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Jul 7, 2020

EP:21 The $5 Dollar Dinner Mom, guest Erin Chase

Julie Emerson: [00:00:00] Welcome to Debt-Proof Living with Mary Hunt. Today's episode is brought to you by Mvelopes.  That's M, like Mary, v-e-l-o-p-e-s. Mvelopes uses the tried and true envelope budget system all in one easy app. Give every dollar a purpose! And now, Here's Mary! 


Mary Hunt: [00:00:27]Hello, Everybody! I'm so happy  you're with me today. This is Debt-Proof Living with Mary Hunt. And this is very, very exciting because guess what? We have a guest . I'm so thrilled that Erin Chase is the $5 dinner mom is going to join us today. Welcome Erin! 


Erin Chase: [00:00:47]Hello. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to chat today.


Mary Hunt: [00:00:53]This is great. I have followed you for so long. You won't believe it. But first I want to, I want to let my readers, my listeners know more about  Erin.  Erin Chase, she's known as the $5 Dinner Mom is -  I know, nobody can believe it. We're going to have to get into that with her. She says that she has a little problem. She cannot make a meal that costs more than $5. Even if she tries her brain just will no longer allow it. Through her websites and classes, $, $5mealplan, Grocery Budget Makeover, My Freeze Easy, My Efficient Kitchen, Electric Pressure Cooking 101. Erin now is on a mission to help us spend a whole lot less of our hard earned money on groceries. Erin is a Texas native graduate of Texas Christian University. You know, the TCU Horned Frogs. A few short months after graduation, she found herself-Whoa- in the Dominican Republic as a missionary and a high school teacher. She learned all she needed to know about meal planning and grocery shopping on a budget. All in a third world country using foreign currency.

Back in the late summer of 2008, Aaron began couponing loving the challenge of coming up with meals that costs under $5, $5 for the entire meal. That's just not per person. And one night as she was cleaning up the dishes from dinner, she thought of this phrase $5 dinners. The first website was born. Now she and her husband and their four boys live in Texas.

And when she's not couponing, grocery shopping or blogging. Erin enjoys date nights, training for and running half marathons, hanging out outside, reading and hanging out with her girlfriends. I'm so happy you're here, Erin. I can't wait to learn more. First. I have a little story to tell. I was sitting at my computer.

I can almost tell you about the year. I'm not gonna, I might be a little bit off. But I was getting a lot of email, a lot of things popping up and there was this [00:03:00] TV chef named Rachel Ray, who popped up on my screen. I don't know why, but she had a guest on her show. And it was this amazing woman. Young girl actually looks just not the same as you look today.

Exactly. She had her on her show and it was just the most amazing thing that she was confident that she could make dinners for $5, not just per person. And you blew Rachel Ray and her audience away. Now tell me, had you been doing this for a long time or was this kind of new for you? 


Erin Chase: [00:03:40]Well, when I, first of all, I love that you caught that segment. They- I've been on Rachel's show twice. And the first time was in April of 2009 and I started $5 dinners in August of 2008. So it wasn't that long after. And they featured me in that first segment in a People Who Were Saving Money Across America. It was just, you know, random people. I just happened to have a blog that went with it and really how I ended up there is I just, she and, Whoopi Goldberg was a guest on her show. We're talking, you know, around the same time I started the blog, they were talking about, like a fat tax ,or something like that. Like insurance companies were going to charge people if they didn't lose weight. And like, this was, you know, 2008 and they were talking about how eating healthy was too expensive.

And I was like, excuse me, I have a few things to say about that. So I wrote in on there, like. On their website, just like wrote into the, like, have me on your show. I wasn't, I mean, I maybe wanted to be on the show, but I didn't really know. And. Six months after. So that was, that would have been August. So it was not long.

 I, we taped and it aired very quickly. So probably March, they called me and were like, Hey, we'd like what you have to say to me, like what you're doing, we're going to send a crew to your house. And I was like, wait, what? So yeah, there I was. And then I went back again to share some recipes from one of my cookbooks, a couple of years later when those were published.


Mary Hunt: [00:05:13]Well, that helped to launch your career. Definitely. But I'll tell you something, Erin, I have followed you. I am so excited that we may be able to do things together in the future for my audience, because you fill a niche that nobody else does. But now listen, I mean, you've got to be absolutely truthful with me here. You have four sons and a husband. Okay. Five male eaters and yourself, $5 for a dinner. Tell us what, what does that mean? Does that mean $5 for just, a one dish or is that, is that the meal? Explain that to us. 


Erin Chase: [00:05:57]So I think that it's more of a different way of thinking about your groceries and a different way of thinking about how much you're spending on a  meal. So when I started $5 dinners, it was in 2008 and I had two very young boys. now those boys are teenagers. And they, you know, it was a little bit different now I would say I'm making six, seven, maybe $8 dinners. It just cause I need more protein to feed these people. But the idea is don't get hung up on the $5, but I want you to hang up on and I want you to dial in on is how much are you spending per meal and what can you do to reduce the overall meal costs? Right? So when $5dinners very first started, and I still try to go for these price points, but it really we'll get into this in a little bit, but the protein cost is really the most important cause that's generally the most expensive part of any meal.

So $5 a breakdown of a $5 meal would be 2.50 a person for protein. A $1.50ish for veggies or fruit, and then $1ish [00:07:00] for starch and starch is generally whatever the carbs are. Let's say, if you're doing a, you know, kind of a food plate balanced meal, so starches are super cheap. I mean, you can do rice for four people for 20 cents, right? Like, or less even. So it really, if you're just keeping it very simple and that's what I want you to think about. I want you to think about. What can I do to reduce costs kind of around your plate, if you will? And the easiest to start with is the meat, the meat, because, and that's also the most expensive. So I think it's the most important to start with. And I think that's what I want you to do. I want you to say, okay, I'm going to, I'm going to think about my meals. I'm not going to spend more than maybe you need to do $10. Maybe it's $8. Like for me right now, it's eight, the max, but I try to get it closer to five or six.

we, you know, it, I think it's all about balance too. So if you do have like a more expensive meal, we really love salmon. that's just one of, that's probably our favorite seafood across the [00:08:00] entire family. And so if I'm going to put salmon on the menu one week, then I'm also gonna do like a big old rice and beans that week as well. Does that make sense? So it kind of balances out that way too. 


Mary Hunt: [00:08:17] I love this. And I have enough questions to ask you for a thousand more podcasts. I mean, my brain is just overflowing because not only do I have my own questions and what I want you to tell my audience, I have my email inbox that is just loaded with people who are hungry, no pun intended to learn how they can do better with their money.  And so I want them to know you want them to find you. We're going to do everything we can in our power going forward to make sure that they can do that. So I just have a couple of really fun questions for you. maybe not so fun, but they'll be fun for us. Tell us the details. Do you shop like once every year and get everything all at once or do you do it every day or every week?

Do you have a plan? Do you go to many, many stores? Those are the, I'll stop it there. 


Erin Chase: [00:09:18]I think you have to find the right cadence for yourself. And I don't want to say you have to do it this way. Cause I don't, there's lots of personalities and lots of scenarios. Some people live in the country and really can only get to a good store once a month kind of deal my personal shopping M.O. and it has been this way for almost the entire time of my $5 dinners  life is weekly shopping with one warehouse run. Which I've, I think, I have been a warehouse store member for maybe seven, eight, eight years now. One of those about every six weeks. So I'll go to the warehouse store every six weeks, maybe five. It kind of depends on this during this pandemic time, it's been a little bit more frequently, but then I'm getting less at the grocery store. I've kind of shifted it around a little bit with the whole stocking up sort of scenario that we're currently in. And, but typically I prefer to get groceries once a week, get the fresh produce.  Meat most of the time comes from a warehouse store, but then I'll sometimes mix it in from the grocery store. It really kinda depends on what's on sale and you know, how I'm doing freezer meals is what it really comes down to for me is when that, when it's happening. So really it's a, for me, it's a cycle of weekly meal planning mixed in with kind of a freezer meal set up once-ish a month. Every five, six weeks, depending on when I'm doing my warehouse store run. And so that's been my cadence because that works really well for me. Both my personality with my schedule with, the sales cycles and all of those things just kind of fit to that particular cadence. other, you know, depending on your situation, I we've heard a lot from people that the going once a week is not enough. And so we also recommend doing [00:11:00] like every four-ish days, every three to four days, so maybe twice a week shopping. and in that case, You would want to be really a lot more granular with what you're buying so that you don't start overbuying. Does that make sense? And so you just have to be really mindful about when you do make a change like this in the way that you're shopping for food, being mindful that it's, it's working for you and you're not overspending. And it's kinda not working against you, if you will. And you know, we, I personally experienced that this last couple of months with having to shift. both budget dollars and the way I shop with the whole stocking up thing and not going out to eat anymore.

And all those different things that's kind of shifted around, but it was very mindful of that shift happening. And I'm very mindful that that shifts it's already shifting back to my typical cadence. And so, I really think you've just got to consider those different factors and make your food dollars and your time shopping, whether that's planning and putting in a grocery pickup order, or you're getting into the store and buzzing through it, as fast as you can, you know, with your mask on and your sanitizer in hand, you know, like whatever it is but just being very mindful of the way that you are spending your food dollars. 


Julie Emerson:  [00:12:36]Let's take a quick break for just a minute. Okay. Hi, I'm Julie. Producer a Debt Proof Living with Mary Hunt. You know, many of us have the experience in our lives of living paycheck to paycheck. Many people. I know it well, have a difficult time following a budget. But not managing our money as a leading cause of stress in our lives. 

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And currently Mvelopes is extending their free trial to 60 days for all of their subscriptions. So there's never been a better time to start on a new path. Just click the link in the show notes and sign up today. Risk-free. Okay. Now let's get back to our conversation.  


Mary Hunt: [00:13:41] You know, you mentioned that the pandemic and. it, it has changed our lives, in, in lots of ways. And I know that you lost your father recently. you've been through a lot. You had, I think you had some housing issues, right?

Didn't your house flood or something, you know, it's, it's, it's easy to stick to all these plans when life goes, as we plan. But I'm just thinking how wonderful it is. And I, I want to ask you the impact that your, that this whole thing, where you have your money in control and you're doing all that.

Did, Did that make things easier? I mean, I just want to know how, how do you get to really, really tough times without just throwing it all up in there as that can't do this anymore, you know? I can't stand this budgeting thing anymore. I mean, how have you gotten through this? 


Erin Chase:[00:14:36] Well, what, Oh, goodness. Then where were we? How long do we have? yeah, we have had a very rough six months. our house flooded, well, six months ago this week, and then I lost my dad unexpectedly a couple months after that. And then the pandemic hit the following month. And so it was, it's just been a very, grief-ridden on multiple levels. You know, the loss, we didn't lose anything in our house per se, but just the loss of routine and the loss of Just being, we had to move into a rental home. So being somewhere else, you know, that's that. And then of course, grief from losing my dad. Has just it's, that's still obviously going on and then of course the grief of just losing our, our lives, everybody, what, what, however it, the pandemic affected you, everybody was affected in some way. And I think that, in some ways, you know, the very first thing that I did when the whole pandemic thing hit was what are we not spending money on now?

That's the very first thing I wrote down. Like maybe the first weekend or so. And I finally cued in of, like how things are changing. Things are changing very fast. What are we not spending money on? We're not going out to eat. We're not buzzing through drive-throughs we're not picking up, a snack at the gas station, like all these different things.

I wasn't going to the gym. And so that was the first thing, that I did. And I think that what ultimately it comes down to, you know, both on the, on the money level and on the, just like get me through the day level. really is two things is, is grabbing the silver lining, whatever that may be. So with our house, the silver lining was, I got a pretty much a whole new house. mostly covered by insurance. We did a couple of new upgrades, but it was very clear to me very quickly that despite there was water everywhere and like rugs were soaked and gross. I could still see that we would be getting a new house out of this, you know, and I, with, with, with my dad, Restored not restored. There were never any bad relationships, but just renewed friendships and relationships with my siblings and family members. Such a gift. Even despite all of the, the grief in, in the, it was very dramatic and traumatic, the way that it all happened so quickly and unexpectedly. So I think that even in the midst of the trial, let's say there’s— you've got to, you've got to grab the silver linings and so, you know, pandemic it's. Okay, now I have more time to spend with my kids. Like we have two teenagers, you know, teenagers got it. They get a bad rap, but it's been such a gift getting to spend time with them in a way that I, that, that even just actually not long ago, I thought, okay, we are going to have a driver soon. And I remember as soon as I started driving, I was like, BYE!  I got places to go and people to see. Right? And so I just kept thinking, I've only got a couple months. Left with this kid before he's really setting into that independence business. And so I think that, you know, I, I sit in the feelings and I sit in the grief a lot.

There's a lot of resting. There's a lot of stillness that happens. but I think that in all of that, being able to focus on the positive and be able to grab onto the, the things that I'm really grateful for. And being able to see the positives, even in the night. Oh, there were many times where I wanted to throw my hands up, but the kids having to do school at home and you know, all the trying to work.

And, but I saw this is an opportunity that I need to redefine my work schedule and I re redefined my entire work week. I've never worked weekends. Ever. No, thank you. I'm good. I don't want to work the weekends. I have worked every single weekend since spring break week. Well, since the pandemic started, but that's because I wasn't working in the mornings and I have shifted around.  And so I think it's being able to recognize and be willing to adapt and change quickly. And then of course, kind of grabbing it and focusing onto the silver lining. So I don't know that that has a whole lot to do with money. But I think that it, when we're in a hard time, when we're in an emergency situation, right, we just moved back into her house.

There was a hailstorm five days after we moved into our house. We have to get another new roof. We just got a new roof four years ago. So it's just like, okay, alright. But there's, you know, other plans that we had with, with our house and with our finances. Hold! Hold, please. We got to get a new roof first.  And so, you know, you just, you just have to be, I don't know, kinda gotta go with the punches and got to make tough decisions and got to wait on things. and also grateful for, you know, our contingency fund, and grateful for, you know, my husband and I both work from home on the internet. I've been affected a little bit, but grateful to not have had a job loss. I'm grateful to my husband's in business. He lost a few in person events and classes, but really, he's been able to just shift his focus too. To the other kind of side of his business that wasn't, you know, dealing with live in person. So it's, it's really, yeah. I guess all of that, 


Mary Hunt: [00:20:33]I couldn't agree with you more Erin, and, and while maybe, you know, your, your face, you teach about food and budgeting and all that kind of thing. And I'm kind of similar, you know, the whole thing about money. I have come to believe that money is so important to us because it's very important to God. I think it's absolutely true that he that's how God cares for us. He doesn't drop the clothes out of sky and you know, the food doesn't show up on the front step.  I mean, the conduit is God. He sends money into our lives, and asks us to be good stewards of it. And. For what you have gone through is, is horrific. But I think that because you know how to plan and that you are prepared and, and you haven't spent every single nickel and face the pandemic just out of despair. That it's coming through.

But, and I think for all of us, I think everyone listening to me, we've all gone through this. And I think that it's very much like mourning. I have not faced in the past few weeks, which you are, but I think there are stages of grief. And for myself, I know I was, I was devastated when they shut everything down and my grandkids could go to school anymore. And it was so sad. I mean, I wept tears of just sobbing. What has happened? And then, and then I go through, you know, I'm sorry to say, but I think it's part of it. I've gone to a real angry stage as well. 


Julie Emerson: [00:22:07] Now I have a quick question for you, Erin. One of the things that the quarantine has given us is a lot more time with our family and a lot more time to do projects with each other and to really spend time together.

[00:20:38] And if we could just talk a little bit about what's coming up for you and what moms and grandmas and dads and grandpas or aunts and uncles can do with their kids in the kitchen that would be— a we'd love to hear it. So can you tell us more? 



Erin Chase: [00:22:35] Yeah. So the week of spring break, March 9th, 10th, 11, I don't know, somewhere in there.

when the  whole, you know, quarantine was being talked about and hadn't really started yet, I was at the gym and I kept thinking. If school gets canceled, what am I going to do with my boys? That's I mean, I was on the treadmill for half an hour and I couldn't stop thinking about it. And right towards the end of my run, I was like-kids cooking show live on Facebook. And I was like, okay. So I get home and I am actually leaving to go with my friend to their. ranch, river house, for the weekend of spring break.  We've done that for many years and I was like, I better put something about this on Facebook. So, you know, because we're going to start on Monday because by that point in the afternoon, our school had just announced that they were canceled. So I put it on Facebook. Fun fact. There's no wifi or cell service at the ranch. So I had no idea what was going to happen. So I put it, I put the recipe list. I had written it down on a piece of paper. My husband is driving. I'm making a Canva image on  my phone and I posted it right before we lost, like cell service. And so the next afternoon, my friend and I walked down to the neighbors where they have wifi and I checked in and I was like, Oh, okay, we're going to have a couple of people with us on Monday. So then I posted like an ingredient list real quick. And I'm like, Texting Lauren, like Help! We got to get this out! Like, go, go, go. So anyways, the kids and I did cooking lessons, we did four weeks of 20 lessons, plus the freezer cooking session over in March and then into the end of April and really, you know, It was just such a gift to us. And it's been such a gift to other people. Like I haven't cooked lunch since then.

Nothing they're home all the time. They make their own lunches. Most of the time make their own breakfast. Sometimes I jump in there cause it's fun to be all together there in the morning in the kitchen. And really, you know, it's taught them so much. And it's been, you know, I love to cook. I'm a food blogger.

I'm here to, I am here for it! but it's also nice to equip them and to kind of work myself out of a job. So we did all of those lessons and decided probably about halfway through,  that I wanted this to be longer than just through this, this quarantine. I wanted it to be longer. So I, I changed it from, you know, school cancellation kids, cooking lessons to whisk kid, which is a play on whisk and whiz.

So I want you to be, I want your kids to be whizzes in the kitchen and I want to help them cultivate kind of a lifelong love of cooking and feeding themselves and really just starting with. Recipes that are, both kid-friendly and budget friendly and simple to make, but also have kind of cooking strategies that would apply to other types of recipes, you know, like a skillet meal, when you know how to make a pasta skillet meal, which is kind of like a homemade sort of Hamburger Helper, you  can make dozens, hundreds of different things with just that strategy. So that's, that's what I want to do. So we turn that into a curriculum in a, in a workbook and a guidebook. That we have with stickers, which I'm super excited for the stickers! I know I'm such a nerd and certificates for completion. And so really, you know, it's got everything you need recipes, the guided videos, the shopping lists, and the videos are essentially I'm teaching my boys in my kitchen in the same way as if you I'm also teaching your child in your kitchen.

 It's, it's filmed and taught in that way. So all you gotta do is get the ingredients, which you probably have a lot of them already. And then just let, let me teach them, you know, while you're kind of watching from the corner. So that's the idea behind WhizKid, which I'm super excited about. It has been, I'm actually going to have my boys.

They only, I worked with one boy at a time. And so they learned certain things with me and I'm going to have them go through this summer, the other things that they didn't learn yet. So they'll get their whole complete go at it with everything. And, you know, it's still very unknown. At least the time of we're recording this, what school's going to look like in the fall.

And so it's this isn't. You know, this is meant to be a tool that can help you any time of year, not just the summer, not just in a quarantine, not just when school's canceled. but it is, it is something that, you know, will enrich your kids in your life, with, with, doing the lessons.


Julie Emerson: [00:27:15]Yeah. We're looking forward to it.


Mary Hunt: [00:27:18]I’m so thankful that you shared that with us. And, and again, our hearts go out to you for what you have been through, but oh my goodness. The growth and the fact that you've got four young men and a husband there with you and, what God is going to do in their lives is just fantastic. So I know that we've just barely scratched the surface. We've talked about the big picture things. I hope we can do this again. And as I said, I hope that we can do a lot of things. I [00:26:00] want my listeners to know that Erin has a prolific, wealth, I guess it would be called a, I don't know a bank of intellectual, one wonderfulness, where she teaches at her recipes.

Oh my goodness. If we could all just learn to cook as well, and to spend as little, it would just impact our lives so much, especially going forward. Because I'm not going to hide the fact that I truly believe we are headed for some, some time, years of inflation. I mean, now, that you can't print the kind of money our company, our country has printed that had to help us get through all of this without that having a longterm effect. So. We are blessed to know ahead of time. We've got to learn to be frugal. We got to learn how to do everything for less to cook at home. And the queen of this is, is Erin Chase, the $5 dinner mom. So thank you so much, Erin. We're going to put into the show notes below all of her contacts, how you can learn more about Erin, how you can start doing so much better.

Stick with me. Stick close because we're all in this together and we're going to save time and money every single day. 


Erin Chase:[00:28:56] Thank you for having me. It's a joy to get to share with you guys. And I look forward to more. 


Mary Hunt: [00:29:01]Thank you, Erin. 


Julie Emerson: [00:29:05]

Debt-Proof Living with Mary Hunt was created and hosted by, Mary Hunt. Produced by Julie Emerson, with Harold Hunt, Executive Producer.

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