With the start of the new school year, my family and I have started a new program. I asked our oldest, Greer, who is a senior this year, to pick one night a week when she would cook dinner. I gave our youngest, Piper, who is in the 8th grade, the option to continue with her kitchen cleaning responsibilities or add cooking into the mix as well. She also chose to cook.
Greer will cook dinner Monday nights and Piper will cook Thursday nights. I added the caveat that if they needed anything special for their meals, that I would give them a $10 budget. Our pantry and refrigerator stay well stocked — I thought the budget was generous. Friends have advised me otherwise. However, for now, we will stand by the $10 and see what transpires. Plus, I’d rather the girls get more practice cooking before we start splurging on more expensive ingredients!
There are other stipulations to our so-called Teenage Cooking Plan. Only one of them can cook pasta each week. To be fair, we’ll rotate weeks. Also, there has to be something green on the plate.
In their first week of cooking, they both surpassed all expectations. Greer made bowtie pasta with clam sauce — and a salad). Piper made chicken and vegetable tikka masala with rice — and a salad. To be clear, Greer made the clam sauce from scratch, and Piper used a packaged sauce for the tikka masala. Either way, they were both delicious meals, and I couldn’t have been more proud.
I posted a photograph of Greer’s meal on Facebook and explained the parameters of our little project. Many of my friends couldn’t believe the $10 limit I had set. I got so much flack about it, I decided to prove a point.
On Tuesday, I went to the grocery story with only $10. I wanted to see if I could buy all the ingredients for a complete meal to feed a family of four. For the record, I succeeded and had many options. I chose to buy a pack of chicken wingettes ($5.10), a bag of black beans ($1.88) and rice (.88 for the whole bag) — totaling $7.86. I had the stuff for a green salad at home and added those into the mix. My salad fixings cost less than the $2.14 I had left on my budget.
Plus, the meal was easy to fix. I just soaked the beans, drained them and cooked them with an onion and a can of Rotel. For the chicken wings, I sprinkled seasoning salt on them and put them in the oven to roast — delicious. The next thing I did might not make it in the kitchens of healthy fanatics, but I did it anyway. After the chicken had been cooking for about 20 minutes, I prepared to cook the rice. I took the cookie sheet out of the oven and poured all that greasy goodness into the pot where I would cook the rice — scrumptious.
I want my daughters to learn what goes into cooking a meal and how much less expensive it is to eat at home than going out for dinner. With a little thinking and elbow grease, it’s possible to prepare fantastic meals at home on a low budget. Plus, once the meal is prepared, we get to sit at the table and eat together. As this is our oldest daughter’s senior year, we are appreciating that the normal evenings of the four of us being at home together are numbered.
Are you up for the $10 dinner challenge? Send me a pic of your ingredients and meal to be featured!