You can't get much cheaper than pancakes! The kids wanted pancakes today but we didn't have much syrup around the house, so I did what my mom did when we ran out of syrup when I was a kid and made pancake syrup. My grandmother made syrup routinely rather than buy syrup from the store.
My mom was one of four kids and they didn't have much growing up. They couldn't afford syrup, which seems kind of strange to me but this would have been in the late 1940's and early 1950's, so maybe there was something to that or maybe they lived so far from a grocery store they just made everything.
Pancake Syrup from scratch:
1/2 cup water
1 cup brown sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp flavor (vanilla or maple extract)
Boil the water, sugar, salt and your choice of flavor until it starts to thicken. You don't want a boil where the bubbles are stacking up and the pan might boil over - just a lazy bubbling mostly around the edges of the pan. Stir it frequently, in between flipping pancakes, after about 15 minutes it is done. It can also be done as quick as you need it if you discover you are out of syrup at the last minute, then you will boil it just until the sugar is dissolved and maybe opt for the almost boiling over heat.
To serve, just spoon it hot over buttered pancakes.
The syrup will still be thin by store bought imitation syrup standards but closer to the thickness of the real maple syrup. You could keep boiling it or add more sugar to get it a little thicker but it will get very sweet if you do. Also, this syrup works best to make what you need when you need it, although you could store any leftover syrup in the refrigerator.
If I was just "stretching" the syrup I have around, I put it on my pancakes first and then I add this syrup to the store bought stuff and don't tell the kids.
** Google is my friend, not affording maple syrup may have been common in the 1950's and there is a very similar recipe to my family recipe that also includes the luxury of a tablespoon of butter. I'm sure that would be awesome because everything is great with butter!