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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]

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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.

                1. For a celebration home dinner, its ok. Normal days should be under $10 total.

                  1. You can have an amazing dinner for much less by going heavy on fresh veggies (broccoli, carrot, onion, cabbage, scallion, bell pepper, tomato) and starches (pasta, potato, rice), and going light on the protein. It amazing how cheap fresh veggies are if you shop what's in season. The good news is that produce is almost always at its very best when its price is lowest.

                    Another strategy is to use "value" cuts of meat (beef chuck or short ribs, pork shoulder, spare ribs) and do a braise or stew. They require a bit of time and planning (enter the slow cooker) but it can be a "champagne on a beer budget" dinner.

                    Soup-salad-sandwiches can be made into a respectable dinner for not a lot of money: use leftover roasts and good bread for sandwiches, and veggies a little past their prime for the soup (especially carrots and celery that you were going to pitch anyway).

                    Quiche and omelets/fritatas are other alternatives that are easy on the dollar and easy to take upscale.

                    Good luck!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: MikeB3542

                      thanks for the tips :)

                    2. Eggs are the frugal diner's greatest friend.

                      1. Fresh & Easy has those packages of eight chicken thighs for $4 or less, which I'll either braise with onion, peppers and some tomato or swab with oil, season well and grill. As we're dining lightly these days we'll have one each plus a salad or cooked vegetable, maybe a bit of brown rice, and some under-$5 wine, and save the rest of the thighs for a cold lunch, chicken salad (we don't really care much for white meat) or chicken molé. A budget of $10 each would thus allow for an incredibly fancy salad! But I figure we're running at half that or less, even if the salad has stuff like Belgian endive and avocado.

                        Protein-and-salad suppers are a good way to lose fat from both your belly and your budget, I've found. I check out what I call the "Used Meat Section", the manager's-special bin in meat departments, for good stuff reduced because it's pushing its sell-by date, but even regular sale items can feed two people for cheap. We eat an awful lot of bone-in pork loin chops, because the boneless ones are so flavorless and boring, but even those can be pounded and breaded to make schnitzels (though that's NOT diet food!). Beef, not so much, except for an occasional pot roast, or a flatiron steak when those are on sale.

                        1. Well first I don't make filet mignon on a regular basis but I could feed my wife and myself for nearly a week on $20 and eat well. Most meals will be $3-7 a plate and there will be leftovers.

                          I don't buy many prepackaged ingredients. Vegetables are bought whole and cleaned and trimmed at home. A 5 lb bag of potatoes runs about $3-4 and will last quite a while. You will save money on the ingredients and build knife skills as well.

                          There is no reason you can't eat better and cheaper at home compared to going out. There are a lot of cheaper meats but you have to know how to prepare them to get the best of of them. I buy 3/4 of a lb of fish for two people and it's plenty. Fish is not something I want leftover except maybe hot smoked salmon which will then be used to make a fish salad. Most other things can be excellent as leftovers or you can reinvent the leftovers into a new dish.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            If your average plate is $5, you're looking at $5 x 7 days x 2 people = $70/week, not $20. I think a lot people on here think $20 goes a lot further than it really does.

                            1. re: Rick

                              Yes, given that we eat a lot of fresh fish my average may be $60-70/wk but there are left overs that are consumed as well. Could you carve down that amount closer to $20/wk, sure. More chicken and inexpensive meats or less meats and more grains and vegetables.

                              1. re: Rick

                                Actually if it averages 5 dollars and he gets left overs out of three meals then it would be:
                                5 x 4 (7 days - 3 days) =20 x 2 people=$ 40 per week

                            2. PennyQ wrote: " .......... a package of baby vegetable for about $4" . For someone watching their budget, this is a lot of money. Also, baby vegetables don't have as much flavor as their mature brothers & sisters and aren't likely to add much to your meal. You are paying a premium for the "cuteness factor". For the same $4 I can buy:

                              1 pound of heirloom tomatoes to make a panzanella salad (using stale bread, EVOO + basil)

                              5 pounds of cabbage - some of this will be slow-braised w/ butter, outer leaves to be stuffed and simmered, make cole slaw, cabbage adds a lot to stir-frys and you'll still have some leftover!

                              4-6 pounds of multi-colored organic carrots at the Farmers' Market. Make a carrot-walnut salad, braise some in fresh orange juice and a bit of ginger, roast some of the most handsome with some potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli for a great accompaniment to garlic-sage roasted turkey thighs (which is what we're having for supper tonight!)

                              4 pounds of summer squash - a mix of zucchini, pattypan, yellow crookedneck squash to make vegetable skewers for grilling, top pizza with some of the leftover grilled squash, fresh basil and mozzarella cheese and use the rest for a vegetable pasta combination.

                              Karl S. is absolutely correct that eggs are a huge bargain. One dozen large eggs weighs approx 22 oz; that's a lot of protein and possibility for about $1. Although a souffle will not fill a hungry man's stomach, it is a thing of beauty and delicious to behold. Use the rest of the eggs to make a fritatta or quiche (and use some of the fresh vegetables - see above).

                              Hearty soups make terrific use of limited budgets, especially if they pack in legumes as well as vegetables and some meat. Speaking of meat, poultry thighs are a full-flavored bargain. Smoked turkey thighs make wonderful braises, sausage can be relatively inexpensive and a little goes a long way. Learn about the cuts of meat - where they come from and how to cook them.

                              If your idea of saving money is to each eat 1/2 pound of filet mignon at home instead of a restaurant, I don't think that the information (above) will be of much use to you. But if you're serious about saving money, make this a fun, interesting project. Turn it into a world tour, visiting different countries at your dinner table each week.

                              Learn about the seasons and what foods flood the market at which time of the year. Read the newspaper ads for grocery stores in your area, exclude Fresh & Easy because you'll pay for the "easy" part, I promise. Visit Farmers' Markets in your area, ask questions. Learn about nutrition and how to combine plant foods to provide complete proteins -- every successful culture has some form of grain-legume (complete protein) in their diet.

                              Many years ago, Julia Child noted that a meal can be Easy, Elegant or Economical and it is possible to have two of these three but it is not possible to incorporate all three. So make your choice. If Economical is #1 on your list, add one of the others - easy or elegant. You can't have it all.

                              Personally, I think your idea of $10 pp for dinner at home is wildly extravagant, day in and day out ($600 a month for dinner is pretty steep). Yes, I spend much more than that some nights, but make up for the veal chops or backfin crab on other nights when we feast on Pad Thai or butternut squash risotto or squash & spinach enchiladas. Good luck on your project and let us know how you're doing.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Sherri

                                i will second the quiche, I made one for just my husband and me and it lasted us three days, totaling six meals between the two of us. Pasta is another good budget food.

                              2. I think a lot of people aren't understanding what you are asking. You didn't ask how to eat at home for as little as possible. You're comparing the cost of eating out to eating some high end at home. Yes, I think the dinner you described for $20 is pretty awesome. My philosophy is I can buy the highest quality ingredients I want at home and save a bundle compared to having a similar meal at a restaurant.

                                An example I like to use is sure, the beer I like is $50/case ($2.08/bottle), but if I go to a local bar for happy hour, I'll be spending $2/bottle on Coors Light. I'd much rather drink my "expensive" beer at home than pay $2 for a Coors Light out.

                                We eat a lot of fish and seafood for dinner, most of it being in the $7-15/lb range. I usually buy a pound total for the two of us. Tonight we each had a beer, guacamole, brussel sprouts, and catfish. Total cost with the alcohol was around $15. If you went out and drank the beer we drank, you'd be at $15 after tax and tip just for the two beers.

                                If this helps you any, we often make fish tacos, buffalo burgers, all sorts of fish, tandoori chicken, leg of lamb, veal, pork brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, and we make guacamole as an appetizer three times a week, We like to make some big items like leg of lamb and large cuts of pork and freeze the leftovers for use in another dish. We like to make lamb rogan josh with the left over lamb, use the pork for tacos and pulled pork sandwiches.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Rick

                                  Thank you Rick! I think I may not have explained myself well enough, but yes, you understood. And I don't eat filet mignon every night, but yeah, it is a nice treat and it beats paying twice or 3 x that in a restaurant. I do at the same time want to try less expensive dishes and they don't have to be $10 per person lol

                                2. Here is a link to a blog that I think could be helpful:

                                  http://brokeassgourmet.com/

                                  She prepares a wide variety of dishes and gives you a breakdown on the ingredient costs/ dish.
                                  This can provide a quick feel for the price range across a large spectrum of meals.

                                  I haven't tried her recipes, but others on this board have been enthusiastic!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: meatn3

                                    @meatn3: thanks for the link, there are some nice looking recipes there. However, minor rant: in calculating the cost of recipes, the writer excludes so called 'pantry' items...including salt, pepper, flour, sugar, basalmic vinegar, and even such items as garlic and EVOO, which can be pricey (I go through a lot of it). I realize that not pricing small amounts of salt, pepper or oil is a practical approach (how do you calculate the value of relatively small amounts of something?), but it will throw off the calculations of the weekly food budget. IMO, this is one reason why, as Rick suggests above, the $20 won't go quite as far as we all think it should....

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      True, but it provides a starting point. If someone seldom cooks at home it's hard to really have an idea of potential costs!

                                      You make a good point about pantry costs, they are a big investment when first establishing a kitchen.

                                    2. re: meatn3

                                      Thank you!!

                                    3. First, I think it's is very possible. One thing that has help me and my partner is looking at a budget monthly or weekly, rather than nightly. Excluding alcohol and restaurants we usually keep our food to about $20-$24 a day when looking at a monthly budget, and I'd say we eat pretty well!

                                      Second -- where on earth do you people live! 1.5lbs heirloom tomatoes for $4? They are $7/lb here... *sigh*

                                      14 Replies
                                      1. re: mateo21

                                        I agree - as I was reading this, I was trying to figure out where these people live to get fresh vegatables so cheaply?? This weekend at the farmers market in DC, you could get 12 stalks of asparagus for $4.50... not exactly how to shop for frugal eating!

                                        1. re: mateo21

                                          That is a great point about budgeting weekly or monthly rather than daily.

                                          One of the reasons, I did my $3 series was because that is how much someone on welfare gets for food. I got tired of all the reports showing how difficult it was to live on that. No, it is not easy. However, the reporters were budgeting that daily rather than over a month which is how someone would have to handle their money. A dozen of eggs can be $3 That would blow a budget for a day, but over the course of the month, fits in well.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            I went onto the California site to see the stats on the food stamps program called CalFresh. The typical monthly allotment for a household is $200/month...less that $7 a day. Just wondering where your $3--I assume per person--came from. I'd be hard pressed to feed a family on $7 a day---and that doesn't include anything like TP, paper towels, household cleaning supplies and such. Makes me feel very lucky to have a job.

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              For federal food assistance (SNAP) $200/month is the maximum amount for a household of one. Monthly allotments are adjusted based on household size and income, with roughly $150-$175 dollars added for each additional person.

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                Does household mean one than one person? It is (was) $3 per person. If you look at the link, the first report had links to a number of stories by reporters citing the $3 per day price.

                                                This was four years ago and all those news stories at the time had to do with trying to influence the government to increase the allotment. I believe there was some upping of the price.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Nope, I'm on foodstamps during an Americorp year in NYS. I got 200 dollars when I started as a single adult, now I am down to 185 due to budget cuts. I have to eat a gluten free vegan diet from some health problems I have. My food budget gets stretched in some awesome ways sometimes.

                                                  1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                    So about $6/day.

                                                    1. re: meatn3

                                                      pretty much, which generally works until I need to restock stuff along the lines of olive oil, maple syrup, tamari etc..the natural food selection at our grocery here is expensive too, 4 bucks a pound for quinoa darn! :)

                                              2. re: rworange

                                                RW - I agree with you on that point - once I buy an oil or other spice, the sunk cost is high but I will have it for a long time. What I thought was interesting in reading through your posts and a lot of other posts is that some of you are lucky enough to have reasonably priced, in season vegatables. The farmer's markets here are quite pricey and while have excellent produce, I can't afford it every day!

                                                1. re: DCLindsey

                                                  I can't say for your area, but one week, go to your farmers market and jot down the prices. Then go into the local supermarket and compare. It might surprise you.

                                                  One of the reasons I specifically chose Ferry Plaza is because it is the most expensive farmers market in the Bay Area.. However, there have always been deals and vendors that hve reasonable prices.

                                                  The well-known fig vendors can set you back over $5 lb. However, the olive oil guy has a fig tree in his back yard and only charges $2 lb. One of the best vendors has no name. He's located next to an foodie type farm with name recognition. They sell strawberries for $7 a basket (and they aren't that great). This no-name guy sells his for $1.50

                                                  Anyway, keeping in mind this was a few years back, I did a comparison of the local supermarket with Ferry Plaza ... Ferry Plaza was cheaper. Sometimes it is packaging.

                                                  Organic herbs sold for $10 lb at Ferry Plaza. Albertson's supermarket sells SF Organics brand fresh herbs ... $1.99 for .75 ounces ... that's $31. 84 lb.

                                                  Anyway, here's the cost comparison I did.
                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/426354

                                                  1. re: rworange

                                                    ...and you can grow your own herbs for pennies. If you swap with friends, too, for their herbs (or fruits/veggies, whatever), it's insanely cheap, but fresher and better than stores.

                                                2. re: rworange

                                                  The actual amounts don't really matter, what matters is the methods you found to save, to stretch whatever dollar amount you had available. And that you did it without existing on day old bread and water for 30 days. Prices have gone up. Food stamp allotments have changed, and are different from place to place. But the ideas of shopping for real bargains, with or without coupons, checking ethnic markets, and of cooking to match ingredients, not shopping to a recipe, of repurposing foods for two or more days, of freezing leftovers for another day or including as part of repurposing, etc. Those are important regardless of the dollar amounts. And believe me, i don't find tomatoes for $3 per pound here in honolulu, at the market, in chinatown, or at the farmer's market.

                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    Agreed! :)

                                                    Particularly the part about cooking around what you have rather than shopping around a recipe.

                                                    We have a pretty varied diet in our home - lots of different ethnic foods: Cuban, Korean, Vietnamese, Mexican, Thai, Indian - and our budget rarely exceeds $3/person for ingredients for the entire meal, pantry items included.

                                                    The little spice section (Tampico seems to be a readily accessible brand in So Cal where I live) in the Hispanic/Latino foods aisle of most groceries is a great resource for dried spices. They offer a wide variety of 1 oz. bags that are usually priced at $1-2 a piece so you don't end up spending $6-7 for a bottle of McCormick's or Spice Islands just to try out a new recipe.

                                                     
                                                    1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                      shopping around a recipe is great for a special occasion, and it gives you an excuse to buy some of those specialty items that you will keep in your pantry long after the initial meal is over. A good way to build a pantry in fact, rather than trying to get it all at one time.

                                              3. In my opinion and experience, the two of you should be well able to eat deliciously on your budget, especially if you have a pantry well-stocked with herbs and spices. Starting from complete scratch could be an issue, if you haven't got things like flour, salt, oil, etc. at home and have to build from the most basic ground-up level. If you don't have a stock, throw some of that money at building one so that your options are more clear to you.
                                                One thing I do when budgeting is a cost analysis: e.g., can I do that at home better and less-expensively than we could in a restaurant? The answer is invariably yes, to a huge degree, but you have to take some things into consideration, especially in the case of foods like prime rib: your small roast will be absolutely delicious, without a doubt; but it's going to be just a little different from a monster-sized, restaurant-roasted prime rib. And sometimes, it's all about the going out itself, which can't be duplicated at home.
                                                But back to your original question: it should present no problem whatsoever to cook within those confines. And filet mignon, at $20/2 (with leftovers, perhaps for hash) IS awesome - far less than half what you'd pay for an equal meal in a resto.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mamachef

                                                  first decide the budget you want to live with on a weekly basis. then decide what you love. The type of food you like to cook and eat will help you stock your pantry (mamachef is exactly right, a well-stocked pantry with the types of spices, herbs, oils, vinegars, etc., means you have on hand what you need to create great stuff with). do menus that are flexible (for example, decide you want "fish" and fill it in with which fish is freshest and most appealing on the day you shop. When you cook for two, it often pays both in time and money to plan a second meal from your ingredients: for example, a chicken can provide roast chicken one night, with leftovers for great chicken enchiladas or an excellent chicken salad the next. Find your taste and you'll find your pleasure in the kitchen. My most expensive spluges are great cheese and great fish and even these are hardly budget-busting for two of us: 12 oz of great swordfish in Boston costs me about 11.00. Plenty for dinner for two. A 1/2 pound of great grueyere and 1/2 pound of artisinal stilton will cost me about 14,00, but will provide desert or snacks for a week for two of us, supplemented by great fruit in season, or poached figs, etc.

                                                2. I agree with another poster that the thread has diverged- that happens.

                                                  Back to your subject and a small story- I dated a man that used to say about my home cooked meals "I'd pay $XX for this in a restaurant", at every dinner. It was kinda cute, but he had a point about how well you can eat at home.

                                                  So, if your goal is to decrease your eating out budget by making restaurant foods at home, you're doing great at $10/head, because a steak dinner out would be much more, depending on the type of place you frequent.

                                                  Depending on your cooking and planning skills, you can emulate many basic restaurant meals at home for far less. If your skills are not great, channel that savings into a cooking class, and you'll save even more!

                                                  I'll toss idea out there: Roasted Chicken. Make a garlic/lemon zest butter and smear under the skin, and roast at 400 degrees for about an hour. toss in some veggies to roast with the chicken for the last half hour, and you're done. The veg you like (asparagus, green beans) would be perfect like this. Make a pan sauce with the fond that will be on the bottom of your roasting pan.

                                                  Then...... what meat you don't eat the first night: Make chicken salad, or chicken pot pie (my favorite thing to do with extra chicken), and freeze the carcass. When you have about 3, make chicken stock.

                                                  So, for a $10 organic free range chicken, you've got at least 2 full meals, probably more, depending on what you do with it.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                    >>> If your skills are not great, channel that savings into a cooking class, and you'll save even more!

                                                    My skills are minimal, so another thought is to buy quality ... it is still less expensive than a restaurant. Think of shortcuts.

                                                    I can't make a pie crust to save my life, but I know the best places to buy pre-made artisan pie crusts. So I can still make that chicken pot pie. and still beat the restaurant price.

                                                    1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                      thank you! sometimes i take that filet mignon and slice it thinly and stir fry it with veggies and pair with asian noodles and get at least 4 servings, so im STILL eating filet for A LOT less and stretching it out :)

                                                    2. Penny - so you're looking for a "nice" night at home, like a friday or saturday night dinner that feels like you are going out, yes? We do that too : )

                                                      Lots of great tips here, I'll second buying seasonally (best taste for the least money) and - buying what looks good and on sale. I don't mean a potted plant but if shrimp is on sale and you've never cooked shrimp, the internet is your friend! Same for salmon (maple roasted salmon is not too pricy and is company good) and, for extra fun --go to costco and get the cooked frozen dungeness crab. Let it thaw (if it has not thawed already) and steam it with fresh cut lemons to warm it up and brighten it. Add a loaf of bread and a salad, melted butter and you'll have a dinner for two that is still under $20 but feels like such a treat.

                                                      I also suggest hitting ethnic markets for great prices and, unusual treats. We are near a korean market that has sushi quality fish for incredible prices and fun, unique ready to go food. Buy an assortment and have restaurant night at home.

                                                      Good luck and have fun!

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: happybaker

                                                        thank you! yes, that's what i meant. I don't mind eating ground beef, and we do, but it is nice to feel like you're having a night out (every night lol) without paying a hefty price. I love when tiger shrimp goes on sale for $7 a pound :)

                                                        1. re: Penny Q

                                                          Penny - look for white shrimp - sometimes form mexico, sometimes Eucador (sp?) on sale. So tender and sweet, they will convert you from Tiger shrimp in a mouthful.

                                                          You can find them on sale at Jons (usually in frozen two pound bags), Henry's and Superking. Or check your closest ethnic market and just ask if the shrimp are white or tiger. Great for scampi, boiled and eaten cold with cocktail sauce, cooked in a curry sauce and served over rice or made into a shrimp salad with good mayo.

                                                          Happy cooking!

                                                          1. re: happybaker

                                                            thank you happy!

                                                      2. I have to wonder what kind of potatoes you are buying that are going to cost a buck a serving.

                                                        1. You can eat anything you want for $20 a meal! No need to worry about a budget if you really have that much to spend. Most home-cooked meals for two people come in around ten bucks or less. You can go much cheaper if you try, but $10-15 is easy.

                                                          1. I usually spend $80 total for three people when I go shopping for a week—and I buy at farmers' markets, buy "sustainable" meat (let's argue about those quotation marks another time), etc.

                                                            Last night's dinner, for two adults and a small child, was a tagine of roasted vegetables, couscous, and roasted chickpeas with salt and mint. There are enough leftovers to have for dinner tonight (I do this on purpose). Dessert was a pound cake with jam or brandied cherries, which will last the three of us four days.

                                                            1 head cauliflower: $2
                                                            4 mixed summer squash: $2
                                                            1 large eggplant: $1.50
                                                            2 red bell peppers: $1.50
                                                            2 Anaheim chiles: $0.60
                                                            1 lemon: $0.25 (market price—I used one from my tree)
                                                            1 bunch mint: $0.75
                                                            1 bunch cilantro: $0.75
                                                            1 bunch parsley: $0.75
                                                            1 basket cherry tomatoes: $1.50
                                                            1/2 box whole-wheat couscous: $1.75
                                                            2 cans chickpeas: $1.60
                                                            1/4 cup olive oil: $1
                                                            1/2 lb. butter: $2
                                                            1/2 lb. flour: $0.30
                                                            1/2 lb. sugar: $0.60
                                                            4 eggs: $1
                                                            3 Tbsp. good preserves: $1

                                                            I'm not sure how to go about putting prices on the spices I used (2 tsp. each cumin, coriander, Aleppo pepper; 1 tsp. peppercorns, 2 cloves garlic, plus a teaspoon of vanilla in the cake), but let's call it $2 worth of spices, which is probably pretty generous, since I buy spices in cellophane bags at a local spice market. I also can my own preserved lemons and brandied cherries, so I'm budgeting for really good preserves.

                                                            That's $20.85, but it's for two nights' meal: $10.43 per night, or about $4.50 per person (the little one doesn't eat as much as an adult). I've often made food for much less. A dish of espinazo en verde con verdolagas (pork spine stew with purslane in green sauce) with tortillas and a simple soup can usually be done for about $1.50 a person.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                              O/T, but "mange l'orange" - BRILLIANT name. Glad to add a new blog to my reading roll. :)

                                                              1. re: inaplasticcup

                                                                Oh no! I haven't updated that blog in aeons... sorry! :(

                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                  LOL. No worries. That's the beauty of your very own blog! Write when you want, don't when you don't, and the rest of us incidentally benefit. :)

                                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                Wow! Party at your house, DU!

                                                                1. re: happybaker

                                                                  Penny, you can probably see that most of we homecooks on this board are fairly rabid about our ability to cook restaurant-quality meals at home for much less money that we would spend if someone else were doing the cooking. Ten years ago when we made the choice that I would become a stay-at-home-mom, one of the things I was determined to do was to make sure we still ate well! Don't get me wrong...I LOVE a good restaurant. But you can save a lot of money cooking most of your meals at home.A few years ago a friend of mine realized that she & her (very busy) family were eating 5-6 meals a week from Applebees or Pizza Hut. Four people were spending between 20 and 40 dollars a night for dinner. She set out on a campaign to learn how to make most of their meals at home. Her strategy was to embrace a magazine (in her case, it was Cooking Light, since they'd also resolved to lose some weight), and every night she chose a new recipe to try. Within a few weeks they had a file of favorites and she was able to create some variations. She was stunned at how much money they saved, even buying pretty high-quality ingredients. And as for your somewhat pricey fillet dinner? The next night, you can make baked-potato soup with some of the spuds in the big bag you bought. Dinner for two is going to run you maybe four bucks, so your nightly average is down to 12 bucks. Shop your most expensive ingredients on sale (I generally head for whatever meat is on the best sale, then go home and google it if I"m not familiar with a good recipe or preparation.) But the idea of following a particular format...a magazine, a couple of reliable cookbooks, a blog...seemed to work well for her to kind of guide her into the habit of cooking at home. Ethnic markets and farmer's markets are truly great sources of ingredients, as are 'price clubs' like Costco and Sams (look for the orange 'sell today' stickers for markdowns for anything you're able to use right away or freeze). I think you'll enjoy it once you get rolling.

                                                                  1. re: tonifi

                                                                    thanks for the input! :)