Have you heard about Blue Apron? A friend described it to me as a guilty pleasure. I asked for more detail. He replied: “They send you ingredients, you cook the dinners. Even I can do it. I like that.”
I checked their web site. Plans are variable but the best deal is the family plan, which runs $8.74/serving, meaning Blue Apron’s family plan for four for four dinners runs $139.99 (16 x 8.74). Shipping is free. At this rate, it should be.
It *is* appealing. Ingredients are delivered to your home and everything has been all planned out, everything has been all prepped for the cooking. You don’t have to go to the store. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to make. You do get to do the cooking. But you also have to write the big check.
I feel like there might be a more economical way.
Here’s my offer. If you are willing to go to the store (well two stores actually, Trader Joe’s and your fresh meat and fish supplier) and you are willing to cut vegetables and meat, you will be able to feed a family of four seven dinners for $100.00. I also guarantee that my meals are more fulfilling and varied than Blue Apron’s. And, with recipes and ingredients list all set up, very little thought or planning is needed.
This deal costs just $3.57/serving, less than half the per serving price of Blue Apron and here your $100.00 gets you seven dinners instead of four! With Blue Apron’s scale, seven family dinners would set you back $244.72. Yikes.
By the way, my online research on eating on a budget brought me to sites of some incredibly knowledgeable and thrifty folk. Here are three sites that are worth checking out:
dontwastethecrumbs.com, which can feed a family of four for $50/week
grocerybudget101.com, which also offers$50 weekly menus
and foodrenegade.com, which is about eating real food with budgetary constraints in mind
FOOD PROCESS’S $100.00 DINNER MENU FOR THE WEEK*
*Note: you will need parchment paper, cheese grater, and salt & pepper (preferably sea salt and fresh ground, respectively)
DINNER 1. Seared fish with lemon and butter alongside sauteed kale and couscous
DINNER 2. Baked breaded chicken alongside green beans and fruit salad
DINNER 3. Meatball subs alongside greek salad
DINNER 4. Shrimp pasta primavera alongside pineapple slices
DINNER 5. Sausage potato brocolli hash
DINNER 6. Personal pizzas
DINNER 7. Omelettes
SHOPPING LIST AND PRICES, this week at exactly $99.44
Purchase all from your local supplier or whole food grocer such as The Fresh Market (TFM) or Whole Foods. You may be able to get the price down even further by purchasing meats and fish at Trader Joe’s (TJ). Here’s how I did at my local Trader Joe’s and The Fresh Market.
Eggs, cage free, antiobiotic free, grass fed dozen at TJ for $2.79
1 lb fresh white fish (I ended up with a 1.14 lb piece of cod on special at TFM for 9.99/lb; rainbrow trout would be wonderful, too) for $11.39
1 lb antiobiotic free chicken breast ( I bought tenders to get closer to my desired weight at TFM, where they cost $5.99/lb) for $6.05
1 lb raw peeled at deveined shrimp at TFM on sale for $9.99/lb (I was given 1.08lb), for $10.79
1 lb turkey sausage on sale at TFM for $3.69/lb for $3.83
1/2 lb ground chuck at $5.99/lb at TFM, for $3.35
1/2 lb mild Italian sausage at $3.99/lb at TFM, for $2.15
Typically prices are equivalent across markets. You can do better on some things at the farmers market, better at Trader Joe’s for others, better still at the whole food market if something is on special.
fresh parsley bunch at TFM, $1.69
1 zucchini at TFM for 1.25
1 bag frozen french green beans at TJ for $1.99
2 lbs (I purchased two 1 lb bags of fingerlings) potatoes at TJ for $4.58
I bag organic kale at TJ $2.29 (substitute spinach if you prefer)
1 head of organic broccoli at TJ for $2.69
1 small container of organic cherry tomatoes at TJ for $2.69
1 onion at TJ for $.69
3 bananas at TJ for $.38
1 Bosc pear from at TJ for $.79
1 lemon at TJ for $.49
1 pineapple at TJ for $2.99
DAIRY AND CHILLED, $15.45
Grate-able parmesan cheese wedge at TJ for $3.30
Solid feta cheese at TJ for $2.99
Salted butter at TJ for $2.99
Grated mozzarella cheese at TJ for $3.79
Whole wheat pizza dough at TJ (two) for $2.38
Red wine vinegar at TFM for $2.99
Trader Joe’s Spanish organic extra virgin garlic flavored olive oil for $3.99
Tube of tomato paste at TJ for $1.29
Can tomato sauce at TJ for $1.49
Fusilli pasta on special at TFM for $2.50
Four brioche rolls at TFM for $3.69
Couscous from TJ for $1.99
Organic bread crumbs at TJ for $2.99
DINNER 1. Seared fish with lemon and butter alongside sauteed kale and couscous.
This dinner takes under 30 minutes, easily. Probably could be done in 15 minutes with simultaneous couscous, kale, and fish cooking. It’s amazing how good a piece of fresh fish tastes seared in butter.
Prepare couscous as directed (one cup water, two tablespoons butter, and salt to boil then add one cup couscous– you will have leftover couscous). Meanwhile, saute 1/2 bag of the kale in 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper until bright and tender, set aside. Coat fish in olive oil, salt and paper. Pan sear in 2 tablespoon butter until flaky and gently browned. Layer ingredients on plate as follows: couscous, kale, fish. Minced parsley on top, lemon wedge on the side. Save remaining lemon for shrimp primavera dinner.
DINNER 2. Baked breaded chicken alongside green beans and fruit salad (this is a kids portion, pictured above; we didn’t have any left0vers!)
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Place large bite size pieces of chicken in baking dish. Coat with one egg, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and a few tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Bake in over for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, slice 1/3 pineapple, pear, and bananas into bite size pieces and set aside. Then gently saute 1/2 bag of the frozen french green beans in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper until warm and bright. Serve chicken, beans, and fruit on plate as soon as chicken is out of the oven.
DINNER 3. Meatballs subs alongside greek salad
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. For the meatballs, gently combine 1/2 pound beef, 1/2 lb Italian sausage, 1/3 cup warm water, 1 egg , 1/2 cup bread crumbs, 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon fresh cut parsley, pinch of salt and pepper. Form into 1-2″ balls and place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Baked for 30 minutes, turning balls every ten minutes.
Meanwhile, make red sauce by heating can of tomato sauce, a good squeeze of paste from the tube, a bit of olive oil, salt, pepper, and minced fresh parsley. Keep on low boil and uncovered to thicken while meatballs are baking.
Then prepare greek salad. Rinse remaining 1/2 bag of kale and mix in feta crumbled, handful of halved cherry tomatoes, 1/3 of the onion, sliced. Douse with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
When meatballs are done baking, slice rolls, place atop a sheet of foil, top with a meatballs, sauce**, and shredded mozzarella. Fold sandwich in with fool and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with greek salad immediately out of the oven.
**You should have some sauce for your pizza night but don’t worry if you use all of the sauce on the meatball sandwiches; you can make more sauce using the remaining paste on pizza night.Save any remaining meatballs (you should have several) for pizza night.
DINNER 4. Shrimp pasta primavera alongside pineapple slices
Boil water in stock pot and prepare box of pasta as directed, typically boiling pasta for around 12 minutes.
Meanwhile, using large saucepan, saute 1/3 onion in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of butter, salt, and pepper. When onion is caramelized, add zucchini and remaining half bag of frozen green beans and saute until warm. Add shrimp and heat until pink. Lastly, add handful of halved cherry tomatoes and tablespoon of freshly minced parsley, stir gently, and set aside.
Slice remaining pineapple lengthwise into wedges.
After noodles are cooked, drain them and place in serving bowl. Then top with shrimp and primavera mixture. Add newly grated parmesan cheese atop as desired and serve with pineapple wedges.
DINNER 5. Sausage potato broccoli hash (with one egg over easy)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice potatoes into bite size pieces and place on baking sheet lined with parchment. Coat with olive oil, salt, and a generous amount of pepper and baked for 30 minutes, gently flipping at 15 minutes. Meanwhile saute 1/2 pound turkey sausage until cooked thoroughly, then add chopped broccoli and cook until bright. When potatoes are roasted, combine sausage and broccoli with them and serve in bowls as a hash. May be served with one egg over easy atop.
DINNER 6. Personal pizzas. Preheat oven as directed. Separate pizza dough into fourths to create four personal pizzas. Use any remaining sauce or make new by mixing remaining paste and water with olive oil to reach desired consistency; add salt, pepper, and freshly minced parsley as desired. Place uncooked pizza crusts on parchment paper, top with olive oil or tomato sauce before adding toppings such as meatballs, onion, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, feta, or parmesan cheese. Bake in oven as directed on dough bag.
DINNER 7. Omelettes with whatever is left, or just eggs as you like them! I’m hoping for greek salad leftovers in there.
I will post pictures of our meals each night. Let me know how you fare with this challenge, and, enjoy!
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