10 Easy Real Food Meals for Less Than $1 Per Plate

You’re excited to hit the restart button this fall.  You’re making healthy changes in your kitchen and you’re likely finding the sticker shock to be a bit painful.  (By the way, what is up with the price of butter lately?)

I feel ya.  Healthy food costs more than processed “food.”  That’s because real food is…real.  It’s whole and it’s good, and it is the result of hard work and careful practices.  (Go farmers!)  Chemicals and fillers in processed foods are cheap to make in factories.  You get what you pay for.  But ugh, must feeding our families eat up (literally) so much of the pay check?

Always remember that the food you buy is an investment in good health.  It helps to keep this in mind when you’re tempted to save money by filling your cart with cheap processed foods that won’t nourish.

Be encouraged!  There are so many great meals you can make that are real, completely nourishing, and still very inexpensive.  Phew!  You’re not going to go broke.  You just have to learn a few tricks to making this work.

I’m here to help.  I am feeding teenage boys, after all.  I really would go broke if I didn’t work to keep our real food costs down.  After all, some of the darling children can eat half a casserole each.  (And you wonder why I have so much Pyrex.)

Here are ten real food meals that cost less than $1.00 per person.  Not only are they super inexpensive, these are some of our favorite meals.  Score!!!

10 Easy Real Food Meals for Less Than $1 Per Plate

Sure, several of my boys eat 3-4 plates full of these meals.  But that’s still only $3-$4 for each of them.  I’ll take it.

10 Easy Real Food Meals for Less Than $1 Per Plate

What are your favorite, inexpensive real food meals?  Share your best tips for saving money while eating real food!

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7-Minute Strawberry Ice Cream ~ Dairy Free Option

Healthy food always takes a long time to make, right?  Not at my house.  Healthy food always tastes like “health food,” right?  Oh, for real.  Healthy food always costs a lot of money, right?  Not if I can help it. 

Most of the guests I feed at my house don’t even suspect that I’m serving them healthy food.  In fact, I fed this simple Strawberry Ice Cream to someone last week, and all he knew was that I was handing him a dish full of homemade ice cream.  All he knew was that it tasted delicious, he loved it, and he asked for seconds.  He was impressed that I had “taken the time” to actually make homemade ice cream.  He had no idea it was made in 7 little minutes.  He had no idea the dessert didn’t have any added sugar (I used stevia).  He had no idea the health benefits of what he was eating.  He just thought he was eating really good ice cream.  Boom.  Score one for healthy food that doesn’t appear to be health food.

Yes, from start to finish, this ice cream just takes about seven minutes to make.  No ice cream freezer necessary – all you need is a strong blender or food processor.  By the way – those seven minutes it takes to make this treat?  Well, it’s not like it takes 7 minutes of work on my part.  I just put the ingredients into the food processor and walk away.  God bless the person who invented food processors so that I can check email while I’m making ice cream.

7-Minute Strawberry Ice Cream

4 cups (give or take) frozen strawberries
1 can (13.5 ounces) chilled coconut milk or 1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 drops liquid stevia or 1 Tablespoon real maple syrup or 1 Tablespoon honey

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy.  Serve right away.  Makes 4-8 servings.

7-Minute Dairy Free Strawberry Ice Cream

Have you tried the Cool Pineapple Cream Dessert recipe yet?  This is pretty much the same recipe, except for the obvious switch from pineapple to strawberries.  I found that when using pineapple, I didn’t need to add anything else to sweeten the treat.  Strawberries are a little more tart, so adding a tiny bit of stevia made this perfect.

Next I plan to make this treat using frozen peaches.  Then maybe frozen blueberries.  Then frozen raspberries.

Health food?  You can keep your rice cakes.  I’m having ice cream.

What’s your favorite “healthy food” to serve that doesn’t appear to be health food?

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Pasta Salad Bar – Easy, Inexpensive, Nutritious, and Cool

pasta salad bar 3

Here you will find one of the coolest (literally) meal ideas for summer.  Here you will see a great way to feed your whole family - even the picky ones.  Here you will experience deliciousness that isn’t expensive, offers lots of nourishment, and is super easy to put together.  Yes, here is a great idea given to me by several readers last summer that I finally tried last week.  Again, I must ask:  Why did I wait so long to try this?

Welcome to our lives, oh lovely Pasta Salad Bar.  We’re sorry we never met before now.  You’ll be a regular visitor at our house this summer.  We will load our bowls full of your goodness, based on what sounds good to each of us at that moment.   You are deliciously fun.

Pasta Salad Bar

How do you put together a Pasta Salad Bar?  Simple.  Just set out everything you have on hand that might taste good in a pasta salad.  This is a great way to eat up leftovers or odds and ends from your fridge.  Here are some Pasta Salad Bar food suggestions:

  • Cooked and cooled whole wheat or brown rice pasta – any shape
  • Chopped sweet peppers
  • Chopped carrots
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Cooked chicken, tuna, steak, roast beef, or other meat that sounds good
  • Chickpeas or other cooked beans
  • Corn
  • Olives
  • Shredded cheese
  • Favorite salad dressings – we prefer homemade Italian Salad Dressing and Ranch Salad Dressing

Once your food items are set out, simply let everyone fill their bowls with whatever they like.  Stir in favorite salad dressings to make a creamy pasta salad, a tangy pasta salad – or a mixture of both!  (Yep, I like both Italian and Ranch in my pasta salad.)

This meal is extremely filling and hearty.  Oh, and a side of fresh pineapple or chilled watermelon goes great with this.

Ever done something like this before?  What other ingredients do you think you would add to this Pasta Salad Bar?

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Quick and Easy Crepes (and 8-Piece Pyrex Bowl Set With Lids Only $13.49!!)

Welcome to a typical crepe conversation with my children:

Boy: What’s for breakfast?
Mom: Crepes.
Boy:  Is that it?
Mom:  Isn’t that enough?
Boy:  I’m gonna still be hungry.
Mom:  What’s new?
Boy:  Can’t we have something else too?  I just don’t get full on grapes.

Every time.  You’d think I’d recognize the difficulty by now in hearing the difference between the words grape and crepe, but they rhyme and confuse the children.  Then they confuse the mother.  And then the entire conversation is confusing.

Crepes.  They are very different than grapes.  They are easy, filling, and very tasty.  My recipe has three simple, whole food ingredients.  Crepes make a great breakfast, lunch, snack, or light dinner.  We love crepes!  (And grapes.  But as I said before, we’re talking about crepes, not grapes.  Okedokee.)

Quick and Easy Crepes

Quick and Easy Crepes

6 eggs
3 Tablespoons heavy whipping cream
100% fruit jelly

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream until well combined.  Pour about 1/4 cup of mixture into a well greased, hot skillet.  I find that medium/high heat works best.  Cook the crepe until it begins to bubble and thicken, then flip it to cook the reverse side until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.  Spread a little jelly on one flat side of the crepe, roll it up, and serve.  Repeat process until all crepes have been cooked.  Makes about 10 small crepes.

I usually double or triple this recipe to fill my family.  Yes, sometimes we actually go through 18 eggs in one sitting.  And sometimes we also eat grapes.  But not usually at the same time as crepes.  Although I should totally do that sometime – just to throw everyone off.  Hmmm….

What’s your favorite kind of crepe filling?


Look what I just found this morning!  This super useful 8-piece Pyrex Bowl Set With Lids is only $13.49.  That’s an amazing price and I’m snatching it up.  I posted about it last time it was on sale but it got bought out before I got mine.  No guarantees on how long this price will last so grab it now!  This set is super useful for prepping and storing tossed salads, cole slaw, potato salad, fresh fruits and veggies – so many great ways to use these.  Click our Amazon Deals page to purchase.

pyrex bowls 2


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Cheeseburger Soup – for $1 per person {31 Days of Real Food Reality ~ Day 10}

31 Days 300

It’s a real food recipe that most everyone will love.  It’s full of nourishing goodness.  After all, there’s chicken broth and carrots in it, not to mention delicious beef, cheese, milk, and sour cream.  It’s a full meal all on its own.  Just like all of the recipes I share, this one won’t appear to anyone as “health food.”  It’s simply delicious food.  Comfort food.  And yep, it just so happens to be healthy.

I found that this recipe yielded six hearty servings.  I did the math on it, and can declare it to be a Dollar Menu Dish.  Technically, it cost me just over a dollar per person to feed this to my family.  I decided, eh, it counts.  :)  So what does it mean that this meal costs about a dollar per person?  It means that healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive!  I love it that there are so many economical ways to feed a family well.

If you don’t mind adding a little extra expense to this soup, and you really want to make it appealing to those among you who just might be afraid of anything healthy – try adding 1/4 – 1/2 pound of chopped, cooked bacon.  Then it becomes Bacon Cheeseburger Soup, and who wouldn’t want to eat that?  By the way: Bacon is real food.  Hallelujah!

Cheeseburger Soup

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
3 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
5 cups potatoes cut into chunks
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

In a large pot, brown hamburger meat with onions, carrots, basil, and parsley.  Once thoroughly cooked, add chicken broth and potatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium while potatoes cook, about ten minutes.  Once the potatoes are tender, add milk, stirring and cooking until bubbly – about two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add cheese and sour cream, stirring until melted.  Serve.

Cheeseburger Soup

Looking for more meal ideas that use healthy, real food ingredients and cost less than one dollar per plate?  Here’s what I’ve shared so far:

Have you found ways to keep real food eating within a reasonable budget for your family?

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Easy and Delicious – Black Bean Salsa

You’ve likely seen this recipe on my site before, but I wanted to highlight it as a delicious meal that costs less than a dollar per plate!

Black Bean Salsa is easy to make and has only five healthy ingredients.  It tastes so fresh, and the cilantro makes it so flavorful.  I serve it with Organic Corn Chips.  The total cost for the salsa and the chips costs less than $6 and will feed my entire family.  This is also a great, inexpensive snack to share with guests at a party.


You’ll find the recipe here.

Looking for more meal ideas that use healthy, real food ingredients and cost less than one dollar per plate?  Here’s what I’ve shared so far:


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Dark Chocolate Almond Granola Recipe {Real Food Dollar Menu}

Ever paid over $6 for a tiny box of cereal, and then witnessed that the contents in the tiny box only fed three people one small serving?  As delicious and convenient as the Cascadian Farm Dark Chocolate Almond Granola was - that is one pricey breakfast.

I actually got a box of this cereal with some Vitacost credit I had – just to try it.  It was a huge hit in our family.  That’s what made me decide that surely I could figure out a similar recipe and make my own.  Besides, I like the idea of eating chocolate for breakfast.  What a way to start the day.  :)

The result of my experimenting turned out delicious!  I did a little rough math to determine how much money I saved.  These aren’t the cheapest of ingredients, but they are hearty and can stick to the ribs.  I found that I cut the cost from over $2 per serving to around 75¢ per serving – even using mostly organic ingredients.

What I love best is that this is a recipe that can be made ahead of time for a quick meal or snack.  (It’s a perfect recipe to work into your Getting Ahead in the Kitchen routine.)


Dark Chocolate Almond Granola

4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or chunks

In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil and honey together.  Stir oats, shredded coconut, and slivered almonds together in a large bowl.  Drizzle on the honey/coconut oil mixture and stir well.  Pour mixture onto a large, parchment paper-lined baking sheet (or two 9×13 inch dishes).  Bake at 300° for 35-45 minutes, stirring after the first 20 minutes.  Allow mixture to cool.  Stir in dark chocolate chunks.  Store granola in an air-tight container.  Makes 12-14 servings.

You may have noticed that this recipe is in the Healthy Breakfast Made Simple eBook.  Haven’t downloaded that yet?  Get it here for free!

Just a couple of days left in our Getting Ahead for Breakfast ChallengeHow’s it going for you?  Have you made some breakfast foods ahead to save you the effort in the morning?

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

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Homemade Grape Nuts Cereal

A huge thank you to Michelle for telling me about this recipe idea!!

High Five Recipes 2

First of all, I have to ask – because I know you’re all dying to know the answer to this as well:  Why is this cereal called “Grape Nuts” when there are neither grapes nor nuts included in the list of ingredients?  Haven’t you always wondered about that?  Who named this cereal?  And why, if they were going to call it something random like this, did they not call it “Pickle Sprouts” or Olive Berries?”  How about “Banana Seeds?”  I mean, if we’re going for titles that don’t make sense…

Yeah, don’t waste much time pondering that paragraph.

At the Colorado Springs Meet & Greet, we talked about everything from kids and media time to cereal.  When Michelle told us she made a cereal like this, we all got super excited!

Homemade Grape Nuts

Looks like the real deal, huh? This cereal is pretty tasty with berries!

Homemade Grape Nuts is super easy to make, and I personally think it tastes better than the boxed stuff.  Can you guess my kids’ first question when I introduced them to this at breakfast?   “Looks good, but why is it called Grape Nuts?”  I don’t know, Son.  I don’t know.

Homemade Grape Nuts Cereal

3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
1 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
2 cups buttermilk (or milk mixed with 2 Tablespoons vinegar)
2/3 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda

Mix all ingredients together, beating well until smooth.  Spread mixture onto a parchment paper lined (or well buttered) cookie sheet.  Bake for 15 minutes in a 375° oven. Remove cereal from the oven, and cool completely.  Once cool, grind in a food processor until it becomes “crumb like.”

Return crumbs to cookie sheet or a large baking pan.  Bake in a 250° oven for one hour or until crisp, stirring every 15 minutes.

cereal_1 (1)

cereal_1 (3)

cereal_1 (2)
I found it easiest to bake the crumbs in a dish with sides (my 10×15 pyrex) so that I could stir more easily.

cereal_1 (4)

Cool the cereal and store it in an air tight container in the pantry (for about two weeks) or freezer (for up to two months).

The geek in me decided to do the math to see if this was not only a High Five Recipe, but a Real Food Dollar Menu recipe as well.  Sure enough!  It took about $2.00 to make a batch of this cereal – using all organic ingredients.  This makes about twice as much cereal as you would find in a regular sized box of Grape Nuts.  When’s the last time you were able to buy a box of whole grain, organic cereal for a buck?

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Tell me you’ve always wondered where Grape Nuts got its name.  And by always, I obviously mean, “Yes, I’ve pondered that for a second or two once in my life.”

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Breakfast Pizza {Real Food Dollar Menu}

Our boys discovered that you can use my Whole Wheat Pizza Crust to make an awesome Breakfast Pizza. They also discovered that if you work ahead in your math book, you will finish ahead of schedule. On the contrary, if you avoid doing math some days, you will have to do double the lessons on the days you’d really rather go outside and play with your brothers on the trampoline.

But back to the pizza.


Make it just like you would a regular homemade pizza, using this crust recipe.  Top it with salsa, scrambled eggs, cheese, and any other toppings of choice - like veggies and meat.  Homemade Turkey Sausage is great on this pizza!

Bake it as directed.  Serve with fruit.


Without adding meat, I found that it cost about $4.52 to make this meal, which filled my family of six.  That’s about 75¢ per person, for a meal that actually sticks with them for several hours!

Easy, delicious, filling, versatile, inexpensive, and healthy.  What more could you want?  (Except maybe to be finished with math lessons for the year.)

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Stay tuned for many more recipes and ideas for our Real Food Dollar Menu!

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Chili Mac ~ Real Food Dollar Menu

I have a love-hate relationship with leftovers.

Most of the time, I really do love them.  On the days I have way too many items on my to-do list and just don’t have time to cook – it’s great to just pull out leftovers to warm up and eat.  But on the other hand, having a fridge full of little tid-bits of this and that?  It makes my fridge look cluttered, which kinda makes me feel annoyed.

This, my friends, is what we call a ”first world problem.”  Too many leftovers?  So much food in my fridge that I can’t find what I’m looking for?  So many people around the world long to have the “problems” I have.

When I have to slide all sorts of bowls and jars around in my fridge, just to find the peanut butter stuffed way in the back?  It’s a waste of a good thirty seconds of my life.

Ooh, and you know what’s really annoying?  When I make enough peas for each of us to have a nice serving.  And then the last person leaves about 13 peas in the pan.  Why?  Just take the rest of the peas, for goodness sake!  I do not want to find a little container for 13 leftover peas, and then put them into the fridge so that I can slide them all around when I’m looking for peanut butter.  Likely, they’ll become forgotten and fuzzy because really?  Who wants to take the time to re-heat 13 peas?

Oh to have the luxury of complaining about “all” the food in my refrigerator.  I truly am thankful for all of the food on my shelves - even the container of 13 forgotten peas.  I promise to always be grateful for the cluttery tid-bits.

(But really, if you are the last one to serve yourself at my house, and there are a few peas floating at the bottom of the pan, please, for the love of my sanity as I search for peanut butter, just put them on your plate and eat them already.)

And now for a real food recipe that costs a very small amount of money and uses up some of the leftovers that are taking up space in your fridge.

Chili Mac

6 cups (give or take) leftover chili
2 cups water
4 cups whole wheat or rice pasta (any shape)
Sea salt to taste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a large pot, bring chili and water to a boil.  Add uncooked pasta.  Cover and cook on medium heat until pasta is tender.  Sprinkle in salt, according to your taste.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.


Estimated cost of this meal?  About 65¢ per person.  And that includes the peas.  All of them - even the last 13.

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

If you are sick of chili, and don’t want to eat your leftovers immediately – simply spread this Chili Mac mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish, top with cheese, cover, and freeze.  Reheat another day.

I am happy to report that the day recently when I served Chili Mac, there were no leftover peas.  But just in case, maybe I should come up with a recipe that uses 13 peas…

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Stay tuned for many more recipes and ideas for our Real Food Dollar Menu!

Are you a fan of leftovers?  Do you sometimes find a few straggly uneaten peas in the pan? 

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