Tag Archives: $3-$5 Local Meal Challenge

Is Fast Food Cheaper than Home Made? Nope

Above is cost break downs for three meals from a  NY Times article by Mark Bittman, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

The obvious answer is no.

Fast food does not cost less despite all of the $1 menus.

A while back, I wrote a post The $3-5 meal challenge with the idea that anyone can make a meal at home cheaper than the cheapest of fast food $1 menu meals.

I even made a meal for less than a $1, which was a bowl of lentils stew with sweet potatoes and feta.

In fact, I probably could create the fast food meal minus the soda for less than McDonalds at home even with organic ingredients

1/2 lb of grass fed beef $3
1/4 LB of cheddar cheese $2
3 Lbs of organic russet potatoes $3
3 Home made buns $1 (.33 per)
1/2 pound of chicken breast $3
1 organic egg and bread crumbs $1
olive oil $2 (for pan frying chicken and oven roasting potatoes)
various condiments and toppings $3
beverage (water)

I figure the same, actually better meal made at home would be $18 compared to $28. And I figure that all ingredients were health food store or farmers market prices. If fast food use grass fed beef their meal would be more.

My at-home meal gives me an extra $10 to spare, which I could use to add some veggies or fruit to the meal or even make a second meal with.

So is fast food cheaper?

NOPE!!!!

$2.50:Turkey and Barley Stew

Ann Arbor FoodMy usual go to grain is short grain brown rice. This is a leftover from my days when I ate a macrobiotic diet. Now that I am eating more locally, I am thinking about other grains. Barley is a grain that is grown here in Michigan, along with oats, corn and wheat. I have yet to find whole grain corn available for making pasole, but I figure it is out there.

Here is a hearty stew made from whole barley. Most barley recipes call for pearled barley which is a more refine product like brown compared to white rice. The upshot is that whole barley comes out chewy and takes much longer to cook, about an hour or more, but it has more nutrition.

I provided a vegan option for this meal. If going vegan, the addition of dried mushroom which including the mushroom tea and perhaps some miso could be use to boast flavor. The addition of chopped nuts or seeds can also be added as a garnish for a hearty vegan option.

I forgot to garb an itemized receipt so there is not a 100% official local food cost breakdown for this meal, but I am sure it fits into a $3-5 range per person.

Turkey and Barley Stew

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

1 pound of whole barley, (Hampshire Farms) $1.50

1 pound of ground turkey (can substitute you favor ground meat or sausage), Plum Market $7.00 (Meat is optional, this meal can be vegan)

3 medium size leeks, cleaned and dice, with some green parts (AA Coop) $??$3.00

2 cup of sliced mushrooms (AA Coop) $??$2.50

2 cup of medium diced carrots(Garden works) $1.00

1 quart jar of canned tomatoes with liquid (Home Garden) $1.00

1 cup of frozen peas (not local) $1.00 ???

1/4 cup of organic soy sauce (No Local) $?? 1.50

3 bay leafs

3-4 tablespoons butter (AA Coop) $.50 (Substitute olive or vegetable oil for a vegan option)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

salt and pepper to taste

Estimated Cost:

Eight servings $2.38

Ten servings $1.90

Vegan Option: $2.50-$1.20 (depending on how fancy you get with the dried mushrooms, nuts and other additions)

Procedure:

In a large heavy bottomed, brown the turkey with the butter. Remove the turkey and add the leeks and mushrooms with a little salt. Stir and cooked them down for around ten minutes. If they start to stick, add a little water. Add the carrots, some bay leaf, the can of tomatoes, the soy sauce, the barley, and turkey. Add about 2-6 cups of water, enough to cover. Barley absorbs a ton of water, so you might need to add more depending if you want this to be more of a soup than a grain dish. Stock can me use to substitute some of the water. Stir in the smoked paprika and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about an hour, or until the barley is cooked. Thaw the peas in put into the stew during the last ten minutes.

Garnish with parsley or scallion.

$1.00 Local Meal: Lentil and Sweet Potato with Feta

Lentil and Sweet Potato with Feta

6-8 servings

Green Lentil 1 LB (Hampshire Farms) $1.75
1 Large Onion, diced (Eastern Market) $.50
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (EM) $1.00
2 cloves of garlic, minced (Ann Arbor FM) $.25
2 Lemon (No local) $.50
1/4 LB Feta Cheese, crumbled (Local from Peoples food coop)$1.00
Chicken Fat (Leftover)
Thyme and Oregano, minced (from home garden)
Salt and Pepper

Home Made bread $.50
Butter 1/4 stick $.25 (from people food coop)

Total 5.75

Per Serving $.95-$.72

Procedure:

In a large pot add some of the chicken fat, or 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or unsalted butter. Add the onion and cook for five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in the sweet potato, lentils and 6-8 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Place cover on with a small gap to let out some steam. Cook until the lentils are soft, about 30-45 minutes. Add the lemon juice, more chicken fat or butter, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with hearty bread with butter, and crumbled feta cheese.

Note: You might want to hold off on the salt until you add the feta which is very salty. This recipe also works with yellow split peas and red lentils. Note that the yellow split peas will take longer to cook. For a creamier richer dish, and stir in some heavy cream.

Pinto Bean and Chicken Casserole w/corn biscuit topping: $2.13 per serving

Ann Arbor FoodThis is a great recipe for cheap eats. It uses a bunch of tricks to make an economical meal. My money saver tips are adding beans when using meat, left over stock and chicken fat to add flavor and richness, and using corn meal and/or a baked element.

This meal can also be a base for many variation. You can switch the type of beans, the kind of meat, use sausage, fish/seafood, go vegetarian, and/or add cream for richness. I use a buttermilk corn drop biscuit topping, but you can substitute an biscuit recipe you like.

Ann Arbor Food

Ann Arbor Food

Pinto Beans, Chicken and Vegetables

Pinto Beans (Hampshire Farm) 1 LB $1.50
(Can use an beans you like. Substitute two 16 oz cans of bean for 1 pound of cooked beans)

Chicken Leg, (Sparrow Kerry Town) $3. per pound 21 oz, $3.93
(Can substitute another meat, sausage, seafood, or go vegetarian)

2 1/4 cups left over stock from the other night and some chicken fat.
1/2 cup AP Flour, 5 oz (Westmill) $.62
1 onion (Eastern Market) $.50
3/4 LB carrots (Ann Arbor Farmers Market) $1
broccoli (Eastern Market) $.50
1/2, 8 oz jar of roasted red pepper, jarred at home from FM pepper $1.00
1 small jalapeno pepper (FM) $.25
Garlic (FM) $.25
1/4 stick of butter (Coop) $.25
Dry Thyme, basil and oregano from garden
Smoke Paprika(not local, but could be)
Salt

Procedure:

Soak and cook the beans. Set aside. Brown the meat and set aside. Add the butter to a large pan and saute the onions for a few minutes. Add the carrots and broccoli and cook for a few minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeno pepper, and red pepper. Add the stock and the flour and combine. Stir in the beans and meat, and add to a large casserole pan.

Corn Biscuit Topping

Corn Meal (Hampshire Farm) 5 oz $.31
Ap Flour (Westmill) 5 oz $.62
1/2 stick of cold unsalted butter $.50
3/4 cup Buttermilk (Calder Dairy) $1.50
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (not local)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (Not Local)
pinch of salt

Procedure:

In a food processor, combine the corn and AP Flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and diced cold butter. Pulse until the mixture is combined to a crumble. Transfer to a bowl and mix in the buttermilk.

Spoon out the corn biscuit dough in blobs on top of the meat, bean, veggie casserole. In a pre-heated 350 degree oven, cook for 30-35 minutes until the mixture is bubbling and the biscuit are golden brown.

season with salt and pepper to taste and hot sauce (optional)

Total: 12.81

4 Really Large servings: $3.20

6 Big servings: $2.13

$2.95 Local Meal: Roast Chicken, Potatoes and Greens

Ann Arbor FoodI am on my local food on the cheap kick, which is part of my $3-5 (per person) Local Meal Challenge. Here is todays meal of Roasted chicken legs, potatoes from my garden and mixed greens. The real budget miracle was the potatoes. I grew 40-50 pounds of spuds from about $5 of seed potatoes, which comes to about .10 a pound and about .05 per serving.

The other part of the this meal that is not listed is the chicken bones. They are reserved to make stock.

I also add a few cups of water to the roasting pan which collects the dripping and fat from the roasted chicken on the rack.

Here is a picture of the collected pan drippings and fat. Notice the two layers. The top is the chicken fat and some butter from the brushing the chicken. I let this cool then remove the top fat layer and reserve for potatoes and bean dishes. It is kitchen gold. The tasty broth is reserved to make sauces, and add a little flavor for beans, grains, and even mac and cheese.

Ann Arbor Food

Chicken legs have extra fat and skin, which I like to cut off and roast in the toaster oven to create what I call chicken cracklings, or Kosher Cracklings. They make a great little snack with hot sauce and a squeeze of lime.

This meal was very filling. I only ate half of my chicken portion, but most in the family had a full piece.

Roasted Chicken Legs w/ potatoes and mixed greens

Roasted Chicken

4 large 10.25 ounce portion
6 good portions

1/4 stick of butter melted to brush on chicken (local butter from Peoples food co-op) .25

4 chicken legs 2.6 pounds, ($3 per pound) $7.8, Sparrows Kerry Town

salt

$1.95 per large serving
$1.30 per good serving

Oven Roasted Potatoes
4 large portions

2.2 pounds assorted potatoes from home garden .10 per pound
render chicken fat from the skin of the chicken
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (not local, but could be) .20
salt and pepper

.10 per serving

Saute Mixed Dark Leafy Greens
6 portions

Collard and Kale One large bunch of each, $4.00 (Frog Holler)
1 onion $.50 (Eastern Market)
1/4 cup of michigan white wine $1.00
salt

.90 per serving

total:

$2.95 Large Portion
$2.30 Good Portion


Local Food on a Budget:The $3-$5 local Meal Challenge

samplebox1One of the things I hear about local food is that it is too expensive. Nay sayers of the local food movement use this argument to dismiss our efforts. So I am throwing down a challenge.

Introducing the $3.00-$5.00 local food meal deal challenge:

The idea is to create a $3-5 (per person) local meal and either send it to me to post on this site or post your submissions on your blog and I will link to your post.

Why $3.00-$5.00? That is about the cost of a fast food meal, and I figure given a little creativity and research, we can make better local meals.

Here are the rules:

Every ingredient has to be sourced locally (with the exception of spices, salt, and baking supplies like baking powder, baking soda, yeast etc)

sweeteners must be local (honey, maple, michigan beet sugar)

Try to use local Fat and veggie cooking oil (I have a hard time sourcing local cooking oil, but still account for all non-local food cost)

The meal must be balanced and include a serving of protein, a starch and vegetable.

All items and cost must be accurately recorder, and sources provided to be included in the challenge.

Items from your garden, gleaned or wild foraged count. Account the best you can for your garden veggies. For example your packet of seeds for lettuce may have costed $3 and provided 10 servings.

Check out the $3-5 Meal Challenge section for some meals. Most are actually less than $3.00, and one meal I created cost less than a $1.00.

Please send your $3-$5 meal to me for post to: