29 Cheap Meals That Are So Good, You Won’t Believe They’re Actually Affordable

A Reddit user was curious to learn the kind of meals and foods people ate that helped them through lean times. The post garnered a lot of comments from other members of the Reddit community. We have sampled some of the best responses here.

Spaghetti and Pasta

Woman eating pasta
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One member pointed out how their mother fed the whole family cheaply, “My mother would be able to feed all of us on under $10. Pasta, cheaper grade prepackaged beef, and a jar of sauce. On really tight days, she’d just cook straight pasta and mix in some garlic and that powdered Parmesan cheese.”


Close up Asian man eating yummy hot and spicy instant noodle using chopsticks and bowl isolated on yellow background.
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Others spiced ramen a bit to make cheap meals. One member said, “I’ve tried eating ramen with eggs cracked into it and some teriyaki sauce. All in all, about 12$ for 6ish meals.”

Pork Shoulder

Roasted shoulder of pork on a cutting board
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Apparently, there is a lot you can do with pork shoulder, as one member notes, “Lately I’ve been roasting/braising a full pork shoulder (I stock up when it’s on sale). Shred and freeze what I can’t eat quickly. works really well with rice and beans (roll it up in a tortilla; you got yourself a burrito. Put in ramen with an egg. Or with some stir-fried veggies with soy sauce and rice. Or as a gravy with pasta. It’s really versatile.”

Sleep for Dinner

Young beautiful woman sleeping on bed on blue background
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Some had a unique meal sometimes, as one member points out, “Ever had sleep for dinner?”

Lentil Soup

Homemade vegan lentil soup with vegetables and cilantro, white wooden background, top view. Indian vegetarian cuisine.
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Another member says lentil soup is easy to cook and can go well with many combinations, “A bag of dried lentils costs like a buck at a cheap grocery store and will cook you like three very filling meals worth of lentil soup. Unlike most dried legumes, they cook in like 30-40 minutes of boiling. And pretty much any savory vegetable or cheese will go well with it.”

Oatmeal With a Twist

Plain oatmeal porridge in bowl. Healthy vegan vegetarian breakfast food, whole grain porridge oats
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“My roommate from China introduced me to savory oatmeal: soy sauce, green onion, and a fried egg make it feel more like “dinner” to me,” highlights another member relaying how they survived college years

Rice With Seared Cabbage

Cabbage stew with rice and vegetables. Meatless vegan dish. Top view on black stone table.
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One member took rice with seared cabbage as her go-to meal during tough moments. When she was asked by another member to explain how she prepared the cabbage she said, “Rice with seared cabbage and a fried egg… I slice it pretty thin and throw it in a ripping hot pan with a touch of oil. It should get slightly charred but still be crunchy.”

Toast White Sauce and Chip Beef

Creamed and chipped beef on sliced toast on marble kitchen table also known as S.O.S.
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Others remember a childhood delicacy their mother made for them, “My mother made it substituting red salmon for the beef. I loved it,” they continued, “Bread, apples, and cheese. You feel like you’re in a medieval movie or something, and you can supplement with a bowl of hearty soup or stew.”


Pancakes with berries and maple syrup
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According to one member, pancakes are cheap and very fulfilling, “Veeeery cheap and soul food on top of that, which should not be neglected when going through hard times. Just some ground Hazelnuts and sugar as filling, delicious.”

Noodles With Vegetables

Plate with buckwheat noodles with vegetables, mushrooms, chicken meat and Chinese sticks on a dark background. Japanese soba in clay bowl on a wooden background.
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Noodles are a simple and healthy meal; according to another person, “Fry the vegetables in a pan, season them, and mix it with noodles. Simple, healthy, and also very cheap.”

Peanut Butter on Toast

Peanut butter sandwiches or toasts on light wooden background
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This meal helped a member through tough times in college, “In college, I ate peanut butter on toast for breakfast, and .99$ bean burrito from a taco stand next door to my apartment for dinner.”

Pogie Pie

shepherd's pie- baked mashed potato with minced beef
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Another user explains how they made pogie pie at home, “I used to make Pogie Pie. ( Pogie was slang for unemployment insurance). Pie shell filled with cooked ground beef and chopped vegetables, and bbq sauce. Top with mashed potatoes and bake. If you want it fancy, put grated cheese in the potatoes.”

Indian Food

Indian food Curry butter chicken, Palak Paneer, Chiken Tikka, Biryani, Vegetable Curry, Papad, Dal, Palak Sabji, Jira Alu, Rice with Saffron on dark background
Image Credit: Natalia Lisovskaya/Shutterstock.

One person appreciates the dynamism of other cultures, specifically Indian cuisine, “There’s a culture that knows how to take super simple foods and make them taste transcendent.”

Chicken Thighs and Quarters

woman holding chicken in both hands
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Someone explains how they can make different dishes from chicken thighs, “I get a pack for just a couple of dollars, and I can easily get at least four or five meals out of that. So many things you can do with chicken too. I personally prefer white meat, but I’m starting to grow fond of thighs.”

Macaroni and Cheese

Baked mac and cheese in a cast iron pan
Image Credit: Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.

A member acknowledges that although this is not exactly healthy, it is a great meal when things are tough, “Boxed macaroni and cheese. If you don’t have milk, you can use some extra butter instead. Sure, it’s not healthy, but it’s cheap.”

Vegetable Omelet

Spring omelette with green vegetables (broccoli, sweet pea and spinach) in a skillet over rustic wooden background
Image Credit: Liliya Kandrashevich/Shutterstock.

Leftover vegetables should not be thrown away; according to another user, “A good way to use up leftover veggies. Pair with a slice of whole grain toast and some fresh fruit for a balanced meal.”

Another person advocated for people to use in-season vegetables, “In-season vegetables. For instance, corn is about $0.25/ear right now. Zucchini is likewise cheap as hell.”

Fried Eggs on Toast

Three fried eggs with herbs.
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Another member notes that eggs are cheap and a good protein source, “Not exactly healthy, but filling, cheap, and protein. Also, it’s easy to freeze a loaf of bread and just pull out and thaw what you need.”

Nature Provides

Portrait of smiling, pretty, caucasian, female chef carrying fresh picked vegetables walking towards camera on a farm for farm to table at sunrise sunset.
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One person turned to nature for all their needs, “Dandelion greens, branch lettuce, paw-paws, persimmons, trout, rabbit, squirrel, deer, and one absolutely random peacock that wandered into my yard. Nature provides.”

Old Habits Die Hard

Man doubting
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Another member kept a tradition, “In the Peace Corps, I would eat tuna mixed with onion, cilantro, mayo, and soy sauce, served on top of white rice. Been back for 5 years, and my wife and I still eat this weekly, except now with more veggies.”

Tuna Salad

Tuna salad with avocado, celery, spring onion and iceberg lettuce. Tasty healthy food
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Someone pointed out that this is a quick and cheap meal to make, “Comes together in under 10 minutes. Very customizable. Hella protein, hella fiber. I kept my servings $2 per meal.”

Soup and Bread

Happy young woman eating pumpkin soup in kitchen
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You cannot go wrong with this combination when you are broke, says one member, “When we were flat broke, I’d make a big pot of soup and bake a loaf of bread every few days for dinners and packed lunches. Lentil soup, vegetable/bean, chicken and rice, butternut squash, carrot/yam, split pea, corn chowder… basically whatever produce, meat or dried pulses were on sale.”

Pork Based Meals

Pork Belly Burnt Ends Meat Candy.
Image Credit: Philoglesby/Shutterstock.

“Pork is cheap, tastes good when prepared well, and goes well with inexpensive things like rice, beans, and vegetables,” added another member

Shrimp Tacos

Homemade Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Coleslaw and Salsa
Image Credit: Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock.

A member showed others how to enjoy tacos cheaply without skimping on the extras, “Shrimp is more expensive, but you only put 5 or so shrimp in one taco. Corn tortillas are cheap, lime, cilantro, green onion, maybe lime slaw, super cheap!”


Buckwheat porridge in black casserole on wooden background closeup
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Another user swears by buckwheat, “It is healthy, delicious, easy to cook, and costs less than a dollar for one kg in my country. And one kg of buckwheat can feed you for about five days, I guess. It is good for me with any type of meat and any type of sauce.”


Jasmine rice cooking in electric rice cooker with steam. Soft Focus, Rustic tone picture.
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This popular delicacy has a million and one possible combinations, “Let me introduce you to my old friend, rice. I am as white as the rice I so love. Plain basmati rice is amazing. Then anything added is just a bonus. Soy sauce. Fish sauce. Greek yogurt. Any sort of sauce. Mixed with almost any soup. You can get realllly fancy with it. Get yourself some meat. The sky is the limit.”


Tasty goulash served with fresh hot buns
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Not many are familiar with this, but one user says it is cheap to make, “It was a staple in my lower-class family. Just ground beef, a bottle of tomato sauce, and some elbow macaroni. I even made it vegan (and cheaper) with lentils when I was trying to be vegan. You can add whatever you want to it, but I like it just plain.”


Mexican quesadilla with chicken, cheese and peppers on wooden table.
Image Credit: etorres/Shutterstock.

This is a very filling meal as well, says another user, “I would purchase the huge bags of cheese and tortillas from Costco when my mom would take me. If I felt like I could afford it, I would add chicken. It covers carbs, fats, and proteins; is super filling and pretty cheap.”

Poached Eggs

Several eggs on blue background..
Image Credit: Yuliia Balchenko/Shutterstock.

Poached eggs are cheap and quick meals when one is on a budget, “Poached eggs on crumpets 2 crumpets = 15p (pack of 6 costs 45p) 2 eggs = 38p (pack of 12 costs £2.25) When I lived on my own, I’d have this at least 3 times a week. Quick, easy, and cheap meal for one. It’s also pretty bloody tasty. 53 pence meal Sometimes push the boat out and add some 2 slices of back bacon costing 41p extra.”


Delicious quiche with mushrooms and parsley on table,
Image Credit: New Africa/Shutterstock.

Another member explains how to make this cheap meal, “It’s just eggs, a splash of milk, chopped veggies, optional meat, cheese, and ground pepper mixed and dumped in a pie crust. You can get all the ingredients at Dollar Tree or a Dollar General under $10 pretty easily.”


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This article was produced and syndicated by A Dime Saved.