According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the average monthly grocery expenditure for a moderate-cost meal plan for a family of four is about $966.50—or a little more than $11,500 a year. Erin Chase, founder of $5 Dinners, a website focused on budget-friendly family recipes, believes hard working Americans don’t need to spend nearly that much for healthy, nutritious meals. She cut her own food bill in half using a combination of strategic grocery shopping, meal planning and couponing, and now she’s helping others do the same.
Budget Recipe Resources
It was the summer of 2008, and gas prices were rising rapidly. Looking for ways to relieve the pressure on their personal budget, Chase and her husband were cutting costs wherever they could. “I wasn’t working at the time,” Chase recalled, “and I decided to make it my personal goal to spend less. In doing so, I managed to cut the grocery bill for our family of four at the time from $500 a month down to $250.”
Wanting to share her results with others, Chase began posting information about what she was purchasing and cooking online. “It became a game of mixing and matching proteins, vegetables and starches from whatever was on sale,” she continued. “The website took off right away because of the timing –right as the recession was starting– and became a great source of inspiration and ideas for people through that tough time.”
Online Courses, Meal Plans and More
Since its launch, the resources available at $5 Dinners have grown exponentially. In addition to an easily searchable database with thousands of recipes, Chase now offers online courses for reducing your grocery budget and organizing an efficient kitchen, weekly and freezer meal plans, a free weekly email newsletter and more.
“While we do sell individual meal plans, for the most part everything on the $5 Dinners website is free,” Chase said. “Our online courses, meal plan memberships and mobile apps do have a small cost to them, but we’ve built them in such a way that they are packed with great value and information. They really help our audience get the results they need.”
The $5 Dinner team is always working on new products and will soon be releasing a food journal and meal planner to help people reach their health and wellness goals. They’re also planning to roll out an exciting cooking lessons mobile app this fall.
“It’s going to almost be like having your grandma in the kitchen with you,” Chase explained. “You’ll choose what you want to learn to cook from the recipes in the app. Then you’ll call an instructor to help you. The instructor will walk you through the recipe via video. I think the hands-on experience will be extremely valuable, and I’m really excited about it.”
Save Between 25 and 30 Percent
We asked Chase to share her simplest money-saving meal tip with RewardExpert readers.
“The most important thing to do is to plan your meals for the week based on what is on sale that week,” she began. “That’s the easiest way to keep your grocery bill down. For example, buy chicken breast when it’s $1.99 per pound, not $5.99 per pound. That’s a no brainer. When chicken is on sale, I plan at least two chicken meals that week and buy more packages of chicken for the freezer.”
“You’re going to save anywhere between 25 and 30 percent just by doing that,” Chase continued. “People are surprised by that, but I don’t think most consumers realize just how much money they are spending on meat. If they just switch to sale-only meat, they can play the game and cut their overall grocery bill, especially long term, significantly.”