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April 24, 2019

Weekly Dinner Plan for Two — Budget Eating Pt. II

By Erin Burke, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE

A couple of weeks ago, I discussed menu planning on a low budget. This week, I upped the budget a bit according to the USDA’s “moderate to liberal” cost (1). This averages out to $141 to $177 per week for two adults, aged 19-50. With the added flexibility, I incorporated more fish and seafood, grass-fed beef*, fresh vegetables, and herbs. It also required a little less strategizing and planning. The best part? It still came out under budget! With that in mind, you could make it easier on yourself by utilizing pre-cut fruit/vegetables to save time in the kitchen. These recipes make enough to feed four people. If you are a family of 2, use the leftovers for lunch the next day. If you have kids, there is still some room in the budget to pick up some low-cost lunch items (see below). Like the last meal plan, this list does not include dried spices, herbs, oils, and vinegars.

Lunch Ideas

  • PB&J or Tuna sandwiches
  • Salad kits with leftover chicken, salmon, beef, or canned beans
  • Pre-prepared grain bowls (you can use the tahini to make a flavorful sauce)
  • Turkey wraps
  • Raw veggies with hummus or fruit for snacks/sides

Dinner Menu


SundayPinto Bean Sweet Potato Enchiladas (serves 4)Get ahead of meatless Monday with these vegetarian enchiladas. They can be assembled ahead of time and even frozen before baking.
MondayThai Turkey Lettuce Cups (serves 4)Lean, ground turkey breast is a low-fat substitute for ground beef. Be mindful that you are looking for “ground turkey breast” as opposed to “ground turkey”, which is higher in saturated fat.
TuesdayJuicy Grass-Fed Beef Burgers with Grilled Vegetables (serves 4)Throw whatever vegetables are on sale or in season on the grill to have alongside the burgers. A veggie grill basket works great for this! Rather than buying additional lettuce for topping, use what is left over from Monday night.
WednesdayKale and Chickpea Grain Bowl with Avocado Dressing (serves 4)Chop up the remaining shredded carrots from the turkey lettuce cups to use in this recipe. Saturday’s recipe will use leftover bulgur wheat.
ThursdayChicken and Spinach Skillet Pasta with Lemon and ParmesanThis recipe uses white wine during cooking. If you do not have any, substitute with low-sodium chicken broth or stock, which will also be used for Saturday’s dinner.
FridaySheet-Pan Pecan-Crusted Salmon with Brussels Sprouts from Avance Care Cookbook (serves 4)Brussels sprouts are a hearty vegetable that should be able to make it to Friday, even if shopping was done on Sunday. If you are concerned, stop at the store late in the week for brussels sprouts and the vegetables for Saturday’s meal.
SaturdayLemon Garlic Shrimp over Bulger from Avance Care Cookbook (serves 4)Feel free to substitute another grain. The bulgur makes use of the leftovers from Wednesday!

Shopping List



  • 1 head butter or bibb lettuce
  • 1 bag shredded carrots
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 1 package chopped kale
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 1 bag spinach
  • 2-3 shallots
  • 1 Large sweet potato
  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1 yellow onion (or buy a bag to save money in the long-term)
  • 1 large tomato
  • 2-3 lemons
  • Herbs: mint, parsley, cilantro
  • Your choice of vegetables for the grill (such as peppers, onions, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, zucchini/squash, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.)



  • 1 pound ground turkey breast
  • 1 pound salmon filets (available fresh or frozen)
  • 1 pound chicken breast (purchase family pack at 1.99 and freeze remaining. Alternatively, go to the meat counter to ask for 1 pound at the 1.99/pound price)
  • 1 pound shrimp (raw or frozen)
  • 1 pound grass-fed ground beef


Dairy (choose reduced- or low-fat when able)

  • 1 bag shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound cheddar cheese (a block is recommended so this can be sliced or shredded depending on the recipe)


Bread, Rice, Cereal, Pasta

  • 1 package bulgur
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 package whole-wheat hamburger buns
  • 1 package whole-wheat 6-8” tortillas



  • N/A


Canned Foods (look for reduced-sodium versions)

  • 2 cans chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
  • 1 32-ounce carton of chicken broth (if using instead of cooking wine) OR 1 can chicken broth



  • 1 jar tahini/ground up sesame seeds (this is a pricey, up-front investment, however only a small amount is used for the sauce recipe above. It can be used to make hummus and other flavorful dressings and sauces)
  • Canola mayonnaise (canola mayo is lower in saturated fat than regular, however regular mayonnaise would also work here)
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans (or use the peanuts to coat the salmon to keep cost down)


  • Total cost: $110.81 – under budget! Prices will vary depending on location and what is on sale. Prices for this article came from a local Harris Teeter!

Happy cooking!


*Studies have shown that grass-fed beef is slightly higher in omega-3s than conventional beef (2). That being said, eating fatty fish 2-3 times per week is still your best option for omega-3s!



Erin Burke is an RD/N working at the North Raleigh and Central Raleigh offices. She enjoys running, visiting local breweries, and snuggling with her dog, Lottie. She is passionate about promoting a healthy lifestyle in a non-judgmental environment.

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