You’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.
How does your budget compare? How can you or how would you feed your family dinner for 50 cents/person?
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Upcoming topics for 4 Moms:
- March 15 – How to save memories without being overrun
- March 22 – Q&A (watch for your chance to post questions on Facebook)
- March 29 – Making time to manage the budget
- April 5 - Do you plan out blog posts? How do you manage blog time?
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