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The Five-Dollar Dinner: It's Possible...And Good

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    Illustration: Ly Ngo.

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    It happens every year. We hit the perfect storm of holiday travel, gift shopping, and suddenly everyone gets engaged. Everything costs money. Oh, and it's your mom's birthday. And, rent is due. In the next month we'll spend more cash than any other time of year — and somehow, we still have to eat. Realizing that a person cannot live on party snacks alone (we tried that once; it was a very bloated season), we challenged ourselves to come up with some real meals we could make on the cheap. We're not talking about microwave meals or basic, bland staples either. We wanted solid, healthy, sustaining dinners that would carry us through the season feeling healthy, satisfied, and not so poor.

    Turns out, it wasn't so challenging after all. If you shop just a little smarter, and think outside the microwave you can come up with some great stuff. We asked the pros for tips on how to up our grocery-store game and then whipped up four fabulous dinners, each with a net cost of $5 or less per serving. All of these recipes met the cheap challenge at the supermarket and taste test on the dinner table. These are your holiday season lifesavers, in more ways than one. Please, put down the menu and back out of the drive-thru. There's a better way.

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