This is the first installment of a new blog series about planning meals on a budget. I’ll try to post one of these dinner ideas weekly, but no promises, I do have two kiddos under the age of two to look after as well. :)
Serving delicious, yet inexpensive meals for your family isn’t difficult. It just takes time and a little extra planning. However, sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in a rut with meal-planning. I know from time-to-time I like to serve slightly nicer meals, but don’t want to break the bank.
Steak dinners at most mid-range restaurants will run you anywhere from $10 to $20 a person. Serving a meal like that at home can seem daunting, especially when you check out the prices of steak at your local grocery store. However, if you plan ahead, you can serve a similar meal for a quarter of the cost. For example, Chili’s Grill and Bar has an 8-ounce top sirloin steak on their menu for $12.99. The steak comes with two sides and a piece of garlic toast. I will show you how you can serve a similar meal for around $3 a person.
First of all, scan your store circulars for deals on steak. If you have a Sun Harvest in your area, they regularly (about once a month) have top sirloin steak on sale for $2.99 a pound. I went last month and bought three steaks, each just under two pounds. (HEB Grocery also runs similar sales, but theirs are a bit less often.) If you do the math on price per ounce, an 8-ounce piece comes out to $1.50.
For my side dishes, I chose baked potatoes, sautéed peas and mushrooms, and dinner rolls. Instead of buying expensive baker’s potatoes, I opt to buy 5-pound bags of russet potatoes and specifically choose bags with several large potatoes in them. Russet potatoes vary in price from week to week (I’ve gotten them for as low as 99 cents), but for our purposes we’ll set the price at $2.49 for the bag. That’s about 25 cents per potato, give or take. The sautéed peas with mushrooms is one of my all-time favorite “gourmet” side dishes. Each serving of frozen peas is roughly 22 cents and a 4-ounce can of mushroom pieces is 59 cents, or about 30 cents a serving. Sauté the mushrooms in a little butter, boil the peas until they’re tender, combine, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Finally, I chose dinner rolls because we had previously bought a bag of Rhodes dinner rolls for $2.99 (roughly 10 cents a roll). These are basically just balls of dough, so they’d be easy enough to make on your own, but for me the convenience is definitely worth the added cost.
Then add about 40 cents a person for baked potato toppings (butter, shredded cheese, and sour cream) and about 25 cents a person for charcoal. And there you have it:
8-oz top sirloin steak = $1.50
Baked potato with toppings = $0.65
Peas ‘n’ mushrooms = $0.52
Dinner roll = $0.10
Charcoal = $0.25
Total cost = $3.02 a plate.
(And if you prefer T-bone over top sirloin, Sun Harvest and HEB occasionally have sales on T-bone steaks for $3.99 or $4.99 a pound, bringing the cost of your meal up a bit.)
And as an added bonus, if you grill extra steak you can use the leftovers to make a delicious beef stroganoff dinner. I found a recipe I loved here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Campbells-Kitchen-Beef-Stroganoff/Detail.aspx. Just slice the leftover steak and add it to the sauce at the end. Delicious!