$10 Dinner Challenge

Today I joined a group from Cooking Matters Georgia as they toured the supermarket. Cooking Matters is a program that teaches families on a budget how to create healthy and nutritious meals. It’s a wonderful organization affiliated with the one I work for (Share Our Strength). Learn more about the work of Cooking Matters here – http://cookingmatters.org/

Marcia our Cooking Matters leader:

Today I received great reminders about shopping the grocery store including:

  • Be willing to buy generic
  • look for manager specials be willing to freeze if not used immediately
  • buy produce in season
  • look to frozen for other options
  • real juice vs. juice “beverage”

The challenge issued on our excursion was to buy dinner for four that included: a protein, a starch, a fruit and a vegetable.


I gladly accepted the challenge and began shopping like I hadn’t been a long time. I knew immediately sweet potatoes would be my starch they were super healthy, affordable and I can make a mean roasted sweet potato.  I found frozen green beans which James actually likes green beans. I looked to fresh fruit for my dessert thinking I’d make some sort of stewed apple pear dessert with a Greek yogurt




Here’s what I bought: French Cut frozen green beans ($1), two sweet potatoes ($1.49), one pear ($.49), two gala apples ($1.67), fresh garlic clove ($.79), one lime ($.25), one container of greek yogurt ($.69) and one pound/two chicken breasts ($2.99) = after tax: $9.56







Garlic, lime, ginger chicken breasts – Baked. Cheats from my pantry: salt, pepper

Garlicy Dill Green Beans – made on stove from frozen French cut green beans. Cheats: olive oil, Dill, salt

Spicy oven roasted sweet potatoes with lime zest – Cheats: Olive oil, salt blend, Cayenne pepper

Spiced apple and pear cups – I even fit in a dessert! (best use for the required fruit). Cheats: white wine, vanilla, cinnamon.

My Pantry “cheat” items:         Beauty and the Beast roses/dinner     Dessert: Seconds please!







Thoughts after challenge:

  • Stretching your protein food dollar is a challenge. One woman shopping with us today bought the same chicken as me and told me she was going to cut it into 4 pieces to stretch it for her kids. I know non-meat items (beans etc) would have been an option, but I would have needed some pre-planning. Not just on the fly..
  • I have a garlic press. I know chefs know better ways to prepare garlic, but I have gadgets that make using these ingredients even more approachable.
  • I have awesome pantry items – how many mom’s going through cooking matters programming have open white wine, a bunch of spices, etc? That’s why I called it “cheating” although I’m sure they had some of my options.
  • Even $10 a dinner ($70 on dinners at home a week) is a tough stretch for families on tight budgets.
  • I haven’t used a produce scale in probably 5 years.  I’m blessed to just buy whatever I want, which is a reminder that I have a lot to be thankful for.
  • Lime juice makes garlic turn blue? I think I knew this, forgot and was surprised when I checked on my chicken in the oven.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever bought a fresh pear. I sure didn’t know how to cut it up.
  • The dessert I made was AWESOME. Tasted like the inside of an apple pie, but better because the apples and pears were still somewhat crisp, and it was SUPER healthy!

I may try this challenge again soon with a little more (any) pre-planning.

Now I issue the same challenge to you. If you try to make dinner for 4 using the same guidelines (protein, starch, veggie and fruit), I’d love to hear from you on what you learned/challenges you had. Send me a pic and I’ll even see about adding to a future blog post!




  1. That’s amazing! I feel like when I go to the grocery store to pick up food (for one) for just that night I still end up spending $40. I always say it’s cheaper to just eat out, but I might have to try this!

    1. I think I could do even better with some pre-planning. You can do it!!

  2. Ok… I tried this out and it was very difficult. But I also live in Northern Virginia where food prices are outrageous! When I moved up here from Georgia I definitely had sticker shock! But like you said, with more pre-planning (and maybe timing it with farmer market hours) I could do this.

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