This Takes Me Back

People Are Sharing The Cheap & Easy Meals From Childhood They’ll Never Give Up

From butter noodles to cinnamon toast, these favorites have graduated from “struggle meal” to comfort food.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and that’s never been more true than when you look at food — some of the best meals and snacks are often the cheapest to make. Even as our financial situations change, it’s hard to leave those dishes behind. (That’s why we pay big money for basic beans and rice at the local Mexican place.) And it’s why, when we’re feeling under the weather or trying to stretch a dollar, we still turn to butter and egg noodles to fill our bellies and hearts. What was once the only thing left in our refrigerators and pantries have now become nostalgic staples. Those former “struggle meals” have graduated to comfort food. From Hamburger Helper to potato flakes, some things are just too good to let go of... no matter how much money you have.

Reddit users agree. When Redditor u/l1qmaballs recently asked people to share the cheap meals they would eat “no matter how wealthy” they got, the answers did not disappoint. The responses basically look like a rotation of foods many of us ate during our ‘90s childhoods, making the entire thread strangely wholesome and nostalgic.

How many of these foods did you eat growing up? Keep reading to take your stomach on a stroll down memory lane.

  1. “Bread and butter” – Gene_ Different
  2. “Spam n eggs.” – Treeheemelee
  3. “My mom used to make ‘shmasta noodles’ for us a lot growing up, it's basically just fried rice with bacon or sausage in it. We also had to eat a lot of ramen so she'd mix it up by frying it, putting a hard-boiled egg on top, and calling it a bird nest.” – MotherOfBorzoi
  4. “Sugar cereal in a bag! I’m so weak to those giant bags of deliciousness. No fruity pebbles or Froot Loops for me! Gimme Dino-Bites with Marshmallows and Tootie Frooties in insane quantities.” – PixieFlip
  5. “NO ONE is too good for some breakfast fried rice. NO ONE.” – Wecangetbetter
  6. “Jiffy cornbread.” – Hooptyboots18
  7. “I absolutely love canned tuna. I eat it right out of the can. I find it so delicious and flavorful. I have plenty of disposable income and could probably buy actual bluefin tuna filets but I just love canned tuna. I'll eat it even if I was a millionaire.” – ZombieTheRogue
  8. “I eat PB and J almost daily.” – Username58008918
  9. “Brown gravy over white bread. There was a point in my childhood when that was dinner. I remember my mom crying while I ate, but it was delicious! I still keep instant gravy in the house for the occasional comfort food feast.” – Economy_Biscotti
  10. “Cinnamon toast.” – EastCoastPrankster
  11. “Butter on a flour tortilla warmed up, my brother put me on it.” – Katcomesback
  12. “Rice and beans. So many ways to make it, delicious and nutritious.” – Wishing4Signal
  13. “Totino’s pizzas.” – lyndz31
  14. “Tomato soup and grilled cheese.” – ColdToes2023
  15. “Instant mashed potatoes, ground beef, & McCormick's brown gravy.” – diesels_only
  16. “Buttered noodles.” – NoTripOfALifetime
  17. “Tuna casserole.” – Masterwad
  18. “A pot of beans, served with cornbread and/or rice.” – FaberGrad
  19. “Hamburger Helper.” – OhYouShikaAGoddess (*Author note: “Helper” without the added meat is also a classic.)
  20. “Grilled cheese sandwiches. It must be made with the cheap grocery store white bread and American cheese. I've had many ‘fancy’ grilled cheeses in my life with artisan breads and exotic sounding cheeses... but none have ever hit quite the same.” – Anand999
  21. “Fried cabbage, potatoes, and kielbasa.” – qazzer53
  22. “Lentils. I swear they will save humanity and the planet. The perfect protein.” – Bruh_wut69
  23. “With zero shame: Spaghettios” – Pratius
  24. “Hot dogs and baked beans. Dump can of beans in the pot and add hot dogs. Place over heat source until hot. You can make regular hotdogs if you have bread and eat the beans as a side or directly on top of the hotdogs. If you have no bread, eat as is. Delicious, cheap, and easy. It's one of my favorite meals growing up, and I still make it when I don't want to think too hard or spend much money but want a nice hot dinner that's comforting.” – FreeGovernment5162
  25. “Cheese toast.” – TheGoochAssassin (*Our editor grew up eating strawberry jam on hers.)

Granted, half of these things aren’t so cheap anymore. Even those plastic American cheese slices seem to have tripled in price — and don’t even get us started on the cost of butter. But “breakfast for dinner” remains a nostalgic and still fantastically cheap struggle meal. That box of $1 pancake mix goes super far. Don’t forget to add a smear of peanut butter for the protein!