Here are five easy, tasty dinners, with optional breakfast and lunch suggestions, that come in at about $5 a day per person. The goal with meal planning is to make efficient use of your ingredients and to shop accordingly—the key to making your budget work. Many ingredients appear multiple times throughout the recipes. We also suggest substitutions to help your ingredients go further. This meal plan centers around roasting a chicken, from which you can make 3 good meals for 2 or more people. You can easily skip the breakfast/lunch suggestions for a grab-and-go meal, like we often do, or mix and match your own. 

Not in the mood to cook five times this week? Many items can be frozen for later: cooked chicken, chicken bones for broth, cheese, bacon, tortillas, corn, bread, milk, and even fresh herbs (wrapped in plastic or wax paper and stored in an airtight container). Also, substitute any herbs depending on what you have available.

Average daily price: $4.52

Garlic and Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Day 1

Garlic and Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes - $1.90 per serving

* save any leftover chicken for day 3 and the bones for day 5

Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Veggie Fried Rice - $1.07 per serving
Orange-Banana French Toast - $1.46 per serving

Total for day: $4.42
Potatoes Gratin with Glazed Carrots

Day 2

Potatoes Gratin with Glazed Carrots - $2.31 per serving



Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Olive and Herb Tuna Wrap - $1.54 per serving
Zucchini and Goat Cheese Omelette with Fingerling Potatoes - $1.73 per serving * substitute toast for the fingerling potatoes or use baking potatoes

Total for day: $5.58
Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie

Day 3

Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie - $1.56 per serving

* using chicken cooked on day 1 will make this even less expensive!

Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Brie Panini with Fresh Pear and Red Fruit Jam - $1.73 per serving * make with cheddar remaining from day 2 if you don’t want to buy another cheese
Blackberry-Lemon Muffins - 41¢ per serving

Total for day: $3.70
Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Day 4

Spaghetti alla Carbonara - $1.76 per serving

* use remaining bacon for breakfast the next day, or freeze the extra

Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Chickpea, Tomato, Mint, and Feta Salad with Garlic-Parmesan Crostini - $2.07 per serving * substitute goat cheese, which also appears in the zucchini omelette
Coconut Chia Pudding - 88¢ per serving

Total for day: $4.70
Escarole Rice Soup

Day 5

Escarole Rice Soup - $1.40 per serving

* make with homemade chicken broth from the chicken bones of day 1 for additional savings; substitute spinach or other green as available for escarole

Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Black Bean, Corn, and Zucchini Fritters with Creamy Dipping Sauce - $1.81 per serving * substitute carrots if you have extra from the glazed carrots with Potatoes Gratin on day 2; use any remaining zucchini from omelette on day 2 and corn from day 3; use scallion from remaining from breakfast
Bacon-Scallion Quesadillas - $1.00 per serving * use bacon purchased for day 4 carbonara and extra cheddar from day 2

Total for day: $4.21
Show All Ingredients (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Ingredient List - Dinner Only

BACON
Strips of bacon for Spaghetti alla Carbonara
CHEESE
Parmesan cheese for Spaghetti alla Carbonara | Escarole Rice Soup Swiss cheese for Potatoes Gratin with Glazed Carrots
* For breakfast and lunch, you can use any cheeses you may already have -- cheddar, swiss, or jack cheese can be substituted; goat cheese and feta are interchangeable, and instead of brie use cheddar or swiss
CHICKEN
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs for Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie Quick chicken broth for Escarole Rice Soup Whole 5-lb chicken for Garlic and Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes
* You can start with a whole chicken and make the remaining meals from it, depending on how many you have to feed
EGGS
GREENS
Escarole for Escarole Rice Soup
* Substitute spinach if preferred
HERBS
Thyme for Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie
* Tarragon, dill, sage, or rosemary will also work nicely
PASTA
Spaghetti for Spaghetti alla Carbonara
* Any long pasta such as fettuccine, pappardelle, linguine, or capellini will work
RICE
Arborio rice for Escarole Rice Soup
* Substitute any other type of rice if available
SPICES
Red pepper flakes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara
TOMATO PASTE
Escarole Rice Soup
* Substitute ketchup if available