I don’t care what your life status is - it’s time to pay attention to your grocery budget! -Erin Chase

Episode 027: Feeding Your Growing Family Well Without Going Broke with Erin Chase of $5 Dinners

Grocery budget hurting?

Erin Chase of $5 Dinners has been making inexpensive meals to save her family’s grocery budget since the real estate crisis of 2008. She says the current inflation problem is similar in how it’s making people feel about money and savings, and it’s TIME to pay attention to your food budget, no matter who you are.

In this episode, prepare to learn:

  • How to stay ahead of the curve and adapt to the ever-changing world
  • Why thinking about your dinner cost is even more important than finding a sale or thinking about what’s in your cart at the moment
  • The most important part of the meal to focus on to cut costs
  • How one appliance can make a huge difference in your planning
  • Erin’s awesome four-step process to gradually let go and teach kids to cook
  • How parents need to be intentional about teaching budgeting to kids (and it’s a lot more like raising toddlers than you think!)

We guarantee you’ll learn at least one (hopefully many!) hack to save time, money, or stress while you nourish your family!

Erin is a camp leader at #LifeSkillsNow summer camp, season 3, teaching kids how to make double the food in half the time – yum!

Register for free!

Video or audio? For the first 5 years, this show “The Healthy Parenting Connector” was a video interview series. You can still watch the video, but NOW it’s also a podcast, renamed “Healthy Parenting Handbook.” Find all the episodes here or listen on your favorite podcast player:

Can’t see the video? Watch Cutting Your Grocery Budget here on YouTube!

No time for the video? Here are the notes!

Cutting Your Grocery Budget with $5 Dinners

  • 1:16: Today I’m talking with Erin Chase from $5 Dinners and she is going to open up your eyes to a new philosophy that I hope will work for you to cut your grocery budget.
  • 3:44: Unfortunately, things are always changing at the grocery store. Erin is not sitting back on advice that worked in 2008, she’s adapted over the years to have current advice on how to cut your grocery budget. She tells us what she did before she became an entrepreneur.
  • 6:49: Erin’s favorite thing to teach about is how and when to grocery shop.

grocery shopping

Managing Picky Eaters, Busy Schedules, and Food Allergies

  • 8:15: I know we have a lot of people in the audience with picky eaters. We have a lot of people with crammed schedules, athletic kids who are just consuming calories like they’re going out of style, and kids with food allergies. We attract a lot of people with tricky diets. Erin is just like you. She has 4 boys: 1 picky eater, 1 athlete with high metabolism, 1 average eater, and 1 with MCAS (which means multiple food intolerances). 
  • 10:57: I’m not a fan of short-order cooking. When you have some food allergies in the family, it’s a bit of a different situation. You could make a main dish everyone can eat but have some variance in the sides so that there’s something everyone can eat. Making two pots of pasta (one gluten-free and one regular) is different from making an entirely different meal for a picky eater. 

  • 12:43: Erin’s site is called $5 Dinners. Can you still make a meal for $5? Even though inflation has made the price of food go up, the strategies Erin teaches still apply. The underlying purpose of what Erin teaches is to pay more attention to your meal costs.
  • 14:38: A lot of people think it’s $5 per person, or $20 to make the meal. Hopefully, it’s many years before that becomes the benchmark!

My intention is to help you spend as little as you can while still eating well. -Erin Chase

Balancing Convenience and Savings When Cutting Your Grocery Budget

  • 15:42: Everyone needs to be spending their money with intention. No matter what your income or life status is, watch what you’re buying and be intentional with your food budget.
  • 16:40: At one point Erin was in the hospital with a sick child and she used DoorDash to get dinner for 2 people and it was $40! She figures that it was double what that meal would have cost in the store. Being in the hospital with a sick child is a “crisis moment.” You can’t spend that way when it’s just an “inconvenient moment” if you’re trying to save money.
  • 18:24: As we’ve said, Erin’s philosophy is to calculate the price of each meal in order to make intentional choices with your grocery spending. We have to eat every day and most people go to the grocery store once or twice a week, but they don’t string the amounts together. Then we get to the end of the month or the year and think that’s just what we need to spend to eat. Many people are overspending due to lack of intention and mindless shopping.

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  • 19:49: When you track what individual meals cost, each meal is a milestone. If you keep your individual meals within your parameters, you won’t let your overall grocery budget get out of control.
  • 20:43: Erin shares some ideas for $5 dinners. Rice and beans can be done for $3-5 for 2-4 people adding quite a bit of flavor. Get a 5lb. bag of rice and dried beans to cook in an Instant Pot or slow cooker. If you’re looking for some flavor variety in your rice and beans, add some frozen mango! Erin likes to cook large batches of beans and then freeze family-sized portions.

It comes down to balancing the convenience and the savings. There are some times when you need convenience, and the extra cost is worth it. -Erin Chase

Saving Money on Groceries: Protein Cost

  • 22:39: The first component to calculate is the protein cost of your meal. The protein is going to be the most expensive component. If you’re a from-scratch cook then you’ll save on sauces and marinades by mixing these up yourself.

Get meat when it's on sale and then make extra freezer meals out of it. -Erin Chase

  • 24:39: Do not put the extra meat you bought into the freezer in its package. Set yourself up for success. Take it out of the packaging and make a freezer meal with it, even if that’s just putting it in a marinade so that it’s easy to create a meal out of it later.
  • 25:01: In grocery stores, sales will usually rotate back to the meat six to eight weeks later. You can also shop at a warehouse store which will usually be cheaper than regular grocery stores. If you’re only going to start looking into the price of one thing, start with meat. Even if you just start paying attention to the price of your meat per meal, you will start saving money.

  • 28:06: You can cut your meat use as well by subbing some of the meat out for beans in some recipes. Instead of using 1lb of ground beef, you can use 1/2lb and use lentils or kidney beans for the rest. This works great with tacos, chili, and pasta skillet recipes. Get more tips to stretch your meat dollar here
  • 29:34: Erin shares her system for calculating the price per meal. If you can get in the habit of thinking about the cost per meal, you’ll find your grocery budget going down. Erin sees it happening again and again. 
  • 32:23: You know the analogy for time management that says you need to put in your “large rocks” first? It works for this too. Your “large rock” is the protein. Imagine you have a $5 bucket, put in that protein cost first. Now what is left for medium rocks like vegetables and then smaller rocks like grains?
  • 33:18: Unless you have a really expensive spice, you can just add 25 cents for spices and salt. Just make sure you’re buying your spices as inexpensively as possible which usually means buying in bulk.

Involving Kids in Meal Planning and Teaching Budgeting

  • 34:28: Let’s shift gears a bit. Part of parenting is keeping our kids nourished and healthy. We also need to teach them about meal planning and budgeting. Erin brings her boys in on the process of planning what to buy and how to bring it together into meals. 5 steps to teaching teens to meal plan on a budget.
  • 36:10: My kids don’t often get to see the grocery shopping process because they’re in school, but we happened to all be in a grocery store just yesterday, and my nine-year-old asked how much I paid. That night when we were praying he said, “God bless mom’s business, cuz she just spent a lot of money for us today.” You need to share these things with your kids, especially teens and tweens so they know how to budget for groceries. They’re not learning this in school. 
  • 37:11: Speaking of teaching kids how to budget, Erin is a camp leader for #LifeSkillsNow Summer Camp. She gives us a preview of her workshop.

Paleovalley Meat Sticks

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These beef sticks and turkey sticks taste delicious! My favorite is the Jalapeño but my kids love Summer Sausage.

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Teaching Kids to Cook: A Four-Step Process

  • 39:33: Erin has a four-step process for teaching kids how to do something. She walks us through it using the example of learning to make taco soup. 1) Do it standing next to them, showing them how to do every aspect of it. 2) Be in the kitchen, watching but doing something else. 3) Be nearby in case of emergencies but in a different room. 4) Show up to a dinner fully cooked by your child!
  • 41:47: When our kids first start taking over a meal, we let them make the same recipe every week, and they really do get mastery.
  • 42:04: Let’s end with a super practical step. The protein cost is what matters the most, it’s where you’re gonna see the biggest and fastest impact on your grocery budget. Start looking for ways to get your protein cheaper, stock up on sales, make freezer meals, add in meatless meals, etc.

Feeding Teenage Boys on a Budget: Hearty and Healthy Recipes

  • 43:57: Erin has a new book about feeding teenagers on a budget. It contains 90 recipes that are hearty, healthy meals. You can get a digital download with the book containing some little cooking videos showing teens how to make some of the recipes!

Resources We Mention for Cutting Your Grocery Budget

Erin ChaseErin Chase is on a mission to help busy, overwhelmed home chefs learn to spend less money on groceries and get organized in the kitchen. Beyond the money savings, she’s helped many people come to enjoy cooking again and help them stop feeling stressed and overwhelmed with feeding their families every single night. She lives with her husband and 4 hungry, growing boys in San Antonio, TX. You can find more information about Erin at

What You Should Do Next:

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About Katie Kimball

Katie Kimball, CSME, creator of Kids Cook Real Food and CEO of Kitchen Stewardship®, LLC, is passionate about connecting families around healthy food. As a trusted educator and author of 8 real food cookbooks, she’s been featured on media outlets like ABC, NBC and First for Women magazine and contributes periodically on the FOX Network.

Since 2009, busy moms have looked to Katie as a trusted authority and advocate for children’s health, and she often partners with health experts and medical practitioners to stay on the cutting edge. In 2016 she created the Wall Street Journal recommended best online kids cooking course, Kids Cook Real Food, helping thousands of families around the world learn to cook. She is actively masterminding the Kids’ Meal Revolution, with a goal of every child learning to cook.

A mom of 4 kids from Michigan, she is also a Certified Stress Mastery Educator, member of the American Institute of Stress and trained speaker through Bo Eason’s Personal Story Power.

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

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