25+ Easy Budget Friendly Meals for One [From a single person]

Moving out from my family of 7, one of the biggest adjustments was cooking! In college, I almost never ate out and now that I’m out of school, I eat out maybe 1-2x a week depending on how lazy I’m feeling!

I see a lot of lists for “meals for one” and “meals for college students.” Many of these lists require things that are hard to get/unrealistic or ingredients that only work for a handful of meals. I decided to compile a list of my favorite recipes, great for only one or two people.

My criteria:

  • Few ingredients/ingredients you can use for multiple recipes
  • No special appliances other than stove, microwave, oven (some may use a blender)
  • Simple (I’m a bad cook)
  • Quick

Here are some of my favorite recipes that are budget-friendly and that work well for a single person. I used them throughout college and still use these as a single person! All of these recipes have ingredients you probably already have, or that work well for multiple meals.


25 Easy Budget Friendly Meals for One

I used a 3 quart instant pot for the chicken, but it’s not needed.

1. Chicken alfredo pasta

Aldi’s has a bag of pre-cooked frozen chicken cut up into tiny pieces. I stick this on the stove, make the spaghetti, add alfredo sauce, and mix together. If I’m feeling extra lazy I don’t even make the chicken, I just eat alfredo pasta. If I’m feeling luxurious, I’ll add frozen shrimp, which I just unthaw with the pasta cooking.

2. Chicken fried rice

I have a mini rice cooker ($5 from a garage sale), but you can make rice on the stove. The best rice for chicken fried rice is at least a day old and refrigerated. All you need is eggs, soy sauce, and fried rice seasoning packets (I get them from Meijer). I also add sesame oil to mine and it tastes just like take out. Add some chicken for protein and you’re all set! I typically make two cups of rice, which lasts me a couple of nights. (BONUS: Make a ton and freeze it for easy meals)

3. Shredded chicken parmesan sandwich

Grab garlic bread and shredded chicken for this super easy recipe. You don’t have to add the spices unless you want to. You can use leftover spaghetti sauce to make spaghetti.

4. Toad in the hole

All you need is butter, eggs, and a toasted piece of bread! I always add cheese to the top of mine.

5. 2-minute cheddar bay biscuit in a mug

I LOVE “in a mug” recipes. This one is simple and easy!

6. Sub sandwich

Sub sandwiches are an easy way to use up extra ingredients in your fridge. You can alter it to fit your personal preferences. You can use these same ingredients in tacos.

7. Hawaiian roll sliders

I always have a lot left, but I’m okay with eating these for a few days since they’re so good!

8. Bow ties and broccoli

I’ve found SO many ways to eat pasta. I seriously love this recipe.

9. Chicken breasts

Get used to just eating chicken breasts and mix it up with a variety of spices!

10. Pancakes from muffin mixes

Use 2/3 cup of milk and an egg to turn a muffin mix into pancake batter. Make over the stove. These are quick, easy, and DELICIOUS!

11. Pork crescent rolls

I’ve recently gotten pulled pork from Meijer and stuff crescent rolls with it. Add some cheese and you’re good to go.

12. Sweet potato skillet

I LOVE sweet potatoes, and this recipe is super easy to make.

13. Ground beef tacos

I love cooking with ground beef. Grab some taco shells and stuff with your favorite ingredients. You can use these same ingredients in sub sandwiches.

14. Mac and cheese with hot dogs

Adding protein to my love of pasta makes me feel like I have a healthy diet.

15. Grilled cheese sandwich

Grilled cheese sandwiches are a great classic. Add some ham for protein.

16. Taco spaghetti

Add ground beef to spaghetti and pasta sauce for another great pasta combination.

17. Veggie and Sausage Sheet Pan Meal

Sheet pan meals are a super-easy way to eat a bunch of veggies and there’s no way to mess it up. I always add garlic sausage for some extra protein to make it more filling.

18. Smoothie bowls

Not a full meal, but I love making smoothie bowls. I use a mixture of frozen fruit, strawberries, bananas, and juice. Top with fresh fruit and crunchy granola for texture. There’s no wrong way to do it and you can use whatever fruit you have.

19. Egg wraps

These egg wraps are high protein and low carb.

20. Egg drop soup

Use this recipe or these mixes which I love. Just add eggs.

21. Overnight oats

Overnight oats are an easy grab-and-go breakfast for a busy morning.

22. Lo mein

Lo mein is another recipe that can be altered depending on personal preferences. The key is using egg noodles. I use this seasoning, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add some chicken or veggies to mix it up. (Here’s a recipe here.)

23. Microwave mac and cheese in a mug

I LOVE how easy clean up is with mug recipes.

24. 5 minute vegetarian burrito bowl

Say goodbye to Chipolte with this simple burrito bowl. Your wallet will thank you!

25. 5 Ingredient Crescent Roll Casserole

This meal was delicious and easy. I substituted chicken broth for the water that was in my instant pot (from the chicken) and added mozzarella cheese on top. Easy, simple, and without a bunch of leftover ingredients!

26. Sesame garlic ramen noodles

There are so many unique ways to mix up ramen noodles. This one uses an Asian spin with garlic and soy sauce.


27. 5 Ingredient Banana Bread

This recipe requires NO rising, NO bread machine, and is super easy. You just stick all the ingredients in a blender and then a bread pan! Honey (or maple syrup) is used as a sweetener so there is no sugar, plus no flour (it uses rolled oats).

28. Dessert

I love Duncan Hines’ dessert in a mug treats. Ben and Jerry’s ice cream or Haagen Dasz is also a favorite treat. I don’t have a huge sweet teeth, so I love these single-serving options.

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  • Um….Toad in the Hole isn’t the dish you describe. It’s made.of sausages baked in Yorkshire pudding batter. It’s a family dinner, not a single serve as you describe. It is, however, wonderful with onion gravy and a green salad on the side.

    • I saved a lot of these recipes because I like to have as little prep time as possible. I’m used to living in a barracks room, so I’m not used to actually cooking anymore lol. Hopefully this will help me!

    • I caught that too. Not long ago I had this conversation with friends who found themselves saying ‘unthaw’ instead of thaw. We all laughed. Seems to be a thing in some areas of the US 🙂

  • I had what you call Toad in the hole back in the late fifties and early sixties growing up in N.H. and Maine. Recipe came from an old Betty Crocker’s cookbook and it was called Eggs in a frame. Never heard of toad in the hole until today. Like the name though. LOL!

    • Just made the Toad In A Hole and it was soooo good. I needed to bake it a little longer in my toaster oven as the whites were not completions after 10 minutes. I ended up baking it 15 mins. The yolks were not as runny as I like so next time I will bake for maybe 12 minutes.

      • I remember doing this for 4-H or Girls Scouts. I loved it. Don’t remember how long to bake and I like over easy. One thing could do is put a arched lif over the egg until done rake it off get the toast so it isn’t soggy. Enjoy !

  • I’m about to have major dental work done, so hopefully this helps feed the significant other while I recover. Thank you!

  • This is a very poorly nutritious diet. Is it meant to be budget meals for one, or meals for those who suffer below the poverty line? High fat, high GI, mostly carb dense and mostly low fibre. Also interesting that it stays away from fresh fruit and vegetables and brings in carcinogens instead.

    Again as pointed out UNTHAW means FREEZE as pointed out, BUT what you meant was DEFROST
    Secondly, a Toad in the Hole is an English dish THE END. If America has decided to bastardise it, that’s fine, however it’s not a version and originated from UK.

    I hope nobody follows this nonsense.

    • Literally says “budget friendly” so yeah.. it’s meant to be budget meals for one. Sorry, not everyone has the time, energy or money to have a full meal three times a day. As a new widow who just doesn’t have the energy to cook, I appreciate these quick meal ideas. You were obviously not the target audience and that’s OK.

  • Hi Samantha! Thanks for sharing your ideas– we fry our Toad in a Hole until the egg is as cooked as anyone wants–I am not a fan of runny eggs so it’s not my favorite to eat, but I do have a brain and choices for how to fix bread and eggs, so I don’t have to eat them that way… just like anything else on this list that I may not like or that doesn’t fit my dietary requirements. I can also, amazingly, choose to add a green salad or some broccoli to a dish you’ve suggested to add veggies to my diet. Did I miss where you’d said this is a prescription for a perfect diet for all of humankind? I appreciate your sharing!

  • Haha exactly Paul. But I suppose they can say toad in A hole is different to told in THE hole. However taco spaghetti just sounds like spag Bol to me!

  • Wow, Paul! Maybe you need a hobby? Ranting about some easy suggested meals-for-one is a bit excessive. I appreciate the ideas. I don’t think anyone was looking to “follow” anything here; certainly not a diet plan here. Just looking for some fresh ideas to throw into the rotation to change thing up a bit.

  • girl tysm this was so helpful!! planning on moving out in a couple weeks and I’ve been trying to meal prep on a budget and this list was just *chefs kiss* haha tysm!!

  • Maybe the people reading this are hungry and that’s why they are being unreasonably rude? Thanks for the ideas! They were great!