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The Money Mom – Dinner for Less

Posted by Jean

This week, I asked Erin Chase, a fellow blogger and the author of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, to join us with a guest post. She’s a master at putting inexpensive – and easy – meals on the table, and offered to share two of her favorite recipes.

Erin Chase_credit Paul OverstreetWhen it comes to making dinner in my kitchen, I’m always on the lookout for the easy, convenient and of course the least expensive way to get dinner on the table.  I love this White Chicken Chili recipe because it is made from scratch, it slow cooks all day, and it satisfies the hungry masses come dinner time!

Making your own sauce from scratch saves both time and money.  I recommend making up a large batch of homemade white sauce and freezing it in plastic containers, in 2 or 3 cup portions.  I substitute 1 can of “cream of” soup for 2-3 cups of homemade white sauce.

Also, cooking dried beans in large batches, then freezing in meal size portions, adds to your time and money savings.  Rather than cooking 1 cup of dried beans at a time, prepare the entire bag, drain, cool, then freeze the cooked beans in 2 cups portions.  I find that 2 cups of cooked beans is the equivalent of 1 15 ounce can of beans.  Cooking dried beans costs 50-75% less than buying canned beans.

By making your own sauce and cooking dried beans, this White Chicken Chili meal comes in well under the $5 mark!

White Chicken Chili

2 chicken breasts ($1.66)
½ onion, chopped ($.15)
2 cups of homemade basic white sauce ($.40)
1 6 oz. can green chilies ($.59)
2 garlic cloves, crushed ($.10)
1 cup dried beans ($.25)
1 lb. asparagus ($.99)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil ($.10)

1. Prepare 2 cups of homemade basic white sauce, as directed on page *.
2.  Dice chicken breast into ½ inch pieces.   Place diced chicken, chopped onion, crushed garlic, can green chilies, dried beans and 4 cups of water in slow cooker.  Pour homemade white sauce over the chicken and other ingredients in the slow cooker.  Set slow cooker to low and cook for 8 hours.
3. Sauté asparagus in 2 Tbsp olive oil for approximately 5-6 minutes, stirring every other minute.  Asparagus will turn a brighter green and is ready to serve.  Remove from skillet to prevent overcooking.
4. Serve with White Chicken Chili with Sautéed Asparagus.

Cost $4.24

Frugal Fact: Pair colorful vegetables with “white” meals, such as this chili, to ensure proper balance of nutrients in each meal.


“Cream of” White Sauce

Basic Sauce
4 Tbsp butter ($.40)
6 Tbsp flour ($.10)
3 cups milk ($.30)

Cream of Chicken: Use 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of chicken broth in place of 3 cups of milk.
Cream of Mushroom: Add 1 6 oz. can of chopped mushrooms to basic white sauce in place of 3 cups of milk.
Cream of Celery: Use 2 cups of milk, 1 cup of vegetable broth, 1 cup of finely chopped celery

1. In medium saucepan, melt butter.  Then add flour and whisk with the melted butter until it forms a paste.
2. Whisk in milk (or other specified liquids).  Whisk until flour/butter dissolves into the milk.
3. Cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, stirring often. Sauce will begin to thicken, as it bubbles and cooks.
4. To reach the desired consistency of the sauce you need for your meal, add milk or flour, 1 Tbsp at a time.  To make sauce thicker, whisk in more flour. To make sauce thinner, whisk in more milk. Once sauce reaches your desired consistency, use it in the meal as directed.
Cost $.80 for 4 cups

Frugal Fact: Making your own white sauce is not only cheaper than buying a “cream of” can, making your own sauce eliminates many of the preservatives and sodium found in these “creamed” cans.

Erin Chase is the author of The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook and founder of $5  When she’s not in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes or saving money at the grocery store, she can be found outside playing with her kids, tending the garden, or enjoying walks around the neighborhood.  She lives with her husband and 3 little men in Ohio.