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 from the North Market that I could turn into a simple, delicious, sustainable meal, quickly:
- One 4-1/2 lb. Amish chicken $14
- 1 lb pesticide-free Brussels sprouts, Ann’s raspberry farm, $4
- 1/2 lb salad greens, $2
(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.)
More importantly, I made use of a lot of the time-saving tips I described in the previous blog post. And I tracked the extra time it took to obtain the ingredients, prep them, and cook them on the Slow Food Columbus Twitter stream. Some sample tweets:
@SlowFoodCMH Rather than documenting cost for today's #5challenge, I'll document the time it takes. Proving we have time to cook. bit.ly/q1aHcj
@SlowFoodCMH Entering @NorthMarket
@SlowFoodCMH And done
@SlowFoodCMH Not bad... produce and poultry in 6 minutes. short lines today
@SlowFoodCMH Sprouts prepped, salad prepped, kitchen cleaned, trimmings thrown in freezer bag for stock. Clock stops: 21 minutes this leg #5challenge
@SlowFoodCMH Dinner in 36 minutes. #5challenge lockerz.com/s/139692086
@SlowFoodCMH And a few more nights' worth of dinners, already ready for the fridge. #5challenge lockerz.com/s/139693172
@SlowFoodCMH All told: 4 servings shopped for, cooked, and cleaned up in about an hour's time—15 minutes per meal. Now time your next fast food run.
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.