We've all been there. Payday is next week, but dinner is in two hours. My spouse and I have days we refer to as every man for himself. It may not mean we're broke, it may be we haven't shopped. The easy way for us is just to make do with what's on hand. That usually means he has a peanut butter sandwich and I have canned refried beans with cheese or potato soup. What we need are more Dinner Recipes for Two On a Budget.
So, I sought out recipes that we would enjoy, so that I can meal plan and avoid every man for himself night. Anyone who cooks for two should find something here that fits their budget and taste. I believe that there are simple ways to save money on groceries without sacrificing the flavor of the food.
On a Budget
- Everyone has their own opinion about what being "on a budget" means. In my case it means:
- Ingredients must be readily accessible in the grocery store.
- Two six ounce servings of protein should come in under $10.00. I live in California, so that alone puts many of you ahead of me.
- You are going to find I use the word "cheap" a lot here. Cheap ingredients mean cheap dinner ideas! Cheap family meals or cheap meals for two means more grocery money for special occasions and that intimate date night.
- Buying in bulk and splitting proteins into two servings is a great way to have budget-friendly dinners. We are seniors, so our protein servings come in around 6 ounces. Low cost freezer bags are a must!
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat that can be cooked low and slow. Soups and stews are often the cheapest meals and work well for two or for large crowds.
- Buy the store brand. I am a brand snob, but living on a fixed income has forced me to be open to store brands and generics. I give them one try and if the quality is not up to par, no second chance. I try something else.
- Buy frozen fish and seafood. Unless you live near an ocean, the seafood you see in the case on ice has been thawed first. Save your money and buy frozen. Ask the person behind the counter. They will tell you which brand they thawed out. Really.
- Fresh vegetables can be expensive. Look for frozen alternatives where appropriate. Except for salads, some frozen vegetables are equal to or better than fresh. Peas, corn, and mixed vegetables are always in my freezer. Avoid frozen vegetables that are seasoned or have a sauce. They cost more and we usually don't like the sauce.
- I love the Farmer's Market and go as often as I can, but sometimes I leave broke. It may be the $7.00 coffee I bought on a drive over, or the lobster roll I bought off the lobster roll truck, but sometimes it's just the fruits and vegetables I buy. Go all the way around before buying and check prices, then circle back. Avoid impulse buys unless it is a lobster roll off the truck or a slice of pizza from the giant brick oven on wheels.
- Coupons. I loath clipping coupons so I shop at stores that give a discount for my carrying their loyalty card in my wallet. The savings are sometimes significant. One local chain gives money back monthly based on the amount you spend. I try to shop mostly from them to increase the amount of the check at the end of the month.
- Shop on days like $5.00 Mondays where you can score huge savings and stock up. This is a true story. The week before the COVID pandemic was declared, I stocked up on paper products because they were drastically reduced for $5.00 Monday. I had no idea people would begin hoarding paper products in the next few weeks causing nationwide shortages. The paper products I bought on sale lasted until after quarantine was lifted and the stores refilled the shelves.
- Last but not least is not going to the grocery store when you are hungry. I solve that by grabbing a coffee and scone on my way to the market. 🙂
Delicious Dinner Recipes for Two On a Budget, plus a few splurges.
Here are 35 delicious recipes I rounded up online. Click the image to get the recipe.
Wine Poached Cod with Sweet Onion Drizzle
Treat yourself to an elegant and and easy dinner of Wine Poached Cod with Sweet Onion Drizzle. This recipe is gluten-free, paleo, and perfect for a luxurious date night without all the fuss!
Tuna Thai Red Curry
A stunning Thai red curry made in just a few minutes for a light and quick meal. Gluten-free and paleo, this tuna Thai red curry is lightened up and served over simple coconut cauliflower rice to bring it all together!
Spicy Salmon Bowl
This spicy salmon bowl is super delicious and easy to make. Salmon rice bowls are the perfect combination of healthy protein, grains and packed with veggies. This could become a budget friendly family favorite.
Spicy Tuna Poke
Not in the mood to cook? Try my favorite recipe for a simple protein-packed Spicy Tuna Poke. It is the perfect last-minute dinner that comes together in 10 minutes or less!
Tuscan Chicken for Two
Tuscan Chicken for Two is just like the Tuscan chicken recipe you love but in a reduced size, perfect for two people. It’s rich and satisfying on its own or with a bed of pasta.
Quinoa Chicken Fajita Bowls
Quinoa Chicken Fajita Bowls are an easy weeknight meal. They're full of fresh ingredients, packed with flavor, and perfect for the budget conscious cook. Wouldn't this be great with black beans added?
Maple Ginger Chicken Tray Bake
This maple ginger chicken tray bake combines fresh chicken with delicious squash, gooey blueberries and a zingy ginger dressing for a flavorful dinner for two. Super simple, so much flavor, and easy on the budget.
Copycat Chicken Broccoli Pasta
This Copycat Chicken Broccoli Pasta is exactly like the one from Cheesecake Factory but BETTER because I add more chicken and more broccoli for a full meal. Plus there's a touch of cheese to add a bit of creaminess to the sauce. Cheaper than going out!
Baked Cod with Pesto
This baked cod with pesto is a flavorful weeknight dinner, and super easy to make. Enjoy this as a fun budget dinner for two. Nutritious meals don't have to be boring!
Romantic Valentine's Day Dinner
A romantic entree, side dish and dessert for you and a loved one! This one is a bit of a budget buster, but great for those intimate dinners when we give ourselves permission to splurge.
Spicy Turkey Stew (Without Tomatoes)
The best part of this fun spicy turkey stew is that it is packed with flavor, fresh ingredients and the perfect hint of spice. An easy to make dinner for two! You could sub out the sweet potatoes for butternut squash for a more savory stew.
Salmon Sashimi Doniburi
This simple dinner is a Japanese rice bowl topped with fresh buttery salmon, fragrant shiso, ikura, and scallions. This quick recipe for two can be on the dinner table in minutes for a light meal that will leave you feeling satisfied.
Air Fryer Steak with Herbed Butter
This recipe makes an elegant, yet simple weeknight meal! All you need are nine ingredients including fresh herbs, butter and sirloin steak. With the help of your air fryer and a little prep time, you can make a restaurant quality steak dinner at home.
Frozen Salmon in Air Fryer (Salmon Fillets Recipe)
This air fryer frozen salmon for two has a delicious sour cream lemon sauce to make the meal extra special. So good!
Barbecue Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Barbecue Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes are a healthy and delicious supper for two! They come together easily, with just a few ingredients and can be made ahead of time for an extra fast dinner.
Yaki Udon | Stir Fried Udon Noodles
This Yaki udon is made with thick, chewy udon noodles stir fried with a sweet and savory sauce. Add any vegetables and protein for a quick and easy meal for two! It doesn't get any more budget friendly than this!
Spicy Szechuan Noodles With Garlic Chili Oil
These spicy garlic chili oil noodles are tossed with a flavorful sauce made with chilis, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Add fresh herbs to this flavorful, budget conscious, and easy meal!
Pan Seared Scallops Romantic Dinner Salad
Delicious and beautiful salad with pan seared scallops for an easy romantic dinner at home. Thanks to this incredibly simple to make salad you won't need to go to the restaurant for a romantic dinner!
Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta
This lemon garlic shrimp pasta is super simple to whip up and can be made in under 30 minutes. Topped with a crispy crunchy lemon crumb, this shrimp pasta is absolutely delicious and easy on the grocery budget.
Spicy Creamy Instant Pot Ramen
Easy 30 minute vegan Instant Pot ramen that's savory, rich, creamy and so satisfying! Topped with tofu, spinach, green onion, sesame seeds and a generous splash of chili oil.
Steamed Fish With Ginger & Soy Sauce
Steamed Fish with Ginger and Soy Sauce is a restaurant-quality dish without the restaurant price. Cook at home for two in just 30 minutes. Serve with rice for a healthy and delicious dinner.
Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs With Crispy Skin
These Pan Roasted Chicken Thighs are super quick and easy to cook for two. They are delicious with crispy skin and juicy interior. Buy chicken thighs in bulk and freeze portions for two!
Maple Glazed Salmon with Bok Choy
This quick and easy salmon sheet pan dinner for two is absolutely delicious! It will be on the regular dinner rotation in no time! Salmon can be budget friendly from the frozen food aisle!
Low Fodmap Pasta Salad
A healthy, hearty and tummy-friendly, low FODMAP Pasta Salad Recipe is a perfect easy summertime meal you would love to make over and over again.
3-quart Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken Recipe
Slow Cooker Apricot Chicken is the perfect balance of sweet and savory and just enough for two. With five simple ingredients, this flavorful chicken recipe is one of my favorites and I hope yours too.
Healthy Chicken Stir Fry Recipe
As long as you have a large skillet, a small amount of cooking oil, and a variety of meats and fresh vegetables on hand, you're always only a couple of minutes away from a tasty and good stir-fry meal.
Salmon En Papillote With Lemon Dill Compound Butter
Salmon en Papillote sounds super fancy but it's a fast and easy recipe, perfect for date night!
Marry Me Chicken
This Marry Me Chicken Recipe features juicy pan-seared chicken in a rich savory sauce with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh herbs, and it takes less than 15 minutes to make, under budget!
Easy Blackened Cod Recipe
Blackened cod is a quick and easy recipe, made on the stovetop in under 15 minutes, using mostly pantry ingredients! The fish filets are pan-seared and flavored with blackening seasoning blend.
Creamy Tuscan Chicken Pasta Recipe
This Creamy Tuscan Chicken Pasta Recipe combines golden brown chicken breast pieces, fresh baby spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and fettuccine pasta in an Italian seasoned rich creamy garlic Parmesan Cheese sauce.
Date Night Shrimp Scallop Pasta with Crispy Pancetta
Date night dinner, shrimp and scallop pasta is taken to the next level with crispy pancetta. Splurge!