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.