If you have a little scratch to spare, head to Mid-City and find Finn McCool's Irish Pub (3701 Banks St., 486-9080; www.finnmccools.com). Whatever the occasion — international soccer matches, Treme-watching parties, anniversary of the Titanic disaster — Finn McCool's has a complementary (and often complimentary) dish. Nearby is Twelve Mile Limit (500 Telemachus St., 488-8114) — sip fancy craft cocktails without spending fancy money. It also has a menu of barbecue and baked goods.
The city's Monday tradition of red beans and rice is a barroom staple. You'll find $2 red beans and rice at Hi-Ho Lounge (2239 St. Claude Ave., 945-4446; www.hiholounge.net) and free bowls of it at Banks Street Bar (4401 Banks St., 486-0258; www.banksstreetbar.com), Mick's Irish Pub (4801 Bienville St., 482-9113) and Pal's Lounge (949 N. Rendon St., 488-7257). Grab a $1 domestic longneck beer at Theo's (4024 Canal St., 302-1133; 4218 Magazine St., 894-8554; www.theospizza.com) to wash it all down. (The pizza joints also pour $1 pints on Tuesdays.)
At Bridge Lounge (1201 Magazine St., 299-1888; www.bridgeloungenola.com) during its Tuesday night trivia contest, pay $5 for the all-you-can-eat buffet (as long as there's food to go around and you haven't overstayed your welcome). Tacos, barbecue, curry, pasta, salads, hot dogs and vegetarian dishes — it has you covered. More on the veggies-and-trivia tip: The Korean kitchen The Wandering Buddha also dishes up vegetarian and vegan Korean food from 5 p.m. to midnight every day except Monday at Hi-Ho Lounge, which hosts Tuesday night music trivia. Fill up on bibimbap, kimchi, scallion pancakes, Korean sliders and other dishes for $10 a plate. Refresh your palate with a $2 beer pitcher from Reginelli's (at any of its locations).
Snack on free appetizers while sipping cheap drinks ($2 Abitas, $4 mimosas) during Il Posto Cafe's (4607 Dryades St., 895-2620; www.ilpostofcafe-nola.com) happy hour from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday. The cafe offers cheeses, olives, roasted Brussels sprouts and other gourmet bar snacks and desserts. Still hungry? Banks Street Bar has free BLT sandwiches (and the music hall has a "no cover charge" policy).
If you can't shell out $20 for a full pie, grab a slice (cheese and pepperoni only) without a wait at Pizza Delicious (3444 N. Rampart St., 676-8482; pizzadelicious.blogspot.com), which opens at 5 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays only. The pop-up pizza joint has massive, New York-style, perfectly crispy slices for $2 (cheese) and $2.50 (pepperoni). At Wit's Inn (141 N. Carrollton Ave., 888-4004; www.witsinn.com) order a 10-inch one-topping pizza for $5 on Thursdays. Not in the mood for pizza? Order $2 tacos on Thursdays at Rusty Nail (1100 Constance St., 525-5515; www.therustynail.biz).
For an after-dinner drink, Cork & Bottle (3700 Orleans Ave., Suite 1C, 483-6314; www.cbwines.com) hosts free wine tastings every Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Bonus: Grab some inexpensive snacks (or sample them) from local vendors at the Crescent City Farmers Market, open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays just steps from Cork & Bottle. (More farmers markets: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays at 700 Magazine St., and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 200 Broadway St. — perfect for a before- or after-school snack.)
Enjoy the patio — in the middle of the downtown medical district — outside Handsome Willy's (218 S. Robertson St., 525-0377; www.handsomewillys.com) for Funk & Crunk Fridays. The bar's catering service offers free food from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., whether it's ice cream, a crawfish boil, chicken and sausage gumbo, hot dogs, smoked ribs or something else — with Jell-O (in shot form) for dessert.
But the week's piece de resistance for frugal diners is the Hare Krishna Love Feast at International Society for Krishna Consciousness (2936 Esplanade Ave., 486-3583; www.iskconneworleans.org). The 30-year-old weekly event serves vegetarian Indian food from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays. Dancing, chanting, prayer services and inviting vibes surround the "by donation" vegetarian dining experience. It attracts travelers, broke students and neighbors — so you can make a few friends.