A few weeks ago, Jim of Muddy Dog Coffee posted a link on my Facebook page: the $5 Challenge from Slow Food USA. The idea was to create a home cooked meal for less than $5 per person, the average price of a fast food value meal, to dispel the myth that ordinary people can’t eat at home as cheaply as they can with a fast food meal. I signed up without really thinking about it, and then realized that it wasn’t really a challenge at all. Most of what I make costs much, much less than $5 per serving.
My goal, therefore, was to create the most elaborate meal that I could come up with — a weekend meal worthy of entertaining friends and family — that still met the $5/serving criteria. I started reviewing my recipes and tallying rough costs. $3.50 per person. $3.15. $2.75. This wasn’t turning out to be much of a challenge.
I decided to do something unusual, elaborate, yet reasonably familiar: I made a bison roast in the tradition of the Sunday night roast beef we had each week at Betty’s. You could, of course, substitute beef, which is more familiar and cheaper.
- A serving of meat is supposed to be 3 oz, but I’m going to be generous and assume a 4 oz serving, partly because that makes the math easy (4 servings per pound)
- Potatoes will be at the huge serving of 1/2 lb per person; I know we’re a carb-heavy culture
- Carrots will be at a serving size of 1/3 lb per person
- I’m basing prices on standard supermarket prices, according to my local mega-chain’s online shopping service; no fancy, hard-to-find specialty ingredients, although I could get everything from various vendors at my local farmer’s market
- I’m assuming that salt, pepper and oil are already on hand, and nearly free based on the small quantity used
- Bison, sirloin roast: $9.99/lb = $2.50/serving
(According to mega-chain’s website, a beef sirloin roast would be $7.99/lb or $1.99/serving)
- Bacon strips: $5.49/lb = $0.22/serving
(Absolutely optional; Betty never used bacon, but it certainly doesn’t make anything taste worse)
- Salt and pepper: $0.00/serving
- Yukon gold potatoes: $2.25/lb = $1.12/serving
- Carrots: $1.00/lb = $0.33/serving
- Frozen pearl onions: $1.99/bag = $0.25/serving
(You can use regular onions more cheaply, but I think that pearl onions are prettier)
- Olive oil: $0.05/serving
- Loaf of store-bought “artisan” French bread: $2.19/loaf = $0.27/serving
(You could make your own for about $1.45/loaf or $0.18/serving)
- TOTAL COST: $4.74 (or less)/serving
What other Betty recipes are less than $5/serving?
- Pasta with simple pasta sauce
- Pasta with bolognese sauce
- Fabulous lasagna
- Emergency ziti
- Spaghetti squash casserole
- Lemon pasta primavera
- Pan roasted chicken with acorn squash
- Whole roasted chicken with broiled yellow squash
- Peruvian chicken with rice
- Lime-cumin chicken with black beans and rice
- Easy Cuban chicken with black beans and rice
- Chicken cordon bleu casserole
What do you think: is the $5 Challenge really all that challenging?