Friday, April 17, 2015

$15 Dinners for Four

Earlier this week a friend of mine posted a challenge: "Dinner for 4 to 6 people for $15. What do you make?" I thought: $15 for a homemade dinner of 4 is pretty generous. $10 gets a little skimpy, but $15 is reasonable.

I suggested...
  • Pasta. Onions $1.00; ground beef $8.00 if you go organic + grassfed or as low as $5 if you don't; pasta $2.50, fresh tomatoes $4.00, olive oil (pantry); salad greens $2.00; dressing (fridge); parmesan cheese (fridge). $14.50 is you don't go organic, grassfed beef. Over budget if you do!
  • Roasted chicken thighs are always easy. Chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) 2 pounds $8.00; soy sauce, olive oil, spices (pantry/fridge); rice $2.00; $5 for veggies - zucchini, broccoli, etc.
  • Roasted pork tenderloin: pork $10.00; olive oil, spices (pantry); potatoes $3.00; salad greens $2.00; dressing (fridge).

Then I decided to put the theory to a test. For dinner that night, I made...

Leftover pork, $5.00 (1/3 of roast that cost me $15); quinoa, $1.00 (1/3 of $2.99 box); caramelized onion, $.50; charred shisito peppers, $1.00 (1/2 of $1.99 bag); roasted butternut squash, $3.00; roasted kohlrabi, $2.50; roasted carrots, $.50; black tahini (1 T of an $8.00 jar), estimating $.50; olive oil, spices, salt, pepper, and tomatillo salsa (pantry); parsley, $.50; lemon, $.50. 


TOTAL = $15!! Well, just the food. I cautioned that the budget was completely blown when I uncorked a $30 bottle of wine. Jake and I still had half the bottle, after dinner, so I'm calling that $15. Then I roasted $6 worth of rhubarb and served it over plain yogurt. So, really, I was closer to $40. But the main dinner was only $15. I don't know if that counts for my friend's challenge, or not.

The following evening I completely blew the budget goal by serving 2 whole sea bream that cost $20 on their own. The lemons were from our tree, the other produce was from our CSA, but the dinner definitely cost more than $15. Still, it was delicious. And watching my kids fight over the fish eyeballs...that's priceless!


The third evening, the Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf and I made homemade ricotta gnocchi...


Again, the food came in at $12.75. But Jake and I polished off the rest of that $30 bottle of wine. And we had more yogurt and fruit for dessert. So, just under $35 for everything.

The fourth night, we were on our way to an evening at school. Dinner had to be quick! My go-to is almost always pasta, usually with some veggies from our High Ground Organics CSA. Dinner can be on the table in roughly the amount of time it takes for the pasta to boil.


The pasta bowl itself was $13 for all of us. Then I added a green salad with tomatoes drizzled with olive oil and vinegar. I'll call that dinner $15.

I began to think that a $15 complete dinner for four might not be as easy as I had initially thought. I can certainly get the main dish plate down to $15 for all of us. But when I add in dessert - even just yogurt and fruit - I'm over-budget. If I add in beer or wine for me and Jake, we're definitely over budget.

But, what I didn't calculate: we eat leftovers for lunch the next day. Thankfully the boys don't object to eating cold pasta et al for lunch at school. So, really that dinner figure should be cut in half, right? Maybe it's not as difficult as I thought.

I'm curious. 

What do you think about a $15 dinner for four? 
Do-able? Difficult?? Comment below.

1 comment:

  1. I think if you are on such a strict budget that you can only spend $15 per night on dinner for 4 you are not going to be drinking beer and/or wine with it.....Thank God, we are not in the position to have to budget like that!!!

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