Lunch Recipes for Under 50 Cents Per Serving

Serve a nutritional and tasty lunch for as little as 15 cents per serving

Healthy Food
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Coming up with weekly meal plans that are inexpensive and healthy can be challenging, but the advantages of spending the time to do it will really make a difference on how much money you spend on food.

Before shopping, it is helpful to check out your pantry and see which staples you need to buy. Purchasing the staples in bulk, especially those that you know that you use most often, saves you money. By keeping the basic items stocked in the pantry and the freezer, there is always something that you can make into a meal and it will always cost less than pizza delivery.

When it comes to meal planning, shopping, and then preparing the meals, another good time saver is to cook enough so that you can put meal-size batches of it into the freezer. This helps fight the temptation of eating out on busy (or lazy) days.

Tip: A great way to keep lunch affordable and healthy is by substituting vegetables for meat.

Resources for Inexpensive and Nutritional Meals

One of the joys of the internet is being able to find information on almost everything. This includes menus for inexpensive meals. One website that is a wonderful resource for recipes that are inexpensive yet nutritional is the "What's Cooking - USDA Mixing Bowl," which has scores of recipes that have been developed by places like Montana State University Extension Service.

Not only can you find recipes, but the website also provides the cost per serving of each recipe as well as the nutritional information. The recipes can also be rated, reviewed and commented on by visitors, added to a "cookbook" option, or printed. There is also a tool that allows you to build your shopping list based on the recipes that you decide you want to prepare.

The site is a virtual goldmine for anyone looking for ways to cut down on the cost of food, but who may need ideas on what to prepare.

Favorite Finds

Below are a few of my favorite recipes that I like to use for making up the lunch menus. All of the recipes cost around 50 cents per serving to create.

Italian Bean Patties

Serving Size: One patty
Yield: Eight servings
Per Recipe: $1.47
Per Serving: 18 cents


  • 2 cups beans (cooked)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup bread crumbs (dry, or cracker crumbs)
  • 1/8 cup cornmeal (or all purpose flour)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


1. In a large bowl, mash beans. Add egg and spices and stir to mix evenly.

2. Stir in bread crumbs. If mixture seems too wet, add more breadcrumbs, one tablespoon at a time, until mixture resembles meat loaf.

3. Shape into little sausages or patties. Roll in cornmeal or flour.

4. Fry slowly in vegetable oil over medium heat until crusty and golden brown.

Microwave Potato Corn Chowder

Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
Yield: Four servings
Per Recipe: $2.29
Per Serving: 57 cents

  • 1/4 cup margarine (or butter)
  • 1/4 cup flour (all purpose)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 1 can corn (16 ounces, drained)


1. Melt margarine in a glass bowl in microwave on high for 30 to 50 seconds.

2. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until smooth.

3. Blend milk into a flour-margarine mixture.

4. Cook on high for 6 to 8 minutes, until thickened, stirring well each minute. Set aside.

5. In a separate microwave-safe bowl, cook two potatoes in 1 cup water. When potatoes are done, add potatoes and cooking water to white sauce.

6. Stir in a 16-ounce can of corn. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until steaming hot.

Consider These Recipes

Here are more of my favorite recipes that I found on the site. Use the "View Recipe" link to see how to make it and to check out the nutrition information.

Bean Enchiladas

Serving Size: Two six-inch enchiladas
Yield: Four servings
Per Recipe: $2.22
Per Serving: 55 cents
View Recipe

Spunky Vegetable Pizza

Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe
Yield: Eight servings
Per Recipe: $4.76
Per Serving: 59 cents
View Recipe

Tastee Burgers

Serving Size: One burger
Yield: Eight servings
Per Recipe: $4.29
Per Serving: 54 cents
View Recipe

Italian Pasta Salad

Serving Size: 1/8 of recipe
Yield: Eight servings
Per Recipe: $2.84
Per Serving: 36 cents
View Recipe

Veggie Chow Mein

Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe
Yield: Six servings
Per Recipe: $2.78
Per Serving: 46 cents
View Recipe

Quesadilla con Huevos

Serving Size: One quesadilla
Yield: Four servings
Per Recipe: $1.31
Per Serving: 33 cents
View Recipe

Peanut Butter 'n Fruit-wich

Serving Size: One open-faced sandwich
Yield: One serving
Per Recipe: 27 cents
Per Serving: 27 cents
View Recipe