17 of the Best “Struggle” Meals for Comfort on the Cheap

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Once upon a time, I was an Americorps VISTA. If you don’t know what exactly that means, that’s maybe a good thing. Essentially a volunteer, I was working full time and making ~$4/hour. This meant that after rent, electricity, and my phone, I didn’t have a ton of money left over for silly things like groceries. I quickly developed a rotation of cheap, comforting, easy foods to “go to” whenever money was tight (which was… pretty much always). One of the best resources for coming up with these meals was other people, sometimes other VISTAs. I am always amazed by the ingenuity of others and I never stopped looking for fun, cheap, easy comfort foods to make for myself. Check out these 17 meal ideas from savings-savvy Reddit users:

  1. A Little Cheesy Meal

    Cheesy rice and broccoli. Make rice, steam broccoli, mix together with cheese. Bake like a casserole if you’re feeling really fancy. – rubywolf27

  2. Not “Mushroom” for Error

    This combined with a can of cream of mushroom soup was affectionately called “broccoli casserole” in my house growing up. Baking it with bubbly cheese was a must, and sometimes my mom would slice a white and an orange cheddar into squares and make a checkerboard on the top to bring it to family functions. It was my absolute favourite food, besides maybe mac and cheese. – XxFrozen

  3. Breakfast-ish burrito

    Whatever is in the fridge + eggs in a tortilla. -Igotolake

  4. “Harriet the Spy” Sandwich

    Tomato sandwich! Bread, sliced tomato, mayo, and a little bit of salt. I’ve gotten weird looks/reactions, but it’s still one of my favorites -sneakstache

  5. Cinnamon Toast for the Soul

    Never realized cinnamon toast is struggle food, but of course it is. Cheap white bread, few cents of margarine, few cents of sugar and cinnamon.Was always a favorite. Gonna make some tonight. -snausagebot

    (This is one of my personal favorites and I never realized it was so popular!)

  6. Cinnamon Toast with a Twist

    My mom grew up dirt poor and her favorite “treat” was always bread and margarine with sugar on top.When I was a kid, she switched out the bread for homemade pie crust and would make a delicious cinnamon sugar sort of thing. So freaking good. -HappyAntonym

    Honestly, if you have the time to make the pie crust, it’s pretty easy and fairly cheap!

  7. “Cafeteria Spaghetti”

    I like to make what I call “cafeteria spaghetti” I take a can of crushed tomatoes and season it with salt and black pepper, red pepper, a tiny bit of sugar, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder. Cook it for about a half hour then add a half cup of chicken stock and take about 5oz. of spaghetti, break it into inch long pieces and let it simmer in the sauce until tender. Cheap and reminiscent of grade school spaghetti day at lunch. Bonus points for adding ground meat into it. The starch from the pasta makes the tomato sauce into something I can’t quite describe. -Shore69

  8. Butter Burrito

    Sometimes I make this thing my dad always made us when my mom was sick (poor guy couldn’t cook lol).. just tortillas on the stove until they’re brown, put butter on the tortilla, then roll it up. AND DONE lol. Every once in a while, he would put lunch meat or hot dogs inside. I still do this sometimes if all I have is tortillas and I’m feeling snacky. -somegirlnamedjenn

  9. “Hobo Joe”

    My grandfather used to make this thing he called hobo Joe. It was essentially some ground beef, onion, diced potatoes all fried together with a can of pork and beans or baked beans. It was the only thing he could cook. We ate it for a week when my granny went to visit her sister when she was sick. I love me some hobo Joe. -builtbybama_rolltide

  10. “Funeral Beans”

    It sounds like what we call funeral beans around here. Every funeral has these beans at the lunch afterwards. 2lb hamburger, 1lb bacon, onion, 2 cans pork and beans, 1 can drained butter and 1 can drained kidney beans. Mix with 1 cup ketchup, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 3 tbsp white vinegar. Cook the meat and onion then add everything else. Eat it for a week, freezes great too -Clown_hoedown

  11. Tater Tot Casserole

    Tater tot casserole.Ground beef cooked with onion salt n peppa add a can of cream of mushroom soup Put that in a casserole dish top with tater tots and bake until the tots are browned/done Then top with American cheese singles and heat until melted. -pestilentPony

  12. Crud on Crust

    Went from Utica, NY to LA, and have the same deal. My girl just doesn’t understand but I need one of my “struggle meals” like once a week. It’s comforting.For me: S**t on a Shingle (no idea why my dad called it that). (Alright, maybe some idea). We’d have left over ends of lunch meats from the deli nearby and chip that up on bread we’d get at the food pantry, and pour canned soup over the top. Cream of Mushroom was FANCY, my guy. So damn good. -hopawfmahdiq

  13. Leftover Rice Pudding

    Plain white rice – at least a day old. A bit of milk (often powdered). Warm it up. Top with cinnamon sugar. Raisins if we had them. Ate it every morning until the rice was gone. . . -kiaminnesota

  14. Sunnyside Rice and Beans

    Rice and beans with an egg on top…couldn’t afford 2 eggs each. -bluehairspecial

  15. “Instant” Classic

    My mom would always split a package of instant noodles between the four of us, sometimes add in a hard boiled egg for years.When I’d gone over to a friend’s house as a kid, I was so confused when they gave me a WHOLE package of instant noodles to eat. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself and insisted we share it because it just seemed like so much. -luciantomato

  16. “Poor Man’s Meal”

    My dad used to make what he called “poor man’s meal” – fried potatoes and onion, sliced hot dogs and then scramble a few eggs in with it all in the same pan. Sounds like an abomination when I type it out but that shit was good with some ketchup or hot sauce. Man, I miss my dad… -zombiealert

  17. $2 Mac and Maters

    Macaroni and canned tomatoes, if we had extra money to buy cheese we would grate some over top . $2 meal feeds 6 + -tijo1

I am definitely going to look back at this list the next time my wallet is light and my stomach is empty. Have you ever made a “struggle meal”? Do you still make it even when you can afford not to? I, for one, will never give up my tortilla chips and peanut butter, no matter my paycheck.