These $2 dinners are dirt cheap meals you can make on a tight budget. If you’re trying to eat for $5 a day (or less!), you’ll definitely need some meals under $2!
It’s SO frustrating when you pay all your bills, and then feel like you have no money left to eat.
Food is one of the largest expenses for many of us. And the prices just keep rising!
But cooking at home is one of the easiest ways to keep your food budget low.
And luckily, there are some really cheap meals you can make.
I’ve put together a list of frugal dinner meals under $2!
When money is tight, you have to adjust your expectations a bit. These dinners aren’t gourmet. But they are filling, fairly healthy, and easy to make.
Let’s check out these cheap $2 dinners!
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Note: If you’re at risk for going hungry, please look into options for help in your area. Many churches and school districts have food pantries, which can help supplement any groceries you are able to buy.
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Frugal Dinner Meals Under $2
1. Bean tacos
You can find a can of refried beans for under $1 in most areas.
Pick up some store brand or sale-priced flour tortillas too, and make bean tacos or burritos.
For an even more budget-friendly option cook a batch of dried beans in your slow cooker.
You can even make your own tortillas very inexpensively if you’re feeling ambitious!
If you have any Taco Bell sauce packets lying around, they make a great topping. If you’d like to use cheese, buy a whole block and shred it yourself to save money.
Quick tip: Check the dollar store for beans and tortillas for only $1.
A box of dry pasta and jar (or can) of sauce is a very frugal meal.
Buy the generic brand of pasta and sauce, or whatever is on sale for the lowest price.
If you want to add meat, ground turkey or sausage is usually less expensive than beef.
Make your own sauce out of canned tomatoes or tomato sauce if the premade sauce is too pricey.
3. Eggs and toast
A carton of eggs and loaf of bread are staples on any cheap grocery list.
They’re incredibly versatile, and can stretch for many meals.
Scrambled eggs and toast are very easy and quick to make. Or pick up an inexpensive egg cooker, and make small omelets, hard-boiled, or poached eggs with ease.
Breakfast for dinner is a comforting treat, so don’t think it’s only good in the morning!
4. French toast
If you’re buying eggs and bread, make French toast for one meal this week too.
Beat an egg or two with a little milk. You can add in some cinnamon or nutmeg if you have it in your spice cupboard.
Dunk the bread slices into the mixture, soaking on both sides before lightly browning in a warm pan.
5. Black bean burgers
Use a can of black beans (or cook your own from dried beans), some breadcrumbs, and an egg to form black bean burgers.
You can bake them in the oven, or sear them in a skillet.
Bean burgers actually REALLY delicious. They’re different from a hamburger of course, but think of them as more like Tex-Mex food.
6. Grilled cheese & soup
Cheese isn’t the most frugal ingredient, but you can almost always find at least one brand on sale. Or just buy the store brand.
American cheese is especially inexpensive, or slice cheese from a block, if you prefer to use cheddar.
Condensed soup, like tomato or chicken noodle, is a tasty addition to your grilled cheese. (Or use Ramen in a pinch!)
And if you don’t have butter, you can actually use mayo or oil in its place when making your sandwich.
Quesadillas are extremely versatile, and much easier to make than they sound.
You can put any combination of vegetables, beans, cheese, meat, or leftovers between 2 tortillas.
Lightly brown them on both sides on the stove, or make a batch in the oven if you’re cooking for a family.
8. Chicken thighs and potatoes
Chicken thighs are one of the cheapest cuts of meat available. They also have a ton of flavor.
Bake them in the oven, along with some potatoes, for a filling, comfort food meal.
Or you can buy and cook a whole chicken, and make a ton of meals for the whole week from it!
Quick tip: Stock up on meat when it’s on sale, and freeze it til you’re ready to cook.
9. Homemade pizzas
You might not think of pizza as a cheap dinner, but it totally can be!
The dough for the crust can be mixed up from scratch or bought frozen.
You can also use English muffins, pita bread, refrigerated biscuit dough, bagels, French bread or even tortillas as the crust as well.
Check your store’s clearance rack near the bakery to see what you can use for pizza crust.
Keep your toppings simple. If your store has a salad bar, you can pick up just a few veggies, already sliced, instead of buying more than you need.
10. Egg salad sandwich
Egg salad is usually made from hard-boiled eggs and mayo, making it a very frugal meal.
I like to add mustard to mine, too.
You can eat it on a sandwich, toast, or even with crackers.
Potatoes are really inexpensive, and can be combined with any kind of veggies, eggs, or leftover meat to make a tasty hash.
Even frozen diced or shredded potatoes are usually cheap, and can be stretched for many meals.
12. Tuna salad (or melt)
Tuna fish is one of the least expensive proteins you can find.
Eat it on its own, or combine with mayo to make tuna salad.
You can eat it cold on a sandwich or toast for lunch, or make a tuna melt for dinner.
13. Beans and rice
Both beans and rice are frugal, easy to find, and can stretch a long way.
And together, they make a complete protein, which is perfect for vegetarians and people eating on a budget.
You can season them in a variety of ways, too.
14. Veggie stir fry
If meat isn’t in your grocery budget this week, make a veggie stir fry.
You can buy an Asian medley of veggies in the freezer or canned food aisle.
Or check the refrigerated produce section for marked down packages that are nearing their expiration date.
Top cooked rice with the heated veggies and some soy sauce.
15. Pinto beans and cornbread
A Southern classic, beans and cornbread is a belly-filling meal you can really stretch.
Use dried beans for the best flavor and lowest cost.
Cornbread can be made from scratch, or pick up a package of Jiffy mix for about 50 cents.
Grocery Saving Tips:
In addition to these really frugal meals, I wanted to share some tips for saving money on groceries, too!
Stock up when on sale
When items you buy regularly go on sale, buy enough for 4-6 weeks. That’s the typical length of the sale cycle, before they’ll go on sale again.
The more you can buy on sale, the better!
Always plan your meals before shopping
If you go to the store without a plan, you’ll wind up with random ingredients that don’t make enough meals for the week.
Jot down a weekly menu and grocery list, and stick to the list while you shop.
Before deciding which size and brand to buy, compare the price per unit.
Simply divide the total cost of the item by how many ounces, grams, pounds, or servings it contains.
Sometimes the largest package has the best price, but not always.
And sometimes the store or generic brand costs the least, but occasionally the sale-priced brand name is cheapest that week.
Check clearance section
Always check your store’s clearance or marked-down sections.
Many stores have several of these areas – usually near the bakery, in the produce and meat sections, and on the end-caps, back of the store, or even in the freezer section.
There’s nothing wrong with these items. They’re usually either nearing their expiration date, slightly dented, or the packaging or flavor is being discontinued.
Shop at Aldi
Stores like Aldi are a super easy way to save money!
Just by switching to shopping there, you can save 30-50%. You don’t have to worry about sales prices, since everything is always low priced.
And the store is small, which means it’s faster to shop in! Bring a quarter to borrow a cart, and your own bags.
Related: The 70 Best Things to Buy at Aldi
Portion snacks yourself
You’ll always pay more for convenience, so don’t buy pre-packaged snacks and drinks.
You can divide up a big bag or package into small Ziplock bags or reusable containers.
This holds true for pre-sliced veggies and fruit as well. Cut and portion them yourself to save 40%.
Learn how to sales work at your store
Different stores have different types of sales. In a 10 for $10 sale, for example, some stores require you to buy 10 to receive the sale price, but not always.
When in doubt, just ask an employee.
Be sure to sign up for your store’s rewards card to receive the sale prices, digital coupons, and to earn rewards for things like gas.
Ready to try some $2 dinners?
I hope these dirt cheap meals help you realize that it is entirely possible to eat tasty meals on a tight budget.
If you’re trying to get your finances under control, try cutting your grocery budget way down.
Cooking at home saves SO much money, and all of these frugal dinners come together really quickly.
Give them a try, and let me know what you think!
P.S. Wish someone else would just make your frugal meal plan for you? Check out my done-for-you 6 Week Meal Plan! It’s six weeks of dinners, PLUS the corresponding shopping lists
Check out these other frugal dinner ideas: