$5 Challenge – Slow Food With a Budget

So the Slow Food movement has been promoting a $5 challenge that is starting today, Sept 17th. Cook a meal for yourself, your family, your neighbors, a party, for $5 or less per person, using the slow food ideals: “food that is good for those who eat it, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet.

The $5 challenge has been met with praise and some criticism.

Yes, for a family of 5 or more, @ $5 per person, that could pose a bigger challenge for some families to afford on an ongoing basis. But I think the point is, the $5 amount is a guideline, as in “$5 or LESS” – so work within your own monetary means.

My $5 Challenge Meal

Last night I started to think about what I would like to cook for my $5 challenge meal. I won’t know exactly how the finished dish will come out until I start cooking, but I was inspired by a couple of recipes:

  1. Butternut squash with celery leaves and orecchiette (Whole Foods recipe) – now I wish that I didn’t “dry” all the leaves from this week’s fresh CSA celery.
  2. Pasta with Winter Squash and Tomatoes (Mark Bittman from cooking channel)

Here are the planned ingredients (I’m not counting salt & pepper or dried spices or balsamic vinegar):

  • $1.22 per person – Air chilled boneless chicken breast $4.89 for just under a pound = 4 servings. We’ll have leftovers! (boneless chicken breast is a treat for us, I normally buy whole chickens – pastured or organic. Eventually, I’d like to find a local source, but for now, I purchase at Whole Foods store.
  • $.52 per person – Butternut Squash @ 2.11 for 2 lb squash = 2 4 servings – after cutting up the squash, I realized there is more than enough for 4 servings.
  • $.38 per person – Dececco Pasta 3oz each person @$2 for a 16 oz box (Dececco is my splurge pasta. I think this brand is worth the slightly extra cost.)
  • $.17 per person – one 8 oz onion – 3 servings
  • $.58 per person – received a pint of mixed cherry tomatoes in our CSA box this week plus I picked a tomato from our garden (FREE). I’m estimating the cost to be $3.49 for the whole pint. Only using half the pint box tonight – 2 3+ servings.
  • $.14 per person – Olive oil 2 Tbsp. $7 for a bottle of California Olive Oil = 50 Tbsp per bottle
  • $.33 per person – Parsley from CSA. A batch of parsley – 3 servings
  • $.66 per person – I’m adding left-over cooked green beans, and a batch of pea tendrils, both from my CSA share this week. I’m estimating the cost for 3 servings.

$4 per serving!

Our Meal: Orecchiette Pasta with Roasted Butternut Squash, Sauteed Onions, Pea Tendrils, Tomatoes, Green Beans, & Parsley Topped with Baked Boneless Chicken Breast

$5 challenge - slow food

UPDATE: Well our meal was great. Not the BEST dinner we’ve ever had, (I wasn’t totally happy with the butternut squash mingling with the other flavors) but it was very tasty and VERY filling. I even had a lot of leftover veggies that I’ll throw into a soup tomorrow with the rest of the chicken.

Note: I ended up tweaking the ingredients’ cost per serving due to the left-over veggies.

Even though I have been regularly cooking and eating “slow”, it was helpful to organize my ingredients beforehand and really “see” how I was spending my money. It made me think about how I can create a better meal but save money at the same time! On the negative side, it was a little more stressful than usual. I don’t like being held in a constrained box when I’m cooking. I like being spontaneous. For me personally, I’d rather stick to a monthly or weekly budget, not a per meal budget, but it is a good way to start for newbies just learning to cook homemade food.

I hope the slow food $5 challenge brings much needed attention to good old-fashioned family dinners! Whether your table is set for two or twenty, get back to cooking from scratch! And challenge yourself to create something wonderful without spending a lot of cash. It can be done!!!

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