The $7 Challenge

It’s hard economic times.  American families are watching their food budgets shrink as the price of just about everything else explodes.

As Americans struggle to find creative ways to stretch their food dollar, Cate and Sarah have issued the $7 Dinner Challenge to us food bloggers: face what so many other Americans must every day and try to come up with a way to prepare a meal and either a dessert or appetizer for a family of four for under $7.

It’s a challenge and fortunately it is one I find intellectually challenging or else I think I would find it horribly, horribly depressing.

$7 Lentils and Rice Pilaf
with Carrot/Hummus Appetizer

The evening starts off with half a jar of hummus, the brand of which I did not write down.  However, I found it in the Asian aisle for $2.99.  Carrot strips from the dipper.

For the main course, the family will dine on a vegetarian favorite: rice/lentil pilaf.  This dish sacrifices nothing but high price with the addition of frozen peas, a pound of onion and a full stick of butter.

Carrot/Hummus Appetizer

  • 1/2 of a jar of hummus
  • 1 pound of whole carrots, peeled and cut into sticks

To save money, buy whole carrots, peel, and eat.

Rice/Lentil Pilaf

  • 2 ¼ cups white rice
  • 2 ¼ cups lentils
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 pound white onion, diced
  • 1 32 ounce bag of frozen peas
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Put rice, lentils, and salt in a rice cooker with 9 cups of water.  Start the rice cooker.  If you do not have a rice cooker, put the rice, lentils, salt and water into a pot and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook until the water is absorbed.

Once the rice and lentils are finished, melt a stick of butter over medium heat.  Turn the heat to high and add the onion.  Sauté until soft.

Add the frozen peas and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the peas are warm and the onions translucent.

Add the rice and lentils to the skillet and mix thoroughly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

That’s one of the best $7 meals you will ever have.

And to prove this dish meets the $7 challenge:

Balance Sheet
(All prices valid at Target in Overland Park, KS)

1.50 hummus (1/2 of 2.99 jar of hummus)
.45 carrots  (1/2 bag of .89 cent carrots)
.45 white rice (1/2 bag of .89 cent white rice)
.50 lentils (1/2 bag of lentils)
.64 butter
1.29 onion
1.09 peas
6.37 Total


  1. Very cool post. Loved how you did it in under $7!! I did the same thing on my post but created a gourmet meal for 4-6 for under $20. It is a challenge but I think we can all do it if we just put our minds and hearts into it. We need to slow down, don’t we?

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