Feed a family of four for $5

(Saving with 6abc - Amy Buckman)

January 18, 2010 10:08:18 AM PST
Erin Chase didn't set out to be a blogger or cookbook author. But as the $5 Dinner Mom, she's both. And her popularity is soaring.

"In the summer of 2008, when the gas prices spiked up really high all over the place, our budget was getting really pinched and so we decided we need to cut costs somewhere and we decided that the grocery store would be the most logical place," she explains.

She set a goal of cooking meals for her family of four for $5 or less. Each meal contains a protein, a starch and a vegetable. For example, her slow-cooker chicken fajitas with guacamole and brown rice.

"Sometimes the protein and the starch get mixed, sometimes the protein and the vegetables get mixed together and you serve the starch on the side," Chase says. "So it's combination, but those are the three main features of each meal."

Erin's a big believer in planning your meals around what's on sale each week at the store.

"For the proteins, keeping an eye on the sales, I try not to buy meat when it's any more than $1.99 a pound," Chase says.

The fajitas use two chicken breasts, canned tomatoes along with some chopped onion and green pepper.

She serves them with homemade guacamole and brown rice.

"Rice, pasta, brown rice, whole-grain pastas, you can usually get them on sale with coupons and that's a great way to keep the price of those down," she says.

Both Erin's website and her new cookbook allow you to search for recipes by ingredients -- making it even easier to plan money-saving meals that are also delicious.

Here's Erin Chase's recipe for Slow-Cooker Fajitas:

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts ($1.66)
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes and green chilies ($.37)
1 green bell pepper, sliced ($.68)
1/2 onion, sliced ($.15)
1 teaspoon ground cumin ($.05)
1 cup brown rice ($.40)
1 cup homemade Guacamole ($.80)
6 to 8 whole wheat or corn tortillas ($.79)
Marinate the chicken in the diced tomatoes and green chilies for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, (or see Frugal Fact for another option). Once marinated, place chicken breasts with the marinade juices in the insert of a slow cooker. Add sliced bell peppers and sliced onions around the chicken. Set the slow cooker on high, and cook for 6 hours.
Prepare the homemade guacamole.
In a medium saucepan, bring 21 /2 cups of water to a boil, add the brown rice and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.
Wrap the tortillas in paper towels and warm in the micro wave for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the tortillas in the middle of the stack are warm. Prepare the fajitas by adding chicken, bell peppers, onions, and guacamole to each warm tortilla.
Serve Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas, topped with homemade guacamole, and a side of rice.
Cost $4.80

FRUGAL FACT: If you plan to freeze chicken breasts in individual portions after buying a large family pack, consider adding the diced tomatoes and green chilies before freezing. As the chicken thaws, it will marinate in the sauce.