Chris Tecmire, co-author of Eating Well For Only $2 A Day! is guest posting today. He shares a breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipe that each costs less than $0.50 per serving and a bonus recipe for making your own Cajun Seasoning:
Have you noticed how cheap food is? Don’t you just love how inexpensive your meals are? It’s almost like the grocery stores are just giving food away.
If you’re a wee bit confused by my first few statements, you’re not alone. Food prices keep rising and the contempt for local grocers is growing. I understand the frustration. I do. But, I want to prove to you that food is still pretty inexpensive…or at least it can be.
Last summer I decided to figure out the answer to the question, “what are the absolute cheapest meals my wife and I can eat?” We’ve always been fairly cost conscious, but I wanted to find out if we could do better without dining on Ramen noodles every night. So, I started out at the supermarket with a pen and a pad, considering the price and serving size of a number of different staples, gathering information. That list turned into a spreadsheet, which turned into several spreadsheets containing just about every single item in the store, which turned into an eye-opening guide for my me and my wife, which gave birth to a new lifestyle. I just wanted to be better informed…to find a better way. That simple step, along with a couple of basic food budgeting principles, ended up saving us hundreds of dollars on the food we eat.
According to an October 2010 report from the United States Department of Labor, the average couple spends $424 each month on food. My wife and I spend less than $120 each month. In other words, we’re saving over $300 a month ($3,600 a year) without relying on coupons! We’ve come to realize that there are hundreds of different meals that can be made for just the change in our sofa cushions. Food doesn’t have to be expensive.
When was the last time you spent less than 50 cents on a palate-pleasing meal? If the answer is “1940”, I have good news for you. It’s not as difficult as you think. We’ve written a book called Eating Well For Only $2 A Day (www.only2dollarsaday.com) in which we show you exactly how we do it. We go through every step, every principle, and over 150 delicious recipes that have allowed us to spend about 25% of what the average couple spends on food.
You see, we’ve been programmed to believe that a $5 value-menu meal at McDonald’s is cheap. A $5 meal is only cheap if you compare it to the $15 meal at your local Applebees, or the $40 meal at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. However, you can do better.
Did you know that you can make a flour tortilla that tastes better than the store-bought kind for only 2 cents apiece? Did you know that you can either spend $3 – $4 on a box of shortbread cookies the size of your 3 year-old’s shoe, or you can make your own for only $0.05 per serving (2 cookies)! That’s a BIG difference.
I can’t list every recipe or teach you every principle in the space provided, but I would like to provide a glimpse. The following recipes are an example of a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that each costs less than $0.50 per serving. In fact, all three combined will cost you less than a dollar! Enjoy.
Yield: 4 Servings
1 1/3 cups Cornmeal $0.21
1 1/3 cups Cold Water $0.00
3 cups Hot Coffee $0.07
4 tsp Margarine $0.03
6 Tbsp Sugar $0.09
1 tsp Salt $0.00
4 Tbsp Cream $0.22
Total: $0.62 ($0.15 Per Serving)
1. Combine the cold water and cornmeal in a small bowl and mix until the lumps are gone.
2. Heat the coffee and salt in a medium saucepan on med/low heat until it’s near boiling.
3. Add the cornmeal and cook about 3 minutes until thickened, stirring frequently.
4. Add the margarine, sugar, and cream and mix well.
Coffee lovers rejoice! Your dream has now become a reality – you can have your coffee IN your breakfast…alongside a cup of coffee. Double the dose.
Coffee Cornmeal is so good, and so creamy that even non-coffee drinkers will love it. I rarely have a cup of coffee in the morning, but this still remains one of my favorite breakfasts.
Cajun Chicken Soup
Yield: 8 Servings
8 cups Water $0.00
1 Tbsp Dried Basil $0.25
1 tsp Garlic Salt $0.01
1 tsp “Louisiana” Hot Sauce $0.01
14 oz. Canned Diced Tomatoes $0.59
12 oz. Chicken Breasts (cubed) $1.34
1/2 lb. Smoked Sausage (sliced) $0.48
1 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning (see below) $0.14
3 Tbsp Cornmeal $0.03
1 cup Flour $0.08
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil $0.02
3/4 tsp Salt $0.00
1 large Egg $0.14
1-2 Tbsp Water $0.00
Total: $3.09 ($0.39 Per Serving)
1. In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients except the cornmeal and noodles. Simmer on medium heat for 1 hour, uncovered. If the soup seems too thick after an hour, add a little more water and cook a few minutes more.
2. To make the noodles, mix the flour and salt together and place in a pile on the counter with a well in the center.
3. Add the oil and egg to the center and mix everything together with your fingers.
4. Add water a little at a time until you reach a dough consistency.
5. Roll flat and use a pizza cutter to cut into 1/2 inch squares.
6. Add the noodles to the pot and cook for 5 minutes.
7. Add the cornmeal and boil until slightly thickened.
8. Give yourself a big hug because you just made a palate-pleasing dish.
So good! It is a tad spicy, but it’ll only warm you up a little, not make you sweat. It gets rave reviews from everyone who tries it. If you’re in a hurry and can’t find the time to make the homemade noodles, you could always substitute egg noodles. However, the homemade noodles add such a great texture and flavor to the soup, so do yourself a favor and try to make time.
Obviously, you could make this soup even less expensive by substituting chicken leg quarters for chicken breast. It’s up to you. No matter what…always buy your chicken in bulk and use your freezer to store the remainder. Otherwise, you’re just leaving money on the counter. Split the chicken pieces into smaller serving sizes before freezing to make it easy on yourself down the road.
(makes ~ 10 tsp)
1 Tbsp Paprika
2 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Onion Powder
3/4 tsp Cayenne Powder
1 tsp Pepper
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
3/4 tsp Dried Oregano
Shake it up!
Yield: 4 Servings
8 oz. Angel Hair Pasta $0.42
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Vegetable Oil (divided) $0.03
4 slices Bacon (diced) $0.64
2 large Eggs $0.27
1/8 tsp Nutmeg $0.02
2 Tbsp Milk $0.02
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese $0.23
1/4 tsp + dash Salt (divided) $0.00
Total: $1.63 ($0.41 Per Serving)
1. In a large saucepan, begin heating enough water to cook the pasta.
2. While the water is coming to a boil, heat the Tbsp of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon and sauté for 3 – 5 minutes, until the bacon is nice and crispy.
3. Pour out all but 2 Tbsp of the fat. Save the extra fat for bacon fat cookies! Let the bacon and oil sit in the pan for now (away from the heat).
4. By now the water should be boiling. Add the pasta and remaining oil to the boiling water and cook the pasta until soft, about 5 – 6 minutes. It is very important that the noodles are the last thing to get done so that they are hot enough to cook the egg mixture.
5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, dash of salt, nutmeg, milk, and cheese.
6. If the bacon and oil has cooled too much for your liking, warm it up slightly before the pasta is done.
7. When the pasta is done, drain it, keeping 1/4 cup of the water in case you need it later. Place the pasta in a very large bowl, quickly add the egg mixture and immediately mix with some tongs. The warmth of the noodles will cook the egg just enough. You’re not looking for scrambled egg, but you’re also not looking for raw egg.
8. Add the bacon, bacon grease, and salt and mix one last time. It shouldn’t be, but if the pasta’s still too dry, pour in some of the reserved pasta water. Salt to taste.
It’s not a difficult recipe at all, but the timing of this dish is very important, so pay attention. If you do it right, it’s really quite creamy and satisfying. Just make sure you don’t have any distractions near the end. In other words…keep the kids out of the kitchen.
Chris Tecmire and his wife Trisha are the authors of “Eating Well For Only $2 A Day!”, a full-color food budgeting book that is both instructive and entertaining. The book gives step-by-step instructions on how anyone can spend only $2 a day without relying on sales or coupons. Over 150 delicious recipes, like the ones listed above, have been included to get you started. You can learn more or purchase your copy at www.only2dollarsaday.com. Chris and Trisha enjoy photography, traveling, and serving in their local church. They are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first child this fall.