Fifteen dollars may seem like a tight budget, especially when trying to feed a family. If you're willing to put in a little time, however, you can make your dollars stretch and feed a family of four or five easily on a $15 per-meal budget. Prices for ingredients vary by geographic location and store, as well as local sales and seasonal changes. However, based on 2011 pricing, you have plenty of options for healthy family meals.
Roast Chicken Dinner
Roast a whole chicken, brushed with olive oil and two or three of your favorite spices, and serve it with brown rice and steamed green beans. At $7 for the chicken, $2 for bulk-section rice, $1 for spices and $2 for green beans, you have $3 left for a small bottle of olive oil, which you can use for other recipes down the road. If you already have olive oil, spend those extra dollars on more veggies to mix in, or upgrade to a wild rice mix. You can also opt for a creamy salad dressing instead of the oil and spices, and buy salad greens instead of green beans to accompany your meal. Use the dressing you brushed on the chicken for the salad, letting the similar flavors pull your meal together.
Tacos are an inexpensive, fun family meal, as you can usually get a pound of ground beef for under $3, leaving you $3 for tortillas, $2 for rice, $2 for a can of beans or even less if you buy bulk and cook them yourself. Seasoning packets are less than $1 in most areas, and you can spend the rest on a small package of cheddar cheese and fresh veggies like green onions, tomatoes and lettuce. For a healthier option, look for ground turkey on sale, and serve this menu when it drops near $3 per pound. Use the leftover tortillas for sandwiches or breakfast burritos to stretch your dollar further.
Create a fancy seafood meal if you can find fish on sale for under $7 for enough to feed your family. Cod is often inexpensive, and the USDA recommends eating fish for one meal a week due to its natural healthy oils. Coat the fish in a mixture of cornmeal, salt, pepper and paprika, which should cost less than $3 total if you buy bulk. Bake or pan fry it and serve with shredded carrots or cucumber as a side dish and roasted potatoes sprinkled with the same spices as the fish, all of which should total under $5 if you shop carefully. You will need some sort of cooking oil for the fish and potatoes, so use the leftover olive oil from your chicken dinner night if you don't have other cooking oil available.
Purchase whole, uncooked chickens or beef roasts for cost savings. Buy rice, pasta and other dry goods from your store's bulk section, and buy your spices the same way. You can get a meal's worth of pasta or rice in bulk for less than than $2 in most cases, and spices often cost less than 50 cents. At some stores, you can even buy olive oil and other cooking liquids in bulk for reduced prices.