The hardest things about making a weekly meal plan for two is keeping to the budget and finding recipes that don’t leave you with a week’s worth of leftovers! Here, I’ve done the work for you in this cheap meal plan for two posts, with meals you can make with a budget of less than $40.
First, I have a couple of tips for you so that you can make your own meal plans on a budget easily!
Table of Contents
Buy Bulk and Store for Later
The worst part of planning cheap meals for two is that buying things in small containers can be expensive and ineffective in the long-run. But don’t worry, you can buy bulk even if you are shopping for two with these simple tricks!
Chicken and beef will be your friends if you are aiming for a well-rounded but cheaper meal. But like all meat, chicken and beef can be expensive to buy in small quantities, I recommend buying the larger packs of meat and then separating them into the servings you will need using plastic bags or freezer-safe Tupperware and freezing what you don’t need that day. That way, even if you are cooking for two you can buy the cheaper-per-pound packages of meat and can maybe even buy food for two weeks at once on the same budget!
Even further, sign up for a Costco, Sams Club, or BJs near you to save a ton of money. I personally save half the cost of meat like steak.
This same tactic can apply to other staples like rice or noodles. Invest in dry food storage containers such as these airtight containers from Amazon. They will allow you to store larger quantities of items that you would otherwise need to buy week after week. It also lets you easily measure out the right serving size without worrying about needing to use the whole package at once.
The idea of buying bulk and saving for later also applies to items like cooking oil or your favorite go-to seasonings. A lot of items that are regularly needed for cooking like oil and salt/pepper are very shelf-stable so there is no reason to buy a smaller container just because you only have two people to serve.
Pre-plan to Use All of Your Veggies in the Week
It’s also important, especially for vegetables, to try to plan your week so that you use up all of the stuff that could go bad.
While having chicken and veggies 4 or 5 times a week sounds boring, it is something that you sometimes need to do to stick to your budget. The fewer things you buy, the cheaper your grocery run.
Also, people online can tell you to use ⅓ of tomato or ½ of onion on some recipes but you might know that you like more tomatoes with your salad than you want for your tacos. That is why I encourage you to decide on your own how much of each of the fresh veggies (onion, tomato, lettuce, etc) you want for your meals.
In the following meal plan, I will avoid giving you exact quantities of these items because it is so much up to personal preference. Instead, I will put the total amount of the item that I think you will need in the final grocery list at the end and you can decide exactly how much you want for each meal.
Now, let us get into the cheap meal plan for two.
Tacos is a super easy meal to start off the week. A benefit to keeping it easy early in the week is you can do a lot of food prep for the other meals early (cutting veggies and portioning meat etc) without feeling tired from cooking a complex meal.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 bag taco seasoning
- Shredded Cheese
- Beefsteak tomato sliced or diced
- Onion diced
- Lettuce from salad mix (Optional: cut up into smaller pieces)
Brown beef in a skillet and add taco seasoning as directed on package
Layer on tortillas with toppings of cheese, onion, and tomato (maybe some salsa as well!)
Monday: Chicken with Rice and Steamed Broccoli
While cooking with bone-in and skin-on chicken can seem scary, it is cheaper-per-pound than buying boneless and skinless chicken thighs and imparts a lot of flavors. .
This recipe leaves the skin on and the bone-in but deboning for other recipes is easy. (Note: if you don’t want the skin, it is often recommended to remove the skin after cooking as it is easier and keeps a lot of the flavor)
What you need:
- 2 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- Salt to taste
- Black Pepper to taste
- Cayenne Pepper to taste
- Olive Oil to taste
- 12 oz bag of frozen broccoli
- 1 cup dry rice*
Optional: soy sauce or other favorite rice toppings
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Pat dry and season with olive oil, cayenne, and salt/pepper
- In a skillet over high heat, sear skin side down for about 10 minutes or until it is crispy
- Flip chicken and put the skillet in the oven for 15 minutes until chicken is cook through
Make rice in a cooker or on the stovetop. Make sure you rinse the rice before cooking!
Steam broccoli as suggested on the packaging. Add salt and pepper to taste or try using soy sauce to mix it up!
Note: If you do not like to or can’t cook dry rice, you can substitute a bag/box of instant rice (pay attention to servings listed on the package) but it will be more expensive than buying dry rice.
Tuesday: Chili with Cornbread
This 5-ingredient chili is sure to satisfy while keeping your grocery list slim. This also is a recipe that will leave you with leftovers for lunches later in the week to make your cheap meal plan for two easier.
If you end up loving the recipe and want to make an easy meal later you can even freeze it!
For the Chili:
- 1 lb ground beef
- Onion, diced
- 3 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
- 2 cans of beans (your choice of black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans or a mix.)
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
For extra flavor, you can cook it all in the same stockpot or you can cook the items individually in a skillet before mixing in the pot.
- Brown meat in a large stockpot or skillet, stirring frequently. Remove and set on a plate leaving a little grease at the bottom
- Sautee onion in the grease until slightly soft (about 4-5 minutes). If using a skillet, move onion to the stockpot.
- Add the rest of the ingredients including the meat to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes
Make cornbread as directed on the package.
Wednesday: Baked Potatoes with Salad
A surprisingly filling but really easy meal for the middle of the week. This is a cheap addition to any meal plan for two that will still satisfy you!
- 2 large or 4 medium Yukon gold or russet potatoes
- Wash potatoes thoroughly and poke several times with a fork
- Place on plate and microwave on high for 5-7 minutes (depending on size) until potato is soft
- Once it is soft, slice it in half lengthwise and add butter and cheese
- Optional: microwave again for 1 minute to melt the cheese
- Top with desired toppings
Serve with a salad topped with tomatoes, cheese, onion (whatever you want)
Thursday: Easy Enchiladas (or Quesadillas)
This is a recipe my family uses for easy oven-baked enchiladas. It is an excellent way to use up the rest of your tortillas and it will probably give you leftovers for later.
This is a nice recipe because it doesn’t use meat which keeps it on the cheaper side! If you don’t have an 8 x 8 baking dish, you can make these easy cheese quesadillas instead.
- Tortillas (usually 4)
- 1 can black olives
- Onion: diced
- Shredded cheese
- 1 small can enchilada sauce
Optional: 4 hard-boiled eggs (one per enchilada) crushed or diced
- Preheat Oven to 350 F
- Put some sauce, cheese, olives, onion and egg inside a tortilla (be careful to not use too much sauce and spread it all over the tortilla)
- Roll up and place in 8×8 baking dish (they will be very close together)
- Do this for all 4 tortillas and then top with remaining sauce, spread evenly, top with more cheese
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes.
Serve and enjoy!
Friday: Crispy Chicken with Salad
This recipe lets you be creative because you can really use whatever seasonings you want! This makes it an awesome addition to a cheap meal plan for two because it is so simple and can use a lot of stuff you already have!
Choice of Seasoning (salt and pepper with cayenne or garlic salt is always a good choice)
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, a cooking rack, and spray with cooking spray. (rack is not necessary but makes it crispier)
- Pat chicken dry and sprinkle with seasoning of choice all over
- Put on baking sheet skin side up. Bake for roughly 30 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 F.
- Let rest for 5 minutes and serve with a side salad!
Saturday: Pasta with Red Sauce
This is an excellent way to use up any of your remaining vegetables. Adding leftover onion or tomato will amp up your pasta in a delicious way. If you want to use different pasta and are someone who is terrible at measuring dry pasta, check out this helpful guide from Barilla!
- 1 ½ cup dry rigatoni pasta
- ½ cup crushed canned tomatoes
- Leftover onion and tomato (diced)
- Salt, pepper
- Crushed red pepper (to taste)
- Olive oil
- Cook pasta according to instructions
- Saute onion with olive oil until soft, add in fresh tomato until soft then add crushed tomatoes
- Mix in salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
- Add pasta to the sauce
Serve with leftover cornbread and salad!
Final Grocery List
To help you cook and plan this cheap meal plan for two, here is the final grocery list with approximate prices taken from Walmart! Some prices will not be exact due to different brands etc.
I separated the list into items you will almost certainly need to buy and stuff you might already have (such as spices) to hopefully make it easier on you. The $40 budget applies to items that you will definitely need to buy. Your list will be more expensive if you need to buy the stuff in the second list.
- 1 white onion (used in 4 recipes) $0.78
- 1 large beefsteak tomato (used in 4 recipes) $0.91
- 8-10 corn or flour tortillas (I like using the larger size) $5.00
- 1 8 oz bag of shredded cheese, cheddar, or Mexican (used as topping in 3 recipes and main ingredient 1 recipe) $2.22
- 2 lb 80% lean ground beef (more lean is more expensive) around $8.00
- ~2 lbs bone-in skin-on chicken thighs (look for a number of thighs more than weight) $4.17
- 1 pack Taco Seasoning $0.87
- A 12 oz bag salad mix (price depends on type) $1.68-$3.00
- 1 12 oz bag frozen broccoli $1.00
- 1 lb bag long-grain rice ($0.72) or 1 14oz box minute rice $1.96
- 3 10oz cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies about $3.00
- 2 cans of beans (your choice) about $0.50 ~$1.00 per can
- 8.5 oz box of cornbread mix $0.85
- 8 oz sour cream $1.00
- 2-4 russet or Yukon gold potatoes (medium or large) about $2.00
- 1 can black olives $1.53
- 6 pack of eggs $0.52 or 12 pack $0.92
- 10 oz can of Enchilada sauce $1.62
- 1 lb rigatoni pasta $0.92
Roughly $39.43 depending on brands
Stuff you might already have:
- Chili Powder
- Dried chives
- Cayenne pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Garlic salt
- Olive Oil
- Soy Sauce
At the end of the week after using this cheap meal plan for two, you will have leftover eggs, rice, pasta, and seasonings to bring you into the next week’s meal plan!
Want to save $10,000 this year? Check out my guide to saving.
Want to budget your vacation? Check out my guide to doing Disney on a budget for 2021!
If you want to make your own meal plans but need extra help check out this list of the best meal planning apps for 2021!