The $7 Dinner Challenge #1

by Cate on October 13, 2008

No Peek CasseroleWhen 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):

ShopRite:
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!

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Caron October 13, 2008 at 11:31 pm

$7.07! Not bad. Sounds like it was a successful exercise. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next week!

Sarah Carons last blog post..The $7 Dinner Challenge: Week 1

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Bob October 13, 2008 at 11:41 pm

I failed, but I tried.

Bobs last blog post..Socialism

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Lisa October 14, 2008 at 12:27 am

I would totally be the one shouting “73 cents! 73 cents” and end up serving saltines and sugar packets stolen from Starbucks.

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Cate October 14, 2008 at 12:31 am

Sarah – that Granita sounds delicious! Nick was actually asking for watermelon today, but I said no … might just have to rethink that.

Bob – you did a fabulous job – no failure there! And there’s always next week. :)

Lisa – thanks for my laugh of the day – too funny. As one who hoards the extra sauce/salt/ketchup packets from take-out, I am so with you.

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Kris October 14, 2008 at 9:00 am

I just saw this recipe in my stack of ones to be filed last night – I had printed it out a while ago. Now I will have to try is because it looks so yummy!

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Darius T. Williams October 14, 2008 at 9:04 am

OMG – I remember shop rite from my days of living in New Jersey – oh, how I miss it! I can’t even remember the one I used to go to – but they had the best produce ever! Ahhh – this looks and sounds delish!

-DTW
http://www.everydaycookin.blogspot.com

Darius T. Williamss last blog post..This I Want, But Don’t Need

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Judith in Umbria October 14, 2008 at 9:55 am

I never got clear as to whether I could do it on 7 euro, but I’m still willing if it is OK.

Judith in Umbrias last blog post..News of the day

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Patsy October 14, 2008 at 10:18 am

Oh, I totally forgot about the new challenge! I hope to join in next week. So, if we have ingredients on hand in the fridge or pantry, they don’t have to count to the $7? Just want to make sure I’m following the rules!

Patsys last blog post..Dulce De Leche Apple Bars – Oh My!

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Maris October 14, 2008 at 12:23 pm

I had every intention of joining this week but leftovers got the better of me…I’m in next week, for sure! :)

I love the idea of blueberry crisp in shotglasses – what a fun way to serve desserts at a party!

Mariss last blog post..Banana-Nut Bread

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Cate October 14, 2008 at 10:45 pm

Kris – the best parts are the edges of the casserole dish when it comes out of the oven. Yum.

Darius – really? Would never think of produce immediately after Shop Rite. ;)

Judith – sorry! Absolutely ok, and I think it’s great to get outside-of-US inspiration too. :)

Patsy – correct, within reason. Hope you join in. :)

Maris – love dessert shooters, indulging without the guilt.

Cates last blog post..A Love for Bool Gogi (Bulgogi)

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flowers22 October 15, 2008 at 9:08 am

Phew! This was tough and I’m glad I don’t have to work this hard daily but it was a neat challenge. I think I succeeded.

My brother posted on his site about his try at the $7.00 dinner challenge and that inspired me. I wasn’t sure I could do it because I have a teenaged son in the mix who often requires QUANTITY at meals; but I was willing to try. I planned all day long – good thing I didn’t have to include my time in the cost.

My meal was jalapeno poppers, baked chicken legs, fried rice, and balsamic roasted onions – $6.99

http://www.recipezaar.com/105670
Appetizer – poppers: $1.50
6 jalapenos – 22-cents
2 oz. cream cheese – 27-cents
1/8 lb. cheddar cheese – 38-cents
¼ lb. bacon – 63-cents

Chicken: $1.56
Ginger soy sauce (in refrigerator)

Fried Rice: $1.91
Rice – 59-cents
Seasoning – 69-cents
Green onions – 20-cents
2 eggs – 18-cents
Peas [½ 50-cent can] – 25-cents

http://www.recipezaar.com/59885
Roasted Onions: $2.02
Onions [2.2 lbs. @ .50/lb.] – $1.10
Butter – 42-cents
Olive Oil [¼ c. = estimate price] – 50-cents
3 T Sugar, 6 T vinegar, and 1 T parsley (pantry)

Appetizers are useful. We find that by eating a little something 10 or so minutes before the main meal we eat less and we really enjoy jalapeno poppers!

The onion recipe was new and we LOVED it.

I had never made fried rice with a seasoning packet before but it turned out pretty well and we have a good bit left so we can eat it again tomorrow night.

I counted on 2 legs for hubby & son and one each for daughter and me. The son ended up eating just one…and we were all stuffed!

Thanks for the challenge.

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flowers22 October 15, 2008 at 9:09 am

I have pictures but I don’t know how to include them.

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kathryn October 15, 2008 at 9:55 pm

I’m glad you whittled it down to $7 – it’s tricky but achievable. And while you could easily “cook” tinned baked beans on toast and some fresh fruit for that amount, I also wanted to try something more challenging.

I like your idea of minaturising the dessert in shot glasses. A taste of sweetness, without all the excessive kilojoules form a large dose.

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Nate October 27, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I think you did a great job getting it down to $7. That is truly frugal living!

Nates last blog post..Chopped Shrimp Waldorf Salad

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