14 Nights of Dinner Ideas All Under $2 Per Serving

Slow Cooker Chicken and Salsa
Photo: Buckwheat Queen

The average American family invests about $550 at the supermarket each month, according to the latest government estimates. While it will always be more affordable to eat at home than at a restaurant, the amount we spend on food has increased more than usual this year due to pandemic-related supply and demand changes. So with that in mind, we've designed a budget-friendly dinner menu that will feed a family for much less than the norm (while often creating enough leftovers to enjoy the next day for lunch).

We did the math and each serving of these meals — ranging from global flavors to all-American comfort foods — cost less than $2 per serving. The entire family-friendly two-week shop for these recipes that feed from 2 to 8 adults will only clock in at $113.34 (give or take $20 or so depending on where you shop and what part of the country you live in). Share these with your brood and your stomach and your savings account will thank you.

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Sunday: Authentic Louisiana Red Beans and Rice

Authentic Louisiana Red Beans and Rice on a white plate

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.62 per serving

Savor the flavors of New Orleans even if you live hundreds of miles away with this sausage, beans, and rice entree. The nicely-spiced beans can cook low and slow as you go about your weekend (add the andouille near the end of the cooking time) then serve with fluffy white rice to soak up every last drop.

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Monday: Quick Tuna Casserole

Quick Tuna Casserole

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.36 per serving

With just four ingredients and five minutes of prep time required, this comfort food casserole is the ultimate dinner solution on the most manic Mondays. Not a huge fan of tuna? Try the same cheesy pasta and pea recipe with canned or leftover chicken instead.

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Tuesday: Spaghetti Carbonara I

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.41 per serving

Stock up on bacon and eggs for breakfast, then use those two ingredients, plus Parmesan cheese and olive oil, to bring this classic Italian pasta recipe to life. In addition to being affordable, this is one super-speedy weeknight dinner option as well — it takes just 20 minutes start to finish.

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Wednesday: Pork Steaks with Orange-Apple Sauce

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.99 per serving

For a fresh spin on pork chops and applesauce, try this unique pork steak dinner that will allow you to dig into fall flavors any time of year. That's because the simple pan sauce features cranberry sauce, apples, and cloves. So cozy — and so cheap!

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Thursday: Easy Korean Ground Beef Bowl

A bowl of seasoned ground beef on brown rice garnished with green onion

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.93 per serving

Skip takeout this week and make your own Korean cuisine instead. Ginger, soy, sesame — several Asian flavor stars are here, as is affordable brown rice and the ultimate family dinner staple: ground beef.

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Friday: Goulash Supreme

Goulash Supreme
Allrecipes Magazine

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.93 per serving

With origins in Hungary but ingredients that feel right at home as part of the American comfort food repertoire, goulash is a go-to for when you're sharing with picky eaters. This 30-minute meal is a budget-friendly breeze to whip up with macaroni noodles, ground beef (or chicken or turkey), tomatoes, and seasonings.

07 of 14

Saturday: Skillet Chicken Bulgogi

Skillet Chicken Bulgogi
Photo by DIZ#9829;. DIZ#9829;

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.51 per serving

Ready in 30 minutes and ideal to pile over rice or noodles (hey, you do have 49 cents per serving to spare!), this Korean-inspired recipe has just enough kick thanks to a pinch of cayenne pepper. If you're tired of chicken, try the same concept with tofu, pork, or beef.

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Sunday: Pan-Seared Tilapia

Pan-Seared Tilapia

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.52 per serving

Tilapia can get a bit of a bad rap for being boring. But we will always be on Team Tilapia for two major reasons: it's consistently one of the lowest-cost fish counter picks, and it cooks remarkably quickly. With more than 500 five-star ratings, this easy fish recipe is ideal to enjoy as a sandwich, alongside roasted veggies or atop a bed of rice or mashed potatoes.

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Monday: Baked Ziti II

Baked Ziti II
Raven Dise

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.78 per serving

Calling all fromage fans! With three cheeses, this marinara-sauced baked pasta is creamy, rich, and the ideal Meatless Monday meal. It's one of the speediest casseroles we make, too — it only takes 30 minutes to bake to bubbly perfection.

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Tuesday: Slow Cooker Chicken and Salsa

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.91 per serving

Think of this "roast" chicken recipe like rotisserie chicken with a flavor boost. That's because it calls for simmering a whole bird in the slow cooker along with onion and salsa for super-juicy, zesty results. Enjoy as-is or tucked inside corn or flour tortillas.

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Wednesday: One-Pot Ground Beef Stroganoff

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.83 per serving

More traditionally made with ribeye or sirloin steak pieces, this creamy pasta-topping features the same flavors just with affordable ground beef tagging in for the steak. Sour cream, parsley, garlic, and onion (and a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan, of course) make it taste surprisingly similar to traditional beef stroganoff. Especially once you pile it all over cooked egg noodles.

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Thursday: Quick and Easy Pancit

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.96 per serving

Introduce any newcomers to Filipino fare with this rice noodle and chicken dinner. A hint of lemon and soy sauce, plus sautéed garlic and onions, infuse a lot of flavor into the pasta and chicken. Cabbage and carrots add a satisfying crunch.

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Friday: Shipwreck Dinner

Shipwreck Dinner
Mike Johnson

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.06 per serving

"It's not pretty but, it's a tasty, busy-night, kid-friendly meal," says recipe creator Bcsgibson about the inspiration behind the name of this recipe. "The prep time is generally limited to how fast your can opener works and how hard it is to unwrap your meat." Frozen peas and corn and canned tomatoes crank up the texture and nutrition, while the beefy, cheesy pasta screams, "Comfort!"

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Saturday: Southwest Chicken

Southwest Chicken

Budget-friendly meal cost: $1.93 per serving

If you have three cans (beans, corn, tomatoes), chicken, and cumin on-hand, you're all set to whip up this one-skillet supper. The original chicken dinner recipe takes 30 minutes, but you can speed up prep time even more by dicing up the chicken instead of cooking it in whole breast form. Then in lieu of a spoon — because who wants to do more dishes on a weekend? — we love to scoop this dish up with tortilla chips.

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