Wednesday, April 24, 2013

9 Five-Minute Meals Cheaper Than the Dollar Menu

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about how irritating it is to me when people talk about how cheap fast food is. Fast food is not cheap. Fast food is fast. But homemade food can be too.

For each member of our family to order two things off of the dollar menu equals $12 (plus tax in Indiana). Below are several butt-kicking meals that can be made in 5 minutes. They each serve about 6 people (well, 6 of our people, which is 2 leanish adults and 4 youngish children, so take that for what it's worth--we're not feeding teenagers, although 2 dollar menu items isn't going to feed teenagers either). These meals are not gourmet meals and they are not necessarily entirely made from scratch or whole food ingredients (we're comparing them to fast food chains, people, so come on), though most can be adapted to homemade/whole food if you have 15-20 more minutes. Also, some require no or very little cooking time, but others are crock pot meals, which means you have to think of them in the morning (yeah, I don't always manage that either), but they still only take five minutes of your day to prepare. 

1. Shrimp (pre-cooked, yes) with cocktail sauce, bagged Caesar salad, and garlic bread.
Thaw the shrimp, toss the bagged salad, add butter and garlic to the bread and broil for a few minutes.
Cost: $11.50
shrimp: 7.00/lb, cocktail: 1.50, bagged salad (which includes dressing): 2.00, bread: 1.00

2. Sub sandwiches with fruit.
Put out the toppings, cut the fruit.
Cost: $9.50
deli meat: 4.00, buns: 1.50, pickles: .50, cheese: .75, toppings (tomatoes, lettuce, mayo, ketchup, mustard): .75, apples: 1.00, oranges: .50, pears: .50

3. Scrambled eggs and toast
Scramble your eggs with veggies like broccoli, spinach, or canned tomatoes (drained) and maybe some cheese if you'd like. Make toast. Eat.
Cost: $3.50
6 eggs: .60, can tomatoes: 1.00, cup spinach: .40, cheese: .50, half a loaf of bread: 1.00

4. Dorito Salad
Kip loves this stuff and he is not a huge salad guy. Even my kids will eat it if they get plenty of Doritos to buy them off. Chop lettuce, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheddar cheese. Add a can of chicken (drained). Toss. Add crumbled Doritos and serve with Ranch dressing.
Cost: $8.00
head romaine: .75, can olives: 1.00, cucumber: .50, tomatoes: .50, cheese: .75, canned chicken: 2.00, half bag of Doritoes: 1.50, dressing: 1.00

5. Crock Pot Ranch Chili.
Toss it all in the crock pot and turn the crock on.
Cost: $5.50 for 6-8 servings
chicken: 1.50, tomatoes: 1.00, beans: .50, corn: .50, ranch powder: .50-1.00, cream cheese: 1.00

6. Ranch Roast with potatoes and carrots.
Toss it all in the crock, cover it in Ranch powder, turn the crock on.
Cost: $11.00
roast: $8.00, potatoes: .50, carrots: .50, ranch powder:1.00-2.00

7. Crock Pot Italian Chicken with Instant Rice.
Toss in crock and turn it on. Make the rice when it's ready. With a few extra minutes, this can be whole-fooded.
Cost: $7.00
chicken: 4.00, cream cheese: 1.00, soup: 1.00, seasoning: .75, rice: (truth be told I have no idea on the instant, so I'm putting a normal rice price): .25

8. Crock Pot Rosemary Chicken
Throw a frozen bird in the crock with seasonings and turn the crock on.
Cost: $7.50
chicken: 6.00, seasonings: .50, potatoes: .50, carrots: .50

9. ...And then there's always angel hair. I know I mention it too much, but it's one of our super quick stand-bys.
Cost: $3.00
pasta: 1.00, sauce: 2.00


  1. there is no way these recipes feed 6 people tho! I mean, one can of chicken?? that's not enough for 6!

    1. They feed our six people--several of whom are small and picky. And the canned chicken is just part of a salad, so it's not meant to be a whole lot of chicken. The crock pot recipes would feed six people pretty well I think. But maybe that's still not true if they were big people--I'll make a note in the post--I'm definitely not feeding teenagers, that's for sure, but I don't think two items off the dollar menu is going to feed teenagers either.

  2. We have to replace (yikes!) our a/c soon, so I knew I could come to you for advice on how to save some $$$. Dorito salad! Marvelous! Also I have a million cans of chicken from when they were super cheap at Schnucks once and no idea HOW to eat canned chicken (the thought of which gives me heebie-jeebies).

    Sometimes, however, the cost benefit of fast food (or any takeout food) is not just the time saved cooking it, but the time saved cleaning it up, which for me (maybe I do it all wrong) is enormous. I hate doing dishes.

    1. Totally true about the benefit of fast food being in time as well, not just cash in your wallet (although honestly, I often think it takes us just as long to eat out when you account for driving time, waiting time, etc). I wrote in my first post that I'm not opposed to people going out or whatever. It just starts to annoy me when people talk about how cheap fast food is. The good news about these super fast meals is that they're also usually pretty quick to clean up as well, since they're mostly made in one pot or whatever. But, yeah, clean up--it still has to happen if you're at home. This is a fact I cannot deny.

      We use canned chicken on our pizzas sometimes too if you're looking for ways to use it up. I prefer normal chicken on pizza, but canned does just fine in a pinch.

    2. We are going to have Dorito salad for lunch today, with crock pot salsa chicken left over from last night. My children heard the title of the dish and have declared you an angel from heaven.

  3. You must be in the U.S. Whole chickens here are usually around $10-12.00. :( Brutal.. we're a family of 6 and i've taken to buying small turkeys instead as at least there's leftovers that way!

    Good ideas overall.. :)

    1. I am in the U.S. I'm not even sure it's a good thing that our chickens are that cheap (and they're not all depending on size and brand, although I don't think brand/price necessarily reflects quality), but they are--even the 3-4 pound humanely raised (not free range) ones that I try to buy.

  4. Just discovered your blog, enjoying it very much. Especially love the subject of this entry! Getting lots of good ideas throughout your blog, and chuckling a lot as well. Think I will try the Creamy Chicken and Ranch crock pot meal tomorrow! Thanks! - lavendel

    1. One more thing - I agree with your rec on the meat in your recipes. My husband may not appreciate it, but I also like to see how far I can stretch a chicken breast or 1/4 lb of ground beef :) Not to mention the probable health benefits of less meat! Our depression-era parents would probably know what we're talking about. I know my dad and mom knew how to feed 6 of us with only that much protein per meal. - lavendel

    2. So glad you're enjoying it. It's fun for me to write too.



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