Do you know what makes me laugh? When magazines, Rachel Ray comes to mind, but there are others as well, try to show us how to cook on a budget by showing us different options for $10 dinners. It’s a nice concept, but I find it a little ridiculous. Usually these meals will be some type of sandwich (often disguised with a fancy name like “panini”) or soup. Maybe it’s just me, but I personally have never had a hard time making a meal for my family of four for under $10. Also, soup doesn’t go over so well as a meal in my house. I like it, but the Hubs is never full afterward & Little Man just likes to pick out the noodles. Sandwiches might be ok for lunch, but I’m thinking they wouldn’t go over so well as dinner in my house either. Plus, paninis (think grilled cheese on steroids with really hard bread) are hard for kids to eat.
Here is my problem: I try to stick to a budget of $100/week for groceries. I know that’s a realistic budget because I’ve been doing it for years and I know many families that have a similar one. You totally can feed your family for about $25 a person per week. And you can do it well. In fact, I bet most people do. If you make $10 dinners, like the magazines suggest (and generally in the magazine articles they are talking about $10 entrees, you’re on your own if you want some kind of side dish or -Heaven forbid- dessert) that would eat up $70 of your $100 for the week just on dinner. Um..in my house there are two other meals to think about each day. If my calculations are correct, that would leave less than $3 for each other meal. No thanks.
I’ve also been disturbed that people seem to think that eating unhealthy, processed food is somehow cheaper than eating well. It’s not.
I love to cook, but I sure as you-know-what am not spending any $10 a day on dinner. (Disclaimer: We do go out to eat more than we probably should, which offsets the benefits of my self-righteous, budget-friendly cooking) Anyway, here’s what we’re doing tonight:
Yesterday I bought my produce at the farmers market. This included green beans for $1.95 per quart. The heaping quart they gave me will be enough to stretch between 2 meals. So tonight we will eat half our green beans: $1.00
Today I went to the regular grocery store & bought a box of pasta for roughly $1.50.
Clams were on sale for $1.59/dozen. Granted, that’s a ridiculous price, but you could also use a handful of frozen shrimp or just eat the pasta in the garlic butter sauce I’m about to tell you about sans seafood.
Tonight I plan to cook the clams in a garlic butter sauce I’ll make out of butter, garlic, and water & maybe some lemon juice, all of which I already have. (Usually I make this using white wine, not water, but we don’t have any & I’m not about to drive across town & take two toddlers into a liquor store to go get some. Also, last time I got fancy and added some grated shallots.)
Ooh, guess what? I can even throw in a $2 dessert my Mommom used to make. She called it chocolate snowball. It’s pretty much a chocolate sorbet. The $2 is for about 8 servings, so it’s really about a dollar per meal for a family of four. Recipe: Take a can of chocolate syrup (I get mine at Target for less than $2) and pour it in a 9×9 cake pan. I’m going to assume you have milk. Add two cans of milk (use the syrup can). Stir. Freeze overnight. Cut into small pieces with a knife & scoop into small dessert glasses.
Green beans: $1
Total: $5.09 for Linguine with clam sauce, fresh green beans, and chocolate sorbet. Even if you bought 2 dozen clams (which I didn’t because my kids are too little to eat them; I’m uber paranoid about food allergies, which run in my family, so I don’t give my 1 & 3 year olds seafood very often), the total would still only be about 6.50. I’m pretty sure that everyone has butter, but you could even throw in the head of garlic & still be under $8. Try getting that a restaurant for $2 a person. And it’s even relatively healthy.
By the time you bought a box of hamburger helper, the meat to cook it with, and some nasty canned vegetables you would have spent more money and consumed a ridiculous amount of sodium in the process.
So there, I can make an entree, a side dish, and a dessert for my family for about $5. It might cost you more if your pantry is less stocked, but seriously, the idea that a $10 dinner is some kind of bargain is ridiculous.
I’ll stop ranting now and go cook.
And it can indeed serve a family of 4…
One serving of this meal costs $1.27, including dessert. Can’t do that in a restaurant, now can you? 🙂