Sometimes the last thing you want to do is come home from work and cook a meal — or pack your lunch for the next day. Fortunately, you don’t have to go broke eating at a restaurant or ordering takeout.
There are a lot of affordable dining options if you’re searching for “good cheap food near me.”
Check out this list of cheap eats:
- Cheapest places to eat nearby
- Fast food restaurants that take EBT
- Convenience store cheap eats
- Where to get free or cheap groceries
Cheapest places to eat “near me”
These are some restaurants with locations across the country where you can get the best deals on food. Note that these promotions may not be valid at all locations:
To get the best cheap eats, stick with the 2 for $20 menu (available for dine-in, carryout, and delivery where available). You can get two entrees and one appetizer for $20.
You can also get half off select appetizers from 3-6 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to close at participating locations. The kids’ menu features multiple items under $6, and side dishes are often $5 or less.
Buffalo Wild Wings
At Buffalo Wild Wings, you can get a buy-one-get-one deal on traditional wings on Tuesdays and boneless wings on Thursdays when you purchase the same style of wings of equal or lesser value.
At participating locations, you can also get drinks and appetizers for $3-$6 between 3 and 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The home of the Whopper has a value menu with sandwiches, drinks, fries and desserts starting at $1. Some Burger King restaurants offer a $5 snack box that includes a cheeseburger, eight chicken nuggets, small fries, and a small soft drink.
You can also find coupons for free or discounted menu items through the Burger King app or on the Burger King website. Printed coupons also appear in newspapers and mailers.
Some Burger King locations in states that participate in the RMP accept EBT from eligible SNAP recipients.
Carraba’s Italian Grill
At Carraba’s you can order from the Family Bundles menu to save money when you dine out. The meals offer four servings and include a large family-style entree complete with your choice of salad and warm bread. Carraba’s also offers take-home meals to go for $10 when you dine in. Sign up for the rewards program to get a free appetizer.
If you sign up for Chili’s rewards and purchase a regular entree, you’ll get a free kids’ meal for a child 12 and under. Chili’s also offers a 3 for Me menu that starts as low as $10.99 and includes a drink, appetizer, and entree.
Chipotle fast casual restaurant
Chipotle meal portions are so large that you can easily divide one meal into two. Meals include rice and multiple protein options like beans, meat, and soy protein on your choice of salad, burrito bowl, tacos, or traditional burrito.
If you prefer, you can get a single or double serving of meat — the chicken and sofritas have the least expensive upcharge for a double portion. Guacamole is free if you order a vegetarian dish, though it does have an upcharge of $1.95 otherwise.
You can also get extra tortillas on the side at only 50 cents each. Chips and salsa are less than $3.
The Dominos Mix & Match Deal allows you to choose two or more options from a list of entrees, appetizers, and desserts that are each $6.99 or less. Some stores have a daily $7.99 carryout deal where you can choose a three-topping pizza, oven baked dip with twists, or wings.
Visit the Dominos website or app to see which deals are currently available at your nearest location.
Golden Corral is an American-style, all-you-can-eat buffet with over 150 food choices. You can dine in, take it to go, or have it delivered. Join the Good as Gold club to get free drinks, a birthday reward, and coupons.
Sign up for Golden Corral Rewards, get a $5 joining bonus when you spend $25, and earn points to get free food. Each dollar you spend earns one point. For every 100 points, you earn a $10 reward.
Starting at 3 p.m. at participating locations, IHOP offers a reduced-price menu, with entrees starting at $6. Plus, menu items on the 55+ and kids menus are under $10 all day.
When you sign up for Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast Rewards program, you can get a free sandwich after your first purchase. You’ll also regularly be alerted to deals and be able to earn points toward more free food.
At participating stores, you can also buy a 16-inch French bread loaf for just a few dollars (my location listed $3.50), which you can use to make your own sandwiches at home.
McDonald’s has long been known as an affordable fast food option. They frequently run deals like two sandwiches for one price, or buy one get one for $1. But there’s also a value menu with breakfast/lunch/dinner items for $1, $2, or $3.
For a more filling meal, try food hacks with the value menu like:
- Buy a breakfast sandwich and add a hash brown in between
- Buy a McDouble, but request an extra bun and make two sandwiches
- Add a large drink (all sizes cost $1) to any meal
If you want a smaller portion, you can ask for a Happy Meal. For less than $5, you can get a hamburger or chicken nuggets, fries, apple slices, and a drink.
Participating McDonald’s locations in RMP states accept EBT from eligible SNAP recipients.
When you dine in, Olive Garden offers unlimited salad and breadsticks when you purchase an entree. They also run specials like the Never-Ending Pasta Bowl and offer lunches starting at $7.99 if you’re searching for cheapest lunch “near me.”
If you’re getting takeout, you can choose between three classic entrees for $6 with the purchase of one regular priced entree. These are:
- Fettuccine alfredo
- Five cheese ziti al forno
- Spaghetti with meat Sauce*
When you order a burger or entree at Red Robin, you get all-you-can-eat steak fries, kettle chips, sweet potato fries, garlic fries, broccoli, or salad. The restaurant chain also has a lower-priced line of Tavern burgers to help you save money.
During happy hour — Monday through Friday from 3-6 p.m. — you can get 50% off select appetizers, milkshakes, and drinks.
Every Tuesday after 5 p.m., Sonic offers half-price cheeseburgers if you order online or through the Sonic app. You can also get half price drinks/slushies through the app/website. Text DRIVEIN to 876642 to receive texts from Sonic with current promotions and deals.
Taco Bell offers multiple menu items for $5 or less, like the Classic Combo that includes a taco, burrito, a side like chips or cinnamon twists, and a large drink.
The menu is vast and includes vegetarian options, bowls, tacos, burritos, and other food items, many of which are $5 and under. Taco Bell, like many fast-food restaurants, also has a value menu with menu items ranging from $1-$5.
Some Taco Bell locations in RMP states accept EBT from eligible SNAP recipients.
The Texas Roadhouse VIP Club offers a free appetizer within 48 hours of signing up. It’s free to join, and members get rewards by email just for being in the club. Once you’re in, you’ll get a personal link to sign up for birthday offers, as well.
Best cheap eats in the U.S.
To get the most for your money, sometimes you have to explore new places. Need a little help finding the value meals in your area? Check out the Eat Cheap guide or Tripadvisor.
If you’re looking for the best cheap eats in your town and want to skip the restaurant chains, check out these neighborhood spots:
Cheap eats NYC
If you’re in NYC, you can get a hot, fresh slice of pizza for $1 all over town. Take a quick trip through Times Square, and you’ll see a slew of dollar pizza shops and even some for 99 cents.
Here are a few can’t miss cheap eats spots in New York City:
- B&H Dairy – A Kosher lunch spot with generous portions of hearty foods like knishes, blintzes, stuffed cabbage, and soups. Extensive breakfast menu. Most options are $12 or less.
- Empanada Mama – For less than $5 you can choose from over 40 different empanadas, a fried or oven-baked dough that is stuffed with meat, cheese, and/or vegetables.
- Govinda’s – Here you can get a vegan or vegetarian lunch for $10 or less.
- Gray’s Papaya – Try the recession special: two hot dogs and a medium tropical drink for about $7.
- Los Tacos No. 1 – All tacos are under $5 and nothing on the menu is over $10
To find more places, search “cheap eats NYC” on your preferred search engine.
Cheap eats Chicago
Where can you eat in the Windy City for less? Check out these cheap eats destinations in downtown Chicago aka the Loop and beyond:
- Chicken Planet – You can get grilled chicken, pita bread and rice for about $9.
- Chopper’s Good Eats – If you like burgers, this place offers a double cheese with thick-cut fries and coleslaw for around $9. They call it the happy meal for adults. There are also a variety of menu items that are under $5.
- Luke’s Italian Beef – Here you can get pizza, hot dogs, tamales, and more for $10 or less. The Chicago-style hot dog is less than $4.
- Pittsfield Cafe – They have several early-bird $9.99 breakfast specials. One of the most popular is the 2-2-2 Special that comes with two eggs, two strips of bacon, and two pancakes.
Search “cheap eats Chicago” online to find more places where you can get the most value for your hard-earned money.
Cheap eats Los Angeles
Looking for places where you can get a good meal on the cheap in Los Angeles? From tacos to sushi, here are a few places to put on your radar:
- El Chato Taco Truck – It’s a cash-only food truck, but tacos are $1.25 and the rest of the menu items (burritos, quesadillas, and mulitas) are $7 or less.
- In-N-Out Burger – A popular LA burger joint, you can get the Double-Double burger for about $5 and a regular cheeseburger will cost you around $3.50.
- Sushi Stop – Maki and hand rolls range between $5-10, and include regular and specialty rolls.
- Wirin Thai – Most of the menu is $11 or less and you can choose from options like Pad Thai, curry dishes, and fried rice.
Search “cheap eats Los Angeles” on your favorite search engine to uncover more food finds.
Cheap eats San Francisco
If you’re looking for a place to get a filling meal in San Francisco and money is tight, consider these restaurants:
- Bei Fang Style – All menu items are roughly $13 or less and you get a choice of bowls, soups, dumplings, and steamed buns.
- Hawaiian Drive Inn – All plates are less than $9, have a variety of meats or seafood to choose from, and include rice and macaroni salad.
- La Cocina Municipal Marketplace – Offers multiple low-cost dining options and accepts EBT if you are 60 or older, disabled, or homeless.
- Super Star – A Filipino restaurant with plates that run $7 or less and come with fried rice.
Search “cheap eats San Francisco” for more places you can stretch your dollar.
Cheap eats Boston
If you’re looking for an affordable meal in Boston, visit some of these places:
- Cusser’s – Roast beef sandwiches, chowder, pizza rolls, and seafood for $12 or less.
- Gene’s Chinese Flatbread Cafe – You can get noodles, flatbread sandwiches, soups and more. Menu items are between $6 and $13.
- Mike’s City Diner – Large portions and affordable prices make this diner a popular destination. Breakfast sandwiches are the cheapest option at $7 or less.
- Tasty Burger – The menu offers burgers, fries, sandwiches, and milkshakes. All burgers are under $9.
Search “cheap eats Boston” to fund more affordable places where you can get a good meal for less.
Cheap eats Miami
Finding cheap meals in Miami might be a challenge, but it can be done. Take alook at these spots:
- Casa Cuba – You can get a Cuban coffee and two empanadas for around $5. Pastries are $5 or less and most sandwiches are less than $10.
- La Sandwicherie – A French sandwich shop with options for $10 or less. Sandwiches are generous enough to serve two people.
- Pizza Rustica – They offer pizza by the slice for about $8. Slices are large enough to cut into six squares and share.
- Versailles – If you have a sweet tooth, this place offers a variety of baked goods for cakes to tarts, but also makes sandwiches and fresh juices. Most of the pastries are less than $5.
Google search “cheap eats Miami” to find more places to save money when you eat out.
Search for “cheap eats (city)”
No matter what city you live in or are traveling to, you can do a search to find money-saving meals that fit any budget. Just type in “cheap eats” and then add the city of your choice. For example, “cheap eats Austin” or “cheap eats Seattle.”
Other ways to score cheap food “near me”
If you are looking for discount meals near you, think about these options:
Your local college
If you live near a college, check out the dining options on campus. Some may offer buffet or cafeteria-style dining on the cheap and open to the public. You can also explore areas surrounding the campus, as nearby restaurants often cater to students who don’t have a lot of money.
Search for “Chinese food near me”
Chinese food is typically inexpensive and is made to order so you can get a hot, fresh meal for $10 or less. Chinese restaurants offer a lot of variety, from vegetarian dishes to beef, chicken, or seafood with vegetables served over rice or noodles.
“Search for Chinese food near me” to find the best choices for the money in your town.
Search for “Mexican restaurant near me”
Mexican restaurants are known for generous portions and staples like rice and beans, so you’ll get a filling meal without spending a lot of money. They also tend to offer free, unlimited chips and salsa as an appetizer, so you can fill up on those and take half of your entree home for another meal.
Check out your local grocery store’s deli at closing time
If your grocery store has a hot bar or hot prepared foods, check with the deli counter just before it closes to ask about buying food at a discount. Many delis are open to selling the food for cheaper because they often throw it out if it doesn’t sell.
Fast food restaurants that take EBT
The Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) makes it possible for some EBT users to buy prepared meals at certain fast food restaurants. According to the USDA, this program is active in seven states:
- Illinois (only in Cook and Franklin Counties)
- Rhode Island (only in Providence and Washington Counties)
If you have Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, are 60 or older, live in an RMP state, and don’t have a way to store or prepare food, you may be eligible.
Restaurants vary by state. Here is a list of some of the major fast food restaurants that accept EBT under the RMP (not every location participates, so check before going):
- Carl’s Jr.
- Church’s Chicken
- El Pollo Loco
- Firehouse Subs
- Jack in the Box
Some fast food spots not affiliated with the RMP may also accept EBT. It’s best to call ahead and ask if you are not sure.
Cheap eats “near me” at convenience stores
Convenience stores and gas stations are great places to find cheap eats, and many offer rewards programs. Here are some examples of food you can get at your local convenience store:
7-Eleven has hot foods like pizza and wings but also healthier options like fruit and salads. While prices are competitive with other convenience stores, you can unlock lower food prices when you sign up for the 7Rewards loyalty program.
Menu items vary, but most Circle K locations have hot food like breakfast burritos, hot dogs, and pizza and healthier choices like wraps and prepared salads. All items are grab and go.
If you want a hot prepared meal, Sheetz makes food when you order it, 24/7. Its menu includes:
- Breakfast items (sandwiches, burritos, hash browns, waffles, french toast sticks)
- Lunch/dinner sandwiches, wraps, subs, and burgers
- French fries, tater tots
- Other fried appetizers
- Hot dogs
They also offer grab-and-go cheap eats, including refrigerated wraps, salads, and sandwiches.
The main option at Royal Farms is fried chicken, but they also offer sandwiches, subs, burgers, and breakfast/lunch bowls at reasonable prices. There are lots of filling options for $10 or less.
Wawa has prepared foods and options that are made to order. You have a ton of options to customize your meal like toppings and sauces. Wawa serve:
- Snacks like fruit and cheese boxes or soft pretzels
Cheapest food “near me”
If you’re searching for the cheapest food “near me,” these are some viable options:
Food pantries and food banks
If you are struggling to pay for food for yourself and your family, food pantries and food banks are a great place to start.
A lot of food banks will give you free food with no questions asked, but some may require you to fill out paperwork or provide an ID.
If you need long-term help, there are many resources available, from government assistance to community organizations. Check out our post on how to get free food, groceries, and meals, plus more resources for low-income individuals:
Lots of grocery stores offer hot meals or grab-and-go options at an affordable cost. And if you have EBT, it’s good to know that you can buy food at your local grocery store. However, EBT benefits are not accepted for hot or prepared foods like rotisserie chicken or freshly made deli sandwiches.
Check out this video for tips on drastically slashing your grocery bill:
Membership warehouses (Sam’s Costco BJs)
If you have a membership to places like Costco, Sam’s Club, or BJ’s, you can grab one of the cheapest lunches around. All warehouses have menu items that are $5 or less. Portions are big and often include a beverage. You can expect to pay $3 or less for a large hot dog or slice of pizza and a drink.
If you live near an IKEA, it may be worth it to become an IKEA Family member (it’s free to sign up) and enjoy these weekly specials Monday through Thursday:
- Monday – Veggie and Plant Ball plates, $3
- Tuesday through Thursday – $2 off meatball plates from 3-5 p.m.
- Wednesday – Purchase one adult entree, and get two kids’ entrees free
- Thursday – Buy one adult entree, and get a second for 50% off (equal or lesser value)
Food app rewards
When you download a food app, you can expect a sign-up reward like free food or drinks. When you keep making purchases, you’ll earn points toward discounted or free menu items.
Here are a few popular options to check out:
Here are a few convenience stores that offer food rewards:
7-11 free drink or snack when register for 7REWARDS
When you sign up for 7REWARDS, you can begin earning points to exchange for free food items. When you present the app in store or connect it with 7NOW Delivery, you can earn points on food, beverages, snacks, and convenience items.
Every 1,000 points equals $1. Earn five times the points when you use 7-Eleven Wallet, a way for you to pay through the 7-Eleven app. Just link a credit or debit card to the app or add cash at the register. As long as you use the 7-Eleven app, redeem points, or make an in-store purchase once every 90 days, your points won't expire.
Sheetz free beverage or snack with 250 rewards points
Sign up for a free Sheetz Rewardz account, and earn five points for every dollar you spend in-store. You can get a fountain drink, self-serve Sheetz Bros. coffee, or a Shweetz donut or cookie when you hit 250 points.
The more points you earn, the higher your rewards level. Higher levels unlock more free food. Unused points expire one year from the month you earned them.
Free drinks and meals with ROFO Rewards
The Royal Farms Rewards program gives you a free two-piece chicken meal on your birthday. Plus, you can earn two points for every dollar you spend in-store and one point per gallon when you buy gas. You can exchange the points for food, snacks, and beverages.
There are four point tiers: 50, 125, 250, and 400. At each tier, you can cash out points to get free food and beverages. You can track your rewards in the ROFO app. When you earn points in any given month, you have one year to use them.
Who doesn’t love free food? You’d be surprised how many restaurants and fast food establishments offer free food when you sign up for their rewards or loyalty programs.
Here are a few examples:
Chili’s, free chips & salsa with rewards program
As a My Chili’s Rewards member, you’ll get free chips and salsa or a non-alcoholic beverage every time you dine in and spend at least $5. You’ll also score a free birthday dessert and other free food items just for being an active member.
Jimmy Johns, free sandwich after first order with Freaky Fast Rewards
Join Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast Rewards, and you’ll get a free 8-inch sandwich after you place an order as a member online or through the app. You can also earn free food rewards just for buying menu items you enjoy.
Panera Bread, free pastry for signing up for MyPanera Rewards (and free drinks through July 4th)
As a new MyPanera rewards member, you’ll get a free pastry or bagel (up to $4.59 in value) with any online or in-cafe purchase. The reward expires within 60 days of being credited to your MyPanera account. You’ll also get a surprise treat for your birthday and earn points toward free food, including surprise offers like free bagels for a month.
McDonald’s, free Big Mac when download app and free offers
When you download the MyMcDonald’s Rewards app and join, you’ll earn a free large fries (food item subject to change). After your first purchase, you can earn more free food rewards every time you eat at McDonalds. Link your payment card, use it to make a purchase, and earn 1500 bonus points to get a free cheeseburger, McChicken, hash browns, or vanilla cone.
Checkers/Rally’s, free Mother Cruncher or Big Buford when sign up for rewards
Checkers and Rally’s will give you 250 rewards points when you sign up and make your first purchase. You can earn more points with each purchase. When you reach 400 points, you get a $5 reward to purchase free food.
Baskin-Robbins, get a free scoop of ice cream when you download app and sign up for mobile deals
Get a free regular-sized scoop of your favorite Baskin-Robbins ice cream when you download the app and sign up for text message deals.
Quiznos, get $5 off first app order and get a free 8” sub when you invite friends and they sign up for app
Download the Quiznos loyalty app and get $5 off on your first order in the app. Enjoy a BOGO deal on your birthday on 8-inch subs. And, if you refer a friend, you’ll get a free 8-inch sub when they sign up and use the app. Earn points for more free food in the app.
Krispy Kreme, get a free doughnut when sign up for rewards program
Get a free doughnut when you sign up for Krispy Kreme Rewards. Every doughnut and coffee purchase helps you earn free treats. Also, receive special perks only available to members. You must redeem any reward within 90 days of earning it.
Free meals for birthdays
Want a free meal or treat on your birthday? There are a lot of restaurants that want to make sure you get one. Simply sign up for their rewards program and include your birthday on your customer profile.
Here are a few places that offer free birthday meals, desserts, or treats:
- Bonefish Grill
- Buffalo Wild Wings
- California Pizza Kitchen
- Chevys Fresh Mex
- Einstein Bros. Bagels
- Firehouse Subs
- Jersey Mike’s
- Jimmy John’s
- Johnny Rockets
- P.F. Chang’s
- Red Robin
- Waffle House
Free meals for veterans
If you are a veteran you’ll find that restaurants offer free food and deals on Veterans Day.
Every year on November 11, veterans can get a free or discounted meal at multiple restaurants.
Here’s a complete list from Military.com.
Tips on how to make the most of your cheap eats
- Do your research: Ask your friends and family about affordable places to eat, search the internet, and check sites like TripAdvisor. A quick Google search of “Tripadvisor cheap eats near me” will give you a list of places you can go, as well as reviews from other diners.
- Keep it simple: The more add-ons you choose for a meal, the higher the price.
- Split a meal: Some restaurants have huge portions. If the restaurant allows, order one meal and ask for an additional plate so you can split it. Some places charge extra for splitting a meal, so call and ask before you go.
- Look for discounts: Some restaurants offer lower-priced options for kids and seniors or have discounted foods if you visit on certain days.
- Check the app: Check for a restaurant app. You can usually get a sign-up bonus like a free appetizer or meal, plus discounts or points you can earn toward free food.
- Choose the kids’ meal: Most kids’ meals include an entree, side, snack, and a drink. Sometimes, the sandwich sizes are the same as regular menu items.
- Fill out the surveys: If your receipt has a survey, you can complete it to get free menu items or discounts.
- Wait for happy hour: Typically sports bars offer low-priced drinks and appetizers or small bites for a set time, generally between 3 and 6 p.m.
- Ask if kids eat free: Some places offer a free kids meal with the purchase of a regular entree. It’s easy to call and find out.
- Look for unlimited toppings: When you choose a place, look for options that offer unlimited toppings to help you build a large portion. For example, many build-your-own pizza or salad places offer this (Like Blaze Pizza or Nalley Fresh).