The $7 Dinner Challenge: Week 1

Chicken Broccoli Ragu

What can you make for a dinner for four people, including a vegetable and dessert for under $7? That’s what Cate and I wanted to find out when we challenged each other to The $7 Dinner Challenge. Good thing we didn’t push to go any lower, because $7 is very challenging.

The first thing that came to mind, for me, was pasta. Pasta is one of those inexpensive fillers — 2 ounces, or 3/4 cup, dried pasta is one serving and most boxes have 16 ounces, so I would only need half a box. So I built from there, using the sales at my local ShopRite. Boneless chicken, some broccoli, lightly roasted . . . the ideas came together slowly but surely. When I was a preteen, just about the only dish I made was roasted broccoli in marinara over pasta. It delicious then and still is today.

But dessert, it was dessert that scared me. What could I possibly make for less than $2? Fortunately, I caught sight of the watermelon on the ShopRite flier. A watermelon ice idea floated through my head and I jumped at it. It was cool and refreshing, light but not too sweet.

The Menu:

Broccoli and Chicken Ragu
Watermelon Granita

Watermelon Granita

Here’s how I did (some prices are prorated to amount used):

  • 1/2 lime, $0.13
  • 1 yellow onion, $0.25
  • 1 bunch broccoli, $0.99
  • 1/2 lb San Giorgio Penne Rigate, $0.40
  • 1 lb Shop Rite brand boneless, skinless chicken breast, $2.31
  • 1 can Contadina Crushed Tomatoes, $0.99
  • about 1.5 lbs seedless watermelon, $0.99
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, $0.20 (est — pantry staple)
  • 2 cloves garlic, $0.05 (est — pantry staple)
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning, $0.05 (est — pantry staple)
  • 1/4 cup sugar, $0.05 (est — pantry staple)
  • salt and pepper, freebies

Total: $6.41 — PASS!!!

We’ve decided that allowing certain pantry staples to slide in the pricing is okay — within reason. After all, different people may keep different things in the fridge and some may not be as accessible as others. No off the wall or unusual ingredients without counting them. So, we’ll be tweaking the rules a bit to reflect that before next week.

Did you join in the challenge? Add your link below using the Mr. Linky.


  1. says

    What a beautiful dessert Sarah. And such a simple way to make fresh fruit into a dessert that’s a bit “special”.

    I do like the $7 challenge. Fits in with some thoughts I’ve been having (and posts I’ve been writing) about frugality, eating from the cupboards, not wasting leftovers and so on.

    Look forward to seeing what others come up with.

  2. says

    Love that you can use pantry ingredients as part of the challenge -that makes it a lot more manageable.

    Your pasta dish looks amazing! And I always use Contadina tomatoes. Don’t ask me why but that’s the brand that always winds up in my cabinet :)

    I can’t wait to try the challenge next week! Leftovers got the better of me last night :)

  3. says

    Kathryn, thanks for joining in! I’m glad you like the challenge. It’s really making me think more about what I spend on what we eat. Who knew the dinners I made were so expensive!

    Maris, thanks!! I am a big fan of Contadina too. My husband swears by Hunts, but I gravitate to Contadina instead. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next week!

  4. says

    Deb, no, it doesn’t have to be a Monday post, but Cate and I post on Mondays and then you can come and add your link to Mr Linky that day so everyone can check it out. (We post at night, just so you know.)

    Hope you join in!!

  5. EB says

    Well, I didn’t quite make $7 this week. I was $0.36 over, but the Housemate appreciated the effort, so it wasn’t all in vain. :)

    I’m already planning next week’s effort.


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