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Cheapest eats near me: 44 places to eat in 2022

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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 “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:

Applebee’s

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.

Burger King

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.  

Chili's

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.

Dominos

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. 

IHOP

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.

Jimmy John’s

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 restaurant

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.

Olive Garden

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*

Red Robin

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. 

Sonic

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

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.

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:

7/11

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. 

Circle K

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.

Sheetz

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
  • Pizza
  • Hot dogs
  • Salads

They also offer grab-and-go cheap eats, including refrigerated wraps, salads, and sandwiches. 

Royal Farms

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

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:

  • Sandwiches
  • Wraps
  • Subs
  • Bowls
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • 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:

Help for single moms: 16+ resources$500 monthly single mom grant
Free laptopsScholarships for single moms
Free carFree Christmas gifts
Free smartphoneBest jobs moms can do from home
Free wifiFree and low-cost prescriptions
Free formulaFree clothes
Free toysGovernment assistance for single moms
Free gasFree daycare
Free preschoolFree prescription glasses
10+ charities that help single mothersTutoring and homework help
Health insuranceFree Christmas money
Low-income home loansFree or cheap dental care
Free gift cardsFree money for bills

Grocery stores

Lots of grocery stores offer hot meals or grab-and-go options at an affordable cost.

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.

IKEA

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:

Convenience stores

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.

Restaurants

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:

  • Arby’s
  • Baskin-Robbins
  • Bertucci’s
  • Bonefish Grill
  • Buffalo Wild Wings
  • California Pizza Kitchen
  • Chevys Fresh Mex
  • Chipotle
  • Denny’s
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels
  • Firehouse Subs
  • Fuddruckers
  • IHOP
  • Jersey Mike’s
  • Jimmy John’s
  • Johnny Rockets
  • P.F. Chang’s
  • Red Robin
  • Starbucks
  • Waffle House
  • Zaxby’s

Free meals for veterans

If you are a veteran you’ll find that restaurants offer free food and deals on Veterans Day.

On November 11, 2022, 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

  1. 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.
  2. Keep it simple: The more add-ons you choose for a meal, the higher the price.
  3. 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.
  4. Look for discounts: Some restaurants offer lower-priced options for kids and seniors or have discounted foods if you visit on certain days.
  5. 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.
  6. 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. 
  7. Fill out the surveys: If your receipt has a survey, you can complete it to get free menu items or discounts.
  8. 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.
  9. 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).

Robyn Evans is an award-winning writer, inspirational author, and occasional songstress (especially in the shower). Born and raised in Baltimore, she focused on helping women make healthy choices for body, mind and soul. She’s a grateful bonus mom to a photographer son and activist daughter and works with young writers through a nonprofit called the Youth Writers Challenge. Robyn writes for corporate clients, is a former feature writer for The Carroll County Times, has written for The Baltimore Sun and is the author of three books.
Robyn's website | Robyn's LinkedIn profile

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