The $20 Challenge

Is it possible to make a balanced meal for 4 for under $20? It sure is and The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® will show you how!!

I first started off with what we already had in our pantry and then built the meal around that—canned salmon, lentils, homemade (frozen) chicken stock, and quinoa. I then augmented what I needed by purchasing the following from the SFC Farmers’ Market: red bell peppers, eggs, onions, carrots, sweet potato and a loaf of whole wheat bread. I had the following pantry staples that I didn’t need to buy: olive oil, salt, pepper, apple cider vinegar, tomato paste, bay leaves and cloves. I also used fresh parsley from the garden.

Guess what? The total price of the meal comes out to $19.11, which is $4.78 per person. How many drive-thru meals or sit-down dinners can you have for that price!? The best part was that after I portioned out the 4 servings of the salmon patties, quinoa and lentil soup, there were leftovers! So really, this meal can feed a hungry family (providing seconds) or the leftovers can be stored for another meal, thus decreasing the per person cost of the meal that much more.

A few notes:

  • The price is based on per oz or per unit of food; I included the price for each ingredient, not just what I had to purchase.
  • The recipe calls for celery, but to keep things seasonal, I opted to add bell pepper in its place. Also, to increase efficiency in the kitchen (and while shopping), I was able to use the carrots and bell peppers in both the salmon patties and soup.
  • I usually have homemade bread crumbs already made and in the freezer, but this time I didn’t. Hence, the whole wheat bread purchase. Homemade breadcrumbs are easily made and are a great use for stale bread, bread heels or bread that you can’t eat fast enough before it spoils.
  • The price of the meal decreases to $13 when you make your own chicken stock or vegetable broth, have a garden (free parsley and bay leaves!) and use left-over bread or crackers for crumbs.