The Cooking Crunch: Feeding A Family on $100.00

photo courtesy: Google Images, Huffington Post

We are talking about the fact that in 2007, 26.3 million Americans were using the SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) to help feed their families. SNAP was formerly known as food stamps. Let there be no mistake that in 2013 those numbers rose to a staggering 47 million. It's now August of 2014 and I can only imagine from the hike in prices at my local grocery store that that number has risen even higher.

When I decided to start blogging as a way to keep my mind active, I chose the name Cooking on A Budget because it's what I lived. There were four of us here at the time and I was amazed at how well I fed my family of four and shopped for an average of $90.00 per week which included paper goods and cleaning products. Both kids were still here but my youngest at the time was a Senior in high school and my daughter in her late twenties.

Now there's two of us. My husband and myself and I am struggling more now than I did before to keep a tight grocery budget. For one example - mussels which I've been getting for $2.99 per pound just jumped to $4.99 per pound at our store. That's one thing I could count on to use in a good meal - nutritional, tasty and inexpensive. But now they've joined the ranks of the other land proteins.

So the big question is: how do we possibly feed our family a decent meal on very little money? Once again, I checked through my personal recipes to come up with solutions to this dilemma and engaged the help of my friends in the blogging community. I asked them to provide recipes for which they thought the total cost of the recipe would be between $10.00-$12.00 total to make. The response was fantastic and I'll be featuring a variety of recipes here with links back to their pages for the recipes as well as their Facebook food pages.

****************Please note: all photographs in this post have been used with written consent from the individual owners of the recipes provided. No unauthorized use of these photographs may be used without prior written consent from the owners themselves.****************************

Often my recipes are inexpensive because I have a good pantry of spices and other ingredients I cook with all the time on hand to use in the recipes. When I am getting low (Parmesan cheese for example) I look to get one as inexpensively as I can to have as back up. So the key to keeping the cost lower is having an ample spice cabinet of everyday types of spices and things like diced tomatoes or pasta on hand to whip together a dinner. Menu planning is all about using what you have available and trying to build a meal around that.

The first recipes that we will display will be those using CHICKEN. Starting with my own recipe using chicken thighs which I am finding is the least expensive of the chicken parts and when on "sale" they are very cheap. But don't tell anyone - because the price will sky rocket on those as well!

Follow the link to my recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs. Basic ingredients include chicken thighs (bone-in, skin on) carrots, mushrooms, frozen baby peas and pearl onions, creamed canned soup, chicken broth and a touch of half and half with some everyday spices.
I estimate this dinner costing $10.40.

This next dish is Chicken & Spinach Pasta Bake by My Life Well Loved.
The basic ingredients in this beautiful dish include: chicken breasts, pasta, frozen spinach, cream cheese along with mozzarella cheese, onion and diced tomatoes with some spices.
To make this dish economical, take advantage of a package of 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts and cut them up or get a family pack on sale and split them using some for this recipe and the rest for one to two more dishes.
Buy a store brand of cream cheese unless the recommended Philadelphia Chive and onion cream cheese is on sale. If you purchase the store brand you can add freeze dried chives to it and I think it will taste close. Freeze dried chives is usually in with my spices at all times. I estimate this dinner at $10.76.

We have a Rustic Chicken Slow Cooker Stew recipe from Who Needs A Cape. There are not a lot of ingredients in this recipe that gets cooked in the crock pot. The basic ingredients are: boneless and skinless chicken, carrots, onion, red potatoes, a little bit of milk and some spices that include Lawry's Season Salt. If you use the lesser of the two price wise between regular carrots and baby carrots, I estimate this dinner to cost right around $9.00. Hand pick your red potatoes so you buy only the amount you think you will need, unless of course a bag of red potatoes is less expensive. Always price compare in the store!

This next recipe I actually made here and blogged about. However, the original recipe for Sticky Chicken from my dear friend Linda of Meal Planning Maven is so economical because it can use the least expensive part of the chicken which are the thighs and drumsticks. Trust me, this recipe is good, really good and your family will love it. The basic ingredients in this dish are: chicken thighs and drumsticks, apple cider vinegar, apricot (or peach) preserves and maple syrup or honey along with balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard. Getting the chicken on sale and based on my guessing you have maple syrup at the ready your total cost for this dinner will come in at right around $11.00.

What about an easy weeknight meal of Chicken Chow Mein from Crumbs in my Mustachio is about as easy, peasy as you can get. For this recipe you can load up on the vegetables (calls for frozen) and cut the chicken down into bite sized pieces.
So the basic ingredients for this quick meal are: chicken, chow mein noodles and canned bamboo, water chestnuts and baby corn, as well as chicken broth and soy sauce and green onions.
I am approximating the cost of this dinner to be around $10.52. Shop your Wal-Mart and Job Lots Stores for prices on some of these ingredients - you just may find some great bargains.

Sweet and Tangy Siracha Chicken recipe from Kitchen Dreaming uses so few ingredients. If you are unfamiliar with siracha it is a spicy sauce made with red chili and garlic, served with Vietnamese and Thai cuisine. I have a partial bottle in my pantry and it's tangy and spicy at the same time. It was available in my stores international aisle. I love that Kitchen Dreaming used the thighs and drumsticks for the recipe making it more economical. The basic ingredients in this dish are: chicken, honey and siracha. The total cost for the chicken $10.79. Add in some sauteed zucchini for a side at roughly $1.29 more or $2.29 for frozen baby peas.

This final chicken recipe is for Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad. This is one of my recipes right here on the blog.
It's filling and delicious and you can definitely stretch the chicken in the recipe. You have vegetable, protein and starch all in one dish.
The basic ingredients are: chicken, romaine lettuce, Parmesan Cheese, dressing and croutons.
I made this dish for right around $10.38.

Moving on to other varieties of recipes that you can make using pantry items you have with not a ton of extra money are some more great recipes from my blogger friends. Also I am big on creative use of left overs.

This first recipe is when you have made a batch of spaghetti sauce (from garden tomatoes you've canned or from when you stock up on the 10 for $10.00 cans of sauce making product) and you've cooked up a big batch of spaghetti and don't just want left over spaghetti another night.
Also, when you get pasta on sale - load up on your favorites.
The recipe is Spaghetti Pie from A New York Foodie. It's simple to put together and the main ingredients are: left over pasta, mozzarella, ricotta and Parmesan cheese and of course some left over sauce.
The cost for this great make over meal came in at around $8.49.

 You can't beat the economical meal of Preacher's Macaroni Casserole from Aunt Bee's Recipes. Using two canned soups along with pasta and beef and you have a winner of an easy dinner to prepare. The basic ingredients in this dish are: ground beef, pasta, cream of mushroom and tomato soups, onion and celery and spices - including Lawry's Seasoning Salt. See you now have two recipes using that!! I figured the cost of this recipe to be just about $9.39.

Next up is this Hearty Polish Sausage and Beans recipe from The Hungry Belgian. This is a meal stretcher and will feed a lot of people. If you are a smaller family then you could always freeze left overs. The combination of ingredients meld together in beautiful harmony!
The basic ingredients in this dish are: Polish sausage, canned beans and tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices and bell peppers. The recipe as is cost just about $12.93. You can bring the cost down a bit by using all green pepper instead of red as the green are less expensive per pound saving about $1.56 from the cost, making this dish right around $11.37.
Look for the brand of sausage that fits your budget and shop the vegetable and international aisles for the best price on the canned beans.
And again, when you have that 10 for $10.00 sale bonanza at your store - stock up on some canned tomato products.

This next dish is a soup recipe that I happen to like very much: Split Pea Soup with Ham from Lemony Thyme. Not long ago our next blogger's mom was able to get ham bones for free at Honey Baked Ham Stores - but now they charge around $5.00 which still is fairly inexpensive and I'll bet they have some nice ham on them. If you have a bone-in ham you've gotten on sale for a dinner of New England Boiled Ham Dinner, then the next step in creating another dish would be soup.
The basic ingredients in the dish are: ham bone with ham attached, split green peas, onion, garlic, celery and carrots and spices. You are looking at $10.16 based on getting a ham bone. If you make it from a bone in ham you've cooked already then this soup decreases in cost to $5.16. How can you beat that?

Coming in at just two cents over the 10-12 dollars I outlined for these recipes I just had to include this one. It's different and there's no meat in the recipe - it's all vegetables.
Grilled Corn, Peppers and Black Bean Tacos from Grab A Plate are unique and sound delicious.
The main ingredients to the dish are: tortillas, black beans, cabbage, lime, poblano peppers, sour cream, spices.
Trim the cost in any way you can by purchasing on sale ingredients or using store brand products. Also if you have coupons for any of the products, by all means use them.
Recipes are meant as a starting point so remember you can tailor most any recipe to fit your needs and your budget!

In the Kitchen with Jenny has a blog post with a round up of 20 - yes twenty ground beef meals that you can make ahead and stock in your freezer. Ground Beef Meals provides instructions and recipe links in the post to the best of the best meals that will fit most any budget. Meals like Pasta e Fagioli, Cincinnati Chili and Unstuffed Peppers to name a few.

Our next contribution comes from Family Gone Healthy and is a Chickpea and Spinach Curry that is made in the slow cooker.

The basic and simple ingredients used in the dish are: chickpeas, spinach (fresh or frozen), marinara or pasta sauce along with brown rice, garlic and spices.

You can absolutely used canned chickpeas or start with dry in this recipe. Place in your slow cooker while at work or play and you come home to a great meal.

Courtney guesses this meal to be around $5.00 to make.

This One Skillet Pasta Meal from 365-ish Days of Pinterest looks so delicious and just wait till you see the approximate total cost!
The main ingredients in the dish are: smoked sausage, bow tie pasta, cheese, onion and garlic, as well as some heavy cream, spices and cheese.
I mentioned cheese twice because the author of this recipe kind of went crazy on the cheese! You can keep the cost down by just using one bag of cheese and I would guess if you have half and half and not heavy cream that would be an acceptable replacement.
This one skillet dinner will cost approximately $8.68 providing you take advantage of cheese on sale.

The next recipe round up comes from Debi of Life Currents. Her Budget recipe post includes a link to 25, yes twenty-five of her best budget meals. Choose from  Avocado-Miso-Tahini Pasta, a no crust Broccoli, Leek and Mozzarella Quiche or Summer Veggie Fritatta to name a few. Guessing that the recipes come in anywhere from $5.00 to around $11.00 depending on which recipe you choose. Debi has some really low cost recipes in the line up and I give it two thumbs up.

A different spin on macaroni and cheese comes from Lynnette of Moore or Less Cooking Blog and it's for Nana's Mac and Cheese.
Main ingredients include: ground beef, pasta, tomato and cream of mushroom soups along with onion, cheese and some olives for a different flavor profile.
I approximated the cost of the recipe at $10.76 but that was not including the olives. Perhaps olives are something of a staple in your home but I don't purchase them so really could not give a guess on the price.

Our next featured recipe is from Kc of The Kitchen Chopper whose recipes are "chopped". Chicken Hash chopped salad was inspired by an Ina Garten recipe. Kc has made it super healthy and delicious. Now this recipe has an abundance of produce in it so take advantage of good produce deals and your farmers market for the freshest and least expensive produce for the dish. You only need 8 ounces of chicken for this dish so one large chicken breast will probably be enough.
The main ingredients are: chicken, green beans, onion, red potato, bell pepper and yam or sweet potato, spinach, avocado, herbs and spices. You can change up these ingredients to suit your taste and budget. Kc provides a tasty dressing to go along with, but again your choice.
This meal can be made if you budget the number of ingredients and "chop" just what you need to satisfy your families appetite for right around $12.00.

Pasta Fazool recipe comes from Joanne of What's On The List. A meatless Italian soup made with pasta and beans that is a definite budget meal for the family. I am sure you can use frozen spinach and peas in this recipe which will help bring the cost down. Also, my mother used a frozen green bell pepper eons ago when making chili, so check the store for the price of frozen green peppers for making soups and chilies as it may be less expensive than fresh and when you are long cooking it won't make a difference.
Basic ingredients in the recipe include: pasta, two kinds of beans, pepper, onion and celery and carrot along with diced tomatoes, chicken stock, peas and spinach.
I am estimating this recipe can be made for around $11.48.

One of the final recipes in this series is from blogger Nicole of Pic-Nic who hails from Australia is her Chili Chicken and Jalapeno Burrito with Spicy Rice.
I chose this recipe of Nicole's because it can be economical and this recipe also calls for siracha. So you now have three recipes you can use this condiment in!
The basic ingredients to this recipe are: chicken, tortillas, cheese and sour cream, jalapenos, rice, onion and garlic, spices and chicken broth and diced tomatoes.
In order to bring the cost down you can use bouillon cubes rather than chicken broth and be sure to look for sales on the cheese, sour cream and chicken. One pound of chicken or less is required for the recipe. I am guessing this recipe just for the burrito comes in around $8.01. If the rice recipe brings the cost over your budget than just have the burritos by themselves or look for an on sale boxed rice that goes along with this meal.

Pasta Primavera recipe comes from One Tipsy Chick.
The nice thing about pasta primavera is that you can use any vegetable you like in the dish.
In this dish the basic ingredients are: pasta, broccoli, tomatoes and spinach with spices. Easily suited to fit your own budget and taste this recipe is most economical.
You can make this pasta for $6.00 or less depending on what you choose for vegetables. It's also a great dish to use up some vegetables that need to get used before you have to toss them!

A while back I did a guest post for my friend Didi of Dishin with Didi. It was a Cavatelli with Sage Parmesan Sauce. A killer good recipe and cheap. It costs about $4.72 to make and can be a meal all by itself.

This recipe from Joanne of Winelady Cooks knocks my socks off.  The recipe is Zucchini Parmigiana. If you have an abundance of zucchini coming out your tush during the summer or even buying it at the store for $1.29 a pound, this dish is a solid supper meal.
The basic ingredients are: pasta sauce, zucchini, mozzarella, bread crumbs, olive oil and spices. I am fairly certain this dish can be made for around $8.00 or less. (That's why you make big batches of red sauce and freeze it.)

As a final note I would really like to thank the contributing bloggers who provided the recipes for this post. Without them I could not have provided you with the array of budget recipes. If this post proves one thing it is that you can cook good food to serve your family within $100.00 a week for food. If you plan your meals for dinner and provide for maybe one night of left overs and another make over meal night, you can do this!


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