These 2-Dollar Meals Prove That Budget Meals Don't Have to Be Boring

Leanne's Life
by Leanne's Life

Today, I have three extreme budget meals that cost under $2 a serving - and they are low-cost meals for the whole family. Budget meals don't have to be boring! You aren’t going to want to miss these 2-dollar meal ideas, so stick around.

Meal costs are worked out from grocery prices as of September 2022 in Pennsylvania.

Ingredients for the barbeque chicken tostadas

Barbeque chicken tostadas


  • Small street tacos
  • Chicken breasts
  • Barbeque sauce
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Red onions
  • Garlic
  • Black peppercorns
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Hot (not boiling) water

I will pickle the red onions in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before eating them (pickling them all day long is better).

Cooking chicken breasts with barbeque sauce

1. Cook the chicken

Dump the chicken into the crockpot, along with the barbeque sauce, and get it cooking for four hours.

Pickling red onions

2. Pickle the onions

Slice the red onion, thinly, but not too thin. Slice a garlic clove. Separate the onion slices and layer them in a jar with the peppercorn and garlic. You can use a handle to push the food to the bottom of the jar and make space. 

Mix hot water with sugar and salt and pour it into the jar. Make sure everything is below the water line. Screw on the lid and put everything in the refrigerator.

$2 chicken tostadas

3. Cook the tostadas

Once everything is ready, layer the chicken, pickled onions, and other ingredients on the tacos and place them in the oven or air fryer until the cheese is melted. 

Teriyaki turkey bowl ingredients

Teriyaki turkey bowls


  • Basmati rice
  • Ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup of soy sauce
  • ¼ cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar (or coconut sugar, which is a little healthier)
  • 2 teaspoons of ginger powder
  • 2 tablespoons of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

1. Cook the rice

I have basmati rice cooking in the crockpot. The crockpot is the way to cook rice: add one cup of rice to two cups of water, then put it on low for two to three hours. No mess and no fuss!  

How to make teriyaki sauce

2. Make the teriyaki sauce

Depending on the dish, sometimes I like to make double the amount of sauce because you never know how much sauce people will want, especially when it’s served with rice, which soaks up the sauce.


Mix the red wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic together. 

How to make a cucumber salad

3. Make a cucumber salad

I have this leftover cucumber, which I will peel and slice pretty thin. Then, I will add the pickled red onions from the previous recipe to it to make a cucumber salad. A mandoline is the easiest way to slice the cucumbers, but I just have a knife. 

Mix the sliced cucumber with the pickled onions and the brining liquid (try to avoid having peppercorns mixed in the salad).

Cooking the ground turkey

4. Cook the turkey

Saute the turkey in a pan, then pour the teriyaki sauce over the top. Add a cornstarch slurry and simmer until thickened.

$2 teriyaki turkey bowl

Serve the dish over the basmati rice. My daughter and her friend who was visiting from out of town absolutely enjoyed this. Actually, I forgot to add broccoli, which would have made it even better. 

Italian-style meatballs on a budget

Easy-peasy meatball subs

I did a Walmart pickup order and asked for two individual sub rolls. These are large; you can cut them in half and have four sandwiches. Walmart lets you order them in single servings, so you don’t have to buy a six-count bag. 

I also have some of these Italian-style meatballs. You get 11 servings per container, at six meatballs a piece. 

Ingredients for the meatball subs

I use Aldi marinara sauce; It’s organic Simply Nature, which is slightly more expensive than the generic pasta sauce, so my budget recipe uses the lower-cost pasta sauce, not the organic one.

I like to doctor up my pasta sauce with garlic powder, red pepper flakes, 21 Seasoning Salute from Trader Joe’s, and a little bit more salt and pepper. But, you don’t have to doctor it up, it’s good as it is. 

Also, you will need mozzarella cheese to top the sandwich.

Cooking the meatballs in marinara sauce

1. Cook the meatballs

First, cook the meatballs in the crockpot, low and slow, all afternoon, with the doctored-up pasta sauce. It will be delicious. Cook on low for four and a half hours.

Preparing the hoagie rolls and cheese

2. Prepare the hoagie rolls and cheese

To be more economical, you can shred your own blocks of cheese. Plus, it melts much better. I sliced the hoagie rolls in half and then sliced them open. 

My daughter’s friend is here from out of town, so there is enough for everyone. I also made a small chopped salad, with green onions and peppers that I had left over from last week.

3. Put it all together

Put the meatballs on the rolls, and top them with mozzarella cheese. Then, place the subs under the broiler. I sometimes also toast the buns a little. 

2-dollar meals

There you have three tasty 2-dollar meal ideas. What are your favorite cheap meals to make? Let us know in the comments. 

Join the conversation
2 of 9 comments
  • Judy Harty Judy Harty on Mar 12, 2023

    measurements for pickled onions? also where does the vinegar fit in this recipe? thank you. I do plan to try these recipes.

  • Barbara Phifer Barbara Phifer on Nov 17, 2023

    Thank you for these wonderfully crafted meals!! Short, quick and easy!!(smile