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Monday, January 26, 2009

I made a healthy meal for $2.25. And the whole family ate it.

My friend Erin started a website last summer to help herself prepare frugal dinners for her family -- she used the blog to motivate herself and to hold herself accountable. A math teacher by trade, she enjoyed talking with her husband at dinnertime and breaking down the cost of what they were eating. (I could so totally relate. Um, not.)

What she didn't count on was how quickly her site would attract readers and take off into the blogosphere like a rocket ship. I've lost count of how many interviews she's given, how many times she's been featured on the local news station... My mother-in-law lives in San Antonio, Erin's hometown, and she recently saw a feature mentioning her blog. "Hey," she wrote to me, "Is $5Dinners your friend's blog you've talked about?" (Why yes, it is, Becky -- did I ever get around to emailing you back to tell you that?)

I am not a math teacher by trade. I could no sooner break down how much a dinner cost off the top of my head than I could stand up and sweep the tablecloth off the table without crashing all the dishes to the floor. But you know how they say be careful about the company you keep ... they might rub off on you and all that. The other day I found myself exclaiming to Erin what a cheap and delicious meal I had prepared for my family and how everyone loved it!

I'd say that I'm not sure what's more exciting about that statement -- the cheapness or everyone loving it -- except that I really don't concern myself too much with everybody in my family liking what I make: I figure I've done my job just by putting it in front of them on the table. "You can lead a horse to water," and all that.

But it really is a bonus when everyone likes what you made and asks for more and it totally helps the budget. Especially in these trying times and all. (Anyone want to rent a cute little house in Vegas?) Because, honestly? I've attempted meals that even I don't like, and that's a bummer.

The last time I made a meal using raw beans, for instance. Blech. I was turned off of this amazing cheap ingredient for ... well, for quite a while. Until recently, I decided to give them another go. Black-eyed peas, to be exact. (Are they of the bean family?)

Black Eyed Peas and Sausage over Rice

16 ounces dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and sorted
1 medium onion, diced
1 sausage link, cut into pieces
3 or more cloves of garlic (can you have too much?)
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
black pepper to taste

Presoak peas as directed. (I soaked them all night, at least 12 hours.) Drain the water from the peas and place peas in a crockpot. Add all other ingredients, plus enough water to cover. Stir well. Cover and cook on low setting 8-10 hours. Serve over rice.
Approximate cost: $4.25

I won't try to break down each individual ingredient; but I do know the beans were about $1.50 and the sausage was about $2.00 (with a coupon). But the thing is? This was two meals for four people. I won't even count Sean-Peter, who wouldn't touch a single bite the first time we had it. (We're working on that.) The second go-around he had two helpings (eating one. thing. at. a time). Everyone else ate their fill the first time -- John had two heaping plates -- and several days later again when we had it as leftovers (I did make fresh rice). And there's still some leftover that I will finish off myself in a couple of lunches.

Total cost for one meal serving four people ~ $2.25.

John has already asked for it again, but I told him, sorry, I've got some recipe using pinto beans lined up first. Stay tuned and I might let you know if that one's a hit, too.


Anonymous said...

Not only was it economical, it was also nutritious. You go, Jolyn! Pinto beans are a favorite here in Texas. My mother used to make a dish with the large lima beans and a ham bone that was really good. I had white bean chili at a friends home the other evening. It contained navy beans and chicken and spices and was delicious. She shared the recipe, if you are interested.

Jolyn said...

Yes, Anon, do tell!

Heather said...

This totally sounds like something we would eat at our house. I've never tried the dry beans though...might have to try them now.

The Happy Housewife said...

This is the third black-eyed pea recipe I have seen today! Maybe that is a sign I should give them a try!

Carmen said...

I would like the white chili recipe also, anon! Reed has been on a no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no red meat diet for three weeks now. I need all the help I can get!!

Therapy Mom said...

Great post dear! Thanks for the love..and yummy meal!

Jennifer said...

I love using dry beans. Esp. ham and beans or the "7 bean soup" beans. All are easy and very economical. And White Chili is delicious.

Anonymous said...

White bean chili:

1 whole chicken (can be baked, I simmer mine in a pan in order to make chicken stock)

1T olive oil
1 med ionion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, chopped
4C chicken stock
1t cumin
1t chili pepper
1t oregano
1/2C chopped cilantro (may substitute parsley)
4 cans white navy beans, drained
1 can tomatillas or 2 cans chopped green chilis
Debone and remove skin from cooked chicken and chop meat.
Saute chopped onion and celery in olive oil in large dutch oven over med.-high heat, 7 min.; add garlic and saute 3 min.
Stir in chicken stock, chopped chicken, navy beans and spices and parsley. Heat through, adding salt and pepper to taste. Freezes well.

googler said...
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