All about $5 Dinners

by Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom on August 22, 2008

Welcome to $5 Dinners!
I love cooking. I love saving money. I love breaking down each dinner meal’s cost with my husband. I love feeding my family healthy, balanced, “from scratch” meals!
I hope you enjoy the site and find some recipes that you can fit into your weekly menu! These meals are perfect for everyone…healthy, nutritious and best of all INEXPENSIVE!
The goal of $5 Dinners: simple…make dinner for $5 or less! I am making meals for less than $5 for our family of 4…2 adults and 2 small boys!
If you’ve got 5 to feed…make it $6 or $7.
If you’ve got a family of 6…it can be $7 or $8!
If you’re Jon and Kate (with 8!!!), make it $15 a meal!
It works. It can happen.
I’ll share my secrets to making $5 dinners for us!

I use menu plans! They are essential for saving money, time and brain power! Once a month, I sit down and make menu plan for the coming month. I look at what’s leftover in the cupboards, freezer and fridge to figure out how to incorporate items into the next month’s menu. I write each night’s dinner on the magnetic calendar on my fridge so it’s always right in front of me! I try to plan meals that use the same “protein source”, like a large pork roast. Ex: One night for roast with potatoes, and 2 nights later for pulled pork sandwiches. Cost of the meat (typically the most expensive part of a well balanced meal!) is reduced by half! Works for me!

I use a budget, and follow it! Our monthly grocery budget is $330. This includes toilletries, cleaning products and obviously food! Diapers are not included in this number, although I might be able to swing it now that my couponing is starting to pay off! If you ate a $5 meal every night of the month, that would be $150 for the month. A little less than half of my grocery budget. That leaves plenty for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and other necessary items (like toilet paper!!!).

We typically eat cereal for breakfast during the week and pancakes or waffles on the weekend. We do sandwiches, leftovers, piece of fruit, granola bar/snack for lunch. The boys usually eat cheese cubes, chicken, cut fruit, peas, quesadillas for lunch. (The boys cannot have bread and many other popular items because of their soy allergy.)

I use coupons. I clip, I print, I hunt! I check for coupons for items on my grocery list each week before I go shopping. I match coupons to sales, rebates…anything to get a cheap product!

I reuse my plastic grocery bags. My Kroger pays $.05 for every bag that you reuse. I keep a stash in my car for anytime I go to the store. I average about $1 a week. That’s $52 on the year! I also check my receipts as I am walking out the door for errors in prices. Since almost all of the food I buy is on sale, I make sure to look for the “sale” signal on all items. If they have charged the incorrect price, customer service will refund you the FULL PRICE of the item (check your store for their policy!). A quick scan of your receipt is worth it!

I know how much we eat! I don’t like food to go to waste. I am very intentional about putting the right portions and portion sizes on our plates. It’s pretty much a guarantee that hubby will have more, and maybe me too. The hard part is the kids! Feeding kids is tricky business! I am getting better and better at giving them the right amounts of the different foods they need to eat and the ones they like to eat. With a little practice, it’s gotten easier and I dump way less food down the disposal! Saves me a few bucks too!

I am a nutrition nut! Why? My 2 boys have special diets. I have researched how harmful perservatives, dyes and hydrogenated oils can be…how they can damage the body! I did metabolic testing on my boys to learn what they are allergic to, not the typical (IgE) hives, runny nose allergy, but a deeper “digestive” (IgG) allergy. I pay close attention to what my boys eat, as I don’t want to be “poisoning” them with processed foods! I send snacks with my oldest to preschool because all the snacks they serve contain soy (his primary allergy) as well as high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, dyes and preservatives. No thanks! Not for my guy!

Because we have had to eliminate many common foods and snacks from our diets, I have learned to cook from scratch and for CHEAP! I use LOTS of raw foods…fruits and veggies, proteins/meats, and complex carbohydrates. I am amazed at the behavior changes in my oldest son. He is much happier, way less moody and tends to enjoy life more when he is eating well!

I shop on the edge of the grocery store. Of course there are many healthy items to be found “on the aisles”, but for the most part I shop on the edge! My grocery store has an organic section that I frequent, which is conveniently located on the edge!

I am so thankful that God has blessed our family, financially, materially, spiritually, emotionally and physically. I believe in being a good steward of all the blessings He has bestowed upon us. Being a good steward of the financial blessings is important to me. It is my calling, as I am the “nourisher” of my family. I find great joy in making great meals for my family. I find great joy in getting the best deal. I find great joy in the “thrill of the bargain”! It is my prayer that I would maintain a healthy balance in my couponing and bargain shopping. I pray that it would not become an idol in my life and that the Lord would continue to bless my efforts to provide nutritious and inexpensive meals for my family!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Noodle August 24, 2008 at 10:35 pm

What a great idea for encouraging inexpensive and healthy meals! I probably have a few I can share. Our grocery budget is $260 per month. :)

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Anonymous October 9, 2008 at 2:40 pm

A great dinner for fraction of what you would spend eating out. This is absolutely a great way to save money! There are so many ways I can make a meal with these items. Whether you are cooking on the stove top, oven, even microwave. This is the way to go. I LOVE IT!

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nichogmom October 21, 2008 at 12:08 pm

I thank God for leading me to your site. I’m a single Mom and money is sometimes an issue as well as time. I too have a young son and have been thinking a lot lately about how what he eats affects his attitude/mood. Thank you so much and keep blogging.

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Donna October 30, 2008 at 7:53 am

Hmmm, I live in OH and a city near me is having there trick or treating tonight because of football….but my friends development changed theirs to tomorrow, so we will be going there.

I have a few of your recipes on my menu for the next few weeks!!!

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katherine November 18, 2008 at 4:36 pm

I came over here from MSM. I’m looking forward to your Thanksgiving series and reading more on your site. You and I have the exact same philosophies on eating and frugal living and stewardship. Our budgets are also pretty similar (mine is a little higher and I only have 3 so far to feed).

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Susancnw December 14, 2008 at 5:07 pm

When my kids were younger, it was a challenge to make the proper amounts. I would keep one serving out for me for lunch the next day and the rest would go into the freezer for leftovers! My DH was out of town several times a month and my neighbor's husband often worked on Fridays & she had 3 kids. We would both pull out leftovers & since we cooked very differently…my kids usually ate her leftovers and hers ate mine…smorgasbord! Laurie and I would get a bit of everything for us. No lingering leftovers and it worked beautifully.

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Theresa Mayhew December 15, 2008 at 9:47 pm

I absolutely love your site . . . from the colors and graphics to the very useful content.

I love cooking from scratch and knowing just what goes into each meal I make for my husband and myself; daughter is grown up and out on her own.

We can turkey soup every year at this time. When turkeys go on sale just before Thanksgiving, my husband and I go buy approximately 10-12 birds. We store them in our freezer, in coolers filled with ice or just outside if the temp is low enough. Then we have a canning marathon for a few weeks.

It provides us with many cases of home made soup that we enjoy throughout the year. One jar = one meal for the two of us. When, on occasion the power goes out we can heat up a jar of soup on the wood stove for a hot meal.

We’ve broken the price down, too so we know what it costs to make and can it.

I’ll be visiting your site often.
Happy holidays,
Theresa

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