10 Meals Under $2

By Sally Herigstad      

How much does it cost to make a meal at home? It may be less than you think. We calculated the costs of 10 popular meals at regular prices, not counting coupons. Good news - not only is it possible to make a many favorite meals for $2 per serving, but some meals are closer to $1 each!

There were some surprises. Plain hamburgers buns cost considerably more than a couple slices of bread. On the other hand, at less than 5 cents per serving, peanut butter is practically free! A $1.49 jar of peanut butter holds 36 servings – enough to help keep the most serious penny pinchers in sack lunches for a month. And no surprise: Chips add little nutrition but cost more than the hamburger buns.

Here’s what it takes to make common meals at home:

  • Turkey sandwich with iced tea and a banana 1.94
  • Fish sticks, French fries, coleslaw, and iced tea 1.94
  • Lunch salad with cheese, croutons, and chicken 1.89
  • Hamburger with potato chips and soda 1.89
  • Bagel and cream cheese, coffee, and grapes 1.75
  • Chicken enchiladas with cheese, rice, refried beans 1.60
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup and cucumber 1.54
  • Chicken salad 1.50
  • Homemade macaroni and cheese 1.15
  • Peanut butter sandwich with milk and a banana .78

To lower costs even more, use coupons, buy in bulk and make meals completely from scratch. Those hamburger buns would cost pennies to bake yourself, and they’d be fresher, too. We used a packaged coleslaw kit, canned re-fried beans, and bagged corn tortillas – all of which could you could make for even less.

Knowing what it costs to prepare a meal at home, even reasonably price restaurant meals look expensive by comparison. You can make a whole meal with coffee for less than it costs to buy coffee at the drive-through. Or you can pack a turkey sandwich that costs less than the tip you’d leave at a restaurant!

Try calculating the cost of some of your favorite meals. It’s encouraging to know how cheaply you can cook when you need to – and how much you’re really saving when you take time to prepare food yourself.