20 Budget-Friendly Bites That Are Universally Loved

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When we eat some foods out of pure necessity to save money, they may not be fancy, but they fit the budget. Some cheap, comfort meals always hit the spot, and people vow they'll keep eating them no matter how rich they get. Sometimes a budget-friendly meal is what you're craving and it's a bonus that it doesn't break the bank.

1. Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup
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Few things are as cozy and satisfying as a piping hot bowl of creamy tomato soup and an ooey-gooey grilled cheese sandwich toasted and melted to perfection. The crunch of bread contrasted with the silky smooth soup and stretchy cheese will always be a go-to.

2. Instant Ramen

instant ramen
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You can go to a fancy ramen spot and pay $15 for a heaping bowl, but some people have a special place in their hearts for instant ramen, me included. Whether you love the classic chicken, the spicy shrimp, or the hearty beef, instant ramen delivers a distinct, mouthwatering flavor.

3. Baked Potatoes

Baked Potatoes
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Potatoes in all forms are magical, but baked potatoes are exceptionally cozy and delicious. The beauty of them is their versatility! Add sour cream or cheddar cheese, sprinkle bacon bits, or maybe add some scallions. Or, follow my lead and add all of them to create a heaping pile of goodness.

4. Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and Cheese
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Mac and cheese is a classic meal that is so beautiful in its simplicity. Pasta and cheese sauce are affordable and straightforward ingredients, but together, they create a gooey mess of deliciousness that is always comforting and yummy after a long day. It also hits the spot in the morning if you have leftovers.

5. McDonald's

Woman eating french fries
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This one 100% applies to me. Nothing hits the spot quite like a McChicken that was slapped together without love and heated under a lamp. Plenty of people are unwilling to denounce the golden arches from the fries to the extra-sweet Sprite.

6. Peanut Butter and Jelly

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
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My childhood lunch, PB&Js, will always be a sticky staple in my home. Whether you like strawberry or grape jelly, smooth or crunchy peanut butter, or wheat or white bread, these sandwiches are always filling and tasty. I'd still eat these regularly even if I won the lottery twice.

7. Rice and Beans

Rice and Beans
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Rice and beans are a staple in many households and not something people would give up if they came into a vast fortune. This simple combination is the ultimate comfort meal for many people — it's perfect for a quick lunch or a family dinner.

8. Corn Dogs

Corn Dogs
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Corn dogs are not considered upscale, but they are supremely delicious, and you couldn't pay me to give them up. A meaty hot dog dunked into cornbread batter and fried until crispy is the definition of heaven, and a drizzle of mustard only makes it more delicious.

9. Hamburger Helper

Hamburger Helper
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Hamburger Helper frozen entrees are very popular, especially hamburger and pasta meals. Even if people have butlers, private chefs, and personal shoppers, they swear that Hamburger Helper would still be a comforting constant in their pantry.

10. Fast Food Burgers

Fast Food Burgers
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I mentioned McDonald's, but many people say any fast food burger is their kryptonite. Sometimes, you just need a greasy, cheesy mess of meat and bun that you'll probably regret in 30 minutes.

11. Bagels

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People are deeply passionate about bagels, especially those from the east coast. And if you try to take their bagels away, they may fight you. Whether they love poppyseed, sesame, everything, onion, asiago, or cinnamon raisin and smear it with butter, peanut butter, or cream cheese, they all agree bagels are a must-have.

12. Frozen Pizza

Frozen Pizzas
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Pizza can be pretty pricey if you go to a fancy spot, but some people swear that frozen pizza is all they need to be happy. The beauty of popping a rigid disk into the oven and having a cheesy, crunchy, flavorful pizza in 20 minutes is something many wouldn't trade for the world.

13. Spam

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If you don't know what Spam is, it's time to learn. Spam is a type of canned meat made with pork and is very popular in Hawaii, especially in homes with a tight budget.

14. Taco Bell

Taco Bell
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Taco Bell comes in behind McDonald's for cheap places people won't give up. I get it, as I've tried to make Crunchwrap Supremes at home, and it's not the same. It tastes better when I order it from a painfully slow drive-through, and it's thoughtlessly thrown into a greasy paper bag. That's just a fact.

15. Hot Dogs

Hot Dogs
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I mentioned corn dogs, but hot dogs are unique in their own right. A grilled hot dog on a lightly toasted bun with a careful strip of mustard will transport me back to childhood barbecues and Fourth of July parties every single time. And people from places like Chicago and Seattle live and die by their hot dog toppings, so they're never giving up their dogs.

16. Buttered Noodles

Dry Spaghetti Noodles, Pasta
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There's something comforting about a bowl of plain buttered noodles. It feels like childhood again when eating them, and it's not a surprise people will keep eating this meal throughout their lives. Plus, it's easy to make!

17. Breakfast Cereal

a variety of breakfast cereal on a table
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If you were rich, you could buy whatever cereal you wanted and as much of it as you could eat. Why not make a mix of cereals in one bowl? Sounds like heaven to me.

18. Freeze Pops

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Nothing will beat a popsicle on a hot day. Even with all the money in the world, the best ones are the cheap, flimsy ones you get in the plastic tube.

19. Iced Tea

mason jars full of iced tea and lemon wedges
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There is something so great about a cheap iced tea from the store. It's refreshing, and they're usually packed full of sugar. Nothing will beat those 99-cent ones you can get from any grocery store.

20. Gas Station Food

gas station
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People in the United States take their gas station food very seriously and often argue about the best gas stations. Unsurprisingly, people would stay loyal to their brands even after they made it into the big time.

Author: Veronica Booth

Title: Freelance Writer

Expertise: Food, Entertainment, Movies, TV, Fashion, Lifestyle, Celebrity


Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.

If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.

She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.