frugal food

Frugal Food Gone Bad-The history behind junk food

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Frugal Food that went from being a cheap option to an unhealthy one.

Have you ever looked at a dish or food item and wondered how someone could have come up with such a strange concoction? Street food always comes to mind when I think about this. The street vendors tend to pair odd things together that end up tasting spectacular. Like the Mexican street corn…one of my favorite foods and I recreate it at home every time I get the urge for one. So good!

Sadly these foods get a bad rap and we don’t think of them as a good meal choice to feed ourselves or our families. But, they were originally created for people to get a quick cheap bite. They’ve become not only familiar, but very nostalgic. And although we know they are terrible for our health and have a ton of additives now, we still have the urge to eat them from time to time.


Because they are cheap eats! They save us money and we could feed a crowd with ease. They’re also very convenient, and adults and kids love them.

Hot Dogs/Sausages

Hot Dogs or any linked sausage for that matter are a staple food that was created in the late 1400’s. I don’t want to go into too much detail as to not gross you out, but they were originally made to be able to use more of the animal and to have as little waste as possible. Hot dogs/sausages consisted of meat scraps and cartilage, and were encased in intestine lining (that’s how they got their shape). It was cheap, filling, and it tasted good.

hot dogs and sausages

In recent years, the price is still inexpensive compared to premium meat, so it’s still a frugal option. But with the latest boost of the “healthy lifestyle”, we’ve seen a major shift in how they are manufactured. And most healthy diets don’t include this food as one of the healthy meat options, and for good reason.

Chicken Nuggets

chicken nuggets

They make chicken nuggets with the same idea as the hot dog, scraps from chicken parts and cartilage, stuck together with breadcrumbs and fried. Kids love them don’t they? This is another convenient and affordable food that we can prepare easily and quickly. But, as with the hot dog, we know chicken nuggets are known to be unhealthy, especially the fast food versions.  And although they were initially made as a frugal option, their lack of nutrients don’t make them that great of a bargain.


Another option that is super cheap! I find instant ramen noodles on sale at grocery stores for $0.25 each and if you go to Costco, their sold at $0.17 each. Can’t get much cheaper than this. Even with the recent revamp of the ingredients (and removing MSG), packaged instant noodles are still a far cry from being a healthy eating option to feed your kids. But, I must confess, I still tend to eat this at least a few times a month. I just can’t get enough and they’re so easy and fast to make!

ramen noodles

Peanut Butter

I feel like this is a food that just recently got a bad rap. In the last 10 years or so, peanut butter has been taking a really big hit to its reputation. Health and Diet experts have claimed that traditional peanut butter isn’t a good option. Why is this considered a bad food choice for kids and adults alike? This is mainly because of the alarming rate of increased allergies, but also because people found alternative nut butters that better served their healthy lifestyles.

But peanut butter is still an affordable option that can be incorporated in moderation to a healthy lifestyle. I personally love putting a tablespoon of regular old Jif or Skippy peanut butter into my oatmeal with a tablespoon of honey. Best breakfast ever, I can literally eat it everyday. And it costs me less than a dollar to make for each serving.

White Rice

White Rice is another food that we’ve strayed away from in recent years, partially due to the health craze and the claim that it is not a healthy option. It is a very frugal dish, and can be so filling. We can add rice into literally thousands of various dishes with ease. But with people wanting to be more healthy, they’ve started choosing brown rice, quinoa, Farro, or freekeh instead. Poor little white rice, it’s getting so much hate.

Personally, I love white rice. It’s cheap, my family loves it as a side dish, and I make it at least 3-4 times per week. It’s such a staple in my house.

Finding Frugal Food Options

Look, I’m going to be honest with you, you can’t have it all. You won’t always find the most frugal food to be healthy. And vice versa. And while these foods may have a bad rap, they’re still around for a reason, people still enjoy them and almost anyone can afford them on their shopping list. They are filling foods and they can feed a crowd.

So, if you have a big family and are on fixed income, these foods can serve to be filler meals in between the more expensive ones. And while it’s not always ideal to feed your kids chicken nuggets or hot dogs, sometimes  it’s a matter of making ends meet and you need to figure out a way to stretch your last dollars until the end of the month. So you do what you gotta do.

And there is no judgement here. I’ll repeat that even though these foods have a bad rap, some have remained staples in my house because they help me stay on budget and fill my family meals with more volume.

I’m not saying we need to eat like this all the time, but I definitely won’t sit here and say that I eat frugal filet mignon every week. There are days where I just want to make a simple basic meal, which can be a frugal one that saves my budget for that week.

What frugal food do you eat that others may think is a bad choice? I’d love for you to share in the comments below!

Until next time my frugal friend,

2 thoughts on “Frugal Food Gone Bad-The history behind junk food”

  1. Pancakes! I try to ‘healthify’ them with oats, wheat flour, or adding fruits/pureed veggies, but it’s still a carb cake. And I don’t care, I want cake for breakfast, drowning in HFCS maple syrup! 🙂

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