Cooking for Two: Three Quick Meal Ideas for Under $20

Updated on May 21, 2020
JordanMullican profile image

I live in a family of six with my fiance. On nights where we don't have the kids, cooking for only two can be challenging!

This is my herd. No wonder I struggle with cooking for just two people!
This is my herd. No wonder I struggle with cooking for just two people!

Why Cooking for Two Is Difficult for Me

All my life I have been surrounded by a large family. I had a family of six growing up, and once again I live in a family of six with my fiance. When it comes down to preparing a meal for just the two of us on nights without the kids, I struggle to make only two portions of food instead of preparing for an army. Quite often we end up with an entire week's worth of leftovers until I started working harder at learning how to buy and cook for only two people. Recently, I've been finding ways to feed just the two of us without overcooking or spending over $20 at a restaurant.

A flattering photo taken by my fiance as I attempted a Thanksgiving dinner for two.
A flattering photo taken by my fiance as I attempted a Thanksgiving dinner for two.

Idea #1: Build a Sub Sandwich

Assuming you have condiments at home already, building a sub is a quick and easy way to feed two people for less than $20. Most grocery stores carry hoagies, or long sub loaves. You will have to choose depending on which style of bread you prefer, and how hungry you and your partner may be. Don't overbuy on the materials needed for the sandwich unless you intend on using the ingredients for more than one meal, or you intend on eating subs for the rest of the week.

  • 1 large hoagie roll or french bread loaf.
  • 1 small package of your favorite lunch meat
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 head of lettuce or 1 bag shredded lettuce
  • Condiments

Simple to build, and easy for picnic-style dinners, building a sub is something you can do with your partner, or surprise them with after a long day at work!

Simple short subs! Not my personal image
Simple short subs! Not my personal image | Source

Idea #2: Tuna or Chicken Salad With Crackers

This option is a lighter meal option. Following a basic chicken or tuna salad recipe, adding a few spices and choosing the right crackers to match makes for a five-minute meal prep, very few dishes, and an incredibly tasty meal.

  • 1 can chicken or tuna
  • Mayo or miracle whip (I like to use a little of both)
  • Yellow mustard
  • Sweet relish
  • 1/4 cup favorite shredded cheese
  • 1 tablespoon pickle juice (I prefer dill on this one)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Easy to make, and everything can be mixed in the dish that you want to eat from or store in!

For easy clean-up, mix everything in the bowl you want to eat from.

Idea #3: Bagels and Fruit Parfaits

While I am one of those people who like to eat breakfast at anytime during the day, this is another simple meal that doesn't sit too heavy and only takes a few moments to prepare. My kids often enjoy the fruit parfaits as an after dinner treat on hot summer days, as well!

  • Bagels (we stick to plain, cinnamon, or blueberry with the parfaits)
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Grapes
  • Granola
  • Yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

While the bagels toast, dice the fruit into small pieces and toss in a bowl with the 1/2 tsp sugar. Take turns layering fruit and yogurt, making sure to end with a dollop of yogurt on the final layer, then sprinkle granola over the top.

Endless Ideas

The potential for meals for two can be endless. Buying correctly is typically the first step, and learning to make small portions takes some patience. Most recipes are designed to feed four or more people. One practice I had to get into was buying the pack of four chicken breasts, and repackaging them for personal use at home. This can help keep the overall cost low on meals, while not leaving you with one single chicken breast used out of a pack of four. The same can be done with five-pound rolls of hamburger, steaks, pork chops, etc.


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    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      Poppy, I do similar. It saves cooking from scratch on the days I am out or working a lot.

    • poppyr profile image


      2 months ago from Enoshima, Japan

      Eurofile, I usually cook enough for four (there's just me and my husband at home) and eat the rest of it the next day. If you're still left with loads I throw it in a tupperware box and stick it in the freezer.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      2 months ago from UK

      I am still struggling with a similar problem. Used to cooking for 6, still overdoing it now they have all left home.


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