Italian Dinner Serves Four for $16

During the week, it can be difficult to find time to cook dinner. When evenings are busy, it’s tempting to go out to a restaurant instead of enjoying a meal at home. But what if you could cook a delicious meal at home in less time than it takes to go to a restaurant? Cooking at home has many benefits over going out to eat:

  • You can control the ingredients you use, and can choose healthier options.
  • It costs less money to prepare meals at home, which allows you to stretch your food budget.
  • You can use your FNS/SNAP benefits to purchase groceries.


This Italian dinner for four can be prepared at home in less than 30 minutes and for only $16 (the minimum monthly FNS/SNAP benefit that a household can receive). The meal includes a one-pot pasta dish, salad, breadsticks, and Italian ice. You would spend a lot more in a restaurant for a similar meal. The average cost to eat out is $12.75 per person, which would cost over $50 for four people.


“Grocery Shopping”

Shopping List Price
1 onion (~1/2 pound) .44
1 (14.5 ounce) can unsalted petite diced tomatoes, undrained .75
1 (13 ounce) box whole wheat spaghetti or linguini $1.39
1 (10 ounce) bag fresh spinach $2.39
1 (8 ounce) can parmesan cheese $2.99
1 head Romaine lettuce $1.79
1 cucumber .69
2 small Roma tomatoes (~1/2 pound) .65
1 package breadsticks from bakery (8 count) $2.49
Italian Ice (6 individual cups) $2.29
TOTAL $15.87
Pantry Staples
Olive oil or other vegetable oil (If you made the Chard Pie recipe from our previous blog, you should have olive oil leftover to use for the pasta recipe and salad dressing.) (link to blog)
Oregano or other dried spices (optional)
Vinegar or salad dressing


One-Pot Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes (Adapted from My Recipes)


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
  • 8 ounces whole-grain spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 ounce fresh spinach
  • 1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/4 cup)



  1. Heat a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat.
  2. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until onion starts to brown.
  3. Add tomatoes, 1 ½ cups water, optional oregano and/or spices, then pasta in that order. Bring to a boil.
  4. Stir to submerge noodles in liquid.
  5. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 7 minutes or until pasta is almost done.
  6. Uncover; stir in salt.
  7. Add spinach in batches, stirring until spinach wilts. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes.
  8. Sprinkle with cheese


While the pasta is cooking, warm the breadsticks in the oven. To prepare the salad, chop the Romaine lettuce and slice the cucumber and Roma tomatoes and combine in a serving bowl. Whisk together oil, vinegar, and dried spices from your pantry to make a simple salad dressing.


Enjoy Italian Ice for a light treat after dinner.