This Week's Contest Theme

May 13, 2011

Dirt cheap dinner

Between now and next Thursday at midnight, we want to see Your Best Dirt Cheap Dinner! For more details and to enter the contest, go here.

Bonus: We're teaming up with BigGirlPhoebz & SmallKitchCara of Big Girls Small Kitchen for this contest, so the winner will get a copy of their new cookbook In the Small Kitchen!

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Amazon: In the Small Kitchen

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • betteirene
  • Burnt Offerings
    Burnt Offerings
  • adamnsvetcooking
  • RisaCooks
  • PhoebeLapine
Food52 (we cook 52 weeks a year, get it?) is a food and home brand, here to help you eat thoughtfully and live joyfully.


betteirene May 16, 2011
Y'all are welcome to come over at dawn or dusk to harvest as many snails as you want. : )
Burnt O. May 16, 2011
My cheapest meal isn't any one dish. It's creatively using an ingredient over and over again to get the most out of it - like roasting a big 'ol bird on Sunday, and using her throughout the week for salads, soups, enchiladas, etc... It's also about those last ditch efforts to salvage the not so fresh vegetables in the crisper into stocks, soups, curries, and stews, or using the very last bit of some exotic oil, herb, salt, or cheese that you might have splurged on, to star in an otherwise pedestrian plate of food or pasta.
Panfusine May 16, 2011
Love your point of view on this theme Burnt offerings. It rings so true and the value for money definitely stretches out beyond just one meal. it will be interesting to know how this contest will be judged, since the theme itself gives rise to a lot of judging criteria. Taste, appeal, the overall economical value, innovation, judicious use of ingredients.
fiveandspice May 16, 2011
Hear, hear. I love that point of view too! So much of being economical is getting creative with what you have around from making other meals so nothing goes to waste. And, in the US, a country that spends a smaller portion of it's budget on food than pretty much any other country, it's interesting to think about larger meanings of cheap food, and when something is cheap because of hidden costs (to the environment, health, etc.) versus when something is cheap because you really are making efficient use of good ingredients.
boulangere May 16, 2011
Yes, some of my favorite dinners have begun not with what do I want, but rather what do I have.
Burnt O. May 16, 2011
Love that statement boulangere
adamnsvetcooking May 15, 2011
The cheapest meal is going over your parents or grandmothers house for dinner! I am blessed with an wonderful mom and grandmother that will stuff you to death with food when ever you say "I am going to stop by for a second"....
RisaCooks May 15, 2011
My mom used to make something that I try to copy once in awhile - a bag of extra wide egg noodles, a container of cottage cheese, some butter, salt and pepper. Costs maybe $3 for all the ingredients and it serves 4-6 people. I don't remember what my mom did, I just remember the dish coming to the table. I always called it "Jewish Noodles w/Cheese" - not sure what mom called it. She also made a dish with ground beef and Green Giant Mexi-Corn and served it with rice. I have a feeling she got the idea from Woman's Day or Family Circle in the 70's. Her favorite magazines at the time. They were both cheap and delicious. My cheapest meal is usually spaghetti with homemade marinara, I usually fry some garlic and put it on top. Have no idea what any of it costs though. Never priced it all.
boulangere May 15, 2011
Please post these - they all sound wonderful. Love the noodles and cottage cheese.
boulangere May 15, 2011
I'm going to try it this week, maybe add some chives for color. I have a feeling son and daughter would like it too, so I'll pass it along to them.
PhoebeLapine May 14, 2011
Too bad there are no deer to hunt in Manhattan :)

Can't wait for all your inspiring recipes! Our favorite dirt cheap dinners are the ones that remain impressive--the kind of dish that your guests would be shocked by if they found out how little you spent!
aargersi May 13, 2011
Go outside at night and shoot the deer that has been eating all of the plants, field dress him (or her). Cook the good parts up with herbs from the garden (the uneaten ones) along with some grilled tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Free!!! :-)
fiveandspice May 13, 2011
Yes! Same with hunting down the rabbits nibbling at your veg! (I believe bow hunting is legal within some city limits...) Delicious free stew, mmmm. :)
Panfusine May 13, 2011
and if you can't find any deer in your neck of the woods, you're welcome to the ones domiciled in my yard!
Sasha (. May 13, 2011
Ohhh, I bet I can find something for this competition! Fun :)
ChefJune May 13, 2011
PLEASE define the parameters of "dirt cheap."
Food52 May 13, 2011
No hard and fast rules, but it wouldn't hurt if you aimed for SmallKitchCara's recommendation of about $0.50-$1 a serving.
Cara E. May 13, 2011
We can't wait to see what everyone comes up with! In our book, we tried to keep it at about $0.50-$1 a serving, but I think price depends a lot on where you live.
Panfusine May 13, 2011
Just went back & added a cost breakdown to the submitted recipe, Dinner could imply more than one dish. Do these recipes have to be a complete dinner? Like a one pot stew?
Food52 May 13, 2011
See below, Panfusine.
mrslarkin May 13, 2011
What are you looking for exactly? main course only? or can it be app, side or dessert??
Food52 May 13, 2011
We're primarily looking for main courses, but feel free to do a more well-rounded meal if you like.
EmilyNunn May 13, 2011
Love it.
Burnt O. May 13, 2011
So not a foie gras week? Just kidding. Thirschfeld's got this nailed. He raises all his own food. :-(
Time to make use of all the bulk bin items I got at Whole Foods in Rockville!
Panfusine May 13, 2011
I guess, the foie gras & shaved black truffle will have to wait... Can't wait to see what Thirshfeld presents for this one!
Panfusine May 13, 2011
Any Guidelines on what constitutes 'dirt cheap' (other than the no Ramen multipacks..) I mean, would we have to suggest a price range to the ingredients or comment on how economical it was to prepare in terms of grocery budget?
Food52 May 13, 2011
Panfusine, see above.