Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Tasty Meal for Under $10!

Citymama’s $10 food challenge has been quite eye opening. I knew that I could make a delicious dinner for my family within that budget, but I was curious to see how far that would really take me. Would I be able to squeeze in more than just an entrée? Would I have to cut out the meat? I was surprised at what I found.

The dish I decided to make was pan-fried udon noodles. I made this dish a couple of weeks ago using beef, shitake mushrooms and broccoli, but of course I didn’t calculate how much it cost. I assumed it would put me over the $10 limit, so I decided to do it with tofu this time. We’re trying to eat less meat anyways. As it turns out, made with tofu, broccoli and carrots, the dish came in at $5.64, well under the $10 limit. With over $4 left over, I could squeeze in a simple salad (lettuce and cucumber sprinkled with sesame seeds) with nice a miso dressing. A balanced, tasty meal for $10!

Since I came in far under budget with the vegetarian version, I wondered how much it would cost to do it with beef. My preference is to use grass-fed beef (chuck steak), which cost $5.99/ lb at Whole Foods. The same cut of conventional beef at Safeway was $5.29 / lb. I expected the difference to be bigger. The big surprise, though, was Safeway’s price for stir-fry cut beef, over $7/ lb!!! It definitely pays to cut it yourself. Besides, they use a machine to cut the beef, rather than purposely cutting against the grain. Big no no, unless you like tough meat. Long story short—using 10 ounces of grass-fed beef still kept the price under $10 ($8.24 to be exact). Not enough left over to squeeze in the salad, but as Hubby pointed out, enough for a beer with his meal.

One way I keep costs down is to shop around. Whole Foods and Safeway are convenient for me, so that’s where I end up the most. I’ll make a trip to a big Asian supermarket (usually Fubonn or Uwajimaya) every couple of weeks or so. I could get a lot of my Asian sauces at the other two, but I rarely do. Asian products are cheaper at an Asian market. Here is an example. Mirin costs $3.58 for a 17-oz bottle at Fubonn. At Safeway and Whole Foods it’s $5.49 and $8.99 for only 10.5 ounces, respectively. I once saw Sriracha for $5.99 for a 28oz bottle at a local supermarket, but it’s only $2.58 for the same size at Fubonn. It’s smart to get to familiar with your local ethnic markets, no?

If you 're interested to see the cost breakdown, click on the file link 10dollarchallenge.doc.
You'll see the prices I paid, the amounts I used and where I got the item.

If you want more $10 meal ideas, check out Citymama’s site in the next couple of days to see the round-up.


Catherine said...

Could you put up a recipe? That looks delicious!

Mandy said...

the noodle looks delicious, and it's something that we would love to eat for dinner! I think Asian food is really the way to go for anyone who wants a tasty meal within a tight budget.

dp said...

Catherine, I'll try to get the recipe up soon. In the meantime, if you look at the file I uploaded, I gave the amounts of each ingredient. Maybe is all you really need?

Mandy, I agree! I was even surprised at how much under budget the meal was!

Mom24 said...

That's amazing! I would like the recipe also. Great tips about the local market, I would never have guessed that. I used to call Whole Foods Whole Paycheck, but I've noticed it seems like their prices are dropping. At any rate, their food is so much better grocery stores should be ashamed of themselves.

Precious Pea said...

Yumz! Noodle sure looks good!

Lars said...

Dish looks great, and great value for money - love an asian style cucumber salat too, but i'll probably choose the beef'n'beer one :)
I also try buying different sauces and noodles at asian markets because there is a lot to save. I don't know how far apart your different shops and markets are, but if you are shopping around shouldn't travel costs be part of the budget :) Sounds like you are both planning ahead and stocking up though. And yes, delicious meals for small bucks is definitely possible!

QGIRL said...

Great looking results Darlene.
The Asian markets are definitely a great bargain, and more fun to shop.
I think that if you buy what is in season and look for sales then you will always get a better value for your money.
Thanks for your comment on my post!

Dee said...

Lars, you're right, one has to factor in travel costs if there's a lot of driving around. As it turns out, the two stores I visit most are blocks away from me. Unless the weather is bad, I walk or ride my bike. I'm very lucky to live in an urban area with a lot of options and I don't have to use a car. Ask your mom, or better yet, come see for your self :-) I think you guys would like Portland.

I only go to the specialty markets every couple of weeks or so, and they're not really that far.

Hubby also liked the beef version better. He's slowly coming around to tofu, though. :-)

qgirl, I always look for specials. I'll go into the supermarket with a list, but make substitutions if there are specials.

Anonymous said...

Very impressive that you could create a whole meal under $10 bucks for your family. Initially, it seems impossible, but this should be something fairly easy to do for just me and my wife.

I'm also sometimes surprised at the prices at Whole Foods. In general, the meats are more expensive, but like you, I've found some cases where the local supermarket costs more.

Dee said...

Marvin, I was at Whole Foods this morning to pick up cilantro, which cost a whopping $1.99/bunch because it's organic! But they had organic romaine hearts for $2/pack of 3. You just have to decide what's in the budget and what's not. I did buy the cilantro, but I was immensely annoyed about it.

Dee said...

mom24, I still call it Whole Paycheck. While they do have quality meats, I've walked into their produce section before and been disappointed because stuff is wilted and plain sad looking. I'd never shop there exclusively; we'd be broke otherwise! No store is perfect, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

Great post Darlene, especially in this ecocomic climate. I totally think it's possible to eat well and cheaply, espcially at home.