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Budget-Friendly Meals: Take the $5 Challenge

When you think “value meal” do you think of greasy foods served through a drive-thru window? Well, think again! Slow food – the opposite of fast food – is food that is good for you, good for farmers and workers, and good for the planet. It’s all that and it doesn’t have to cost any more than fast food! Now that’s what I call a value meal! And that’s why on September 17th, Slow Food USA launches a Day of Action and encourages everyone to take their $5 Challenge and take back the value meal. According to Slow Food USA, all you have to do is pledge to cook a fresh and healthy meal for five dollars or less, or you can attend a local event. It could be your regularly nightly meal with your family, a dinner party with friends, a neighborhood potluck or a slow food meal event in your area. The only “rule” is that the meals should reflect slow food values and cost no more than five dollars per person. If you’re taking the challenge you can find out more and register your event and share your story at SlowFoodUSA.org/5challenge. Are you up for the challenge but not sure what to make? The Whole Deal value guide has got your back! Did you know that all of the recipes in The Whole Deal are always less than $5 per serving? Pick from over 180 budget-friendly recipes on our website or choose from these fall favorites featured in the September/October issue:

Fish Tacos in Crunchy Shells ($3.56 per serving)

Mini-Meatball Noodle Soup ($3.43 per serving)

Organic Greens and Goat Cheese Gratin ($2.36 per serving)

Baked Coconut Lentils (91¢ per serving)

Learn to Cook: Beef Pot Roast ($3.22 per serving)

Spaghetti and (Vegan) Meatballs ($2.13 per serving)

Easy Marinated Roasted Chicken ($3.40 per serving)

(We do our best to estimate the cost of ingredients used in each recipe, but slight market variations are entirely possible.)

Why stop at one day? The Whole Deal daily dinner planner sets you up with a week’s worth of dinner ideas that feed four for under $5 per person.

MONDAY: Veggie Monday

Make a Halloween Spooky Supper by tossing Whole Foods Market™ Organic Farfalle (think bats!) with 365 Everyday Value® Organic Pasta Sauce (download the coupon).  Add some garlic bread to repel the vampires.

TUESDAY: Slow and Simple

Make Slow-Cooked Pulled Pork Sandwiches in the crock pot while you’re at work. Pick up coleslaw and frozen oven fries or “tots” on the way home and dinner is done.

WEDNESDAY: Soup-er Supper

Make the simple and tasty Mini-Meatball Noodle Soup with our house-made pork or chicken bratwurst. Grab a loaf of fresh-baked hearth bread to serve alongside.

THURSDAY: Chicken & Crunch

Buy our famous rotisserie chicken or make your own Easy Marinated Roasted Chicken and serve it with the Mediterranean Crunch Salad (download the coupon) from Prepared Foods. Pair it with Paso a Paso Tempranillo.

FRIDAY: Fish Friday

Make our Cornmeal Catfish Fingers and serve with braised collard greens and rice, couscous or quinoa.

WEEKEND: Oktoberfest (or whenever)

Cook and serve our house-made sausage with sautéed onions and apples atop a bed of sauerkraut. Add a loaf of rye or pumpernickel bread and don’t forget a six-pack of German beer!

I hope these tasty dishes have changed your perception of the value meal for the better. Take a look at The Whole Deal value guide online and in stores for coupons, deals, recipes and more tips for putting the value back in to your meals. Interested in learning more about the slow food movement? Visit the Slow Food USA website to find a local chapter near you. Do you plan on taking the $5 Challenge? What will you make?

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Leslie Macchiarella says …

I took the challenge and ratcheted it up a notch and made a meal for the entire family with my $5. :) http://wp.me/p1CqhR-mE

Meenakshi says …

I made a Khichidi (porridge) with 1 carton of Pacific Organic Butternut Squash Soup, Brown Rice and Red Lentils in the pressure cooker (I season with Cilantro and Lemon Juice). 4 Servings at under $4. I also made today a Vegan Carrot Halwa from Almond Milk (Blue Diamond) and 2 pounds of Organic Carrot for about $4 ( 6 servings) - I will be posting the recipe on my blog but my son absolutely loved it -- Slow Cooking all the way --- and it is about $2 per person and includes a complete meal with a dessert.

Angela @ Momethis says …

I sure do but with all these options it's hard to decide what to make. Yum! I love this post. Thank you!

Susan says …

Speaking of "slow food" made me think of my "slow cooker" aka Crockpot. Today I cooked black beans in the crock pot. We also had tilapia and brown rice to make a very budget-friendly meal.


Oh, I've already taken the challenge year ago! My goal is to make healthy meals that are CHEAP!! These recipes look great, too!

Tammy says …

I live on a budget & have for several years. So, cooking healthy on a budget is wonderful. Some of my favs are spinsch & bacon omlette, frozen veggies & chicken. Adding different spices to a meal can make it exciting every time. Love cooking with dried beans. So easy, less expansive than the ones in the can & better tasting. Experiement with the beans & find what seasoning work for you then add your favorite chicken sausage. Wholes Foods has lots of good varieties. Also, you can make homemade bean dip. I make an AWESOME one with black beans & it is perfect for anything Mexican you are thinking of having.

OtterMiko says …

I cook cheap all the time... A pound of beans and rice, seasoned with half a bag of 365 southwesst stir fry and some spices. I make an awesome spaghetti sauce. It is great to portion and freeze, served with a pound of pasta and some crunchy bread. I do lots of stir-frys, any variety of veggies with some sauce (bottled or homemade)and rice make for a very cheap, but healthy meal. Oh yeah! And grilled nut butter and jelly sandwiches! with soy milk and cheese curls. Yum! Stay Safe!

Katemari says …

That is my regular "challenge". :-) My greatest ally is my crock pot. Can't beat meat and veggies, stews, soups, everything!

Joyce W says …

Lunch Today will be... 1/2 Organic Heirloom Tomato, cut into bite-size chunks 1/2 Organic Red Onion, diced 1 Organic Garlic Clove, minced Handful of Organic Blue Lake Green Beans, cut into bite-size pieces Organic Lemon Cucumber, cut into bite-size pieces 1/2 Organic Avocado, cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces Organic Jalapeno Jack Cheese, cut into 1/2-1 inch pieces Don't you love summer produce?

Denise says …

I am going to make the fish tacos next week. Yum. Yum.

Ravenna says …

Good for Leslie. $5 for a single serving per person, that's not budget, that is an overpriced joke. To be calling it budget, is a complete denial of real-world pressures. You want budget, try $5 a day per person, not per meal or per serving. But $5 per serving? That just deeply enrages and saddens me that anyone could consider that a good budget deal for homemade food. That is outrageously expensive.

Linda Slusher says …

I had a jar of your 365 spaghetti sauce. M-mmmmmmmmm! It was given to me. I did not know where to buy it. I searched to find that Whole Foods Market has 365 products. I need to know if they still carry it here at our local Albuquerque stores. I don't have transportation and I really want to get some. It is a very good product. Thank you. Linda Slusher

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@LINDA - I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed the 365 spaghetti sauce! While our products vary between locations, our 365 brand of products are typically carried throughout our US stores. I would suggest reaching out directly to the Albuquerque store before you go shopping to make sure they carry the correct flavor of sauce you are looking for. You can reach the Indian School Road location directly at 505.260.1366.

Kris Rae says …

Please send me budget dinner at whole foods