erin chase twoErin Chase was, like the rest of America in 2008, struggling to get the most from her food budget.  She started clipping coupons and challenging herself to make healthy dinners for her then family of 4 for less than $5.  One night while she was cleaning up and doing dishes, she decided to start a blog, and $5 Dinners was born!

What Chase could not have known then was how much her life would change over the next six years.  She’s now the mother of four young boys, and she also runs one of the most successful blogs out there.  In fact, in late February, she was featured on the Rachel Ray Show!

In addition to her success with the blog, Erin is also the author of several cookbooks:  The $5 Dinner Mom One Dish Dinner Cookbook, The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook, and The $5 Dinner Mom Breakfast and Lunch Cookbook.  She also has another blog, Food Allergies on a Budget.  In addition, she regularly speaks at blog conferences.

Erin Chase is one busy woman!  I interviewed her recently to see how she does so much and to get a few tips on feeding my family healthy food on a budget.

What was your career background before you began blogging?

Before starting a blog, I was a teacher and principal at a small private school overseas. Then I became a stay-at-home mom who started a blog…

What skills in particular did you have that helped you grow your blog as quickly as you did?

I think the key for new bloggers is a combination of strategies – networking with other bloggers, content marketing to your core demographic, and SEO building strategies.

How many people do you now have on your team?

As of 2014, I have 3 people on my team. My amazing assistant who does a fantastic job ‘being me’ :), and I also have a social media manager and tech and design support.

What are future areas of growth that you’re considering?

I’m moving more into videos in 2014, specifically my ‘keeping it real’ cooking videos, shot in my kitchen…with lots of little people running around in the background!

How do you juggle a very successful business with four young, energetic boys?  What tips would you give to other women who are trying to do it all?

In addition to my assistant, social media, and design team members, I also have a nanny who works for me part time. I work hard to keep my hours to 20-25 hours a week so that I can ‘keep the balance,’ stay on top of all the boys’ activities and homework, etc. There have been in the past MANY late nights and afternoon nap power work sessions!

What advice do you have for women who are looking to start their own business from home?

Work smarter, not harder. And whatever you do and no matter how successful you become, ask yourself often this…’would I still be doing this if I weren’t getting paid?’ This will keep you focused on your goals, and your passion will drive you, not the revenue.

What’s your best piece of financial advice for someone starting their own business in general?

My best financial advice is to set aside 30% of all earnings from the beginning, for taxes, bookkeeping and accounting fees. If you can set aside another 10% for savings and future investment into the business, you’ll be setting yourself up for great financial success! Discipline and smart financial decisions are the key to setting a strong foundation for your business.

Is it possible to eat frugally and also healthily?  Would you be willing to give us a couple of favorite, super healthy, super tasty, low cost meals?

Most definitely…in fact I think a lot of the healthier ‘from scratch’ cooking is cheaper than other types of cooking, boxes or semi-homemade. We deal with a number of food allergies in my family, so I have to cook from scratch and avoid most processed foods. You can find all kinds of recipes at 5dollardinners.com.

What’s the extra time commitment for cooking at home?  The reason people often choose fast food is for time saving reasons.  Can you suggest some of your favorite quick, healthy meals?

I don’t think it’s a time commitment thing…it’s a planning thing. 🙂 I’ve fallen into the trap many a times…for me it’s when I don’t have a plan in place, or I’m too exhausted to think about what to put together for dinner. But it takes just as long to get all the kids loaded into the car, drive to the nearest fast food, get food, clean out the car from all the trash and rogue french fries (if the kids do eat in the car!)…than it does to get spaghetti on the table. Or even turkey sandwiches with some carrots and fruit. So back to the planning…have a meal plan in place for the busy, overworked mom is crucial for staying out of the drive thru lane.

Quick healthy meals – spaghetti with veggies, turkey sandwiches, pita pizzas with fresh fruit, omelets, quesadillas, tacos, the list could go on….the key, write a few ideas out at the beginning of the week and get all the ingredients written onto your shopping list. Then you’ll know you have all you need and can stay out of the drive thru!

How can you get kids involved in frugal eating and eating healthy foods?

The most important is to offer a variety from the beginning…variety of flavors, spices, textures…and keep offering these as kids go through the inevitable picky phases, or the ‘but you liked sweet potatoes yesterday’ phases. Once old enough, get them involved in the kitchen ‘working’ with you…even as young as 2 or 3! Kids love to help make cookies, or load up a blender with fruit and spinach for a green smoothie.