Cost-per-serving for dinner menus

Cost-per-serving for dinner menus

As promised, I’ve worked this week on some more breakdowns of the cost-per-serving for meals, particularly dinner dishes. If you missed last week, I broke down different breakfast dishes into the cost-per-serving, in order to compare them. This all stemmed from my original post about needing to find a way to work with a higher grocery budget (not to mention, a growing family that is increasingly eating more food).

First, here is a breakdown of basic starch/carbohydrate side dishes (those with org. beside them are organic):

1. Potatoes (org.)- $0.28 per serving

2. Brown rice (non-GMO)- $0.23

3. Brown rice pasta- $0.40

4. Quinoa (org.)- $0.50

5. Millet (org.)- $0.30

6. Lentils (org.)- $0.30

7. Pinto beans (org.)- $0.30

8. Bread- Storebought (wheat/yeast free) $0.43 slice

Homemade (yeast, org.)- $0.20

Homemade (sourdough, org.)- $0.15

9. Squash- $0.50

10. Sweet potato- $.40

I wasn’t surprised to see brown rice come out on the bottom, but was pleasantly surprised to see millet very close in price. The potatoes worked out cheaper than I thought, considering they’re organic and pricier. I knew that quinoa was my most expensive grain, but I didn’t expect that squash and sweet potatoes were just as expensive to serve. Brown rice pasta feels expensive to buy, but was definitely lower in cost that I anticipated it would be.

Just remember, with these starch/carb costs, as well as the dinner costs below, that this is all based on my personal costs, where I live, the stores available to me, etc. It also reflects a bit more of a winter cost (therefore a bit higher when it comes to produce), simply because I cannot accurately remember the prices that I pay in the summer, and I would rather see my costs in a worst case scenario as I do my planning. I know that prices will go down in the next couple of months (at least, on most produce, though not all).

Dinner Main Dish Calculations:

(Arranged from cheapest to most expensive)

1. Lentil Rice Casserole (with cheese)- $0.62 per person

2. Beezie’s Black Bean Soup– $0.76

3. Chicken and Veggie Potpie– $1.08

4. Shepherd’s Pie- $1.17

5. Baked Beans and Dijon Scalloped Potatoes- $1.26

6. Chili (with ground beef, 2 kinds of bean, and veggies)- $1.29

7. Rice Pasta with Tomato Sauce (with ground beef)- $1.41

8. Spud Special Soup– $1.48

9. Beef Stew (I slightly change the recipe) with biscuits- $1.64

10. Chicken stir-fry over brown rice- $1.72

11. Taco Salad (org. corn ships, lettuce, salsa, guac, sour cream, cheese)- $1.91 with beans, $2.16 with beef

12. Tacos (org. corn tortillas, same fillings as above)- $2.16 with beans, $2.59 with beef

13. Chicken legs, millet and broccoli/cauliflower with cheese sauce- $2.68

Now, even as I type this, I can see a few inconsistencies. For instance, I included the biscuits in my beef stew calculations, putting it at #9, whereas it should probably be cheaper than that, considering I didn’t add the cost of bread/biscuits, salad, small side of veggies, etc. with the other meals.

As well, #10-13 are somewhat more complete meals than some of the earlier meals (we might add a salad to a pasta meal, or bread to a soup meal, etc.) so that somewhat accounts for their higher cost. However, I still believe they are more expensive meals in general.

And just in general, it’s hard to estimate costs and servings, no matter how careful you try to be. I might have made errors that would have made a difference in some of what I calculated, although I think that overall, my calculations show a good, general picture of how different meals and foods compare.

Are you surprised by any of it? I was a bit surprised (happily so) by the Potpie and Shepherd’s Pie coming out so low. I was shocked that a simple potato soup (Spud Soup) would be so expensive, just by itself! I knew the chicken leg meal would be right up there, but was a little surprised by the taco meals being so close behind (granted, I calculated them with the works, and sometimes we might not have guacamole, for instance, which would lower the cost).

Don’t forget, next Friday is the Frugal Cooking Carnival at Owlhaven! It requires you to have already done your three days of frugal meals, and post it on Friday, so I am aiming for next Tues/Wed/Thurs. And even if you don’t do the challenge, make sure that you read through the posts from those who do- I’m sure that they will be very helpful and provide lots of great ideas and recipes for stretching your grocery dollar further!

This post is part of Frugal Fridays as usual!

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  1. OOps I should proof read. My friends bills are like mine:) I am from Alberta, Canada and I know food is more than in the States (robbery since our dollar is comparable know), but some of you are in BC, so I wonder about differences just from provinces. However, I will troop on and see if I can lower my bill, a challenge it will be:) God Bless

  2. Thank you for sharing your findings. I’m sure it involved a lot of work.
    Does your husband want you to plan meals based on cost? Mine would want the tacos even if they were more expensive.
    I’m looking forward to the carnival.

  3. SUCH helpful information. I am sure it did take some time to figure – so many thanks for sharing this!

  4. I am in charge of a fund raiser and want to know which is the least expensive large meal to make, Mexican food or a Spagetti feed?




  5. Hi Dennis,
    Well, I’m not 100% sure, but based on the large-crowd cooking I’ve done in the past, my gut is that a spaghetti meal is easier. It has less components, and they tend to be a bit more frugal overall (whereas a Mexican meal needs things like sour cream, shredded cheese, lettuce, salsa, etc. in addition to the basics of tortillas, meat and/or beans). You can even do spaghetti vegetarian to keep costs low, and dress it up with a caesar salad and garlic bread, both very easy and inexpensive! Hope your dinner goes well!

  6. Stephanie, we’re creating an app that does this all automagically for you that should be hitting recipe sites soon! It’d be nice to pick your brain a bit about it if you have any suggestions you’d like to offer. Shoot me an email, if you get a chance.

    And Dennis, at our site you’ll be able to sort by price to determine the least expensive recipes to make. I hope this helps. Check us out at

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