Here at Dinner for a Dollar, we love holidays. We love holidays because we love food! Holidays always mean that good, special food is coming!

For our everyday cooking, we aim to keep all our meals under $1 per person. But, a couple times a month, we like to splurge on special food. Creating special food events that we can look forward to helps us keep our day-to-day frugal cooking on track.

I remember when we first started budgeting our food seriously, I was reading everything I could about how to lower your food bill. One of the strangest things I read was to…

…make sure you don’t cut your spending too much!

I was like, WHAT?? DON’T CUT YOUR SPENDING TOO MUCH??…in an article about how to lower your food bill??

All the other tips made sense to me, but this one stood out. I was legitimately confused. But, when the author went on to say that, if you restrict yourself too much for too long and never buy any special food, it can eventually backfire – causing you to eventually overspend on splurges or give in to eating out – that made sense to me! So, when I was overhauling our food plan, I was sure to leave room in our budget for special food a couple times a month.

Now we use holidays and special occasions to eat some really good food!

You may be asking…How do we splurge on special food without busting our budget??

  1. Plan ahead – make a plan, ahead of time…I promise it will save you money!!!
  2. Set a budget – know what you can afford for special events and stick to it!!!
  3. Shop the deals – take a look at what food is on sale in your area and build a meal around that!!!
  4. Stick with the plan – you’ve made a plan, a budget, and a meal based on the deals. Now….stick with it! You may get cravings as the holiday gets closer…make a mental note of those and hit them the next time around.  

Let me show you how I shop the deals to create:

5 Valentine’s Day Dinners for $5 or less

1. Steak Dinner – $4.24/person

To be honest, I had a hard time coming up with other meals because, at our house, Valentine’s Day means steak dinner. Around Valentine’s Day, we see some of the lowest prices of the year on steak. So, if you like steak, this is a good time to splurge on one.

2. Rib Dinner –  $3.17/per person

3. Ham Dinner – $2.99/person

4. Rosemary Chicken and Smashed Potato Dinner – $2.90/person

5. Brat Dinner- $3.66/person

If you and your loves are non-traditional and want to serve a tasty, rustic meal, brats might be a good choice for you.

*** The Fine Print ***

  • To get the prices you see here, I used the sales listed this week in all our major grocery stores. I did NOT use clearance meat pricing or any special pricing not available to the average consumer. When calculating prices, I did NOT include kitchen staples like oil, butter, salt, and other very common spices. For the serving sizes, I used standard recommended portion sizes. If your appetite is much higher or much lower than average, you will need to make an adjustment to your budget.
  • You will see that the sides repeat in many of these meals because I based the sides on what I thought a) would be Valentine’s Day worthy and b) were cheap enough for me to pull off a complete meal for less than $5 per person. You could swap out the sides to accommodate your tastes or the sales in your area. Carefully choosing sides is a critical part of keeping the complete meal under $5. If you notice, other than the steak dinner, the sides come in at more than the main entrée.
  • All my meals are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and free from the Top 8 allergens. If you don’t have allergens in your family, you can obviously create special meals to accommodate your family’s diet.

In a nutshell, to create a special, budget friendly meal, check the deals in your area – consider what your family would love – and build your meal around that!

I hope this post inspires you to create something special this holiday for your loved ones on a budget you can afford.

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