potato chips with a touch of salt, beat some eggs, mash the potatoes with a fork, add olive oil to the pan, and that's it. It's easy and really good. I used to prepare this a lot when I was a college student, and even now, it's one of my comfort meals."


14."I used to make us 'baby pizzas,' and I still crave them when drunk! It's left-over hotdog/hamburger buns (in half), with spread 'butter' on top, liberal garlic powder, a spoonful of left-over spaghetti sauce on each, shredded cheese, pepperoni slices (the cheap kind), and another liberal sprinkling of garlic powder. Pop those bad boys under the broiler for 4-5 minutes! It's a tasty, hot snack, guaranteed to stifle the munchies and not go to bed hungry."


15."Microwave rice mixed with canned tuna or salmon. Preferably garden vegetable failover rice or white with teriyaki sauce."

Rice with peas and tuna
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16."Cinnamon sugar toast."


17."Fried bologna sandwiches. I still make them even though I'm far from struggling now; they are just so damn good. Especially with a fried egg on top, too!"

Fried bologna sandwich with cheese
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18."Love to buy a cheap and tough cut of meat (usually pork shoulder) and roast it in the slow cooker, then make quesadillas with it!"


19."My grandma used to make me brown sugar sandwiches for a treat when I was younger because for a time, money was really tight. To this day, I love making one when I'm in the mood for something sweet. Just the cheapest white bread and a spoon of brown sugar. If you really want to get fancy: cheap white bread, brown sugar, and apple sauce from one of those little plastic containers with a tinfoil lid. Then, put it on a frying pan to toast for a minute."


20."Potato soup and cornbread helped me get through college. I could eat it every day, and my friends would request it. Everyone would pitch in a dollar, so I had, like, $5 and could make a lot of soup with that (25 years ago)."


21."For me, it's something I call 'Confetti Pasta.' Basically, I beat a couple of eggs with salt, thyme, and plenty of black pepper, and fry the mixture like a pancake, so it became crispy on both sides. I then cut it into ribbons and combine the ribbons and pasta with things like Parmesan, a handful of frozen peas and/or spinach (first cooked in the microwave), the best tomatoes I could afford, olives, red pepper flakes, garlic, and maybe pesto. Parmesan is the sole truly expensive ingredient, but thankfully, it tends to last, since a little goes a long way. Similarly, at times pesto can be pricy, but you can get a lot of meals from a single jar. I like the dish because it's surprisingly tasty, quite cheap, and simple to prepare. I also nearly always have the ingredients on hand. Plus, it's very flexible, which really helps."


What's your favorite low-cost meal? Tell me in the comments!