OK, so maybe you don't have a drive-thru window attached to the side of your house. That doesn't mean that you can't offer affordable menu options at home just like fast food chains. Create your own "dollar menus" and save even more on your next grocery bill.
During my graduate school years, my husband and I had very little disposable income. I had to do a lot of creative thinking and budgeting in order to make ends meet. The area in which I was able to realize the greatest amount of savings was food. I did the math and found that I was able to feed both of us for an average of $2 or less each per meal (did I mention I went to school for engineering?).
So, my dollar-stretching friend, how can you achieve this kind of food economy in your kitchen? A little time invested in research and planning can pay off in double-digit savings each week. Here's a step-by-step guide to get you going.
I really enjoy this method of grocery budgeting because it breaks my grocery bill into smaller, more manageable pieces. Now I view menu planning as a game instead of a chore and that makes it a lot more interesting. Who says saving money can't be fun?
Well, the engineer in me can't resist a little bit of math. Here's a favorite meal in my household that's economical and very tasty. Consider it a freebie!
Garlic Lover's Chicken & Mushroom Pasta with a Caesar Side Salad
|Item||Purchase Size||Purchase Price||Amount Used in Recipe||The Math||Recipe Price|
|bow tie pasta||1 lb||$0.99||8 oz||8/16 x $0.99=||$0.50|
|butter||1 lb (32 Tbsp)||$2.49||2 Tbsp||2/32 x $2.49=||$0.16|
|minced garlic||3 oz container (18 tsp)||$3.99||2 tsp||2/18 x $3.99=||$0.44|
|coarse ground black pepper||4 oz container (24 tsp)||$3.49||1 tsp||1/24 x $3.49=||$0.15|
|fresh sliced mushrooms||10 oz||$1.99||10 oz||10/10 x $1.99=||$1.99|
|chicken strips||16 oz||$3.69||10 oz||10/16 x $3.69=||$2.31|
|chicken broth||32 oz||$2.19||6 oz||6/32 x $2.19=||$0.41|
|caesar salad kit||10 oz kit||$3.29||10 oz kit||10/10 x $3.29=||$3.29|
|Grand Total =||$9.25|
Divide by 4 (servings) = $2.31 per serving
Pasta Preparation Instructions: Boil the pasta according package directions. Drain. In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic, pepper, and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are lightly browned. Transfer the mushrooms to a plate. Add the chicken to the skillet. Cook thoroughly. Return the mushrooms to the skillet and add broth. Cook another 5-6 minutes or until chicken broth is warm. Pour over the pasta.
At $2.31 a serving, this is a well-rounded meal that can really maximize your grocery dollar. But can we do even better? Absolutely. Using fresh garlic, fresh lettuce, homemade dressing, and buying the chicken in larger quantities are a few obvious ways to do so. Armed with a little creativity, some coupons, and your local grocers' sales flyers, I'll bet you can easily make this meal for $1.50 or less per serving.
At that price, maybe you should attach a drive-thru window to the side of your house. You just might give the fast food chains a run for their money!
Kim Randall is a full-time engineer and part-time home business owner living in southern NH.
Take the Next Step:
Discuss "Making a Menu Out of Dollar Store Foods Only" in The Dollar Stretcher Community
Share your thoughts about this article with the editor: Click Here
Sign up for our free eNewsletter Dollar Stretcher for Parents.
Looking for an answer to a frugal living question? Click here to ask a
Dollar Stretcher Stretchpert!
Copyright 1996 - 2013 "The Dollar Stretcher, Inc." All rights reserved unless specifically noted.
Contact the Dollar Stretcher at:
PO Box 14160
Bradenton FL 34280
"The Dollar Stretcher, Inc." does not assume responsibility for advice given. All advice should be weighed against your own abilities and circumstances and applied accordingly. It is up to the reader to determine if advice is safe and suitable for their own situation.