Updated to add: The drawing is over and we have a winner. Thanks! But go check out Erin’s web site and/or buy the book and/or get your library to buy a copy. Lots of good frugal recipes.
I was so excited to receive a copy of this cookbook to review: The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare
I’ve been following Erin Chase’s blog 5 Dollar Dinners for some time. I track my overall food budget, and used to track it even more carefully than I do today. That’s why I started CheapCooking.com. But I love the idea of setting a “do not exceed goal” for dinner, the highest cost meal for most of us. She set that price based on what she felt were reasonable goals for a healthy dinner for her family of four where she lives, basically $1.25 per person for dinner, and her overall goal of less than $300/month for her family of 4.
Obviously, your own goals may vary, depending on where you live and how many you are feeding. But the idea of setting a goal for dinner is a great one, as I think most of us spend more on dinner than other meals. And having an overall monthly target lets you vary a bit week to week, as special occasions arise. Certain months you may stock up a bit more based on sales and other months, hopefully, come in a bit under.
Living in the San Francisco bay area, I find myself drooling over her sale prices. But don’t let your own circumstances derail the idea. Track your prices. Stock up on sale prices. Use coupons where they make sense. Have a great repertoire of recipes that you can use for healthy balanced meals. Where I live, there are no stores that double coupons, for example, but I bet you can cut your grocery bills substantially by following her guidelines, even without using coupons, and you will find some great recipes to add to your regular favorites.
Just the day after I received this book to review (meaning I didn’t pay for it, but that did NOT influence my review here, I would have bought it regardless so was thrilled to get a review copy! And if I get a review copy of a book I don’t like, I generally just don’t review it…), my youngest asked for spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. We had two extras for dinner that night if I recall, and I still ended up with leftovers.
I had everything I needed in my freezer and pantry. I have a great meatball recipe handed down from my Italian ex-MIL but opted to follow Chase’s recipe so I could do a good review. The major differences would be fresh garlic over garlic powder (I grow my own garlic so count it as nearly free at this point since you replant it every year but did cook this up with garlic powder just to test the recipe) and if I want to splurge I use a mix of ground pork, ground veal and ground beef. You can sometimes find this at reasonable prices but I use pure ground beef when I cannot and used that the night I made these.) I think the key is good Parmesan, which is cheap on a per serving basis since you need very little for maximum flavor.
I also make my own breadcrumbs whenever we have bread going stale, so always have a stash in the freezer.
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning or use some basil and oregano
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese splurge here I say!
- 1 egg
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- Mix all the ingredients together and form into 1 inch balls. You can use a small cookie scoop if you prefer but I find the meatballs stay together better if you "pack" them a bit with your hands. I use my KitchenAid 5-qt. Stand Mixer to mix stuff like this. but then form the balls with my hands.
- Preheat the oven to 350 while you're forming the meatballs (and perhaps making the sauce!).
- Heat a skillet with 2 Tbs olive oil and brown the meatballs over medium heat, turning periodically to brown evenly for a few minutes. Then put the meatballs in a lightly greased baking dish and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes.
- Serve with your favorite spaghetti or marina sauce and 1 pound cooked spaghetti.
This will serve far more than 4 in my house, but we love leftover spaghetti and meatballs for lunches or leftover spaghetti and sauce in meatball sandwiches as well. (Just toast some bread or rolls, preferably with some garlic and butter, then load up some meatballs and sauce, top with some provolone or mozzarella cheese and broil a few minutes.)
If you can grow any or all of the herbs and garlic that cuts the cost significantly and improves the flavor.
- 1 28- ounce can of crushed or pureed tomatoes
- 2 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 Tbs dried basil
- 1 Tbs dried oregano
- 1 Tbs dried rosemary
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- I grow rosemary year round so used 1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary instead.
- Combine everything and simmer at least 15 minutes, longer is good too. Just stir now and then and leave it at a very low simmer.
- Store the sauce for a week in the refrigerator or 6 months in the freezer.
The girls love my normal meatballs and sauce recipe but declared this really good, as did our guests. I do think meatballs are better with some ground pork and/or veal but that might knock it out of your budget. For pure ground beef, these are delicious! And I think if you had 1/3 each of ground beef, pork and veal, you’d have a killer recipe.
I play around with marinara sauce so much I don’t know that I have a “normal” but this is a great one. You might think about adding some fennel if you’re into a stronger Italian flavor but that’ s purely a matter of what you’re used to.
I’ve gotten pretty good at reading recipes over the last 18 years of cooking and can say that most of these recipes read well, even if I haven’t cooked them all. Some are very similar to some of my old favorite recipes and others are new but sound great.
I served this meal with some garlic bread and a Caesar salad. I did use a store-bought dressing but made the croutons from a leftover hot dog bun (coat with some butter and sauteed in a bit of butter with some herbs).
Updated to add: If you’d like a chance to win a copy of the cookbook, which just hit the stores today, post a comment. I’ll randomly draw a winner on December 29.
If you don’t win, you can buy this from Amazon by following this link: The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook: 200 Recipes for Quick, Delicious, and Nourishing Meals That Are Easy on the Budget and a Snap to Prepare or look for it in your local bookstore or ask your library to buy a copy.
I’m so looking forward to receiving this. I need it so bad! I have a lot of trouble balancing between picky eaters and healthy meals…and then to stay on budget!?!? Ugh! Sounds like just what I need!
Looking forward to making some of these meals. I am in desperate need to good meals on a budget and I look forward to the challenge of making the best ones for my family of 7.
I have a family of six, three are teenagers. I am always looking for ways to save but eat healthy as well. I like the idea of using an amount per meal — I work for a school district as a cook and help plan menus. We have a budget amount that we use per student. The recipes seem to be made mostly from ingredients that you would have on hand. I really like that. I tend to shy away from recipes that require extra shopping/expense.
David Johnson, you won! I’ll contact you via email so you can send me your mailing address. I’ll forward that to the publisher and then send out your cookbook! Thanks everyone for participating and I hope others of you can either purchase the book or get your library to do so so you can enjoy it.
Right now, the skies are gray here, but often they’re blue. 😉
Prices vary greatly across the US, so the $5/meal may not be reasonable for your area. I think my prices are high here in the San Francisco bay area, but if I shop the sales and buy the larger packs I can get ground beef for much less than $5/lb (which is why I had a pound in my freezer, because I’d bought it in when prices were low rather than buying some on a whim when the prices were close to $4 or $5). But the real point is to know your own prices and how they fluctuate in your area. Track them and learn the lows for your area and buy at the low price for you. I would never assume you can follow someone else’s budget exactly. You should totally set your own goals based on sale prices in your area. Chase relies on coupons for some things as well, but the ones I have available are nearly non-existent for food I would buy and no stores double around here, so I ignored that part. I still found the recipes to be very reasonable, using ingredients that are not hard to find nor typically expensive in my area. Your mileage may vary, of course. But I’m not sure why you think I’m a liar, just because my prices are different than yours, which are different than hers. Food prices vary considerably across the country (and certainly around the world).
I had everything I needed in my freezer and pantry.
You lost me, and all credibility, right THERE. Cripes, the first ingredient of the recipe for meatballs, 1 lb of ground beef, costs more than $5 in most places!!!
What color is the sky in your world? Let us know when you try visiting earth, and shop for groceries in the United States.
What pisses me off the most about these kind of grandiose, “I can live on $3 a day” claims, is that there are people out there who BELIEVE you.
I don’t like liars.
Looks like something that would meet my dinner preparation requirements these days and fun to cook as well!! Thanks for offering these book reviews for us!
I never knew about the $5 dinners blog – so glad to have found out! I’ve enjoyed yours for over a year now – thank you!
I’m very excited to read the $5 cookbook! I’m currently 7 months pregnant and on bedrest which means I need easy to prepare meals and inexpensive meals too! Bedrest = no work = no pay. 🙁 This looks like a book I could sure use!
Wow. This looks like a really good book. I just checked out the website, too. I’ll definitely be bookmarking that one!
I have the $5 dinners website saved in my “favorites”. I like her recipes and would love to have her cookbook.
It made me hungry just reading the recipe! Sounds like an excellent book, and one more realistic to many of our situations nowadays. So many cookbooks use such expensive ingredients in them.
I am new to “cheap cooking” in general, but am learning and doing better. As a busy working Mom, I think my biggest problem was just not paying attention. I do now!
We are first time “homeowners” and enjoying our home, but we are still on a budget. I have some recipes which are from scratch (like many of you) and are economical. I would like a bit more variety and your cookbook is just the answer. Also, I would love a copy of your Italian ex-MIL friend’s meatball recipe.
You caught my eye with “free.” I made the meatball recipe and loved it. I live alone and was able to freeze it for future meals. I originally read the article to try to win a book to help save money. But as I read the other entries I gained much more than the book would have ever offered. I gained a reality check and an attitude of gratitude. Those entries certainly put my life in perspective. Yes, times are rough right now and I would love the book so that I could eat some decent affordable meals. But I realize now that maybe I’m not as bad off as I thought I was. I wish everyone on this list could win a copy of this book. I doubt that I will win the book and that’s OK. Thanks for the reality check. Bless you all!
In this economy this will be a great cookbook to read and if I don’t win I will check the library or Amazon unless I get it for Christmas. Thanks
I hope I win this book but if not, it will be on my birthday gift list, which is coming up the end of February. And thanks to you, I now know about her website so I can receive wonderful and reasonably-priced meals in my E-mail. Thanks so very much from this sr. on a very fixed income.
It’s really satisfying toc cook a delicious meal for a small amount of money. I would love this cookbook.
This cookbook looks terrific. Since I’m out of work at the moment, I’m looking to cut costs wherever possible, but my husband still wants to eat. Imagine that!
I collect cookbooks, but am looking for lots of new ideas and at great prices. Mom just died, so I am learning to cook for 1 AND re-learning how to cook the stuff “I” love…like brussel sprouts, spinach, kale..and without her Soc. Sec. I have all the same expenses, but half the income.
This looks like a GREAT cookbook.
I am always looking for new ideas and if they save money–Even Better!!!
The concept is great and the sample recipes look good so I hope I win. If not, this one goes on my wish list for 2010.
Wow! $5 meals? I’m going to check out the blog now.
This sounds great! I could use this to make meals and freeze them for later. I am single and live on SS and a part-time job.
The title alone makes me want to buy this book. In today’s economy cooks are glad to have a reference for a cheap healthy meal. It’s so valuable, they’d pass it down to their families after they’ve memorized it.
Manufacturers of highly processed foods have spread the lie that it’s expensive, difficult and time-consuming to cook from scratch. Erin Chase’s book and blog prove that they’re absolutely wrong! Cooking together with your family–no matter what their ages–is a satisfying and fun activity for everyone and is much less expensive and much healthier than the junk that is passed off as food. Every family should have a copy of this book!
Angela K. Marvin
I’d love to win a copy! Thanks!
I love your ideas and the $5 Dinner Mom! As a single mom, I’m always trying to fit more into our budget. Thanks for all you do!
I have heard great things about this cookbook and would be overjoyed to win a copy. Thanks for the great review and Merry Christmas!
Thanks for doing the review on this. I had seen it was coming out soon and have thought about purchasing it. Our goal for 2010 is to eat healthier and cheaper, so we can add some money to our saving account.
I LOVE your website. We took in our our son’s girlfriend to live with us since she was being abused by her own family. Things are tight with another mouth to feed and buying everything she needed. This website has helped me tremendously with my budget. I can cook meals that I’m sure my kids would eat. They love most of the recipes I have used from this site. Thanks for offering us more than hot dogs and ramen noodle soup. I would love this cook book to help teach her how to cook since I’m her mom now.
I am a homeschooling mom of 3 and I just started a part-time job working 30 hrs/wk. I am always looking to save money on groceries and cooking. I try to cook meals in advance so I always have options. I would love to have one of these cookbooks. Thanks.
LOVE this…. Cheapcooking has been my lifesaver and I love being able to make great food on a budget.
THANKS for all you do and for your reviews and recipes.
Cant wait to see what is next
I just started clipping coupons and have a store in my area that doubles. It is SO MUCH FUN to buy groceries now! i tend to save more than i spend. would love to try these recipes!
Sounds like a great book. In today’s economy we all need to watch our budgets.
WOW! This cookbook sounds like one that I need as I’m a single parent of a teenage son who eats like a teenage boy — lots! I’m trying to teach him how to have a food budget and still have great meals. This will be so helpful. Thanks for the opportunity to win this book.
I think this cookbook sounds great. I’ve been trying to cut my cost on groceries, even though it is just my husband and I and money is not as big of an issue for us. But I figure every dollar I save brings us closer to early retirement!
Thanks for the review. If I don’t win, I will check this book out anyway.
It would be great to win this cookbook. I am by myself and any way I can save I do. I am going to try the meatball and sauce. It sounds good.
I am a senior citizen and by myself. If she can make a meal for $5.00
i am disabled and rely on caretakers to take care of my daily needs-which includes cooking of my meals, this was a great recipe and easy for the caretakers to handle. What a joy to have great tasting spaghetti and meatballs once again. This cookbook would be a joy to have in my household for them to follow and fun for me to eat!
Would love some new ideas for stretching the dollar further. Love Erin’s site, even from downunder she has helped with some great ideas. Already trying to put away a few spare cents each pay for her new book … that’s if I don’t win the giveaway …. :))
Wow finally a simple easy to understand cookbook and not only that its a very easy one on the budget. Way to go.
I am working on raising and cooking for my third generation of children. First my younger siblings since I was the oldest and dad had custody. Then I raised two daughters, and when youngest had graduated high school, we started all over again that October with my now 8 yr old son. Plus gr’kids are always around too.
I do try to cook frugally, but from your review, her recipes sound like they may have more nutritious options than we use. Healthy and frugal is my goal! Would love a copy of book.
I would love to have this book. Thanks for the review.
As a modern woman and only 26 years old, I am still young enough to not totally appreciate the value of a dollar. However, as a waitress surviving on tips and a flat $3/hr pay, and the mother of 2 children, I find that if I don’t stretch the dollars we have, my children may go hungry. That is something I never want to have to face. No matter how bad the economy is. So, of course the idea that there is a whole cookbook with inexpensive, yet varied dishes sounds like an awesome way to be prepared for any crisis. Whether you have turkey, or sausage, milk or cream, its just great to see that someone out there can actually help me cut corners, at least around the kitchen counters!!
My budget squeaks because I have to be so very tight with every dollar since husband lost his job. This cookbook would certainly be a welcome addition to our family to help us in these trying times.
This looks like a cookbook that I would love to read and use!
Yeah! I want some yummy $5 dinners. Please enter me to win… 🙂
This cookbook looks great! I am on a very tight budget so this looks very helpful! I am always on look out for new cheap recipes for my family!!
I’d like to read this book to get recipes…living on a fixed income makes it necessary to budget wisely and it would be great to have recipes that don’t cost so much to prepare….
I am getting my SS but my DH is out of work, so it is necessary to pull in the belt. I am a frugal person but any book that can help me, I would love to have. This looks like a good one. That is basically the amount I shoot for but it is hard to keep coming up with new ideas. I will try this recipe listed. Hamburger I can still afford. : ) I do read the blog.
My family is so sick of bean burritos! We would love to win this cookbook! Thanks for the opportunity : )
This cookbook sounds intriguing. I’d definitely use it. Single mom with teenagers who tend to eat and eat and eat.
The recipes that you shared sound great! I like how you gave us your tips along the way. I’ll have to go and check out her blog, the book sounds wonderful! Thanks for a chance to win it!
I like the idea of having a weekly/monthly reasonable goals for my food budget. I’m looking forward to the recipes.
I am a budget cook by extreme necessity. Would love this book to have some more recipes. It sounds great!
I love her blog and cannot wait to see her book..did I say love it should have been LOVE!! As a pastor’s wife I know how to make things last, but with her blog I can make them last and still taste good! My husband thanks her and the church pot lucks thank her! Really if you have never seen her blog check it out, she always has something new and something you would..or I would never figure out on my own! I just cannot wait to get that book and start cooking from the front cover to the back cover.
I would love to have this, I am frugal to the max-called the coupon queen by friends and family and it used to be out of complete necessity, and it really still is but now I find I like it. I enjoy saving and spending wisely. I hope I am passing it along to others too.
Libby, she breaks down the cost of an entire meal so you can see how she calculates it. The recipes are set to feed 4.
You can buy it at most bookstores I think. It just arrived on the shelves today! I got an advance copy. You can also buy it from Amazon by following the text link near the top of my review. (Disclosure: If you do that, I make a small commission, which helps keep the site going!)
I’m checking out the blog as soon as I type this comment. Hope I win. If I don’t, I’ll have to save some extra money to buy it.
This sounds great! My daughter sure could use one. She’s out of work now and is a single mom with two children.Thanks!
I would love to read this book and use the recipes. It is hard to stay on a budget especially when it comes to food.
I would love to get a copy of this cookbook. We live on a pretty tiny budget and with three kids (two teenage boys!) I need to make my food buying dollar go as far as I can.
I am always searching for ways to feed my family cheaply when it gets close to the end of the week before I get paid again. With 3 growing boys(including 2 foreign exchange students) with very healthy appetites. Sometimes that can be quite a challenge and this sounds like one that I use at least once week if not more.
I’m a single mom whose 19 year old son is about to move to Houston to go to school. Money is tight and he’ll be living alone for the first time. This sounds like a great cookbook for him. He can half the recipes still giving him a couple of meals per recipe and not spending a lot of money. If I don’t win, I’ll surely buy him a copy.
Great review and the recipe looks great.
Thank you for all you do and the newsletters! I use the recipies all the time! I’m always looking for ways to lower my grocery bill while still feeding my famiily like royalty 😉
$5 Dinner Cookbook is exactly what American families need today–to watch their pennies and to provide delicious and nutritious home cooked meals to share. This recession has had its silver lining because it has forced us all to rethink our lives, start saving, and has helped us focus more on the important things–like spending more quality time with our families especially around the dinner table. Thank you Erin and Ellen for providing us with a tool to help us all succeed!
Sounds interesting! Would love to check it out. I’m a new mom to a 6-month-old and always looking for ways to “cut corners.” Happy Holidays!
I think it all sounds great. I appreciate the way everything is easy to understand. Can’t wait to try some recipes. I hope I win this book.
This book sounds wonderful. With three new kids added to the family we are now five. Have been researching ways to cut costs on groceries so will be looking up erin’s $5 dinner blog. If I don’t win a copy of the cookbook where can I buy one?
Thanks for all the great recipes!
I think the new cookbook sounds great with a lot of helpful hints, tips and recipes to help.
Careful mixing meatballs with a mixer, you can easily over mix raw ground meat. Recipes look really good.
This sounds great. I wonder if the recipies rely on staples or if $5 really covers the meal cost?
This cookbook sounds great to me and would help me keep my grocery budget in check. Thanks for the opportunity to enter.
Everything sounds wonderful. Thanks.
Sounds like a great book, and I will be trying the recipe this weekend. Didn’t know about the blogsite, will check it out also. Having recipes on hand like this already figured out costwise, would really help me stay in or under budget, and even figure out the cost of my own stand bys.
I make so many dinners for my family and my 96 year old father. I try to strech my food money out as much as I can. $5. meals is just what I need. I have been in the same old slump making the same old stuff. The marinara sauce was very good and I made boomer with the left overs. I will keep this reciep close.
This looks like a cookbook that I would love to have!
I would love to win this cookbook – single income family
These recipes remind me of my Gram!
This book sounds as if simple enough so I could use it. I live on SS and I have to pinch pennies.
I love Erin’s blog. It always amazes me to see her feed her family on only $5!
Wow, that cookbook looks terrific! My husband lost his job in June, and this would help out a lot. I’m already a frugal cook, but I’m always on the hunt for new tips and recipes.
I’ve just recently come across the $5 Dinner blog and have liked what I’ve seen so I’d certainly be up for a free copy of the book!
Thaks for the review,tips and recipes. I’m in the BayArea also.
Ohhh, I so want to read this! If I don’t win a copy I’ll keep my fingers crossed that the local library gets one soon. 😉 It looks great!
I’m intrigued at cheap cooking in general, especially since living on my own and being unemployed. Using this book (or most sources, really) for recipes means that I would have a lot of leftovers since I’d be cooking for one.