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Dinner for 2 at home: Is it possible to pull it off for $10 or less per person? [moved from Not About Food]

Or is that too much? So, I am trying not to go out to eat as much and stay in more. It is only myself and my husband, so I figured this could be a lot easier on our pockets. Does anyone have recipes that are great tasting and cheap to make? For example, at Fresh and Easy I can get 1lb of filet migon for about $13 and a package of baby vegetable for about $4. If I maybe add some potatoes to make mashed potatoes, that will run me about another $2 more. So, $20 for 2 people and its filet mignon, is that awesome? or not?

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  1. $20 for two seems like a lot to me. For that amount I could do a nice dinner for four and throw in a bottle of wine from Trader Joes. It would probably be some kind of braise to keep the meat cost down, but it would have a veg salad as a starter and a fruit crisp or such for dessert. And if the other couple brings a second bottle of wine, well you've got yourself an evening. Of course, if you went vegetarian you could get by for even less, and if you don't drink alcohol....

    1. $20/night for dinner for two? Honestly, you should be able to provide enough food for 3 meals/day for $20. No, you won't be eating 8 oz of beef every night, but should you really, anyway?

      2 Replies
      1. re: pramjockey

        no, i don't expect to eat filet mignon every night and i don't. that's a treat lol. but that's why i'm asking for help. i want something flavorful and of course affordable.

        1. re: Penny Q

          To echo what others have said, things that taste best tend to be those that are in season, which conveniently enough tend to be what's on sale. By shopping for bargains you'll not only stretch your grocery dollar, but end up with better food to boot. And as an added bonus, your menus will be more varied than if you just cooked the same things year in and year out.

          For example, tonight's dinner is going to be lamb rib chops, steamed artichokes, pommes dauphinoise, and a salad made with butter lettuce, cucumber, sliced radishes, and goat cheese. At full prices, the ingredients would have cost about $60. Thanks to sale pricing (especially a manager's special of $3/# for the lamb chops), it's going to be well under $15. And that's enough to feed four people with leftovers.

          Another thing to consider is shopping at non-mainstream ("ethnic") markets. A carniceria near my house has meats and Mexican cheeses that are consistently less expensive than the supermarket next door. And the Asian markets in my town carry produce costs a tiny fraction of what you'd pay at Safeway, and there's always more variety and often better quality.

          Speaking of Asian cooking, another way to really stretch the food budget is to treat meat as a seasoning. Much as I love a nice mid-rare steak, that much meat should be the exception rather than the rule. In a stir-fry of baby bok choy and oyster sauce, a couple of ounces of beef per serving results in a pretty "meaty" dish; if you were to serve the meat separately, the same portion would look pretty stingy.

          So yes, $20 for 2 people is pretty awesome for a filet mignon dinner, especially if you're using restaurant prices for comparison. But you can do a whole lot better if you set your mind to it. It's all a matter of know-how, shopping savvy, and the priorities you choose to set.

      2. sounds like a lot to me too, there are so many recipes with ground beef, half a chicken, pasta with a vegetable sauce, a salad with canned tuna and eggs, a great omelet, fish and vegetables.

        1. Yep, awsome compared to what you'd pay for that meal in a restaurant.

          However, as others said, $20 is alot for a home meal.

          What are you looking to do? Are you trying to replicate restaurant meals at home?

          Otherwise, you can go really low. This was an old post about 3x3 - eating 3 meals at home for $3 a day.
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/429348

          One week I even shopped at the most epensive farmers market in SF and met that goal.
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/429332
          A few $3 dinner that week included:
          Dinner: Mastrelli’s mild Italian sausage with gypsy peppers, green salad (deer’s tongue lettuce, yellow tomato, amira cucumbers, vinaigrette), glass of red wine, 1/2 Anana melon with fresh raspberries

          Dinner: ginger chicken leg, All Blue and Rose Finn potatoes, jade green beans, strawberry rhubarb gelatin

          The thing is to buy in-season and what is on sale.

          5 Replies
          1. re: rworange

            $3 a day? wow? thanks for the links. I guess i'm looking for variety without really skimping on meat. i mean, dang, even ground beef is expensive these days lol. i guess i do have to learn to stock up on veggies, although i'm really only a fan of asparagus and green beans. i think i tend to eat out because i feel i run out of ideas and eventually i get bored with what i cook. so yeah, i guess variety and great taste (on the cheap) is what i need :)

            1. re: Penny Q

              rwo's 3 dollars a day was a great series. That was almost 4 years ago, so maybe you would have to up the ante a bit (4.00/4.50.) But at $10/meal, even for dinner, you are gonna be eating a lot of food.

              1. re: Penny Q

                The only reason I was heavy on veggies for that particular week was because everyone was always complaining how expensive the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is and I got tired of it. Even there you can buy exquisite veggies and keep the budget to $3 a day for 3 meals.

                Anyway, the overall things I learned apply with whatever food you are eating.

                Look for what is on sale. If hamburger is on sale, stock up and freeze it. If some fish or chicken is particularily inexpensive that day ... ditto.

                Buy the bargain and THEN figure out what to do with it.

                And the web has a zillion ideas. Plug your ingredients into Google such as "recipe, chicken, xxx, yyy, zzz"

                Use the home cooking board for ideas ... post something like "Creative ideas needed for dinner. Have a chicken and xxx" ... whatever you found on bargain that week.

                Also, it is good to freeze some dinners so you don't always have to cook and are able to resist the urge to eat out.

                Look in the library for cookbooks. Take some cooking classes.

                Search the web for zillions of ideas. Plug something like this into Google "recipe, chicken, xxx, yyy, zzz". Whatever it is you have on hand.

                1. re: Penny Q

                  Stock up on veggies - yes, that's what I do. Your first post said $2 for potatoes to make mashed. For $2-4, depending on time of year, I get ten pounds of spuds, and they last easily for two months in a cool, dark place. Same thing with onions - a 10-lb bag lasts a couple of months, and I like onions. I watch for frozen veg to go on sale, and stock up, especially on the better mixes (california, asian, italian). That gets your portion cost for 1/3 of your meal down to about $0.50 each.

                  Use those, buy whatever meat/fish/chicken is on sale, and add fresh fruits/greens, and you should not only be able to meet your under-$20 goal, you could even get a half decent bottle of wine to go with it.

                  1. re: FrankD

                    There's potatoes and there's potatoes. I've spend $5 - %7 lb for heirloom rare pink/ purple, etc Andin varieties ... worth it? Not Usually, but I'm still playing less than if the same two tiny potatoes were on my plate in a restaurant ... I buy from the same vendors they do.

              2. One pound leash-walked humanely slaughtered chicken breast: $6
                Rice for 2: Figure about $1 even though it's far less. (I'll add the power for the stove into this one)
                About a pound and a half in season semi-heirloom tomatoes: $4.50
                Little bit of onion: $0.50
                Assorted spices from pantry: $0.50

                So about $12.50 for what ends up being 3 servings of Balti Tomato Chicken, and that's on the expensive side for us.