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: $5.21

Garlic and Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes

Day 1

Garlic and Lemon-Roasted Chicken with Sweet Potatoes - $2.70 per serving

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

Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Veggie Fried Rice - 95¢ per serving
Orange-Banana French Toast - $1.17 per serving

Total for day: $4.82
Potatoes Gratin with Glazed Carrots

Day 2

Potatoes Gratin with Glazed Carrots - $2.58 per serving

Breakfast and lunch suggestions:
Olive and Herb Tuna Wrap - $1.59 per serving
Zucchini and Goat Cheese Omelette with Fingerling Potatoes - $2.81 per serving * substitute toast for the fingerling potatoes or use baking potatoes

Total for day: $6.99
Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie

Day 3

Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie - $1.42 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 - $1.70 per serving * make with cheddar remaining from day 2 if you don’t want to buy another cheese
Blackberry-Lemon Muffins - 34¢ per serving

Total for day: $3.46
Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Day 4

Spaghetti alla Carbonara - $1.93 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 - $2.79 per serving * substitute goat cheese, which also appears in the zucchini omelette
Coconut Chia Pudding - $1.56 per serving

Total for day: $6.28
Escarole Rice Soup

Day 5

Escarole Rice Soup - $1.84 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 - $1.51 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 - $1.15 per serving * use bacon purchased for day 4 carbonara and extra cheddar from day 2

Total for day: $4.50

Review our meal plan: Meal Plan: $5 a Day for 5 Days:

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Robin F. on 10/2/2020
Really good recipes that are a great value. Thank you!
Rating: 5
TheFiveDollarFoodie: Hi Robin, we are so glad you’ve found these recipes helpful! Please keep us posted as you cook your way through them— we hope you’ll find more good resources on our site as we continue to grow it. Cheers!
Linda M. on 10/9/2019
Hi, I have been thinking of this page for a while. I feel if I were cooking for just me, it might work. But when I do cook, I cook for others as well as myself. I feel that the menu as presented needs to be supplemented with, at the very least, salad and dessert. Maybe bread with olive oil and garlic when serving the soup or pasta. Maybe some sausage to serve with the potato gratin (which is very good by the way). Maybe offer a green vegetable as well.

I do like the idea of including leftover items like bacon or chicken from one meal into another.

Space in the $5 budget could perhaps be found by simplifying breakfast? Oatmeal or muffins instead of fingerling potatoes and omelet?

Truly hope these comment helps. I use your website frequently because I need to be frugal and I need to entertain. Love the recipes and go back to many of them often.
Rating: 3
TheFiveDollarFoodie: Hi Linda, we appreciate your feedback and how much you use our web site! This meal plan is a starting point, and yes, substituting "basics" such as bowls of cereal, fruit, cups of yogurt, etc, would be perfect for simplifying the plan. Also, most of our meals can be easily supplemented with a green salad or side vegetable, as we often do. We will work on incorporating more of these ideas into our next meal plan as we expand our web site features. Thanks!
Show All Ingredients (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Ingredient List - Dinner Only

Strips of bacon for Spaghetti alla Carbonara
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
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs for Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie 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
Escarole for Escarole Rice Soup
* Substitute spinach if preferred
Thyme for Chicken, Herb, and Sweet Corn Pie
* Tarragon, dill, sage, or rosemary will also work nicely
Spaghetti for Spaghetti alla Carbonara
* Any long pasta such as fettuccine, pappardelle, linguine, or capellini will work
Arborio rice for Escarole Rice Soup
* Substitute any other type of rice if available
Red pepper flakes for Spaghetti alla Carbonara
Escarole Rice Soup
* Substitute ketchup if available