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.
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.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.