Recipes that are under $2 a serving


We have busy lives.  We work, we entertain our kids, we clean the house, we exercise, etc.  Sometimes cooking a healthy meal is just too much.  There is no more energy to think of a healthy recipe, let alone move our arms to create a delicious meal.  Hence the growing trend to rely on restaurants for our meals.

According to a Bloomberg article the money we spend at restaurants has now surpassed what we spend at grocery stores.  Before my husband and I had kids we fell into this category.  We dined out frequently, spending roughly $1000-$1200 a month.  This was a lot of happy hours, a few fancy restaurants and takeout meals.  That works out to be $14,400 a year, and if we had kept this up for ten years the total would’ve been $144,000.  Wow!

You know what I could do with $144,000?  I could pay off half my mortgage, I could invest it and retire three years earlier, I could fund my children’s college fund and still have money left over to buy a boat.

Luckily this ridiculous spending only lasted for three years and then we had our first child, and because dining out was more painful than fun, we no longer went out for every other meal. We started to brown bag all lunches, no happy hours, and we reserved all dining out to special occasions and socializing with friends.  Our budget for dining out is now $200 a month.

The dining out category is a hard one to give up for a lot of people.  It is social, it is a reward after a long day’s work, and of course it is delicious.  I think most people do not want to give up dining out because they feel like they are sacrificing their life styles.  You know what is also a sacrifice? Working at a job that drains you mentally, physically and creatively.  That is a sacrifice of your time and your life. Cook at home, save that money and retire early.

I still love to eat and visit with my friends.  I just do it a differently now, instead I invite my friends over to dine at my house.  I have just as much fun hosting others as I do at a restaurant, but meals at my house are far less expensive for me and my guests.  Now that some of us have kids it helps with the babysitting cost as well.

Some meals aren’t about the socializing, they are simply to relieve your hunger pains and avoid cooking (takeout meals).  To help myself avoid the urge to get takeout I collected a few recipes that have specific criteria: easy, fast, healthy, cheap, and the biggest criteria being that I could keep the ingredients on hand so avoiding a trip to the store.  I wanted to make sure that each recipe only cost me about $2 a serving.  Below are three of these recipes.

Hopefully you find these meals delicious and easy to make as well.  If you have any of your own recipes that are quick and simple, please share them in the comments section.  Having these staple recipes to rotate through will help any temptations to pick up the phone and make an order.

Quinoa Taco Bowls

These tacos are great because they are vegetarian and gluten free, so many people can enjoy them.  You can also make these tacos as cheap or expensive as you like by adding or subtracting ingredients.  Note that all items I buy on sale or in bulk.

Serving Size 6
Price $1.45 per serving

3 tbsp McCormick taco seasoning (Costco) $.42
1 can olives (Safeway) $1.00
1 can black beans (Safeway) $.69
6 oz cheese (Costco) $2.28
1 cup quinoa (Costco) $1.09
Fresh and organic salsa (Safeway) $3.22

Add some tortilla chips or corn tortillas to create a taco.

In a pot put one cup of quinoa, two cups of water and the taco seasoning.  Let it simmer for 15 minutes or until you see the sprout of the quinoa.  Once quinoa is cooked add whichever toppings you would like and serve.  These bowls taste amazing, are full of health benefits (gluten free, protein, fiber, etc.), and cheap!


Black Bean Soup

A meal that is extremely filling and only cost $1.13 per serving is black bean soup.  This recipe only takes about 10 minutes to make so it is a regular meal in our house.  Whenever we don’t feel like cooking and are tempted to get takeout this is the recipe we make.  All ingredients can be stored in your pantry for months so you can buy the ingredients in bulk and have them on hand whenever needed.

Serving Size 5-6
Cost $1.13 per serving

4 cans of black beans (Safeway) $.69 per can $2.76 total
2 teaspoons cumin (Costco) $.50
16 oz jar of organic salsa (Safeway) $2
3 cups chicken stock (Safeway) $1.50

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend to desired consistency.  Place in pot and heat soup.  Serve!

Add some cheese or sour cream to add a little creaminess.  Or add crushed tortilla chips for a little extra crunch.



A great staple to have around the house is the makings for your favorite pasta.  We keep on hand spaghetti noodles, canned tomatoes, wine, and dried Italian seasoning.  It is pretty easy to create your own spaghetti sauce.  Or just get a jar of spaghetti sauce from the store.  Just watch out for the salt and sugar content, it can be really high in some of these sauces.  Here is a very simple recipe for spaghetti sauce.

Serving Size 4
Cost $1.20 per serving

3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. of olive oil
1 small onion
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes with basil
1 cup white wine
Salt and pepper to taste
Package of spaghetti noodles (I use whole wheat)

Dice onion and place in skillet with olive oil, dash of salt and chopped garlic.  Stir for a few minutes then add Italian seasoning, tomatoes, white wine and pepper.  Let simmer for 15-20.  Boil noodles while sauce is simmering.  Drain noodles and add sauce.


One Responseso far.

  1. Vikki Donelson says:

    I just want to mention that Swanson’s canned chicken stock is super cheap at Costco, something like 33 cents per can. Can’t wait to try these recipes!

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