If you won the lottery, what would you choose as your celebratory meal? You might think it would be lobster and caviar, but is that really what you’d want to feast on? There are some things that money simply can’t buy — and that includes the comfort of the budget-friendly food you grew up on, or the deliciousness of meals you know you can throw together quickly and easily.
Super cheap meals that people go back to again and again, regardless of their bank balance, were the subject of a recent Reddit poll. Here are 25 of the top rankers. How many have you tried?
There’s more than one version of “steak fingers,” but basically you find the cheapest steak cuts you can find and tenderize and fry them up. Make gravy out of the drippings and serve them with mashed potatoes.
“The whole meal probably cost less than 5 bucks in 70s dollars, and I’m telling you nothing tasted better,” wrote one Redditor. “I made it for my kids when they were growing up and they still ask me for it sometimes.”
Bowl Of Cereal
Whether it’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a late-night snack, sometimes nothing hits the spot better than a bowl of cereal. And although not all cereal is dirt-cheap, you can save money by avoiding the big brands.
“A bag of generic cereal is like 5 or 6 bucks, that’s easily 10-15 meals at least,” points out one Reddit user.
It might not sound very appealing, but S.O.S., or “sh** on a shingle” is simply sausage gravy served over toast. What’s not to love?
“My mom made the gravy from scratch, just flour, butter, milk and pepper, and used sliced corned beef instead. Mmmmmmm!!!” enthused one Redditor.
Boiled Potatoes And Butter
A bowl of boiled potatoes with a large dollop of butter on top is enough to make many people salivate.
“Don’t care if I am rich or poor that is my go to snack,” said one Redditor.
And for such a simple dish, there are plenty of variations — you could oven-bake your potatoes with salt and margarine, put in spices and herbs based on what you have, or add bacon.
Most people have some pasta in the pantry — and if you have pasta, you have the base of a hearty, tasty meal. Just add whatever you can find in your fridge or cabinets, like cheese or lunch meat, with some spices for flavor, and you get “poverty pasta,” according to Reddit. This one requires minimal cooking skills, so it’s a failsafe for everyone.
Squash And Eggs
Butternut squash is a fall food staple, but it doesn’t have to be part of a fancy dish. One Reddit user shared the perfect cheap recipe: “Cut squash into thin round[s] and cook in a pan with a little oil until they’re just soft. Scramble the eggs with the squash, add a bunch of pepper, some salt. Sometimes we ate it over noodles or rice.”
Egg Drop Soup
Egg drop soup, a staple at Chinese restaurants across the United States, is typically made with lightly-seasoned chicken or veggie broth and egg “ribbons” created by whisking raw eggs into the simmering liquid. When you’re not getting it for takeout, you can make your own. To finish it off, add soy sauce and grated ginger, and garnish with green onions on top.
Peanut Butter Sandwich
PB&J is considered a top dish for pretty much any occasion, but you might consider dropping the J now and again for an even cheaper — but just as delicious — meal. All you need is a couple of slices of bread and as much peanut butter as you like.
As one Redditor says, “Nothing beats a good ol[d]-fashioned PB&J, hold the J.”
Rice, Egg And Soy Sauce
A traditional Japanese dish is steamed white rice with a raw egg cracked in it while the rice is still scorching hot. One Reddit user revealed how to finish it off: “Stir aggressively and dash with soy sauce.” Basically, the hot rice cooks the egg, and the soy sauce is the perfect addition for a flavor that ends up tasting like fried rice.
Macaroni And Cheese
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is the ultimate comfort food.
“If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t have to have kraft dinner,” wrote one Reddit user. “But I’d still eat kraft dinner. In fact, I’d eat more kraft dinner. But only with the finest… dijon ketchups.”
“Boxed mac is definitely my ‘if you had to eat one food for the rest of your life’ no-brainer,” agreed another.
A combination of solid food ingredients cooked in liquid and served in gravy, stew is one of the most flexible dishes you can make. You can include any mixture of vegetables, and you can add meat like beef, poultry or sausages (tougher, cheaper meats in particular are good for slow-cooking).
“There could be anything in there but it’s still delicious,” said a commenter on the Reddit thread.
Beans And Rice
Whether you call it “beans and rice” or “rice and beans,” it’s a firm favorite among Redditors.
“Rice, beans, homemade cornbread,” wrote one Redditor. “Add a little salsa to the rice and a bit of finely chopped onion to the beans and that’s luxury. And delicious!”
To give your Kraft Mac a meaty twist, make yourself some “Mexi-Mac.”
“Cook a pound of ground beef with a packet of taco seasoning,” explained a Reddit user. “Make a box of Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. Mix together.”
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
The humble grilled cheese sandwich isn’t always so humble.
“A fancy corporate event I went to had them displayed as ‘crostini du fromage,'” wrote one Redditor.
Fancy corporate events aside, a grilled cheese sandwich is the ultimate late-night snack in front of the TV.
Hot Dogs In Baked Beans
Also known as “beanie weenies,” “beans and franks,” “franks and beans,” and several other similar names, hot dogs in baked beans (usually with sugar and condiments like barbecue sauce added) get a lot of love on Reddit. If you like, you can fry it all up, or grate cheese over the top. Big on flavor, easy on the budget.
Big Pile Of Scrambled Eggs
If you know how to make scrambled eggs, you have the basis of numerous tasty meals. But sometimes, you don’t need anything else — expect maybe hot sauce.
“There are few things that beat the simple deliciousness of scrambled eggs with Tapatio,” wrote one Redditor.
Meanwhile, many others offered their own preferences.
“I scramble the eggs on high at the end so they get crispy then add a little salsa on top,” shared one. Is your mouth watering yet?
Who can resist a large stack of pancakes? They’re super cheap to make, and you can add whatever you have in your fridge, whether sweet or savory.
“I sometimes make pancakes for the whole day, big plate of pancakes for the entire family for the entire day,” wrote a Reddit user.
Cinnamon Sugar Toast
If you need a sweet treat, cinnamon toast guarantees a sugar fix.
“My 4 year old and I eat this for breakfast on the weekend,” revealed one Reddit user. “She calls it toast with sprinkles.”
Another shared their preferred method: “I butter it, sprinkle it generously with cinnamon and sugar, then stick [it] under the broiler until it forms a melted crust on top.”
You can always count on Reddit to teach you something. One user shared their own family recipe for goup, which turns out to be something many others have also made and eaten (with variations of name and ingredients).
“It’s something my father came up with when he was super poor after leaving the army in the 80s […] and it’s now like a staple in our family,” they wrote. “Costs just a couple bucks to make and feeds an entire family of four.”
To make goup, which is basically an inexpensive version of stroganoff, brown ground meat with salt, pepper and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Then add in a can of cream of mushroom soup and a huge dollop of sour cream. Then fill the empty soup can with milk and add that too. Season to taste with whatever you like (such as A1 sauce or mustard) and serve over noodles.
Oatmeal, Banana And Peanut Butter
Oatmeal, banana and peanut butter go together just as well as you’d expect them to.
“This has pretty much been my go to breakfast for years,” a Redditor posted. “Recently I’ve put a spin on this by making flourless muffins out of the same ingredients — PB, banana, oats, syrup, milk, baking powder/soda, salt, half with blueberries and half with chocolate chips. Makes 4 days’ worth of breakfasts.”
Lentils can form the base of soups, stews, curries and many more hearty dishes.
“Great cheap protein and can be used so many ways,” wrote one Redditor. “Lentils with curry and whatever cheap veg is around, usually spinach or cauliflower.”
It’s impossible to mess up making instant ramen. You just add boiled water and you’re sorted.
“Probably because I grew up with it, but I actually kind of prefer instant over some restaurant ramen,” revealed one Reddit user.
If you have potatoes, broth, salt and pepper and some veggies, you have everything you need to make potato soup. It’s perfect on a cold day — but a comforting dish at any time of the year.
“We usually had it with veggies that were starting to go bad, and if we had any, we’d toss bacon in there,” wrote one commenter.
Fried Eggs And Fried Potatoes
Fried eggs taste great. Fried potatoes taste great. Together, they’re pretty unbeatable.
“The way I make them is thin sliced potatoes in a pan. Get them brown and done or almost done then add the eggs and scramble it all together,” revealed one Redditor. “I eat mine with ketchup.”
Bread And Butter
There’s nothing more basic than bread and butter, but for some people, there’s nothing better.
“Bread and butter is my favorite food in the whole world,” wrote one Redditor. “When I’m fancy, it’s fresh sourdough and boujee [sic] butter.”