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Welcome to $2 Dinners

Feeding your family on a budget has always been a challenge, but in today's economy, it's more difficult than ever before. So what's a busy cook on a budget to do? Is it possible to stay on a budget and still serve flavorful meals that are quick and easy too? Trust me; with some budget-friendly recipes and time-saving strategies, you can do it!

Helping you save time and money is what $2 Dinners is all about. Each article is chock-full of ideas you can use today, and each recipe is designed to cost $2 or less per serving to make. With our thrifty and delicious recipes, some great tips, and a little planning, you will be well on your way towards making quick and flavorful meals without busting your budget. Are you ready? Let's get started!







About Our Cost Estimates

Per servings costs are based on regular store prices the day ingredients were purchased, and/or were estimated based on the USDA Food Prices Database .

Estimates also assume that certain pantry items such as basic spices, oil, vinegar, etc., did not have to be purchased to prepare the recipe. Coupons and store sales were not used. Your costs may vary.















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To contact me, please e-mail me at
twodollardinners@yahoo.com

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When is a Writer Really a Writer?

I read this post the other day by Crescent Dragonwagon (yes...that's her name, trust me...just Google it) and just had to share it with all of you who may be struggling at "being" a writer. Let me state for the record, I do not know Crescent, have never had the pleasure of actually meeting her, although I wish that were not the case. However, I do admire her a great deal, own some of her cookbooks and have exchanged comments with her on Twitter and Facebook on occasion (does that count?)

Why is she important to me? Well, in spite of the fact that we have never met, I consider her a mentor of sorts. A few years ago, when I began writing seriously, I was struggling...doubting myself and wondering if I would ever really "be" a writer. I reached out to Crescent on Twitter...and she responded. The thing about this that's so incredible is that Crescent Dragonwagon is a well-known, very successful author (over 50 books) who took the time to actually answer me. Amazing! She gave me words of encouragement...and then she told me "always remember..every day that you write, you're a writer!" I held on to those words, kept writing, and am now under contract for my first cookbook (coming 3rd quarter 2012). I will always be grateful to Crescent for her generosity and for being so approachable and genuine....she helped me more than she can ever know.

So here's a link to her recent post...I hope you get as much out of it as I did. And remember, whether it's a blog, a book, web content, or something else...every day that you write, you're a writer.

http://crescentdragonwagon.typepad.com/nothing_is_wasted_crescen/2011/12/real-writer.html

The Carolina Gourmet on UNC TV!

Some of you may already know that I have a gourmet food business called The Carolina Gourmet in downtown Mebane, NC. Recently Destination Downtown Mebane held a Spring Shopper's stroll event and we were on-hand to do a tasting (as we try to do for all special events downtown). To help generate publicity for Mebane and share with more people how great our little town is, the DDM committee was able to get UNC TV (our public tv station) to come and do a feature story. They did a great job showcasing all the wonderful businesses in Mebane, including Melville Trading Company, where our Carolina Gourmet booth is located. Here's a video link to the story...the bit about The Carolina Gourmet is about halfway through the video.



Watch the

My Adventures in "Extreme" Couponing

Maybe some of ya'll heard about this...recently there was a show on TLC about "extreme" couponers. According to an article I read the day after the show aired, these people take couponing to a whole other level. For example, the woman who dumpster dives for coupons, or the man who's turned his garage into a mini-warehouse to store all the stuff he buys with coupons (including approx. 150 years worth of stick deodorant). I didn't personally see this show, but my impression from the article I read was that the show painted these people as borderline hoarders who buy anything as long as they have a coupon for it. I use coupons when I can, so I have to admit the concept of "extreme" couponing intrigued me in a train-wreck sort of way, so I did some digging for articles about it on the Internet. To my surprise, there was quite a lot of info. There are lots of blogs and websites dedicated to couponing, extreme and otherwise, with all kinds of systems and theories that seem (to me) very elaborate, complicated and time-consuming. Worse than that, many of them seem to be more about what you save than what you buy. I was more mystified than ever.

Most of what I found was overwhelming and a bit frustrating, because it didn't seem to apply to me and my lifestyle. My time is valuable (so is yours!) and I'm just too busy for some of the stuff I read about! A lot of these women are stay-at-home moms so I'm not sure how they have time for elaborate systems either! Obviously they must be more organized and better time managers than me. Then, just when I was getting ready to give up on finding anything useful, I came across a website that made me stop in my cyber tracks. It's called Southern Savers and it's written by a lady named Jenny who really knows her stuff. She explains in an easy-to-understand way how to effectively use coupons, and she doesn't advocate complicated systems or elaborate methods. On top of that, she has links to most of the major coupon sites like RedPlum and Coupons.com, as well as current weekly sales circulars for most major grocery chains. The best part of all, though, was that Jenny isn't trying to sell me anything...she's simply trying to share what she knows with the rest of us. Amazing! At last....here was what I was looking for...a site full of common sense and practical advice! I looked at the weekly sales circulars for the stores close to my house, checked off items I was interested in and printed my shopping lists with the convenient tool built right into the list. So easy! Jenny even tells you which items have manufacturers coupons, so I was able to grab those from my coupon file and match them with my shopping lists. It only took me a few minutes and I was ready to shop.

I approached this trip to the store very differently than normal. Instead of just making a list and then shopping like usual, I focused on items we use regularly that were on sale and for which I had coupons. For the first time ever, I would build my weekly menu around what I bought instead of creating a menu and then making a list of what I needed. This fits in perfectly with the $2 Dinners savings pyramid idea of having core budget-friendly recipes that make use of what items you have on-hand. Getting those items at a discount just maximizes the savings! My extreme couponing shopping trip took me to three grocery stores and one drugstore, all within 3 miles of my house (I wouldn't have gone to so many stores if they weren't so close). A few things I bought were necessities that weren't on sale, and for which I didn't have coupons, but most of what I bought was stuff we use on a regular basis, that was on sale, and for which I had a manufacturer's coupon, a store coupon, or both. Some of what I bought is planned for meals this week (I'll be posting recipes), and some things, like the canned tomatoes (5 cans for $1!) were purchased to stock up because I use them often. Here are the stats on my extreme couponing shopping trip:
  • Time spent = 2 1/2 hours
  • Grocery  bags unloaded = 28
  • Total money spent = $97.83
  • Retail value of purchase = approx. $150.00
  • Money saved = approx. $52.17
Here are pictures of the loot from my trip, so you can see for yourself what I was able to buy for less than $100.



I think once I get used to this new way of shopping, I can cut down the time it takes considerably. I have to admit it was fun...almost like a game to see how much I could save, and I was extremely pleased with the results. I learned that you don't have to go to extremes to save on your grocery bill, and you don't have to buy 150 years' worth of deodorant! So far this week we've had chicken and dumplings and pot roast, all made with items I purchased on sale.Thanks to Jenny at SouthernSavers.com for her great site, practical advice and awesome tools! If you're interested in learning more about couponing, I encourage you to check out southernsavers.com!

Wow your friends and family with this stress-free holiday dinner

For most of us, the holiday season means gathering in our homes with friends and family to enjoy company, conversation, and great food. If you’re planning a holiday gathering at your house, you may be looking forward to it with equal amounts of excitement and fear. I don’t blame you! It’s never a small feat to hold a gathering that involves food, and even small dinner parties can make your palms sweaty; the holidays only add an extra layer of stress! You’re not alone though, because even veteran hosts/hostesses can find it a balancing act to put together a great meal without spending all their time in the kitchen (and neglecting their guests).

The good news is that a holiday dinner party doesn’t have to be stressful, and you can pull it off easily and within budget. How? The secret is to plan ahead and to have an easy but delicious menu. The menu for our $2 Dinners “Stress-Free Holiday Dinner” is full of recipes that are delicious, super-easy and guaranteed to “wow” your guests! The best part is that each one has six ingredients or less (not counting salt and pepper)! For your upcoming holiday meal, try “Heavenly Christmas Ham”, “Scalloped Potatoes”, and “Bacon-y Green Beans”. With rolls and dessert purchased at your local bakery, you will have a delicious, stress-free holiday feast you can be proud of!

$2 Dinners Hints for a Stress-Free Holiday Meal:

- Read and re-read the recipes to make sure you understand the steps and to double-check that you have all the ingredients. Make a grocery list and do your shopping a day or two in advance.
- Set and decorate your table the morning of your party. Set out all your serving bowls and utensils as well. Guests who arrive early will most likely offer to help, so put a piece of paper with the name of the food it will contain beside (or inside) each serving dish. That way, your helpers will know where things go and you won’t be interrupted every 5 minutes to give them instructions.
- To avoid washing all those dishes, consider using paper plates. There are some really gorgeous patterns available and paper makes things so much easier. I love using my great-grandmother’s china, but since it has to be carefully hand-washed, I usually choose paper instead. While I still use my good flatware for the main meal, I do use plastic ware for appetizers and desserts (otherwise I would run out of forks!). I also purchase paper or plastic cups in a coordinating color or pattern for guests to use before and after the meal.


Click on the orange boxes for a printable version of the recipes

Heavenly Citrus Ham (makes 15 servings @ about $2.00 per serving)



Really Easy Scalloped Potatoes (makes 6-8 servings @ about .75 cents per serving)




Bacon-y Green Beans (makes 6 servings @ about .35 cents per serving)




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Share Our Strength's Progressive Dinner- Share Our Holiday Table

Today's post is really special to me because it's part of Share Our Strength's No Kid Hungry Campaign during the holiday season. $2 Dinners and about 40 other bloggers were invited to take part in a seven-day, online progressive dinner series—Share Our Holiday Table—that will help raise funds for Share Our Strength during the critical holiday period.

Before I get to the post, I want to tell ya'll a little about the No Kid Hungry campaign. No Kid Hungry™, is an unprecedented, five-year effort designed to end childhood hunger in America. Our nation has the food and programs in place to end childhood hunger, but consider what we are up against: The stigmas and embarrassment that surround hunger, the challenges presented by access to healthy food, and the struggle to connect children with the resources they need to thrive. For 25 years, Share Our Strength has been confronting hunger head-on to break down these barriers. Together, with your support, we can put an end to childhood hunger. Won't you join us in the No Kid Hungry campaign?

Welcome to day 4 of SOS's virtual progressive dinner...we're serving up a family-friendly soup that's easy, delicious, and budget-friendly. Today's soup recipe is based on an American fast food favorite...bacon cheeseburgers with fries! I know it sounds off-the-wall, but the flavors we all love in this classic combination translate surprisingly well into a soup too. Besides, anything with bacon in it can't be all bad (can I get an "amen")? This soup is a snap to prep, goes from stove to table in about 30 minutes, and it tastes amazing! Give it a try this week...I bet your kids will love the idea of "cheeseburger soup" (my 7-year-old grandson, who loves soup, said he thought cheeseburger soup was "crazy" but after tasting it, his mom said he asked for more!).

P.S. Please check out the links at the bottom of this post to see more awesome recipes from other bloggers for SOS's "Share Our Holiday Table" virtual progressive dinner, and please click on the "No Kid Hungry" button on my home page to donate whatever you can to help stop childhood hunger.

Click on the orange boxes for a printable version of the recipes


Mimi's Bacon Cheeseburger and Fries Soup (makes 6 servings @ about $1.89 per serving)

Please check out these other great posts from the Share Our Holiday Table virtual progressive supper:

Day 1- Appetizers
             Gourmet- The Italian Dish
                              Recipe Girl
                              Neo-Homesteading
             Family Friendly- Family Fresh Cooking
                                          Giving Up On Perfect
             Vegetarian- Two Peas and Their Pod
                                  Smith Bites
             Gluten Free- Wenderly
                                   La Fuji Mama
Day 2- Drinks
             Gourmet- Food Woolf
                            The Gringo Chapin
                             Neo-Homesteading     
             Family Friendly- Three Many Cooks
                                         Fat Wuz Here
            Vegetarian- Lexie's Kitchen
                                Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
            Gluten Free- Gluten Free Easily  

Day 3- Salads
            Gourmet- The Bitten Word
                             girlichef
            Family Friendly- Food For My Family
            Vegetarian- Glugle Gluten-Free
            Gluten Free- Add A Pinch
                                  Gluten Free Diva

Day 4- Soups
            Gourmet- edible cville
                             The Runaway Spoon
                             A Girl, A Market, A Meal
            Family Friendly- Ladles and Jellyspoons
                                        All About Alton Brown
                                        Cookie Central's Great American Bake Sale
            Vegetarian- Good Life Eats
                                 Feed Our Families
            Gluten Free- Celiac Teen
                                  Celiacs in the House
                                  And Love it Too!
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Pumpkin is Perfect for More Than Just Pies

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and rows of canned pumpkin are beginning to appear in local stores, ready to be turned into holiday pies. With visions of delicious, whipped cream-topped custard pies dancing in our heads, it’s easy to forget that pumpkin is also a versatile and budget-friendly ingredient in many other recipes as well. Economical at around $1.89 per can, pumpkin can be used in surprising ways for both sweet and savory recipes. From soups and stews to pancakes and lasagna, pumpkin adds a delightful touch of holiday flavor to a wide variety of dishes. So, if you’ve never tried pumpkin for anything besides pie, you don’t know what you’re missing! The following recipes will get you started thinking about pumpkin in a whole new and delicious way.

Click on the orange boxes for a printable version of the recipes


Pumpkin Soup (makes 10 servings @ about $1.35 per serving)


Pumpkin Lasagna (makes 6 servings @ about $1.98 per serving)



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Apple Harvest Time Means Delicious Deals

 
For maximum taste at a minimum price, smart shoppers know that the best time to buy fruits and vegetables is when they’re in season. Right now in many parts of the country its apple harvest time, and that means delicious bargains await you in the produce section of your favorite store. Whether they’re sweet, tart, red or green, there’s nothing that beats a juicy, crispy apple. One of the best things about apples, however, is that not only are they a delicious and inexpensive snack, they’re also adaptable to a wide variety of sweet and savory recipes that are easy on your budget.

So what can you do with apples besides putting them in a pie? The following recipes are just a sampling of the wonderful dishes you can create with apples for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Don’t miss out on delicious apple deals at your local store…take advantage of apple harvest time and cook up some delicious apple-inspired and budget-friendly meals for your family this week.


Click on the orange boxes for a printable version of the recipes

Apple Pancakes with Apple Cider Syrup (makes 4 servings of 3 pancakes each @ about 99 cents per serving)



Cider Pork Chops (makes 4 servings @ about $1.68 per serving)



Easy Apple Crisp (makes 8 servings @ about 60 cents per serving)



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