Shopping on a Shoestring

Challenge: A dinner party for four, created with just $40.

I accept.

A bit about me:  I’m a new mom, committed to eating organically to keep our baby boy healthy and strong. I never test out a recipe before making it for friends – I’m more of a fight or flight kind of cook, and therefore approach dinner parties as a chance to experiment. Dinner guests, beware.

I also rarely make shopping lists or consult cookbooks. I like to walk into the store, see what’s on sale or looks exciting and delicious, and go from there.

Did I mention that I’m the proud mother of a 3-month old named Gray? This fact might seem irrelevant, except it means three major changes in our lives, and to my shopping trips:

  1. Whenever possible we eat all organic.
  2. I have lost control of all 24 hours. Gone are the days of luxuriously long shopping trips with a coffee in hand, hours spent meandering the aisles brainstorming potential meals and extravagant treats. Nope, now I’m the mom who comes racing into the store, baby on hip, dressed in what can hopefully be described as a real outfit, not knowing how long I’ll have to actually shop before Gray needs to either eat or poop.
  3. And even if he’s recently eaten, slept and pooped, Gray’s attention span only lasts so long. Now he wants to be upright, interactive, moving and changing positions, which makes my grocery shopping parallel to, if not harder than, an Olympic gymnastics routine.

These three changes do not make for an easy shopping experience, but we have to eat…and more importantly, we love to eat, and eat well. Ramen noodles and frozen pizza simply will never be the nightly answer to our household’s dinner dilemmas. It has to be good (delicious and organic), it has to be simple (no hours of prep and cooking time allowed) and it can’t cost a fortune.

I walked (ran) into Healthy Living, feisty baby in tow.

I scooted to the vegetable section, and was happy to see beautiful beefsteak tomatoes and asparagus. Ok, a menu was starting to form.

I grabbed four ears of corn and an avocado. My veggies were taken care of in a matter of minutes, all ripe, organic, and the perfect foundation for any summer meal.

Off to the good stuff: cheese and meat. Organic ground turkey meat…it’s decided. We’re  having turkey burgers. But not just any turkey burgers.  I circled back to the vegetables to get a red onion, picked up some blue cheese and a dash of sesame oil to mix with the turkey meat.

On to the extras…to drink, natural vanilla creme soda that was on sale.  Perfect combination with a summer burger, and must be good for a nursing mom, right? It’s surely better than a gin and tonic!

A wedge of camembert, mini baguettes, and for dessert, cookies, vanilla ice cream and cantaloupe.

With my groceries in hand, I headed home to put it all together.

I sliced up one mini baguette, half of which I toasted and laid out with the camembert (with a drizzle of honey) and the rest of which I chopped up and added to the turkey meat (already combined with diced onion, sesame oil, salt & pepper and blue cheese) to hold it all together.

Corn and asparagus, mixed with olive oil and salt & pepper, went on the grill.

The turkey burgers joined the veggies on the grill, while I sliced the tomato and avocado, also dosing them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Lastly, I put the mini baguettes (sliced in half) on the grill to toast.

While everyone munched on camembert and toast, I assembled the turkey burgers (with tomato and avocado on the toasted mini baguettes) and added an ear of corn and asparagus to each plate.  Pouring a creme soda into a frosty glass for each person, dinner was served.

Once we had licked our fingers clean, I plated a quarter of cantaloupe with several scoops of vanilla ice cream (one of my grandmother’s summer favorites that I love) with several chocolate chip cookies.

In conclusion….


  • A wedge of camembert
  • Ground turkey meat
  • Blue cheese
  • Five mini baguettes
  • One onion
  • One beefsteak tomato
  • One avocado
  • One bunch of asparagus
  • Four ears of corn
  • Natural Vanilla Creme Soda
  • One cantaloupe
  • One pint of vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate chip cookies (I would have loved to have made the cookies from scratch, but alas)

Total spent for a healthy and delicious (if I do say so myself) dinner for four? $39.83.

And now I have .17 cents left to buy a few of those delicious ginger chews for myself as a reward.