$10 dinners – can it be done?

In the aftermath of recent worldwide economic woes, two US grocers have launched promotions that promise consumers dinners for four that can be served for under $10 US. Likewise, fine dining restaurateur Danny Meyer wrote in the New York Times’ Bitten Blog about how he created a dinner party for four using a $20 US food budget.

I’m a bit shame-faced to say that I really don’t know how much I usually spend to make dinner. Even though we’re only three people, I fear that it often takes more than $10 to feed us. After all, my favourite extra virgin olive oil sells for $18 a bottle and I have more than one kind of salt in the cupboard with a price tag that is close to $10.  I fear I may have run amok. 

Do you have a cheap, wholesome and delicious dinner solution that you’d like to share? And, how closely do you monitor your food budget?  Am I the only one who has no idea how much her dinner choices cost?

7 Responses to $10 dinners – can it be done?

  1. Kitt says:

    I don’t monitor very closely what individual meals cost, but I don’t think you can use expensive salts and oils as a gauge. You’re certainly not using the whole salt container in one meal!

    That said, you can make some very economical meals if you are willing to prepare large batches that you can stretch out. I can make a big pan of lasagna, for example, for under $20, and that works out to 9-12 servings (which I freeze individually). Add a salad and homemade bread and you have a lot of meals for not much money per serving.

  2. danamccauley says:

    Kitt, I agree that my salt and oil habits aren’t breaking my budget on individual meals but regrettably, those kind of splurges are likely indicative of my general shopping approach. Like I mentioned on Monday in my post about cruelty, I do fork out extra for specialty foods that seem to have a green or humane benefit. Fortunately, I’ve been able to afford those kinds of splurges in the past but it looks like times are changing!

    Thanks for your lasagna idea – smart on many levels including economy and convenience!

  3. Cheryl says:

    Dana, I’m like you in that I don’t pay too much attention to what I pay per meal. But I have found myself throwing far less away. I no longer chuck leftovers simply because I don’t feel like eating them — I turn them into something new. (I recently turned leftover bolognese into taco filling.)

    Our favorite economical meal right now is whole wheat pasta with pesto from the freezer (that I made over the summer). I add whatever veggies are in the fridge as well as leftover shrimp or chicken (or not), a healthy drizzle of olive oil, and grated parmesan. We all love it. The olive oil and fresh parm are expensive, but like Kitt said, if you cost them out over multiple meals they’re not unreasonable per serving.

  4. I’m with Kitt and Cheryl on buying good ingredients that go a long way. What’s the point of saving money on olive oil and cheese if the resulting meal doesn’t taste good?

    I find the biggest money saver is cooking from scratch. I’d rather spend money on quality ingredients for homemade meals, than invest in pre-packaged foods where I pay for the convenience and sacrifice taste. Besides, I cook better than The President. (Is it me, or has PC tumbled downhill since Dave Nichols left?)

  5. Hélène says:

    We spend an average of $33/day for 3 meals for 3 or 4 people.

    I find this really expensive but we want fresh products, good Olive oil, balsamic vinegars, real lemons etc. etc. And at that price we don’t eat Filet Mignon, every night. We cut down on meat a lot and I make everything from scratch. We don’t buy cookies, muffins…

    A cheap meal for us is a tomato sauce with pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano on top with a salad and a loaf of warm bread.

    For us it’s hard to save on food because my two teenage boys eat like 4 and ofter they invite friends over.

  6. I usually eat lunch as my main meal and have a light dinner , just with soup. I’m lucky to not have to count the money I spend eating, but I get the sense I don’t spend much, since I tend to eat a lot of pasta and rice and veggies from the market. I don’t think that most people spend most money on their meals, I think the biggest part might go to snacks and extras.

  7. danamccauley says:

    Cookie, if by extras you mean booze, then count me as guilty. I was realizing as I read through today’s comments that the bottle of wine we open to share on a weekend evening is usually worth a lot more than the food it accompanies.

    Helene, you are an inspiration. My son is not quite a teen yet but he’s a tall,skinny, active kid (5′ 6″ and just over 100 lbs) who eats non-stop. I can’t imagine how I’d keep 2 of him satisfied for what you spend. Good work!

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