4 Moms serve dinner for 50 cents/person {linky}

4 Moms, 35 KidsYou’ve heard of $5 dinners, but they usually feed 4 or maybe 6 people.  Today, the 4 Moms are going to try to do better.  Really?  Is it possible to make dinner for $.50/person?

In an attempt to reduce our grocery expenses without sacrificing healthful eating, our family has learned to eat many meatless dinners.  This doesn’t mean we skimp on protein, though.  We are hearty eaters, and we love our protein!

Beans and homemade bread are one answer that is both obvious and hearty.  Two pounds of dry pinto beans from WalMart cost about $1.30 – call it $2 to allow for generous seasoning.  A pot of beans can be surprisingly varied if you learn to season them differently.  Meat is nice but not always necessary.  $1.50 would be enough to make 2 loaves of sweet rich Challah bread or a big pan of cornbread and a little butter.  That leaves us $2.50 for some fresh veggies – right now, that would buy 2 lbs. of carrots, 1 lb. of roma tomatoes, and 2 cucumbers.

Beans and cornbread together provide a substantial amount of complete protein, but not everyone wants to eat a pot of beans every day and maybe your family doesn’t like beans as much as we do.  Surely we can be a little more creative.

How about pizza? We can’t have all the toppings we want, but let’s see what we can do with our budget.

Let’s make enough dough for 4 large pizzas.  Sometimes I make more because I like to plan for leftovers, but 4 is plenty even when we’re famished and today we’re on a budget.  Salt is cheap, and since I get flour (8 cups) and yeast (2 Tbs) from Costco and I don’t always use oil in my pizza dough, that’s just 60 cents so far.  Let’s allow some oil for the pans, though, to make the crust nice and crisp:  50 cents will provide 2 Tbs. of butter or olive oil for each pan.

Easy Frugal Pizza Crust

makes 4 large pizzas

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbs. yeast ($.08)
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • ~8 cups flour

Combine water, yeast, salt and 2 cups of flour.  Let sit 10 minutes, until bubbly and active.  Stir and knead additional flour to make a firm dough.  Knead by hand or in machine until smooth and only slightly sticky.

Let rest 10 minutes or up to 24 hours.  Divide into 4 parts and pat onto large greased pizza pans or cookie sheets.  Top and bake immediately, or prebake 10 minutes at 300 to finish later.

Add pizza sauce made from a gallon can of tomato paste (we season and freeze 1 cup portions, then add water and simmer until we’re ready to use it) for 50 cents (19 cents is the paste; the rest is the cost of spices).

We’ll divide 6 cups of grated mozzarella ($3.75 from Costco) between 3 of the pizzas, and make the 4th into breadsticks to dip in the extra sauce.  Many people enjoy cheese pizza so let’s leave one plain.  We still have 65 cents for additional toppings – 2/3 lb. of turkey sausage can be divided between 2 pizzas, or we can afford 1/2 diced onion, 1/2 bell pepper and a few sliced mushrooms.

Breakfast for dinner can be fun and frugal.  We occasionally have pancakes and eggs when we find the dinner hour upon us without a plan.

Pancakes to feed a dozen

makes 50-4″ pancakes for $2.35

  • 5 cups flour ($.35)
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 tsp. salt
  • 5 cups soured milk – 2 Tbs vinegar plus milk to make 5 cups ($1)
  • 5 eggs ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup oil or melted butter ($.50)

Combine dry ingredients.  Add milk, eggs and butter, then mix just until smooth.  Drop onto hot lightly greased griddle and cook until bubbles appear.  Flip and cook until done.

We like to top our pancakes with butter ($.50) and a little sprinkle of brown sugar rather than syrup that’s full of HFCS.

Add 2 dozen eggs ($2.50), fried or scrambled, and you have a fun & filling dinner with plenty of protein for less than $6.  There are no veggies this time, but maybe you had fruit with breakfast and a big salad for lunch.  🙂

More Dinners for less than $.50/serving:

Bean & cheese burritos. Cook your beans from scratch, but buy tortillas if you have an inexpensive source.  We pay $1/20.  Serve with diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, cheese, and salsa.

Spaghetti, salad and fresh bread. Make your own sauce from that gallon can of tomato paste, and skip the meat if you can live without it.  Set out 1/2 lb. of grated mozzarella to sprinkle on top.

Taco salad.  Serve homemade seasoned black beans instead of meat, along with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, crushed tortilla chips, salsa, and a little sour cream if we have it.

The other moms are talking about it today, too.
  • Smockity Frocks
  • Common Room
  • Raising Olives
  • How does your budget compare?  How can you or how would you feed your family dinner for 50 cents/person?

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    1. I was raised vegetarian and cannot imagine having to buy meat–it’s usually so expensive.
      One of our favorites is a twist on the Lebanese dish tabbouleh.
      Cook 1 cup bulgur wheat in salted water until soft. (Bulgur is cheap here–buy in bulk if possible).
      Chop 2-3 big bunches parsley (usually I can find this for $.50 a bunch or less), 2 peeled cucumbers ($1.00), and 3-4 roma tomatoes( $1-2). Put in a salad bowl with 2 cups garbanzos (cook yourself for pennies) and 2-3 cloves crushed or minced garlic. Add 1/4 cup olive oil. Drain bulgur and rinse in cold water, then allow to drain again until most of the water is gone. Mix all together and season with lemon juice and salt.
      For a more authentic flavor, replace one bunch of parsley with 3/4 cup chopped mint if you have it readily available. Until I’m able to grow some I will have to keep leaving this one out–it’s too expensive.

      This is great stuffed in homemade pitas or wrapped up in romaine lettuce leaves. The garbanzos make it a complete protein. You won’t miss the meat! This recipe was a big hit at my workplace parties. I estimate the ingredients at between $4 and $6 depending on current prices and these quantities should serve 7-10.

      • I just started cooking my garbanzos from dried and WOW!! they taste even more amazingly good. We love tabbouleh around here too.

    2. For a super-easy and very cheap meal for our fam of 6, I throw some diced potatoes & carrots (about 1 pound of each) in the crockpot together with 1/2 lbs of ground beef, about a cup of water and a bit of salt. Cook on low for approx 6hours and when done I add a tbsp or so of red pesto and just a splash of whipping cream. Yummy 🙂

      I cook alot like this, varying the veggies and type of meat – a crockpot really helps when you want to streeeeetch the budget:)

    3. I’d love if you’d be able to elaborate somewhat on “season” for me. I always feel a little lost when I’m handed that responsibility in a recipe. 🙂 I’m especially curious how you season your beans.

      • Melissa,
        I’ll share my seasoning for pizza sauce soon. For beans, I’m still learning. Try looking up recipes for boracho beans (did I spell that right? to lazy to check right now!). It means “drunken beans,” but you can leave out the beer if you want.
        In the last pot of beans I used a package of smoked pork bones, onion powder, minced garlic, some molasses and vinegar, and lots of salt. I would have added tomato paste, but everything I had was seasoned for pizza sauce. 🙂
        BBQ sauce is good in beans, too. Whatever you do, give it plenty of time to simmer so flavors can mingle after the beans are thoroughly softened.

        • I use Bolner’s fiesta brand pinto bean seasoning you can buy it from them on line for about 3$ a 4.5 oz bottle. That bottle lasts us (a family of 4 eating mexican beans once a week) for about a year a little goes a long way… or you can just toss in cumin, chili powder, paprika garlic, onion (fresh or dried or powdered) and a dash of salt. that works too… if you are making your beans from scratch do not salt the water they cook in or season the water. Season after they are cooked, unless you like tough skins, then go for it 🙂

          • Thank you both!! I’m looking forward to trying your suggestions!

            Kimc, I’ll be watching for your pizza sauce recipe!

    4. Kim you may ask if she’d check everytime she goes because I have noticed with my Sam’s that sometimes they stop carring something then bring it back. I’ll be looking at my store! Good point on the little packages, they are so expensive!

    5. heather says:

      I buy all my pizza makings in bulk too. My kids like pepporni so I buy a 5 pound bag of it and put the whole bag in the freezer it is very easy to grab a handful out to use for pizza cause they don’t freeze solid together. The five pound bag last me about 6 months. I don’t recall how much it cost I think it is between $10-$15.

      • Heather, where do you buy your pepperoni? I used to have a friend buy me 5 lb bags from Sam’s, but they quit carrying it – at least in our location. I hate to buy the overpriced little packages at the grocery store!

    6. Melanie says:

      Great post! I wish food could be in that low price in Canada. But it still give some idea of low prices meal. Thank you!

    7. Can you give more info on how you divide up and season the tomato paste? You say you freeze it in one cut portions after seasoing, so for 3 cups of sauce for your pizza is this 1 one cup plus water, or 3 one cup frozen packs then water?

      • Shannon, for pizzas I freeze seasoned 1 cup portions. Then to make the sauce I use 1 cup of tomato paste and add 1.5-2 cups of water, depending on how long I’ll let it simmer. It’s plenty for several pizzas, with leftover for dipping breadsticks. We do this every Friday without fail!

        • Thanks for clarifing that for me:D Spaghetti and pizza are two of our favorite meals and I want to try my hand on making the sauce myself, I need to cut the cost down! I used to do a ton of coupons but I have found recently that the $ amount of coupons has gotten smaller and the $ amount of the item has gone up. So what used to be a frugal meal after coupon shopping is not so frugal anymore. I need a new method.

    8. I came back to add a couple of other ideas. Right now in our area chicken breast is often on sale for $1.00 a pound. We only like the white meat so I always watch for these sales. But often you can get the thighs and legs for $1.00 a pound too. When it is on sale like this I often get several pounds to freeze. I take a pound of chicken and poach it. Then the next day I can make some chicken fried rice with the chicken chopped up and some rice (30 cents) and a few mixed veggies. (I use frozen)
      This is also a great way to make some chicken and dumplings. Another inexpensive meal.

    9. My family is small now, just 4 of us. I grew up in a family with 5 kids. Money was always tight. One of the quick frugal meals my mother made was tuna gravy. It was a simple filling meal. Just white gravy with a can of drained tuna. Served over saltine crackers. Mother almost always served this meal with a salad made of pineapple. It was simple and filling and we loved it.
      She also made a hamburger gravy. Just 1 pound of meat browned and seasoned with salt, pepper, and onion…use the fat from the ground meat to make gravy. Serve the gravy over noodles. We always served a meal with some kind of bread…biscuits, rolls, or plain bread.

      • Roxie, my mom made hamburger gravy like that a lot when I was growing up and served it over mashed potatoes. I make it occasionally too, but with ground beef at $3/lb it’s not a cheap dinner anymore. More often, we make southern-style sausage gravy to serve over biscuits. Yum!

        • Your sweet comment made me cry. It made me remember something from when I was a young child. I was sitting on the floor of my grandma’s kitchen cutting out a new blouse. (I started sewing my own clothes at 11) My mother and my grandmother who did their grocery shopping together were at the table going over their recipt. My mother started crying when she was going over the bill because ground meat had gone up from 3 pounds for a dollar to just 2 pounds for a dollar and how was she going to feed all of us (we were 7) when ground beef is .50 a pound.
          The high cost of food has been around a long time. Now I am a grandmother myself. I am 60 now and see the high cost of feeding a family in the faces of many people every week in the grocery store. I know the needs at the food pantry in our area is getting higher every day.

    10. if I served my husband a pot of beans for dinner I think he would leave me. LOL

      • Maryjo, I am exactly like your husband. It has taken Kim 3 or 4 slow years (and a diabetes diagnosis) to get me to change. If your hubby loves meat, add a little taco meat to the refried beans. Then over time with the same seasonings you can slowly reduce the meat – at least it worked for me.

    11. I love, LOVE these ideas! Thanks! We’re only a family of five, soon to be six, but we always aim foor this too! My hubby is a hunter…so our freezer is usually full of free meat, that helps:)


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