How to Make Dinner for $5 or Less

recession guide

5 dollars

Can you cook a well-balanced dinner for your family for $5 or less?

Erin Chase, mother to two toddlers, does just that almost every night of the week on her blog, $5 Dinners.

We asked Erin for some "real" advice on how to feed a family on such a tiny budget ...


CM: I was surprised to see that so many of your meals have meat, which is great, because meat is one of the more expensive things on a grocery list! What are your tips for buying meat so cheap

Buy your favorite cuts of meat when they are on sale. If you just have to have boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or boneless pork chops, buy them when they are on sale for less than $1.99 per lb. Buy a few packages, and freeze those that you won't use right away. If you worry about freezer burn, you can use a vacuum sealer or food saver system to keep the food fresh! This way, when you want to make another chicken bake two weeks after they were on sale, you don't have to pay full price, $4.99 per lb!

And always be on the lookout for "marked down" stickers! Stash the meat in the freezer if you aren't going to use it right away!

It seems that the secret to $5 dinners is planning ahead. But how do you plan ahead if you are not sure what is going to be on sale?

I plan my meals each week and month based on what I have in my freezer. Some weeks I will plan meals based on sale prices, if there are good deals that week. If not, I will "shop from the freezer," as I know those products were purchased at their lowest prices.

How can moms get into the habit of planning ahead?

There are so many different meal planning sites and software out there! I recommend browsing through the many meals plans that are posted each week at Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday carnival. Each week almost 500 bloggers share their meal plans for the week. You will surely find a new meal idea and will be inspired to write out a plan!  It takes 28 days for something to become a habit, isn't that how it goes? So make it a goal to plan four weeks worth of meals, one week at a time. After the first month it will be a "habit"! Your pocketbook, your brain, and your family will definitely thank you!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?

Currently, I am doing my grocery shopping at Walmart because I won a year's worth of groceries from them. I entered a money-saving tips video contest on You Tube hosted by Walmart. And I won!!!

Before my new Walmart shopping adventure, I shopped exclusively at Kroger. I had a stockpiling system all figured out and was buying groceries for just $60-75 a week!

How can moms get free items?

Don't use your coupons right away! Manufacturers make you think that you need to use them right away. With a little patience, research and persistence, you will quickly learn when to best use your coupons to get free items! Example: Let's say a $.75 coupon for Colgate comes out in your newspaper the same week that it's advertised on sale for 2/$4, or $2 each. You'd be tempted to use the coupon because the product is "on sale."  Hold onto your coupon because a few weeks later, and before it expires, that same product will be on sale for $1. If your store doubles coupons, then the toothpaste will be free!

Want to hear more from Erin? Visit Toddler Buzz where she talks about feeding her two toddlers and suggests a good, toddler-friendly meal.

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