'Ten for 10': 10 meals for less than $10

GLENDALE So it's time to call in the experts to help us put dinner on the table without taking out a loan. Here are 10 meals for a family of four, for less than $10 each.

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"You can really score with the coupons and the store card," said Michael Lalla. That shopper has it right, yet a USDA nationwide survey found that a family of four spends $80 more on groceries than two years ago.

"Really, the challenge becomes: find a way to economize without sacrificing nutrition and health," said Jackie Keller, registered dietitian at NutriFit.

Jackie Keller is a dietitian and owner of NutriFit catering company. So she knows keeping a tight food budget is key to survival. At home, she feeds her family of six. At work, she delivers several hundred meals daily to clients. What she does to cut costs can help you at home.

Keller marries cheaper proteins like beans and other meatless alternatives with whole-grain foods to cut saturated fat and calories.

"Those tend to be on the lesser side of the scale even thought they have seen a dramatic increase in price," said Keller.

Example? A chicken and chard frittata using pasta, chicken, egg substitute with Swiss chard and herbs: $7.10 to feed a family of four.

Or Spanish pie with beans and spinach, using polenta or cornmeal for the base, a little onion, bell pepper, cheese and spices. Cost: $7.60 for a family of four.

For dinner on the fly, try chicken-and-bean burritos with chopped salsa in fat-free flour tortillas -- feeds four to six people for just under $8.

Currently we eat twice as much animal protein as plant products, but fill the plate with more vegetables and whole grains, and you've got a healthier, cheaper meal.

And it might seem scary at first, but using tofu as a way to stretch a meal is easier and tastier than you think.

"It does absorb the taste, the color and texture of what ever it's put with," said Keller. Try tofu blended in chili, soup, sauces and egg dishes and no one will be able to tell.

It may seem tough at first, but incorporating cost-cutting cooking tactics will save you a lot in the long run.

"The cost of going to a doctor is still more expensive than the cost of buying healthy food," said Keller.

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