Thursday, May 30, 2013

A $25 Dinner Menu

I like good dinners but hate having to pay for them.  Eating regular restaurant meals just isn’t an option; therefore, we’ve have to look to create meals on our own that are not only delicious but affordable as well.  Over the years, we’ve gotten pretty good at finding such options.  We’ve actually been able to build a menu not only provides us with some variety in our meals but that saves us money too.

Teriyaki Chicken with Veggies and Noodles
This is one of our favorite dishes.  It combines teriyaki marinated chicken with a bag of frozen vegetables (and sometimes fresh onions, peppers, and mushrooms if we have some on hand), and rice noodles.

It’s a delicious meal in which I shred the chicken so that it absorbs more of the teriyaki sauce, and it only costs us about $4.00, maybe $4.50 if we throw in those extra fresh veggies I mentioned.

3 chicken breasts (about 1 lb.) -- $2.30
1 bag frozen vegetables -- $1.10
1/3 package rice noodles - $0.50

Total cost -- $3.90

Pizza Night
We get an awesome “take-‘n-bake” frozen pizza from our grocery store (Aldi) for $4.99.  We really like the 16-inch, five-cheese pizza they offer, which combines mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, asiago, and romano cheeses.  I’m bad, because I add extra mozzarella and then put the oven on broil for the last few minutes to really melt all the cheese.  It’s awesome!  And it feeds our family with leftovers for lunch the next day.

Pizza -- $4.99
Extra cheese -- $1.00

Total cost -- $5.99

Self-made Hamburger Helper
This meal isn’t one we do every week, but it makes a nice filler for nights when we just don’t feel like doing much cooking.  A box of shells and cheese and a half pound of ground beef make this a quick, easy, and affordable meal.  Lately, my wife has been requesting that I use half a packet of French onion soup mix to flavor the ground beef.  She likes her burger on the side with ketchup, as does our five-year-old son.  Personally, I like mine mixed in with the shells and cheese. 

If we’re still a little hungry after this meal, we might have a bag of microwave popcorn later in the evening.

Mac n’ cheese - $1.39
Half pound burger $1.50
Popcorn - $0.75

Total cost -- $3.64

Typically I start with three chicken breasts that I cook, shred, and add hot enchilada sauce to.  Depending upon my mood, I might also sauté some peppers and onions; however, it’s not integral to the meal.  Then I melt cheese on some tortillas, cook some dirty rice that we can either eat on the side or add to the tortillas as filler, and we have a plentiful meal without much in the way of cost. 

This is another meal that often provides enough leftovers for lunch or another complete dinner, so it’s kind of a two-for-one type deal.

Tortillas - $0.50
3 chicken breasts (1lb.) - $2.30
Enchilada sauce ½ can - $0.75
Shredded cheese - $0.75
Dirty rice – $1.50

Total cost -- $5.80

Breakfast for Dinner
Another cheap family favorite is breakfast for dinner.  My wife is a wiz at whipping up French toast, and we get delicious maple sausages 10 for $1 at the grocery store, so this ends up being a quite low-cost dinner option to work into our regular meal plan.

French toast (8 pieces of white bread and 3 eggs) -- $0.85
Syrup - $0.50
Whipped topping - $0.50
Sausages - $0.50

Total cost -- $2.35

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