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Aethelwine's avatar

What is the least expensive meal you can make for a family of 4?

Asked by Aethelwine (41701points) August 20th, 2011

This is for dinner. I want to see how creative the collective can be.

Who can come up with the least expensive meal?

Please include an estimate of what you think it would cost to make the meal.

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32 Answers

Berserker's avatar

You can prolly whip up a good pasta dinner for four. Spaghetti or macaroni noodles often come cheap. Some sauce can be damn expensive, but I’ve encountered many good jars that come under three bucks. Don’t be fooled by brands, that was always my trick anyways. Then again, I’ve only ever had to feed myself, and at some times a friend or two. But I’m sure it could include a family of four.

Add toasted bread and butter, if you can find it cheap.

Bellatrix's avatar

Apricot Chicken is a popular and cheap meal over here. I haven’t made it for ages, but it always goes down well.

Chicken portions (Drumsticks are cheap here and are good for this one).
A tin of apricot nectar (you might need two tins for larger portions)
Packet of dried French Onion Soup (if using two tins of nectar, use two packets sauce).

Brown chicken in a frying pan.
Mix the soup and apricot nectar together.
Place browned chicken and sauce in a casserole dish and cook in oven for about
an hour at 180c.
You could add some vegies to this to make it a bit healthier. Even some frozen veg would be fine.
Serve with some plain rice.

I don’t know what the cost is but it is a cheap, cheerful, mid week meal. Tastes sort of sweet/soury.

Here is a link to a good recipe site that might provide some good options too. It has a budget category. Link

Frittata is always good too. You can throw in your leftover ham/chicken/cheese/vegies and serve with a nice salad. Healthy and economical.

missingE's avatar

4 Top Ramen packets. $3.

Or, if you really want to get reaaaally fancy, you can go to the 99 cent store and pick up pasta noodles, tomato sauce, bread, etc.

augustlan's avatar

Breakfast for dinner is a good one. Pancakes and eggs, or French toast.

poisonedantidote's avatar

leftover fried rice. 47 cents feeds 12. (Spanish prices)

rooeytoo's avatar

Another vote for chicken legs, they are the cheapest meat you can get in Australia. Brown them in a frying pan then throw them into a roasting pan with a can of tomatoes, some potatoes, onions, green beans, garlic, and rice, cook it all up until everything is done. It is very good and cheap and filling!

YARNLADY's avatar

@missingE I only pay 10 cents per package for Ramen. I would take four packages (40 cents), cook them in water, and add ½ the contents of one soup packet, because of too much salt. Then break three eggs (30 cents) into the mix. Serve with a shredded head of lettuce ($1). Give each person one slice of bread, with one tablespoon of butter spread (about 10 cents) For Dessert, serve two peaches (80 cents) sliced into eight pieces, with peach flavored yogurt on top (80 cents). total price = $3.40

cookieman's avatar

I don’t have a specific dish, but I will say that the Dollar Tree store near me recently added a grocery section (including frozen) and it looks pretty good.

Maybe there’s one near you.

Porifera's avatar

Pasta caceroles:
-Cook pasta (short shape)
-Add 1 or 2 of cooked: broccoli, peas, sliced mushrooms
-Throw in diced chicken, sausage or tuna
-Add sauce (tomato/white)
-Mix well, top with cheese & bake.

You can have many combinations of this dish by not using the same ingredients every time. It s also great for using leftovers.

marinelife's avatar

Macaroni and cheese with a green salad. Ice cream for dessert.
1 pound of macaroni 1.29
1 lb. cheddar cheese 2.50 (on sale)
1 qt milk 1.59
1 head of lettuce 1.59
1 tomato 2.00
1 bottle of dressing 1.99
1 “qt” Edy’s ice cream 5.79 (Good for two meals for four)

Total $14.36
or $3.59 per person.

john65pennington's avatar

Spaghetti, of course. It’s fast and conveniet and can serve a lot of people.

Save the leftovers for the tomorrow night.

Judi's avatar

Corn bread and beans less than a dollar.
Drink home made ice tea, and you are still less than $.50 per serving.
Way healthier than fast food!

Blueroses's avatar

Have you checked out Melissa d’Arabian’s Ten Dollar Dinners? I made her Potato-Bacon Torte for houseguests and it was a huge hit. Even doubling the recipe, I spent under $8 for ingredients and had leftovers for breakfast.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

We often make omelets out of anything in the frig or pantry.
4 eggs
milk or evap milk if on hand to make them fluffier
scrap hard cheese or cottage cheese
diced vegies
*chopped meat scraps
*salsa on top if we’ve got it

I estimate it would be about $3—$5. meal.

wundayatta's avatar

Can’‘t get much cheaper than rice and beans. Add some garden vegies (depends on having a kitchen garden). If you need protein, insects, eaten by 80% of the world’s population contains complete proteins, unlike millet and other grains. Grasshoppers seem to be very popular, but you can eat mealworms, tarantulas, maggots, grubs and many other insects. If you do eat grasshoppers, you may want to pull off the legs before you eat them. Apparently they tickle somewhat annoyingly as they go down your throat. If you don’t believe me, read this.

Aethelwine's avatar

@wundayatta Insects. Now that is creative! =)

abysmalbeauty's avatar

Grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup

two pieces of bread 0.17×4= 0.68
one slice of cheese 0.15×4= 0.60
tomato soup (2 serv per can) 1.00×2= 2.00

$0.82 per person or 4 person family cost $3.28 :)

incendiary_dan's avatar

Venison abobo

Filipino adobo is basically a dish in which meat is simmered in a garlicky vinegar broth with black pepper and a couple bay leaves. I often add hot peppers and coconut milk, and reduce the broth down to half. Sometimes I replace the water in the broth with traditional bone stock.

Served over rice, it probably costs less than a few bucks to make a bit pot. The caveat is that you need someone to hunt the deer. If you use store bought meat, you can still make a big pot and rice to go with it for under $10.

rooeytoo's avatar

@wundayatta – I love rice and beans. When living in NYC there were hole in the wall type eatery that would cater to the ethnic tastes of workers. The Cuban places always served rice and beans and it was delicious. I think I will look for a recipe.

I also make lentils and rice, which is basically nothing but onions, lentils and rice, add some chicken or beef stock and it is wonderful!

augustlan's avatar

When my husband was young and married to his first wife, with two toddlers to feed on very little money, they often had something he called Squirrel Gravy. (He used to hunt, obviously.) He said you boil the hell out of the squirrel to make it tender enough to eat, shred it, and then use the boiling liquid to make a gravy (adding flour and spices, I guess?). Throw the meat back in to the gravy and eat on toast.

When whole chickens are on sale, buy one. Have roast chicken the first night. With the leftovers, make a chicken pot pie the next night. Or use the leftovers to make chicken salad for sandwiches.

incendiary_dan's avatar

@augustlan I was going to mention squirrel pot pie, but figured it might get more of an ‘ick’ factor. :P

But I gotta say, none of the squirrels I’ve eaten have ever needed that much cooking. Maybe I just have tender squirrels in my area.

Sunny2's avatar

For many cost cutting ideas, including food, try:
I’ve just found it and will be exploring it too.

flo's avatar

How nutritious do you need it to be? Do you have teenagers to feed, since it takes a lot to make them feel full.

Aethelwine's avatar

@flo I do want to feed my children something healthy. We have a 17 year old son and 7 year old daughter in the house now.

Bellatrix's avatar

@jonsblond, can you grow any of your own veggies and salad stuff? I am a really crap gardener but it would save you quite a bit if you only grow cherry tomatoes and lettuce and the like? Even I can grow lettuce and herbs and zuccini, rocket and the like.

In summer, we have a lot of salad with chicken or chops or home made quiche, fish… not too expensive either. You can always jazz it up a bit with different salad dressings, and fresh garden stuff always tastes so delicious. There is a book by Stephanie Alexander that has recipes around garden produce. So, you might just be having chops, but you team it with some sort of different veggie dish. It’s called the Kitchen Garden Companion. They might have it in your garden.Link

Some great recipes in her books and not expensive.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Bellatrix We had a large garden for many years. We just moved this past year and actually have more room than we did before for lots of produce, but we didn’t get the chance to plant everything we wanted. We will do it next year though. I do have some tomato plants, bell pepper and jalapenos. My tomatoes haven’t done well this year for some reason. :(

flo's avatar

These are some of the items you can have in your cupboard at all times.
-Quinoa, cooked like rice.
-Faxsedeed powder and in your cereal
-Sweet potatoes
-Berries of all kinds but blueberries mainly
-Peanut butter
Some of the healthiest and filling items.The list is endless.
-Kelp salt substitute. I haven’t tried it.

If you need recepies esp. elaborate ones, I don’t know.

flo's avatar

-...But then what is cheap in one area is not cheap another area.

flo's avatar

this another one may be another one.

YARNLADY's avatar

@flo That link does not work

rooeytoo's avatar

I just made this one for lunch. I take all the veg I can find in the fridge and freezer, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, red pepper, sweet potato, whatever. Put them in a bowl with oil and onion, salt and pepper. Nuke them until tender. In the meantime take a minimal amount of chicken. For my husband and myself I use ½ of a breast, I fry it with garlic, s & p and then shred it. Mix it up with the nuked veg. And put in the over for about 25 or 30 min at 220c and there you go, roast dinner in one pot. It really is good.

flo's avatar

@YARNLADY thanks for the notice.
Maybe the homepage is better. And click “recipes”

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