In our world today, artificial intelligence has spread into various aspects of our lives. As AI continues to evolve, exploring its potential and challenging its capabilities in everyday tasks can be intriguing. One way to challenge AI is regarding food and meal planning, which is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to find out whether AI-generated meal plans would be accurate with pricing and practical to replicate. So I asked ChatGPT to create a budget-friendly meal plan for a week to discover the feasibility of AI-driven meal planning. I challenged it by telling it that it has a strict budget of 50 dollars or less. I also told it to include the prices of each meal to get an approximation of each meal’s costs, so that I can see whether ChatGPT has accurate pricing for ingredients and meals compared to actual prices in grocery stores.

Expenses can easily pile up for students, and maintaining a healthy diet on a budget is not only practical but essential. Read on to see what ChatGPT came up with and find out whether AI can be a good source for yummy and cost-friendly meal ideas, especially for busy college students who don’t have the time to cook complicated meals.

An AI-generated breakfast plan.

ChatGPT recommended kick-starting your day with overnight oats topped with banana and peanut butter. It’s an inexpensive choice at approximately $1.60 per serving, according to ChatGPT. It also recommended switching it up with a veggie omelet served with whole grain toast for a protein-rich start, if you get tired of overnight oats. This would be around $6. Midweek, switch to Greek yogurt paired with honey and mixed berries for a sweet and budget-friendly meal costing about $5. As the week progresses, it recommends that you enjoy simple but nutritious options like whole grain cereal with milk and sliced fruit for approximately $4. The most expensive option recommended is a breakfast burrito filled with scrambled eggs, black beans, and salsa, totaling around $6.50.

To test these prices, I searched the price of a regular oatmeal canister, which comes with around 30 servings, and it seems to be around $6. This means that one serving of oatmeal is 20 cents, and adding a banana adds 30 cents. One jar of peanut butter is usually around $3 and comes with 14 servings, meaning one serving would be around 23 cents. So all together, the overnight oats with the toppings that ChatGPT suggested cost 73 cents, which is slightly lower than a dollar.

ChatGPT is pretty accurate with breakfast prices, and if anything, breakfast meals are even cheaper than it anticipates.

An AI-generated lunch plan.

For the midday meal, ChatGPT offers a selection of meals that are filling and cost-effective. Begin the week’s lunch with a chickpea salad featuring mixed greens and lemon-tahini dressing, offering a burst of flavor for approximately $9. Midweek, it recommends indulging in a turkey and avocado wrap with spinach and hummus, a satisfying choice at approximately $9.50. Towards the end of the week, ChatGPT suggests having a comforting lentil soup served with whole grain bread, a nourishing option costing around $8.50. Finally, conclude the week with a veggie stir-fry featuring tofu and brown rice, providing a flavorful meal for approximately $8.

Now to test how much one of these lunches would really be to replicate if we were to buy the ingredients. For the turkey and avocado wrap with spinach and hummus, you can buy a pack of tortillas from Target, which would cost $3 for a 10-count (30 cents per tortilla). You can also buy sliced turkey breast, which costs $5 for nine slices, so 56 cents for one slice. Assuming you use one avocado per wrap, one avocado costs 89 cents. A pack of hummus is $7, which comes with 16 servings, therefore, one serving ends up being 44 cents. A bag of spinach is $2.19, which comes with three servings, so one serving is 73 cents. Overall, having two of those wraps would be pretty satisfactory for lunch which would cost you $5.84.

It really depends on how much you eat or how much of the ingredients you use, but once again, it seems to be cheaper in actuality compared to what ChatGPT estimates.

An AI-generated dinner plan.

For dinner, ChatGPT recommends starting the week with spaghetti and marinara sauce served with a side salad, a classic combination costing about $8. Midweek, relish in baked lemon herb chicken paired with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli, a fulfilling choice for approximately $1. As the week ends, it recommends you enjoy black bean tacos topped with avocado salsa for approximately $7, or grilled salmon accompanied by quinoa and roasted asparagus, a flavorful meal costing approximately $12.

I looked into how much the grilled salmon with quinoa and roasted asparagus would cost realistically. A pack of farmed salmon from Target costs $8, and it comes with two servings, making one serving $4. A pack of quinoa costs $3.29, coming with eight servings, making one serving cost 41 cents. One pack of asparagus costs close to $4, coming with five servings. I’d use two servings for a more fulfilling meal, which costs around $1.60. You’ll most likely use some oil for cooking the salmon and the asparagus as well. To factor this cost in, a container of olive oil for cooking costs $14. The container comes with 50 serving sizes, so one serving size costs 28 cents. Assuming you use two serving sizes for this meal, that would be 56 cents. So, this healthy and fulfilling dinner ends up costing you $7. Once again, cheaper than what ChatGPT predicted.

So, can you use ChatGPT to create a budget-friendly meal plan?

Overall, I feel that ChatGPT did a pretty great job at suggesting meals that are pretty easy to make and also healthy. Cost-wise, ChatGPT seems to overestimate how much one meal can cost, but it can also depend on which grocery store you’re buying your ingredients from, and how many serving sizes you’re using.

However, I wouldn’t say that ChatGPT is good at sticking to a budget.

I had specified to create a plan with a strict budget of 50 dollars or less. I added up the prices thatChatGPT reported of how much each meal would cost for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which will be a weekly cost of approximately $140. To compare, I made my own calculations based on real prices in grocery shops of those ingredients necessary for the breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals every day for a week. It costs around $94 weekly based on the real, updated prices from Target. I think this is still a pretty budget-friendly meal plan, but it’s definitely way above $50.