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I have $40. Family of 3. 5 dinners

  • c

Being the smart one that I am (not), I was complaining to my wife that she spent to much on groceries for the week. (Gentlemen, I don't reccommend doing this. What was I thinking?) Didn't go over so well, so I was challenged to do it cheaper. Kind of like the old game show "Name that Song", well I said I could do it for 40 buck or under. I do most of the cooking on the weekends, I find it relaxing and I get to play with the grill (fire!) But during the week our schedules are so crazy that we need quick easy to fix meals. Which she's usually in charge of. This is for Sunday night through Thursday. (Friday's our schedule is really messed up). So here's what I'm thinking, please give input.

Sunday - Roasted chicken and roasted potatoes.
(chicken is on sale .99 pound figure 6 bucks. Potatoes on sale 5lbs for 1.50. Onions on sale 1.50 for 2lbs)

Monday - Pulled pork sandwiches. Potatoe salad.
(pork should on sale .99 pound figure six bucks. Already bought potatoes. Have eggs, mustard, etc)

Tuesday - Fajitas
(use left over chicken, have a bag of frozen peppers & onions and tortillas and sourcream etc.)

Wednesday - Turkey chilli
(turkey on sale for 3 bucks, figure 6 bucks for beans, tomatoes, tomatoe paste, chili en adoboe, have onions and garlic)

Thursday - Pulled pork agin. (We love it, so it won't be a problem twice in one week)

I figure I'm at about 24 dollars so far, and I'm thinking about six or so dollars for the rolls, cheese, etc. So I'm at 30 bucks.....what am I forgetting? I will be cooking everything on Sunday (the chicken and pork shoulder) and the chilli I will cook the night before. So everything should be heat and eat ready!

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  1. You've sort of hit upon one of the sad truths about our modern lives: meat and starch are cheap, vegetables are expensive. That's what you're missing: veggies. Carrots are cheap and keep well, and you can roast them with the chicken and potatoes; on pulled pork night I'd do a salad, preferably with one of the darker greens. They aren't too expensive if you don't buy them prebagged.

    Also, try an electric blanket to keep you warm on that couch. ;)

    2 Replies
    1. re: darklyglimmer

      I am sadly lacking with the veggies aren't I. Well, we always have carrots on hand so that won't be a problem, and I could pick up a head of lettuce or some spinach with the leftover cash. Maybe a cuke or two. As far as the couch goes, wouldn't be the first time and I dare say it won't be the last. LOL My one dog and cat love it when that's where I'm sleeping. They think it's like we're camping or something. The other dog is a Momma's boy, damn traitor! :)

      1. re: cb1

        Well you might be lacking with the veg but you still have $10 to kill and that should get you enough vegetables to feed your family for the week. And remember that you will have left overs from your meals so when you factor that in you will have more money left over the next week or they could serve as a lunch during the week. I think it's really easy to make cheap excellent food as long as you do most of the prep yourself so you are not paying for the convenience. I'm often surprised at how little a meal cost per plate and how much it cost to go out.

    2. One night make frittatas or omelettes so you can add some greenery to your week. Eggs are a great and cheap protein source. Good deals are usually frozen stuff, like spinach [in the frittata] and green peas to serve with the roasted chicken. Pulled pork night, add some cole slaw. Cabbage is a bargain, and a simple apple cider dressing is delicious.

      1. I agree, you're missing veggies with the exception of onions and peppers. I make homemade coleslaw with pulled pork. Cabbage is very cheap and pretty good for you, too. I add carrots and green onions in mine as well.

        You might make a squash or some roasted beets and carrots as well with that roast chicken also. I often roast a whole squash at the same time as a chicken. If we don't finish the whole squash, I'll use the rest to make some other type of dish (add it to a frittatta or make soup).

        Maybe add a crisp green salad with the chili?

        The menu seems kind of heavy to me for 5 dinners. I would make one of those very meat-focused dishes (roast chicken, chili, pulled pork) in a week, maybe two of them, but not all three. That's just me though.

        1. Yep, it's missing veggies...if you're meat people as I am, there's nothing worng with what you already have but you need some fiber & freshness in the form of veggies.

          You could get a bag of frozen peas & carrots for a buck or less or maybe some broccoli that would go with the Chicken. I usually serve some type of rice (you might already have some in the pantry) with fajitas...if you have leftover broccoli, you could toss into the onion/pepper blend. I also toss in quartered tomatoes, if I have them on hand..you could dr. up the rice by making it a spanish/mexican inspired dish by toasting the rice in oil then adding tomato paste, onions, garlic, spices, broth or water.

          I agree with the salad for the chili; if not then some other type of vegetable. I love the pulled pork & potato salad idea; it's what I make myself but it needs something...maybe some garlic sauteed green beans or other similar. I think you can add these few things and still make your budget. Pat yourself on the back for going up for the challenge and if you become really good at it, you might be opening up a can of worms!

          1. You can make basic salads to go with your main courses for dinner maybe. Romaine lettuce hearts are around $4/bag (three in a bag, usually). You can also get a container of button mushrooms, around $2-$3 each. Maybe a few tomatoes (or cherry/grape tomatoes if the budget can afford it, around $4-$5 per container).

            I've actually been making salads with these three veggies + marinated chicken breast for lunches for work all this week, and I got enough mushrooms and tomatoes for five entree-sized salads. If it's a side dish, I'm sure you can definitely make more than five servings. You'll end up with more lettuce than mushrooms and tomatoes, but those three ingredients can be stretched pretty far (especially if you split the grape/cherry tomatoes in half and slice the mushrooms fairly thin before serving).

              1. re: lacunacoil

                LMAO Lacunacoil. So I guess that 6 pound pork shoulder, and 4 pounds of chops, and 30 pounds of bacon isn't going to work?

                1. re: cb1

                  chops? oh now you're just gettin' fancy;)

              2. less you think it is easy to get in and out on forty dollars....what about drinks? snacks? your wife also shops for breakfast, lunch, and snacks , doesn't she? She also probably buys cleaning things, etc?
                I don't think it is too hard to plan 5 dinners for 3 on forty....it is alll the other stuff ....

                1 Reply
                1. re: LaLa

                  LaLa is right - when your wife shops for groceries, it'll include breakfast, lunchboxes, snacks, desserts, household items, etc. It sounds like a fun challenge tho.

                2. You're missing a box of chocolates and and "I'm sorry" card. If she does the shopping, that means you don't have to-- quit micromanaging.

                  1. Thank you all for the suggestions... and I will find ways to add the needed veggies. And the rice suggestion was really appreciated. This was about JUST dinners. I'm not trying to micro manage my wife and her shopping. It was a simple challenge about JUST dinners. Trust me, my wife is priceless, and I treat her that way. We are just having fun to see if I can do the dinners. And normally I would add fish, pasta, etc....but this was just working off of this weeks sale paper.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: cb1

                      There are a lot of things in the supermarket that are cheap without being on sale. Take pasta, for instance. A box of whole wheat pasta ($2), broccoli ($2) and tofu ($2-3) can be two meals- a dinner and lunch. For dinner, boil the pasta and mix 1/2 with stir fried broccoli and tofu. A drizzle of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil adds flavor.

                      For lunch, add steamed or boiled broccoli to the leftover pasta. Bake tofu cubes in Italian dressing or a lemon/garlic marinade. Add the tofu to the pasta with some shredded carrots and a simple dressing and you've got pasta salad.

                      Also, think about frozen fish fillets. Lots of times they're much cheaper than fresh and cook up well too.

                    2. Braised collards or kale are usually pretty reasonable, and pack plenty of nutrition. Great with pulled pork!

                      Leftover chili would be great in a stacked enchilada bake. Put some chili in the bottom of the dish, then alternate corn tortillas, more chili, grated cheddar cheese and sour cream in the layers. Top with cheese, sour cream and sliced olives if budget permits. Bake at 350 until bubbly and lightly browned. Simple and tasty.

                      1. go lurk around on this thread for additional ideas (the poster set up an even stricter challenge)


                        1. Vegetables, as everyone is saying. I wouldn't plan right now for them but go to the store. There are always good sales, ones that are below cost to bring people in the store. Stock up on green leafy vegetables or broccoli types, not the starchy root ones. If you can, save the chicken carcass from the roast chicken and make stock with it so you can have soup (add vegetables--sometimes frozen ones are cheaper) some night with sandwiches. For your turkey chili, use dried beans and save yourself about $4 to add towards vegetables.

                          As dinner goes, it's relatively easy to put together a dinner inexpensively but the catch is putting together a very healthful dinner, inexpensively. That takes more work and planning.

                          1. Three of my favorite cheap ingredients are missing from your dinners: rice, beans, and tortillas. I cook up a pound of beans and a pot of rice every weekend and we eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Mainly burritos, quesadillas, and fried rice. All of these mix well with any sort of meat, cheese or veggies.

                            Concur with those who mentioned cabbage as a great veggie option this time of year. Many, many tasty options from salad to sauteed along with rice and a little meat.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: tcamp

                              The rice from a couple of nights ago (with bean, beef cheeks, tortillas) had enough left to fry some up with some Spam and eggs for breakfast (thanks, Sam and Alan). There's still enough for leftovers of the first night for tonight's dinner. At that point, the rice will be gone and I'll freeze the remaining meat and beans.

                            2. For 2.50 at the farmer's market, I like to get a bunch of beetroot. I try to select a bunch with healthy looking leaves and refuse to let the vendor twist off the tops. The beetroot bulbs I steam and serve with vinaigrette. The tops I slice into 1 inch pieces and stir-fry with anchovies and garlic in olive oil. I get 2 meals worth of veggies out of one bunch.

                              This works for me with baby/Japanese turnips or radishes as well.

                              I like getting two for the price of one :)

                              1. ha! I'm doing a similar challenge next week: ($18, 7 days, 3 meals/day) I would suggest that you forgo a meat item one night and use that money for vegetables. Fresh, seasonal vegetables aren't expensive. Asian greens are great value for your money - since you already have onions and carrots, you could pick up a bit of bok choy and ginger and make a simple vegetable stirfry and brown rice one night for about $3. You can prepare the rice on Sunday as well and then add it to your fajitas (good call on using your leftovers btw) and maybe even substitiute it for your turkey in the chili. the rice and beans will provide enough protein for you and since it's brown rice it will give you the toothfeel that ground turkey would...

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Armack

                                  Armack: I used to do the Asian stir-fry, years ago living in a shared house in SF with housemates who, while I liked, were unemployed slobs who swiped food (rent was cheap). so about once a week I'd swing through Chinatown get a big bag of veggies and herbs and bribe them to clean the house with the promise of dinner. this for 5 people from a guy working for $7 bucks an hour (1991) can't remember what it came out to, but you can be sure it was dirt cheap.

                                2. My mother fed a family of 4 on $25/week (that is the total grocery bill, not just certain)) for a couple years in my youth, Granted $25 went further then, but one thing she did which really helped was she didn't menu plan until the store sale flyer came out. Planning too much in advance and getting caught on what you 'want" to make puts you at a disadvantage. See what is on sale and see what you *can* make with that.

                                  2 Replies
                                    1. re: aletnes

                                      I usually feed myself quite well about $15-20 a week. It takes more work to eat cheaply, and can be a pain in the rear, but it is well worth it when I used to spend double that amount or more on groceries with lots of processed boxed stuff. I completely endorse your mom's advice. I grab sales fliers from the grocery store, then go through them, figure out what's what, and then shop. I've friends who are spending a lot more, and eating a lot less, so it makes me pretty happy to save money.

                                    2. soup soup soup! cheap and healthy- and easy to make for a starter before entree!
                                      root veggies, spinach, potato leek, or just beans , split pea , lentil!