“Noting that a simple meal was less than a “value meal” gets chuckles and nods.”—
I like to tell people I am eating with the probable price of our home meal at any restaurant that would serve something comparable. Noting that a simple meal was less than a “value meal” gets chuckles and nods. Valuing a well crafted, foodie type effort like a special pasta at its double digit restaurant price makes it even more special.
Most of the people planning Slow Food USA‘s $5 dinners have shown remarkable ingenuity in stretching their $5 far beyond what anyone would have imagined—preparing multiple courses of sustainable food that few would have believed cost less than $5 per serving.
I decided to try something a little different.
I stuck to the $5-dinner rules, but I wanted to address the criticism that many people have of cooking at home—namely, that they don’t have the time to do it. I didn’t seek out ingredients that I could stretch as far as possible; instead, I chose ingredients that I could turn into a simple, delicious, sustainable meal, quickly:
(Prices are approximate; when you factor in the salt, pepper, and olive oil/vinegar that I added later, the result puts us almost exactly at $20, for four meal-sized portions.)
I did relatively little to the ingredients: I removed the extra bits from the chicken, rubbed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary, and threw it in a 400° oven to cook for just over an hour (15 minutes per pound). Then I rinsed, oiled, salted and peppered the sprouts and put them on a tray by the oven, rinsed the lettuce and put it in the refrigerator… and went back to reading. When there were 40 minutes left I slipped the sprouts into the oven. When everything was done I pulled the sprouts and chicken out of the oven, quartered the bird, dressed the salad, put the remaining portions into Pyrex storage containers to cool, snapped a quick photograph… and sat down to enjoy dinner at my leisure.
It was far from the most elaborate meal that was prepared today. But it’s sustainable, it’s healthy, and it clocks in at around $5 per serving. And even making generous allowances for travel and cleanup the time spent obtaining and preparing it doesn’t exceed an hour, or 15 minutes per meal when you take leftovers into account.
You might be able to beat that with a trip to the drive-through window, maybe… as long as you don’t get stuck behind the guy who can’t decide whether he wants fries with that.
We wanted to celebrate our anniversary last weekend, and invited a large group of our friends for dinner. When I looked into catering options, I realized how expensive it would be - and that the food would be less healthy, and not as fresh as I would want. Living on Maui, a lot of prepared food that is available locally for parties is “luau style” - heavy on pork and mayonnaise. And that is not what I had in mind for this dinner. The cost per-person for the meal I prepared was probably less than $3, considering how much we had left over - but my grocery receipts totalled $97, and we had more than 30 people eating. So we’ll say $3 per person. And after the party, several guests asked for recipes - which led to me writing about it (link below).
To start I served a salad of organic baby greens with dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, sunflower seeds, cucumbers, sprouts and balsamic strawberries, with goat cheese on the side. I had it set up as a salad bar, so people could pick and choose - which led to less waste and more reusable leftovers.
For dinner we had rice, lentil daal, and spicy masala grilled chicken.
“When eating together we get the added benefits of reducing cost and fellowship that benefits everyone”—
As it turns out we participate in a recovery group on fridays and we always have a meal available for five dollars or less if you don’t have five and when eating together we get the added benefits of reducing cost and fellowship that benefits everyone with very little waste and almost always using locally grown produce and meats, the exception being the coffee served. Can anyone tell me a local source for coffee?
Using our CSA veggies (Horse & Buggy Produce, Charlottesville, VA) we often find ourselves making sub-$5 meals chock full of goodness. For this specific challenge day we went with what we had in the fridge and didn’t go out of our way to save money. In fact, if we were trying to make it as cheap as possible, we wouldn’t have used our Cougar Gold cheese and we would have baked our own bread instead of picking up a loaf at our local Great Harvest Bread Co.
Tuscan Inspired Beef Roast with Greens, Potatoes and Carrots
Here’s what I did…a meal for 4 under $5/serving AND a free meal to boot.
Tuscan Inspired Beef Roast
2 lb boneless or 2&1/2-3 lb with bones beef roast (buy hormone and antibiotic-free, this should be your big purchase so spend about $15 on it because you CAN buy the cheapest cut and it will be fine)
Saute 1 finely chopped celery stalk and 2 small carrots, finely chopped with a couple slices of minced onion and 2 cloves of minced garlic in olive oil until soft. Set aside.
SEAR all sides of the roast in the pan used for veggies.
Tie together: 2 sprigs each of Rosemary, Thyme and a small bunch of Parsley.
Prep crockpot, place 1/2 veggies on bottom, then beef roast, then rest of veggies and tuck the herb pack alongside the roast. Cover with 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes.
Prep Crockpot. Place half the veggies on bottom, then add the roast, put remaining veggies a 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes on top.
Cook all day.
On the way home, stop at the FARMERS’ Market and buy somegreens. I purchased 1 lb of Swiss Chard for $1.00, but you can use spinach or kale, too. After cleaning, saute the greens with a litttle garlic, salt and pepper in oil.
Then dice about 4-5 large Russet potatoes. Reserve about 25% to a bowl for tomorrow’s dinner. Mash the rest.
Clean and slice 1/2 lb carrots (or substitute leftover veggies you may have in the refrig. I happened to have leftover Eggplant from the night before so it became my leftover side.)
Here’s the Roast with the greens, ready for serving.
So dinner is Tuscan inspired beef roast with greens,mashed potatoes and carrots (or other leftover)—under $5/person.
When you clean up, please chop your leftovers and immediately place into the soup pot. Add ALL reserved juices and veggies from the crockpot. Run a knife to coarsely chop leftover greens into smaller serves. Add any leftover veggies (green beans, peas?) and 32 oz. additional beef or veggie broth. Part of this can be reserved water from your cooked carrots. (I keep broth always available frozen, from cooking soup bones for my dogs. )
Remember how I told you my leftover veggie was eggplant—well, I STILL had a little leftover, so I put the eggplant into a mini food processor, added a little olive oil, lemon juice, and additional olives that I had leftover from a pizza adventure earlier in the week—to make a GREAT EGGPLANT DIP on crackers, while waiting for the soup to heat up the next day!!!
I made the pledge, I took the challenge then racketed up up a notch and created a fine family meal for five people for under five dollars. Oh yeah! Check it out with full recipe and photo instructions and, yes, the cost breakdown. Break it down and pump it up! Go Slow Foods! See the recipe here - submitted by Leslie Macchiarella
We knew we’d be feeding a crowd, since our event took place at a food pantry, so we went with black beans and rice in a slow cooker. The whole meal comes to $7.23, including extras like sour cream and cilantro, but it feeds four or more people (generous portions), bringing the cost per person down to $1.81. Our recipe features several items that are currently available in our food pantry, free of charge. We receive fresh local produce from the community farmer’s market and local gardeners through the “plant a row for the hungry” program. Fresh red peppers are abundant right now! Many of our patrons have gardens of their own, or garden with us (Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard) at one of our four community garden sites—creating access to fresh, herbs and veggies at no cost.
We set up our table outside during pantry hours, and offered samples to everyone passing through. Children and adults alike enjoyed the dish, took recipes and signed up to win a new slow cooker. Some folks remarked that they had never tried black beans, others had not heard of cilantro. We talked about slow cookers, beans and rice, and shared recipes, tips and stories.
Sharing good food, sharing skills and ideas on how to grow and prepare wholesome food on a tight budget is what we’re all about! So the Slow Food USA $5 challenge is a perfect fit!
Here’s the recipe:
Black Beans & Rice
One 1-lb package black turtle beans 1.39
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped .28
1 red bell pepper, seeded & finely chopped (optional) 1.59
1 or two hot chilies, depending on what’s available, and
what you like (Jalapeno, Serrano, habanero, etc. If you don’t have fresh chilies, use dried red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper) .37
2 cloves of garlic, minced .13
1 teaspoon ground cumin .41
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican, if you have it,
otherwise, regular is fine) .22
1 bay leaf .30
½ pound roma tomatoes, finely diced .96
6 cups (or more) of water
2 teaspoons salt .01
1 tablespoon canola oil (if making on the stove) .13
Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional) .55
1 bunch cilantro chopped (optional) .50
6-8 cups of cooked white rice .39
Instructions with a slow cooker (crockpot):
Pick over, rinse and soak the beans for 2 -3 hours (you can speed this up by using the quick soak method: cover the beans by a few inches, with cold water. Bring to a boil, boil for two minutes, remove from heat, let sit for an hour). Drain and transfer all ingredients, except salt, to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours. The beans need to be covered with liquid at all times, so check on them occasionally, and add water if needed. Check at 3 hours for doneness—they’ll be tender, and hold their shape, and won’t fall apart. With quick soaked beans, it is usually 6 hours, but could be less. When done, remove from heat, add the salt, serve over rice with chopped cilantro and sour cream or yogurt.
Instructions for stovetop
Pick over, rinse and soak the beans for 2 -3 hours (you can speed this up by using the quick soak method: cover the beans by a few inches, with cold water. Bring to a boil, boil for two minutes, remove from heat, let sit for an hour). Drain the beans. In a large pot, preferably with a heavy bottom, sauté the onion in a tablespoon of canola oil for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, chilies, cumin, oregano and tomato, and cook for 1 more minute, on medium heat. Add the beans, water and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 3-5 hours, checking for doneness occasionally. When done, remove from heat, add the salt, serve over rice with chopped cilantro and sour cream or yogurt.
The cost break-down:
This recipe can be made, no frills, for $ 4.59. You can feed 4 people at $1.15 per person, but this recipe will easily feed 6, maybe more.
For $7.23 (total) you can include red pepper, sour cream and cilantro.
If you get your rice, tomato, red pepper, sour cream (or Greek yogurt) and hot chilies from MHC (these are things that we have had in the past week or two) the price knocks down to $3.24, for the whole meal!
Growing your own oregano, cilantro, tomatoes, onions and peppers, can save you even more!
The Growing Hope Initiative accepted the $5 Challenge on Saturday, September 17th 2011 and created amazing, healthy, low cost meals as part of full day focused on sustainable food, slow food, and community building. The event was the culmination of the group’s Week of Service activities, which include planting of an edible communal garden plot.
“I managed to feed a dozen people (some were children) for closer to a dollar a person thanks to the local produce readily available at summer’s end.”—
I managed to feed a dozen people (some were children) for closer to a dollar a person thanks to the local produce readily available at summer’s end. Here’s how I did it, plus tips on finding local sources and growing your own even in small spaces.
When I decided to host a $5 Challenge meal for my family, the first recipe that came to my mind was a childhood favorite: yakitori. It is probably strange that some of my favorite food memories from my younger days revolve around Japanese food, given that I am not Japanese and have never been to Japan. But my Dad (pictured above) speaks Japanese and befriended his Japanese coworkers so that he could practice speaking the language. We were invited to their homes where I ate tempura, sushi, egg cakes, and yakitori with delight. We had a culinary cultural exchange—my mom taught them about apple pie, and they taught us how to make yakitori.
Yakitori was a good choice for the $5 Challenge because chicken is a relatively cheap protein source. We had vegetable tempura and steamed white rice for side dishes, and my sister made applesauce cake for dessert (since apple pie ended up being too expensive). If you would like to read more about our $5 Challenge experience, please read this post on my blog http://flowercityfoodie.com.
1 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup mirin (sweetened sake)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
chicken breasts, cut into strips
canned pineapple chunks
bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 20 minutes
In a saucepan combine the soy sauce, mirin, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and cook until it is reduced by a third.
Thread the strips of chicken and pineapple onto the bamboo skewers. Brush with the sauce created in step 1.
Grill the skewers over medium-high heat. Baste with remaining sauce several times throughout cooking. Remove from heat once the chicken is cooked through.
“I was not able to go to the farmer’s market, but I was able to go shopping in my pantry and freezer.”—
After going away for a couple of days I came home and realized that the Slow Food Challenge was upon us. I was not able to go to the farmer’s market but I was able to go shopping in my pantry, and freezer. was able to feed my family of 5 a Three Course Meal for under $9. See how I did it here.
I’m fortunate enough to have a Whole Foods across the street from me so I bought a few things and whipped up this meal in about 15 minutes. It isn’t really a recipe it’s just basic staple foods cooked and presented, with some spices and condiments to kick them up a bit. So, below are the components, and below that, the price breakdown.
Skirt steak with curried hominy with cumin, fresh steamed broccoli crown with light butter and pinch of sea salt, all on a toasted tortilla. Dessert is an ultra-fresh green banana, sliced and drizzled with honey, both organic. Beverage is zero calorie lemonade. Approximate cost, $2.58 (and most of it’s organic!)
Skirt Steak - $8/lb - 1/2 lb bought- used 1/4 of that = $1.00 Broccoli crown = $1.20 - used 1/3 = $.40 Hominy - $1.00 - used 1/4 = $.25 Tortilla - $1.00 10-pack - used 1 = $.10 Bananas - $2.40 - used 1/6 = $.40 Lemonade - $2.00 per canister, 12 Qts. Used 1/2 of qt. = $.08 Honey - A teaspon - $.10 ? Spices, condiments, water- $.25?
We had eight people for dinner and just brought it in under $40 counting the wine and the milk we drank with dinner. I made romesco sauce and sliced baguette for an appetizer. We had moussaka (like lasagna but sliced eggplant and potato instead of noodles, and half a pound of ground lamb) and sliced cantaloupe. For dessert, we had brownies and whipped cream. All but the brownies, whipped cream, milk and wine was bought local and organic from the farmer’s market this morning.
“If it comes in a package, there was a middleman involved that probably added a bunch of stuff you don’t need, nutritionally and in the form of packaging.”—
… I buy fruits and veggies from the produce section and then turn my attention to the bulk bin (found at Whole Foods and a ton of other grocery stores). Grains, beans, and legumes abound and I’m always trying something new.
This recipe is a more budget friendly version of a dish from one of my favorite restaurants in the Twin Cities. The original is made with gnocchi and mascarpone. But this one is just as good for a home meal.
Orange Roasted Cauliflower
1 head of cauliflower chopped into bite size pieces
The juice and zest of one naval orange
approx a tsp of red pepper flakes (I pinch and eyeball)
drizzling of olive oil (again this is an eyeball technique) approx 4 TBSP
salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven at 375. In a shallow pan that can also be used on the stove top, mix all the ingredients together. Put in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes until the cauliflower begins to brown.
The Pasta Sauce
Once this step is complete, remove from the oven and transfer to a low heat. Add in 3 oz of cream cheese and stir until melted. Adjust your seasoning accordingly.
Cook the pasta per instructions on the box. (I like to use the Campenelle Bellflower shape since the sauce gets into the curves of the pasta.)
Once the pasta is cooked and the cream cheese is melted, mix the two together in a big bowl and serve.
Buying all the ingredients (not including the spices since these can be found commonly in any home) on sale my total comes to $4.72 and it serves 4 to 6 people depending on how it is portioned.
“My garden is supplying a lot of the food for my $5 Challenge meal.”—
… It is a great way to eat the most delicious, fresh food and it’s right outside my kitchen door. I also got a box of peaches at a farmers’ market that the farm was going to get rid of. I had to sort through it but I had enough to make 2 pies with free fruit.
Mission Possible: Feed Your Family a Slow Meal at Fast-Food Prices
Slow Food USA has thrown down the gauntlet to members across the country: Prepare a healthy, nutritious dinner for the same price as a fast-food meal.
Josh Viertel, president of Slow Food USA wants us all to take the $5 Challenge on Saturday, Sept. 17, its national day of action. My local South Bay chapter wants to help its members by providing the menus and recipes to do it.
I decided to put my shopping and cooking skills to the test. Could I prepare a home-cooked meal from scratch, using local ingredients in season, for just $5 per person?
In a word: Yes!
I designed a simple menu to feed a family of six: a seasonal summer casserole complimented by a fresh garden salad and refreshing lemonade.
So tune out those TV ads promoting bargain prices on oversized portions of questionable burgers and fries, pizza and fried chicken. Do yourself, your family and your wallet favor by taking the $5 Challenge yourself!
Here is the first of 2 meal versions for Slow Foods Healthy Meal Challenge. I decided to make “happy meal” versions which I think will be appealing to either adults or children. I tried for nutrient dense options with a lot of flavor. Due to time constraints I purchased items from traditional grocers, but you will be able to find many, many of the ingredients or all of them from your local farmers markets. I chose high quality ingredients, organic when I could so the prices will be in the ball-park when shopping with your local farmers. I have provided only the totals for the nutrient value and cost. I would be happy to email the detail to anyone who wants it. I kept the cost of each meal well under $5 and added a toy option for the children’s options.
MELTED CHEESE, APPLE, and BASIl Sandwich
Yogurt onion dill dippers Apple Cider
Makes 2 Children’s Lunches (half sandwich) or 1 Adult
2 Multi-Whole Grain Bread slices 2 ounces whole milk, white American cheese slices 8 fresh basil leaves half of gala apple sliced thin half cup of yogurt 1 tsp of dried onion 1 tsp of dried dill pinch of salt 1 carrot cut in sticks 1 celery stalk cut in sticks Apple Cider
1. Toast bread 2. Mix yogurt, salt, onion and dill, set aside 3. Layer one slice of bread with cheese, basil, apple and repeat to create 4 layers ending with cheese. Top with other slice of bread and microwave for 30 seconds to melt cheese. 4. Spoon yogurt dip into glasses and divide the carrot and celery between them. 5. Serve with 8 ounce glass of apple cider (Or substitute with milk)
2 Children’s Meal Stats Total Per Child Protein=11.93g Fiber=4.25g Calories=388 Cost $ 1.73
1 Adult Meal Stats Total Adult Protein=21.10g Fiber= 8.2 g Calories=622 Cost $ 2.68
On hand: dried onion and dill, celery, carrots, salt and fresh basil
ADD a toy! Susan Decker came up with a toy for each of the two meals I’m creating for this challenge. Susan will have this toy beginning the end of September or beginning of October at the Mesa Farmers Market (Fridays) for $1.50 plus tax. Susan is only able to offer the toy at that market and not through the mail because the cost would be prohibitive. She is the most incredibly gifter I have ever met. Susan’s site is here.
NOTES: Options include choosing a different fruit, bread or cheese. I used whole milk White American Cheese - low fat versions (I bought Boars Head) will reduce calories by about 40. The flavor of La Brea multi-grain whole wheat is excellent for people including children who may not like the flavor of whole wheat. The addition of honey offsets the slight bitterness of the whole wheat and there are a lot of grains in this ‘multi’. I chose yogurt for the dip to boost the nutrient value over ranch or sour cream. You can choose to double the cheese and reduce the amount of apple. Use pear or other fruits in place of apple. The basil goes well with all fruits, but can be left off if the children are not used to its flavor.
I hope you enjoy this idea for a homemade option to fast food and slow down for a family meal that is enjoyable, tasty and wholesome.
We buy practically no processed foods. We only buy basic foodstuffs and we buy them in as big of quantity as feasible. We also garden. But, everyone in the family is a good cook and baker so we eat really well and really cost-effectively.
By spreading the wealth of the meal between seven, I stretched $5 per person (more specifically $4.44 per person) to make a three course meal from Julia Child’s The Way To Cook book. Read the whole story on my website, Hounds in the Kitchen.
“Today is the $5 Challenge! Help us tell the story by sharing your experience”—Click the “Submit” button to your right and send along your stories, photos, videos, audio messages, etc from your $5 Challenge experience.
Kale Lasagna with Walnut Pesto (from Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget)
I am a big fan of cavolo nero, or dinosaur kale, but this could be made with any leafy greens—spinach would be scrumptious; Swiss chard, succulent; and beet greens, delectable. “Bodacious,” which would continue the alliteration, is a word of which I am not terribly fond, and so, “delectable” are the beet greens.
This is a multistep recipe, so if you wanted to get a jump on the prep work, you could certainly make the walnut pesto and cook the greens a day ahead of time and refrigerate them until you’re ready to make the béchamel sauce and assemble the lasagne.
Walnut Pesto ½ cup (2 ounces) walnuts
½ cup packed parsley leaves
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Kale 2 bunches cavolo nero (also called dinosaur kale)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Béchamel Sauce 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
7 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups whole milk
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
For Assembling 9 lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
¾ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided in thirds
1.) The traditional way to make pesto is with a mortar and pestle. It’s okay to exhale now. Even I don’t do this, so I will not ask it of you. A good work-around for making pesto quickly without turning it into an actual paste is to use a mini food processor or food processor, and pulse each ingredient separately until it is coarsely ground. I process the walnuts before the parsley in order to avoid ending up with liquid parsley in the processor, which would add moisture to the pesto, for we don’t want that. Once the walnuts and parsley are pulsed to a coarse texture—around the size of tiny pebbles for the walnuts—combine them with the cheese in a small bowl, add the olive oil, stirring to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste.
2.) It is important that the kale be rinsed well—it is a broad leaf that grows near the dirt and as such, can pick up dirt—then dried, and finely chopped. You can chop the kale into strips if you like, but you may find yourself fighting clumps of kale while eating. Best to try for fork-manageable pieces of kale—say, 1-inch squares—in the preparation stage than at the dinner table.
3.) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the kale and sauté until all of it is softened, turning it frequently to be sure that the pieces on the bottom do not burn, 5 to 7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4.) To make the béchamel sauce, create a roux by melting the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, then whisking in the flour (keep the whisk moving constantly) until they are combined. Continue to cook your roux until it is a light golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the milk slowly, whisking continuously as it is added.
5.) Once the milk is added to the roux, cook over medium heat until the sauce is thick, with a consistency similar to that of pancake batter, 10 to 12 minutes; whisk it constantly and be careful that the sauce does not scald on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the grated nutmeg, and add salt and pepper to taste.
6.) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 10 by 15-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and take out your lasagne pan or large casserole dish.
7.) Now, you are ready for lasagne assembly. Spread enough béchamel sauce over the bottom of the lasagne pan to just cover it. Place 3 lasagna noodles atop the béchamel. Cover with half of the cooked kale mixture. Top the kale mixture with one-third of the remaining béchamel sauce, then sprinkle with ¼ cup of Pecorino Romano. Repeat for the second layer, and then top with the last 3 lasagna noodles.
8.) Mix the walnut pesto with the remaining béchamel sauce, and spread the mixture over the top layer of noodles. Sprinkle the last ¼ cup of Pecorino Romano over the assembled lasagne. Place the pan on your foil-lined baking sheet, and bake until the lasagne is browned on top and the sauce is bubbling on the sides, 40 to 45 minutes. Remove the lasagne from the oven and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into this gooey kale masterpiece. Serve it forth, and remind yourself that even though you are ingesting a huge amount of butter, milk, and cheese, there has to be some benefit from the leafy greens.
Estimated cost for four: $9.24. One-half cup of walnuts is $1.08. The parsley is an entire purchased bunch that costs $1.99. Ahem. Do you not have a parsley plant yet? Please, at least tell me you have a basil plant or pot of thyme. The Pecorino Romano for the pesto costs an additional 25¢. The olive oil for the pesto costs 48¢. The kale was $2.49 per bunch, and we used two bunches, so that’s $4.98. The shallot/olive oil sauté will add 48¢ in olive oil and 25¢ in shallot to the tally. The béchamel sauce consists of 5 cups of milk for $1.25, butter at 44¢ for 5 tablespoons (out of 32 tablespoons for $2.79), a little more than 11¢ in flour, with flour costing $4.49 for a 5-pound bag that yields us seventy six ¼ cups of flour, and 5¢ in nutmeg. The lasagna noodles are half of a box that cost $1.99—it isn’t as important that they be wide noodles as in the Pea Puree Lasagnette, so we’re able to purchase a less expensive variety. Nine noodles therefore cost $1.00. We used $1.50 in grated Pecorino Romano, tossing around ½ cup over each of the three layers of lasagne. So for a total cost of $13.86, or $2.31 per serving, we have 6 servings of scrumptious greens-filled lasagne. Love that! Now who gets to take the leftovers for lunch?
(From Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing)
… College students everywhere would be able to name a favorite ramen noodle brand with Top Ramen, I bet, making top of the list. Why? Because it’s quick to make and quick to satisfy. So as a nod to my college days, here’s a healthier and slower version of the noodle soup dishes I used to devour (and still do). Noodle soups are versatile and the cook should always feel free to substitute. …
California. Summer chilies are at their peak and cheap. I roast several pounds of various kinds on the grill all at once and freeze them. Then when i need a pick me up for any dish, I pull one or 3 out. The also get milder after time, so can use more with less heat.
Shrimp with Asparagus and Garlic over Penne for about 4.77 per person!
I can usually cook every meal for 5 bucks a person or less every day. I always cook fresh, no need for frozen stuff and I ONLY buy what’s on sale. So for you menu planners out there, well, you wouldn’t like my strategy. I consider myself a pretty good cook, not trained, not gourmet, I just enjoy making good tasting food at home on a budget. So I look at the ads, see what’s on sale and I buy only those fruits, vegetables, meat, pasta, etc. That is on sale the day I am going shopping, then I decide what to cook. So for instance one of my favorite meals, gourmet yet simple, is Shrimp with garlic, asparagus, penne, salad and italian bread (from Wegmans-I have to plug it because it is delicious).
7.99 = Shrimp - 1 lb Large (cooked/uncooked, doesn’t matter and I don’t mind to clean them if they are really cheap). I have found it cheaper, mostly available in my area as a special ranging from 5.99 uncooked to the 7.99 noted here, for this purpose, I used the higher price but mostly I can get it cheaper).
Salad Greens - 3.00 sale for the whole package. I will use 1/2
2 tomatoes - 1.99 per pound. I got 5 in the pkg. .80 cents
1 med onion - .27 cents
1 med cucumber - .60 cents
tossed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. estimated .40 cents.
1.00 - 2 slices of bread for each of us 4. .80 cents plus .20 cents for butter. Maybe not everyone in your family eats 2 slices of bread, I don’t but hey, that’s just me…
1.06 = Home made iced green tea with honey and orange blossom water. (2 green tea bags = .06 cents, 4 tsp honey, .25 cents, splash of orange blossom water, .25 cents (all estimated). Water price? okay .30 cents?
1. 33 = 1 lb and 1/3 pasta (we like penne). On sale, 99 cents a box. Uh, shall I add a few cents for water and salt?
2.99 - large bunch of Asparagus, trimmed and each stalk cut in thirds.
.15 cents= 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped and browned a bit in olive oil.
.50 cents, sprinkled additional olive oil on pasta (optional).
Again, I bought the main staples all on sale. The pasta sometimes is buy one get one free, and so is the meat/seafood at my grocery store…so if it is, then I do buy it and that makes the cost even better. Imagine if you also had coupons…Wow!
Boil water for pasta, add salt. When boiling add pasta (penne) and cook according to al dente or preferred texture.
In another pan, brown the olive oil and garlic lightly, add asparagus, cook until a bit tender, add shrimp, cook until shrimp is pink and aspargus is tender and crisp.
In another bowl, mix salad greens, tomato, onion, cucumber. Lightly sprinkle salt and pepper. Sprinkle balsalmic vinegar and olive oil and toss lightly. You can substitute fresh lemon/lime instead of vinegar if you wish…and cheaper too.!
After draining pasta. Pour on big, deep serving platter with big rim. Sprinkle lightly with cheeses and olive oil. Add Asparagus and Shrimp mixture.
ENJOY! One thing I love about this meal is that it is also fairly quick to make…salad is fairly fast, made while the final stages of pasta and shrimp are cooking, and the shrimp and asparagus really are cooked in just a few minutes. I would say that most of the time, from start/prep to finish can be done in 30 mins or less - I swear, and I do it alot with meals like this, I know from experience as I work outside the home so I need a good fast meal.
Total Cost: $19.09 or 4.77 per person for a gourmet meal. I would pay much more for this outside and my family loves this. This is only one example. When I cook this, I actually have a little salad left and a little pasta left, enough for my lunch at the office the next day and of course, I love the envious stares!
It’s a mindset to incorporate using the crock pot for recipes that normally are reserved for the weekend when most of us have more time. It definitely has made it easier to put a good slow cooked meal on the table and cut the preparation time you normally would do when you arrived home from work. It’s definitely worth the preparation to use the crock pot more.
Seared Local Fish “Sticks” with Herb Tartar Sauce, Local Vegetable Slaw, And Baked Potato Chips
For many people I want to help change those perceptions, here is a meal that can is inexpensive, easy, can be made as easier with a few ready to use products or made from all farm fresh/ farmers market items. Food needs to fit you and your needs. Seared Local Fish “Sticks” with Herb Tartar Sauce Local Vegetable Slaw And Baked Potato Chips Serves 4
Potato Chips: ½ lb Potatoes, scrubbed 1 tbsp Vegetable (coconut oil or local avocado oil)
Slaw:This slaw is based of of items found year round in my local farmers markets, but you could make this into a salad using what ever vegetables are available in your local area. Lets be honest, the time to cut and chop is not always available. If you do not have the time you can buy a bag of “Slaw” mix in your grocery store. I personally like the"Broccoli Slaw" mix.
1/4 head Cabbage, thinly sliced
1 large Carrot, peeled, grated and pressed to remove excess liquid
small Radishes, halved and thinly sliced
1 large Apple, cut into thin matchsticks
2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon or other mustard
2 tsp Olive oil
1 tsp Honey
Fish sticks:I went with stick; kids love anything in a stick form and it makes the serving size look a lot larger . Check with Catalina Offshore Product for the best prices for fresh local seafood, at the time I put this recipe together they had Yellowtail on sale for $3 a pound.
2 tsp Vegetable oil (coconut oil or local avocado oil)
¾ lb Fish fillet boneless, skinless
1 tsp Ground coriander
Herb Tartar Sauce:This ia a great wat to use the fresh herbs you have growing in your garden!!
¼ cup Mayonnaise
¼ cup Flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
2tbsp Dill or tarragon, stem removed finely chopped
1 tbsp Onion, minced
1 tbspLemon, juiced
1 tsp Lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Line a baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper and set aside.
Slice potatoes as thinly as possible using a mandolin.
Spread slices out evenly on baking sheet with silpat and drizzle with 1 tbsp vegetable oil.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
As soon as potatoes come out of oven, sprinkle with salt and lightly toss to combine.
In a large bowl, mix cabbage, carrot, radishes and apple.
In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, 2 tsp olive oil and honey.
Toss with cabbage mixture.
For Herb Tartar sauce:
Place onions, dill, parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl, stir in mayonnaise.
Season with salt and pepper.
Prepare fish sticks:
Cut into 8 equal portions, into a rectangular stick about 2 1/2 inches long.
Heat 2 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet for 1 minute on medium high heat.
Season fish with salt, pepper and coriander; add fish sticks to pan and cook, for about 4 minutes or until golden brown and just cooked through.
Serve with potato chips, herb tartar sauce and slaw.
“I have been trying to prepare menus so that I know what to purchase when I go to the grocery store”—
…but when I get to the grocery store or farmers’ market I see other items that I would like to use which then changes the menu. I’m still trying to work out the logistics. I am cooking more and always try to work the servings out so that I have enough to take for lunch the next day. It has been working and I find that I enjoy lunch more and I am saving money. That’s a win win situation in my book.
- submitted by Donna
Planning a must! A meal of Beans once a week! A great pantry with the basics all ready to go. I hardly use canned or frozen foods. I love the smell of a fresh pot of beans and I wind down on Fridays first by making pizza crust and then a fun loaf of bread from what is in the pantry.
It becomes a lifestyle plus then I can spurge on going out once in a while.
My best habit is to use a “rolling menu” to reduce waste and cooking time. By using the day of the week with the most time available (usually Sunday for me) to cook the item(s) that take the most time, I can build upon it for future meals. For example, if I roast a chicken and make boiled potatoes and a vegetable on Sunday, I can remove any remaining meat from the bones after the meal and make a chicken stock with vegetable trimmings and the bones. The meat is set aside for Monday when I make a chicken sandwich or chix quesadillas or stir fry or pasta dish. I can freeze the stock for future use. Leftover potatoes can be sliced and fried. With cheese left over from the quesadillas, I can make macaroni & cheese and on it goes, using up the previous day’s bits to build the next meal.
I also find it important to have a well-stocked and well-flavored pantry. By canning and freezing at the height of the season, I save money. By investing in items that may cost a bit more at the onset but take awhile to use up like a good quality balsamic vinegar, capers, flavored mustards, etc., I can elevate the taste of leftovers for pennies per serving. In a pinch, a well-stocked pantry can create an entire meal. I watch for coupons and sales to gather these “flavor makers” into kitchen for the best price possible.
Use these ingredients and you can get a meal for under $5: Main course - chicken, eggs or pasta. Example a potato egg torta from Catalonia or a roasted whole chicken with fennel seed. Buy and steam some fresh vegetables.
4 medium sized eggplants, sliced into ½ inch slices 3 large tomatoes, sliced into 1/8 inch slices 1 pound of buffalo mozzarella, sliced into thin rounds 8 slices of provolone cheese 1 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese 1 ½ cups of all-purpose flour 2 cups of plain bread crumbs 4 large eggs, beaten 2-3 cups of vegetable oil for frying ( adding as needed) 1 teaspoon of sea salt & ½ teaspoon of ground pepper ½ cup of fresh parsley, chopped A bunch of fresh basil leaves ( 15, or so, to garnish tops of towers)
3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons of butter 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (or, fresh tomatoes with skins removed) 4 cloves of garlic, smashed, then minced 5 hot cherry peppers, chopped (with seeds) 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, chopped
Preparation of Marinara Sauce
Add 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, chopped cherry peppers and garlic to a 3 quart sauté pan on medium-high heat. Heat for a couple of minutes, and stirring so the garlic doesn’t brown, but allowing the flavors to infuse the oil. Stir in the canned tomatoes and simmer for about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the butter, and simmer another 5 minutes. Stir in the basil last.
Preparation of Eggplant
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add ½ cup of the vegetable oil to a 12 inch skillet pan and heat to medium- high. You want the oil to be hot or the eggplant will soak up too much oil. Slice the eggplant into ½ inch slices, and set aside. Slice tomatoes into 1/8 inch slices, and set aside. Set up breading station for the eggplant by placing the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Add the chopped parsley, salt and pepper to the breadcrumbs and combine. Begin breading eggplant by coating lightly in the flour first, then the egg mixture, then finally the breadcrumb mixture. Set aside on a large sheet pan to prepare for frying. Once all the eggplant is breaded, fry until golden on both sides. Don’t worry about cooking all the way through, as the eggplant will continue to cook as it bakes.
In a large, 13x9 baking dish, place a tablespoon of marinara sauce on the bottom of the pan and place the largest fried eggplant slice over the sauce. Spread a tablespoon of sauce over the eggplant slice, then a slice of mozzarella and follow with a slice of tomato and a sprinkle of Romano Cheese. Proceed three more times with the same steps, and the eggplant slices gradually getting smaller as you build the towers. With four eggplants, you will be able to build eight towers. Place in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes. The last 10 minutes, pull from the oven and place a slice of provolone over the top of each tower and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese cloaks the tower gets a beautiful golden brown! Remove from the oven to cool and garnish with a leaf or two of fresh basil. Save remaining marinara sauce for topping, if desired. These towers are an impressive presentation! Buon Appetito!
The trick to making sourdough bread is planning ahead. It really is a 2-day project. I have sourdough starter that has been kept alive by several generations of women in Tennessee. The story is that this particular starter has been passed down from the founding of Nashville. I feel honored to keep this tradition alive. I pour the starter out into a bowl the night before I want to bake bread, rinse out the jar with 2 cups water and add that to the mix. Stir. Add 3 cups plain flour (or bread flour), stir some more. Then I cover the bowl with a plate or towel and let it sit out overnight.
Next day I heat up 2 cups milk with a stick of butter on the stove. While that’s warming up, I pour up 2-3 inches of the starter mix in a Mason jar, pour 1 cup of sugar on top of that (without stirring), cover the jar loosely and set it back in the fridge for next time.
Meanwhile, I take the hot milk with the nearly-melted butter off the stove and let it cool a bit. I measure into the big bowl of batter a tablespoon of salt and 1/4 cup of sugar, stir it up good and add the milk and butter. Stir some more, add about 6 cups of flour, knead, add enough flour to make a good dough. Knead some more. Set to rise (about 3 hours). Punch down, knead briefly and separate into 3 loaves. Let rise about another 1-2 hours, until doubled in size, then bake at 325 degrees until golden brown.
For a personal touch, I add a handful of flaxseed meal to the batter, and finish the loaves (about halfway through the baking) with an egg glaze and some more flaxseed sprinkled on top.