Money

'Struggle Meals' host Frankie Celenza: You can cook fast, easy dishes for only $2 a person

Frankie Celenza
Courtesy Tastemade

Emmy-winning TV host Frankie Celenza has cooked at the White House alongside former first lady Michelle Obama and for celebrities like champion tennis player Novak Djokovic. Now he teaches the masses how to make tasty, no-fuss meals for around $2 a serving.

Celenza is the host of "Struggle Meals," a Tastemade show that streams on Facebook Watch, YouTube, and Amazon. In each episode, he demonstrates how to make mouth-watering meals without breaking the bank. Celenza brings an abundance of food knowledge to dishes like gnocchi in a bacon cream sauce for $1.96 per serving.

Grow spoke to Celenza about the best ways to save money on food and how his career got started.

Q: How did you get your start as a cook and TV presenter?

A: At the very beginning of college, I started a pasta-and-burger dinner club in which kids would pay me — slightly less than the school's meal plan — for food that was superior. ...When the seventh friend of a friend told me, "You should film this," I thought, "Whoa, seven people I don't know have told me I should film this. "

Q: What's an expensive kitchen tool that's worth the investment?

A: A blender or food processor. The ability to make smoothies, sauces, pestos, and soups, and the fact that a good one lasts for decades, is worth the sticker shock.

More from Grow:
How $10 or less can help turn old clothes into a new wardrobe
3 lifestyle changes that can help you save money for a home
How this easy form of budgeting can help you with money

Q: What are your best money-saving kitchen tips?

A: Planning on using everything you buy. The U.N. says Americans throw 40% of all groceries in the garbage. With the average American spending $2,400 a year on food, that's [about an extra] $1,000 in your pocket.

There's a serious monetary incentive for you not to waste food. It's way bigger than canceling a Netflix subscription. Save leftovers, turn them into an egg frittata the next day, and buy less.

Q: What's your best grocery store tip?

A: I absolutely love hitting up the salad bar for semi-pre-made ingredients. If I'm making Romesco sauce, sometimes the salad bar has roasted peppers, this saves me a step and 40-plus minutes...and [I] only use exactly what you need (since they sell by weight).

Q: If you could inspire people to start cooking instead of dining out, what would you say?

A: Meals are three opportunities to enjoy, savor, and relish the amazing world we live in. ...Be that creative person, save money, master a skill for life (cooking), and ultimately, I guarantee you'll enjoy the good life more.

And here's Celenza's favorite fast mac & cheese recipe, which comes in at less than $1 per serving.

Graphic preview
Frankie's
one cheese
mac & cheese
Frankie Celenza
20-25 min. 4 servings
$0.96
per serving
Ingredients
Prices based on national averages.
  • 1 lb box medium shells $0.99
  • 2.5 cups whole milk $0.45
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder $0.99
  • 3 butter packets
  • 1.75 cups grated white cheddar cheese $2.22
  • 2 tablespoons chives, minced
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard $0.04
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  • In a large high-sided skillet or cast-iron pan bring the macaroni, milk, water, and onion powder to a boil, stirring regularly. Turn down to a simmer and continue to stir regularly, cooking for 10-15 minutes, or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Add the butter, cheese, and mustard, stirring until melted through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and garnish with chives.
noun_Download_205165 Download recipe

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

The article 'Struggle Meals' Host Frankie Celenza: You Can Cook Fast, Easy Dishes for Only $2 a Person originally appeared on Grow by Acorns + CNBC.

Frankie Celenza
Courtesy Tastemade
make it

Stay in the loop

Sign Up

About Us

Learn More

Follow Us

CNBC.COM