How to Make Dinner for $5 or Less

Food & Party 22

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.


dinner, family meals, food, food blogs, grocery shopping, kid-friendly, recession guide, suggestions

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ilove... ilovemyson2002

buying hambuger help  or get ham n make sandwishes

mount... mountaingal6542

cook whatever chicken  pieces you might have in 2 qt. of water, add 2 chicken bouillion cubes.  cook until the chicken is done, then debone it and add back to the broth. add dry noodles and cook, using directions.., or, make homemade noodles.  Place 2 cups flour and a tea salt in a bowl, mix and make a "well" in the center of the flour,  add 2 egg  yOLKS and 1 whole egg, with water, added a little at the time, until the dough is stiff enough to hold together.  divide the dough into halves.  roll the dough in a retangle 1/8 in thick.  With a pizza cutter or knife,  cut into long strips, (be sure to use plenty of four so the dough won't stick) when you've cut all the dough into strips, put into the boiling broth. Cook, checking after 15 min. and frequenty until noodles are done.  Be sure to check, because over cooking fresh noodles will turn to "glue" if overcooked. 

kimmykim kimmykim

We try and stay between $5 - $10 a day for our food.  Sometimes its less and that is always awesome!!  I shop sales, my husband hunts (so a lot of our meat is wild game) and we eat out of our freezer/pantry a lot. 

marin... marinewife26

Tuna Casserole is super cheap and makes a ton.  Can of tuna, can of cream of celery (or mushroom), bag of noodles (precooked), cheddar cheese (or whatever kind you like), splash of milk. 


Preheat oven to 350, combine all ingredients in a 13x9 pan (spray with cooking spray first)  bake for 20 minutes.  Make with a side veggie (corn, green beans, mixed veggies, peas, etc) or toss the veggies into the casserole for a one-pan easy clean up.


I make this when I need a cheap,easy meal...but its honestly my family's favorite.  It costs between $4-$6 and makes enough for my family of 3 and then half the pan leftover for the next days leftover lunches for me and my husband.

mhardy25 mhardy25

I have a family of 7.  6 of which are boys.  3 of which are teenage boys.  We are able to feed the family on $260 a month at Sam's, $24 on canned veggies at a discount store (48 cans) and $20 at the bread store.  We have full sit down dinners every night (meat, veggies, breads).  My husband and I worked out the kinks in our shopping when we realized that we were spending 4 times that shopping at the local grocery store.  Sam's Club has an online shopping tool called "Click 'n Pull"  this allows us to order all our items (except fresh meats) online.  They get everything together for us  (and put it in boxes) and send an email when it is ready to pick up.  This helps to eliminate impulse buying.  When we pick it up they gather everything together with a list of what we bought and what quantity.  While they gather (from the freezer and cooler, etc) we grab the meats and check out at a special counter.  We can get everything we need in the LARGE quantities that we need there without having to bargain shop.  We do still look in the local grocery adds for sales on meat.  If we find something for a really good deal, we stock up and freeze it then reduce our order at Sam's. 

mom-1... mom-1kids-3

I LOVE Erin's blog.  I check it out everyday.  She's taught me a thing or two.

stars... starsmom13

Hi was wondering if you could recammend any websites that could help me plan meals for the week.

lizan... lizandolivia

I'm still trying to convince my Husband the best way to make our $400 a month FOOD BUDGET last is to buy in bulk what is on sale but he's very resistant - He had a small break through a couple weeks ago when Walgreens had TP on sale for .25 cents a roll - he went before work and after work for the entire week becaus their limit was 4 rolls. We haven't had to buy TP in more than 4 weeks and still have some left - so everytime he tells me we can't "afford" to stock  up on Round Steak when its on sale for $1.99 I show him the bathroom linen closet stock piled witih TP - Hopefully this is the breakthrough I needed so he'll understand we are spending more than we too!!! I love this Site and $5.00 dinner - I just found it and I'm having information overload with all the Great stuff!! Keep it coming PLEASE PLEASE!

lizan... lizandolivia

$266 at Sams for a Family of 7 - OK I am DEFINATELY doing things wrong here - we are a small family of 3 - our daughter is 5 and is EXTREMELY picky so her variety of foods is very limited and I find myself going over our $400 budget by at least $50 - $100 every month - boy I am glad I found this site!

jazzm... jazzminesun

We're at $300 per month for a family of three, but I do a lot of stockpiling so we could probably get by without shopping for about a month.  The site has great ideas, but the quoted prices are still way cheaper than what things cost even on sale out here in southern Cali.  :) For those of us in really pricey places to live, it should be calle $6 or $7 dinners.

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