This recipe was developed for a dollar store challenge video. I gave just $5 to create a delicious and somewhat healthy meal using only ingredients that I could purchase at Dollar Tree.

A week or so before we filmed, I browsed the aisles of my closest Dollar Tree to get an idea of what items that carried. Sadly, that particular location didn’t have any fresh produce or even a freezer section. The only food items they had were shelf-stable; either packaged or canned.

I wanted to make a meal that was filling, somewhat healthy, and didn’t taste like it was made with only packaged ingredients. What could I make?!

The idea for lentil balls actually came to me rather quickly. Lentils are a great source of protein, and I knew they would help with making the dish hearty and filling. I thought about doing a pasta, but I went back and forth with what sauce I wanted to make. While we were filming, I made the final decision to to a potato and carrot “cheese” sauce using canned carrots, and instant mashed potato flakes. 

The chipote peppers are what tipped me in that cheese sauce direction. To stay true to the challenge, I didn’t want to rely on outside ingredients such as nutritional yeast to make it taste good. I knew that the chipotle peppers were a strong enough flavor to carry the sauce on their own. 

Here’s what I ended up purchasing:

  • Idahoan Original Mashed Potatoes
  • Dry green lentils
  • Canned carrots
  • Chipotle peppers in adobo
  • Dry macaroni noodles

Check out the video below, and then scroll down to see the written directions. In retrospect, the dish wasn’t a 10, but the idea was. This recipes are a great starting point, but could use a few more ingredients to truly make them shine.

5 from 2 votes
Potato Chipotle Cream Sauce

Easy sauce made using 3 ingredients from the dollar store.

Servings: 4 servings
Author: Michael Monson
  • 1 cup dried potato flakes
  • ½ cup canned carrots, drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 to 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • salt, pepper, and seasonings to taste
  1. Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. The longer you let it blend, the more the starches in the potatoes will create a creamier texture.
  2. Warm through, and toss with your favorite pasta.
5 from 2 votes
Lentil Potato Meatballs

Quick and easy lentil meatballs using dollar store ingredients.

Author: Michael Monson
  • 1 cup dry green lentils (or 2 cups cooked)
  • ½ to ¾ cup potato flakes or instant mashed potatoes
  • ¼ cup diced carrots
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons water
  • salt, pepper, and seasoning to taste
  1. Rinse your dry lentils, and then add them to a pot without about 4 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the temperature so that only one or two bubbles come to the surface at a time. Loosely cover the pot with a lid, and allow to gently simmer for about 20 minutes. Your lentils are done when they are tender in the center.

  2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees fahrenheit.
  3. Blend 1 cup of cooked lentils in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the blended lentils along with another cup of cooked lentils, diced carrots, and a tablespoon of water to a medium-sized bowl. Stir to combine. Begin by adding ½ cup of potato flakes to the mixture. Test the mixture to see if it will form into balls. If it’s too crumbly, and a bit more water and a bit more of the potato flake.

  4. Use a tablespoon to measure out enough mixture for each ball. Roll them all into spheres, and place them on a lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 425 for about 30 minutes, turning once about halfway through. The balls are finished when they are crispy and lightly browned. Serve warm atop your favorite pasta.