They say that it’s more expensive to cook for two than for a whole family. I’d like to prove them wrong. There are lots of budget-friendly dinners (and lunches and breakfasts) that are perfect for two people. Check out these delicious recipes for two on a budget!
If you’re serious about saving money the easy way, then be sure to review the Good Cheap Eats System. More than easy dinner ideas, it’s a set of proven strategies to help you save on food costs so you can do more with your money every day.
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It’s true that grocery prices need to take a chill pill, but it’s equally true that anyone, no matter the size of their household, can eat well on a budget. You don’t need much time or spend a lot of money to enjoy a hearty meal with a friend, child, or partner.
In fact, simple meals made with cheap ingredients are some of the best in the way of ultimate comfort food!
One of my favorite things is save money on food and to help others do the same. In the last recession, I was able to feed my family of 8 with a very low food budget. We paid off over 60k debts in the process!
You can more with your money, too.
I’ve got some quick cheap dinner ideas as well as the best ways you can save at the grocery store. You are gonna love these recipes for two on a budget.
Tips for Success
Follow these tips for the best success in cooking for two on a budget
Shop the kitchen often.
One of my biggest failures in cooking for two was food waste. I simply bought too much and didn’t use it up before it spoiled.
If I had understood the concept of a pantry challenge or what it was to shop the kitchen, I could have saved us thousands of dollars. I kid you not. I bought way more than we needed.
Choose low-cost ingredients.
Plan your meals based on what’s already affordable. Think about eggs, rice, oats, bean, frozen and fresh vegetables, as well as canned tuna or chicken.
Since protein is often the most expensive part of a meal, focus on cheaper cuts of meat. Get the best value when you choose normally frugal ingredients, such as ground beef or chicken thighs. If you prefer chicken breast, look for the best price on sale for boneless, skinless chicken breast or buy bone-in breasts. Other affordable cuts of meat include different cuts of pork as well as ground turkey. These can make for cheap healthy meals you’ll both enjoy.
–> Consult our Budget Grocery List for more ideas!
Plan meals with shared ingredients.
Plan meals that build on one another so that you don’t let any of your main ingredients go to waste. A little extra attention in meal planning will allow for you to mix and match ingredients for lots of inexpensive meals.
For instance, if you roast a whole chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken, that one bird can provide tasty protein for several meals as the leftover chicken can be worked into stir-fries, casseroles, taco and burrito fillings, pizza toppings, and soups.
The same applies to any leftover meats or prepped veggies. Do the cooking once and reap the rewards as you add different flavor profiles to change things up.
(Hint: if you don’t want to eat the same protein every night this week, chop the leftover meat, divide it into smaller portions, and stash it in the freezer. Enjoy it when you’re in the mood for it.)
Also consider leftover ingredients, such as a pint of sour cream, a jar of roasted bell peppers, or a wedge of parmesan cheese. These are simple ingredients to make a great meal, but if the ingredients go to waste, you’re not saving money. When you plan easy recipes that help you use up these items, your investment can go a long way.
Do some freezer meal prep.
I started cooking to freeze right before my first child was born. Back then, I partnered with a friend to cook up 4 to 6 weeks of meals for our two households. One recipe to feed four easily divided into two for our two couples.
Even before that, I put the freezer to go use by buying cheese and meats in bulk, dividing them into meal-size portions, and stockpiling them in the freezer. Costco and other stores even do this for you, selling proteins already portioned and shrink-wrapped.
Freezer meal prep is a great way to make a large portion of your favorite dishes and then split them to enjoy later. The best part is that you’ll save both time and money when you cook in bulk.
Scale recipe for smaller sizes.
A full-size lasagna would take my husband and I days to consume, long past the time when it was sounded appealing. I learned to make lasagna in several loaf pans instead. A loaf pan was the perfect size for two of us without having too many leftovers. A regular lasagna recipe fills 3 to 4 loaf pans. You can line the pans with foil and store the foil-wrapped extras in the freezer or use disposable pans for easy clean-up.
You can make personal or small family-size pans of your favorite casseroles, enchiladas, and all manner of dishes.
Love your leftovers.
Leftovers are your best friend when you’re cooking for two on a budget. You can make a full meal and have enough to pack for lunch the next day. Check out the below recipes for two on a budget and see if you don’t find more than a few favorites!
Favorite Recipes for Two on a Budget
Here are some of our favorite cheap dinner recipes. These recipes for two on a budget do not require a large baking dish and can easily be scaled to feed a smaller number. Just adjust the number of servings and the ingredients list will adjust automatically. In many cases, if you decide to make a regular batch, you can freeze the extras to take a day off cooking in the future.
Breakfasts and Baked Goods
It doesn’t matter if you’re on a tight budget, you can enjoy these delicious and cheap meals for breakfast. Consider doing a breakfast meal prep or freezing extras for later with these recipes for two on a budget.
Side Dishes You Can Scale
These side dishes full of fresh ingredients are a perfect way to add veggies to your simple dinner menu. All of these can be easily scaled and adjusted to be recipes for two on a budget, but you can also use the full recipe in a meal prep
Lunches and Dinners
These recipes for two on a budget are perfect for lunch at work, a busy night dinner, or even an intimate date night. They are easily scaled to be recipes for two on a budget; leftovers pack or freeze well.
This post was originally published on March 15, 2014. It has been updated for content and clarity.