It isn’t always easy to find the time to cook meals at home and it might seem like there isn’t a big cost difference between buying food at the store to cook at home and eating out all the time. And in some cases, this is true. It really comes down to what you buy and what you order if you are looking at cost by meal alone. But making your meals at home, generally speaking, is going to cost less than eating every meal out.
To illustrate, we wanted to see what kinds of dinners you can create on a limited budget. We assumed that an average meal at a fast food restaurant for a family of 4 would cost at least $20 and cut that in half to create our $10 target. So, let’s see how you can cut your dinner costs by at least half simply by making those meals at home.
1. Chili with Cornbread
One pot meals like Chili often cost less and take less time than other more complicated dinners. Because the majority of the ingredients in chili are canned, including the beans and tomato sauce used as a base, you can get a lot of food for very little money. The main expense is the meat and how much you spend on that will depend on what you like and what you have to spend. The great thing is that chili is very versatile which means you can use ground chicken, cubed chicken, ground beef, stew meat, or cubed pork or steak for the meat. This allows you to take advantage of what is on sale that week which could drive your cost even lower. You can also save money by buying dry beans in bulk which are even less expensive than those that come in cans. Pick up a box of cornbread mix and you have a hearty, filling, delicious dinner that can serve 4 for about $10.
2. Roast Chicken with Veggies and Rice
Purchasing a whole chicken can actually be less expensive than buying a chicken that has been butchered. This makes it possible to create a delicious dinner featuring roasted chicken within our budget. Using rice for the main side is another way to get more food for your dollar because of its low cost when purchased plain. If can jazz up your rice flavor by cooking it with chicken broth instead of water and adding some spices. Your family will never know it didn’t come from a box. Add some low cost vegetables like carrots, broccoli, or potatoes that are roasted or steamed and you have a nutritious and delicious dinner for less than $10.
3. Spaghetti and Meatballs
Another family favorite that can easily be achieved for under our $10 target, you just need to make some adjustments to how you make it. First, make your own sauce with a can of tomato sauce and some spices from your cupboard. Second, make your own meatballs instead of using pre-made ones from the store. Third, make the garlic bread yourself rather than purchasing it from the bakery pre-made and ready to bake. The best thing about these changes aimed at bringing down the cost is that they don’t really take too much time so you can make this favorite family meal for less money without taking too much more time.