When we started talking about the Dinner Challenge idea last week, I actually started with it being a $15 dinner. Sarah said, “No way, must be cheaper!” And, of course, she was right. $15 is no challenge. So then we were at $10 … and a game of Name that Tune ensued. You know, “I can name it in 5 notes … 4 notes …” and pretty soon you’re the schmuck who thought you could name that song with one note, which is crazy. Aren’t you glad we stopped at $7?
Truth be told, there are different ways of looking at the challenge. For some, it’s possible that $7 isn’t a challenge … package of Ball Park hot dogs, buns, french fries and a bowl of ice cream can be had for $7 and still fulfill the requirements we laid out. But where is the challenge in that? And though I have, ahem, had a slight unexplainable lust for hot dogs lately, I wanted to do better. Because therein lies part of the challenge. At least for me. To prove that it could be done.
Doing such a challenge definitely requires a little bit of planning. It’s not like you can pick out a recipe or two, go to the market for your ingredients and return home to cook. You really have to budget and plan ahead. I had a few ideas rattling around over the past few days and took out the store’s sales circular to see what I could make work with what was on sale this week. Once I spied that ground beef was on sale for $1.99/lb at Shop Rite, I was able to narrow it down.
Tonight’s dinner? No Peek Casserole as the main course (includes mushrooms in the dish) and Blueberry Crisp Shooters for dessert. One tried-and-true recipe, one new. But could it be done for $7?
So here’s how it stacked up (all ingredients purchased today from Shop Rite):
1-1/2 lbs of ground beef: $3.00
half of a box of onion soup mix: 0.50
large can of mushrooms: 0.89
bag of egg noodles: 0.69
frozen blueberries: 1.99
Had on hand: 2/3 cup milk, flour, sugar, mayo, cinnamon
I debated about the “had on hand portion.” I mean, when we say “$7 Dinner Challenge,” does that mean that you should buy every single ingredient for the recipes within the $7? Well, it depends. Do you have a few ingredients on hand? Then, frugality would rule and it would make sense to use them. So, within reason and the honor system totally in effect, obviously don’t spend money you don’t need to. Sometimes it’s just as much a challenge in cooking up a fabulous meal without leaving your house armed with a shopping list, you know? Use your judgment and play fair.
Now the recipes… No Peek Casserole is a dish I’ve been making for at least 6 years now, and for something that takes nearly no prep time save for browning the ground beef, it delivers up a rich meaty sauce that is simply divine. If you haven’t tried it yet, do! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. This one recipe is the reason I keep a can or two of Cream of Mushroom soup on hand. (And definitely the only reason, since when it comes to soup, I prefer a homemade version) When Nicholas spied the finished dish on the counter, he recognized it right away, and I got a quick clap and “Oooh, I love when you make that.” Served over plain egg noodles, the dish serves more like 5-6 than 4, and even allowed for extra plain buttered noodles for the baby too, so it was a win-win all around.
The Blueberry Crisp recipe … so not a winner. To keep myself on budget, I halved the recipe and served it in shot glasses. A new one from AllRecipes, it just didn’t have a consistency that I liked, although it received 4-1/2 stars. The “crisp” just wasn’t. Nicholas didn’t like it, and come to find out, The Husband doesn’t like blueberries. Who knew? And why didn’t you tell me?
So was today a success? Even with the dud of a recipe, resoundingly so. A very easy, hearty dinner for four coming in at $7.07, with enough left over for actually another dinner. You certainly can’t beat that!
Did you join us on our $7 Dinner Challenge? Leave your link below so we can all get a little more inspiration … and join us back here next Monday as we do it all over again.
P.S. Word has it that the folks at Dinner Tonight, the blog of Everyday Food, Martha’s food magazine, are joining us – can’t wait to see what Editor-in-Chef Deb and her crew cook up… and the rest of you too!
P.P.S. Book #18. Need to catch up on adding them to the list, more coming. LOVE the idea of a Christmas book every Christmas from the latest comment on that post. We do a gift of new pajamas that the kids open on Christmas Eve … now adding the book idea to it. Thank you!