The $7 Dinner Challenge #2

by Cate on October 20, 2008

Lemon Parmigianno ChickenAs some are quickly finding out, we weren’t kidding when we called this a “challenge.”  It’s not easy and takes some thought and planning.  When I saw chicken on sale at A&P this week, I knew exactly what I would be making.  For me, the challenge is more in stretching my dollars to include either the appetizer or dessert for $7.  Dinner for $5 I can handle, but throwing another course in and still squeaking in under the wire?  That adds a whole new dimension.  While I’m on the topic of $5 dinners, and before I lose my thought, there are tons of websites actually devoted to budget-friendly meals, including Five Dollar Dinners – you might want to give it a quick spin.

Besides adding the second course, I think the challenge is actually making something good … something that you’ll want to eat again and again … but still keeping it within the confines of the challenge.  Like I said last week, it’s easy to have a bunch of hot dogs and french fries for dinner, and throw in some jello and call it done.  But where is the challenge in that?  And more importantly … can you have Lemon Parmigianno Chicken within the challenge?

You sure can!  The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are on sale right now at A&P for $2.29 a pound.  Now I happened to have the rest of the ingredients on hand, as I’m sure most of you do too.  If you don’t, you’re not talking about any major expenditure – nothing more than a coupla bucks.  I included a side of rice with the chicken, because the recipe makes an outstanding sauce that is perfect over the rice.

The Husband was going to be on rice duty, but he was playing outside with the kids, so I ended up grabbing a package from my stockpile.  The package normally sells for 75 cents at full price.  A good stockpiler and coupon addict (me! me!)  knows that it gets better than that though … there are often coupons for 0.35/1 and our store doubles, so when the coupon comes out, I get as many as I can and get the rice for 9 cents a package.  I’m still working on a rice stockpile from before Madeline was born.

Ok, so we have chicken and rice.  Now for dessert… when we went apple picking again last weekend, we lugged home a few pounds of apples.  They are $1.19 a pound at the orchard, cheaper than they are at the grocery store.  Guess the manual labor of us picking them off the tree is worth something.  ;)  For dessert, I used 4 of the apples (small ones that I weighed – approximately 3/4 lb), so let’s say 80 cents or so.  The rest of the ingredients are basic pantry items (water, brown sugar, raisins and walnuts) that I had on hand, and you probably do too.  Even if you didn’t, it wouldn’t cost you more than a few bucks to make, if that.


Lemon Parmigianno Chicken
1 pound chicken thighs – $2.29
stockpile ingredients: white wine, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese

Baked Apples
3/4 pound of apples – 0.80
stockpile ingredients: brown sugar, walnuts, raisins

Rice – 0.75 (although I paid 0.09 when I bought it)

Now to the recipes … if you haven’t made the Lemon Parmigianno Chicken, you must.  It takes literally five minutes to whip together, and then it peacefully bakes and does its thing in the oven without interference from you.  Once done, it’s cooked perfectly and produces tender, juicy chicken with a sauce that is divine over rice.  This is a recipe for when you don’t want to cook.  For when you don’t want to think.  For when you want to order take-out, but don’t want to spend the money.  This is that recipe.

I think the greatest success in this challenge can be had when you have a small amount of ingredients, but good, solid ones that work hard for you.  You know, the whole less is more theory.  Or the principles behind Jamie Oliver’s “naked” cooking – you don’t need an ingredient list a mile long – keep it simple and it will shine.  The second aspect is thinking about what you have on hand and how you can make it best work for you.  It’s too easy to run to the grocery store with a new list every other day.  What’s in your fridge?  Your freezer?

Now, how did you do on the challenge?  Let’s hear it.

P.S.  Want to join in on the challenge with us?  The rules are right here, and you can the $7 Dinner Challenge #1 right here.

P.P.S.  Baked Apple recipe coming tomorrow.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

maris October 20, 2008 at 10:58 pm

I think my favorite part of this meal would be the baked apples…I went apple picking this weekend too and can’t wait to make another batch of applesauce!

mariss last blog post..My $7 Challenge FAIL


Chris Perrin October 21, 2008 at 12:37 am

Hi Cate,

Here’s my entry for the $7 Dinner Challenge. More next week!

Chris Perrins last blog post..The $7 Challenge


Sarah October 21, 2008 at 6:58 am

Chicken on sale is a great way to save!!! Good meal.

Sarahs last blog post..The $7 Dinner Challenge: Week 2


Darius T. Williams October 21, 2008 at 8:16 am

You know…I bet that sauce was great over the rice!


Darius T. Williamss last blog post..A Southern Meal, Deconstructed


EB October 21, 2008 at 9:09 am

Wow that looks good. I’m going to have to try this just on a regular, non-challenge night! :)

EBs last blog post..Twitter


jan October 21, 2008 at 11:27 am

the chicken sounds like an easy chicken piccata. A dish that I love and haven’t made in a long time. Time to start stalking chicken again! I have a large stash of arborio rice in the pantry because my husband goes on anti-carb rants and insists on ‘brown rice or nothing.’ What a baby. I’ve made a fake risotto with cooked brown rice from the fridge.


jan October 21, 2008 at 6:10 pm

I made the chicken for dinner tonight, using thawed s/b chicken breasts. The chicken was almost like a saltimbocca because of the sage. Not enough apples in the pantry for baked apples, but I had an acorn squash to halve and bake as a side.
Chicken was from a Costco package and squash was from a farmers market haul (7/$5, lg variety of squash)
Thanks, and I’ll make the chicken again!


Cate October 22, 2008 at 11:38 pm

Jan – glad you liked the chicken. Can’t beat how easy it is. :)

Darius – it is! And even better with a hunk of fresh bread!

EB – perfect for any night, especially *those* kinds.

Chris – awesome job!

Sarah – ground beef this week – $2/lb!


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