Monday, August 21, 2017

Recipe pricing & price per serving

It's been a long time since I've priced out a recipe, but was I'm trying to expand our horizons & integrate the boys choices into the menu more, I thought it would be helpful to try out.

Per Sam's request, I made this lasagna recipe.

Menu costing:
  • Sliced fresh mozzarella - $7.69 (1/2) = $3.85
  • Cottage cheese - $4.99 (3/4) = $3.74
  • Ground beef - $5.69 
  • Pasta sauce (free - leftover from my parents)
  • Lasagna noodles (free - leftover from my parents)
  • 1/2 onion - $.40? Not sure, haven't priced them in a while. 
Total I spent on this recipe = $13.68

I made a few tweaks to the recipe, as follows:
  • Added the onion to the ground beef when browning it
  • Stretched the recipe to make 2 smaller pans (4x4s), one for immediate eating, and the second for the freezer
  • Used the majority of a large tub of cottage cheese, as we already had it, and it helped expand the dish to 2 pans.
  • Ditto on the mozzarella. I used a full loaf of fresh mozzarella, minus 2 small slices. 
  • I didn't price out the things that were already in my pantry from my parents visit. However, for completeness when purchasing everything from scratch, let's say $2 for the noodles & $2.50 for the pasta sauce

I expect this will yield 10 individual servings with my changes, which puts it at a price per serving of $1.37 (rounded up). If I had bought all of the ingredients (adding $4.50 as noted above), brings the cost up to $1.81. Of course, one of the reasons I chose this recipe was to use up lasagna noodles left in my cupboard. :-)

Additionally, there are ways to bring the cost down pretty substantially:
-Find a cheaper source for ground beef (all of the ingredients really, but this one stands out as I had to buy it at the grocery store vs my way less expensive typical Costco purchase)
-Reduce the cheese & mozzarella
-Add extra veggies to the sauce to round it out
-Make my own pasta sauce

I didn't plan this recipe with any particular price per serving in mind, but it was super helpful to shop for all of the ingredients, and then price it out afterward. I'm going to have to continue to do this to determine the right price points for more of our dinners. What about you? Do you price out your recipes? What price per meal or serving do you aim for?  


  1. I do in my head a bit price the meals, when I am thinking about it. If I try to go into too much detail, I get overwhelmed. Just cooking is enough for me most days! But, I like you, make a double batch when I do lasagna. The work is too intense for a week night meal, but great when made ahead!

    1. I'm in that phase where I'm trying to expand everyone's taste buds. I like that we have go to recipes, but I also need to be able to expand a bit beyond that. Hence the testing things out. But yet, definitely not making lasagna on a week night!

  2. I base my meals around what's on hand (bought at a low price) Rarely do I cook to a whim. I don't price out per serving, but I have limits on what I will pay for an ingredient. For instance, I will never pay more that $1.99/lb. for ground beef, or
    Funny you mention this today, as we had a very interesting experience yesterday, leading to a conversation with our 14-year old daughter about cost per serving.
    Lately, this one kid has taken to turning her nose up at everything, when she even bothers to make an appearance at the table. We are an eat what you want, leave what you don't family, but you have to sit and show manners. Well, she vocally criticized the food. ("Eeew, what is that? I don't like that." Please don't ever cook it again.") I stood up, pulled her chair out, told her to go to her room, and that from now on she was responsible for her own food, and that included shopping for it, paying for it and preparing it. Wasn't she a sad puppy when she came back down later in the evening and found that there were no chocolate muffins for her dessert. (I hid them on her.) She then went to get a granola bar, complaining that she hadn't eaten all day. I told her "Those are 25 cents apiece, please pay up."
    The conversation that followed hopefully put an end to her mealtime behavior, and I did show her where the muffins were, but she is still on grocery/meal prep detail for the week. In fact, she is in the kitchen now slicing the bagels for our eclipse brunch.

    1. We typically pay $2.99/lb for ground beef. I don't know that I've seen it for $1.99/lb in years, but now I will check the loss leaders at the store. Costco is a choice of convenience, but I can definitely do better.

      The criticizing food choices (that you DID NOT MAKE OR BUY) makes me crazy. Our current solution for my extremely picky 10 year old is that he can help himself to other leftovers, or make himself an alternate. He cannot complain. not eating is also an option. He has a major texture issue (less so than taste), and will gag if pushed, so we try not to go that far & allow him to choose his own destiny, so to speak.

      Good luck with your daughter. Teaching about making smart pricing decisions is a work in progress for us (the parents too), so hopefully we will be able to teach the kids as we go.


    2. The $1.99/pound may be local. It comes in fall around here, and is for 50 pounds minimum. The farmers sell their older heads of cow to the meat shops rather than hay them over for the winter.

  3. I try for $5 or less Cdn per meal, but some are much lower (soup night) and some much higher (scallops). Oddly I find it so much easier to get ground beef on sale here at the regular stores and not costco. I find I am buying way less of it lately though as rarely goes on sale. I love having a bigger freezer now, we can stock up more than I used to be able to

    1. I'll have to check it out. That would be a huge win for us. When I tracked our grocery spending in 2016 in full category breakout, we spend 20% of our budget on meat, so it would be helpful to reduce. Although, fruit is by far our biggest expenditure!

  4. I think I spent the most I have ever spent for a single meal a few days ago. Son3 is in town and asked me specifically for scamp and sautéed marinated crab claws. I spent 77 dollars on the fish and crab for 5 people. I was griping to TheHub about the cost, but we had alder planked scamp with a mushroom buerre blanc, the crab claws, sautéed spinach, tossed salad and rolls, and other than the fish I only spent 6 additional dollars. TheHub kindly reminded me that we would have spent a minimum of 170 dollars excluding a tip if we had eaten it out. Still___it was a whopping cost per person!

    1. That is insanely expensive. But, if it's extremely rare & an alternative for eating out, & a special occasion, I think can be worth it if you can afford it. It does sound delicious! :-)

  5. I switched to ground turkey instead of ground beef and we get it for $2.99 a pound at Trader Joe's. Ground beef is significantly more around here, but I'd like to consider getting a farm share of beef in the future and have that be our annual supply. Then again, we've gotten used to not eating red meat and it's probably better for the environment if we don't.

    I tend to calculate the cost per meal after I cook and aim for less than $2 per person - but we also eat a lot.

    I also add diced veggies to all our pasta bakes, whatever my hands are up to preparing: zucchini, artichoke hearts, carrots, broccoli, green beans.

  6. I do figure cost per serving! Every time! But, it is always after I serve the meal and am telling my friend as he eats. He is appreciative of my costs, so this is not a boring topic for the table.