As some are quickly finding out, we weren’t kidding when we called this a “challenge.” It’s not easy and takes some thought and planning. When I saw chicken on sale at A&P this week, I knew exactly what I would be making. For me, the challenge is more in stretching my dollars to include either the appetizer or dessert for $7. Dinner for $5 I can handle, but throwing another course in and still squeaking in under the wire? That adds a whole new dimension. While I’m on the topic of $5 dinners, and before I lose my thought, there are tons of websites actually devoted to budget-friendly meals, including Five Dollar Dinners – you might want to give it a quick spin.
Besides adding the second course, I think the challenge is actually making something good … something that you’ll want to eat again and again … but still keeping it within the confines of the challenge. Like I said last week, it’s easy to have a bunch of hot dogs and french fries for dinner, and throw in some jello and call it done. But where is the challenge in that? And more importantly … can you have Lemon Parmigianno Chicken within the challenge?
You sure can! The recipe calls for boneless, skinless chicken thighs, which are on sale right now at A&P for $2.29 a pound. Now I happened to have the rest of the ingredients on hand, as I’m sure most of you do too. If you don’t, you’re not talking about any major expenditure – nothing more than a coupla bucks. I included a side of rice with the chicken, because the recipe makes an outstanding sauce that is perfect over the rice.
The Husband was going to be on rice duty, but he was playing outside with the kids, so I ended up grabbing a package from my stockpile. The package normally sells for 75 cents at full price. A good stockpiler and coupon addict (me! me!) knows that it gets better than that though … there are often coupons for 0.35/1 and our store doubles, so when the coupon comes out, I get as many as I can and get the rice for 9 cents a package. I’m still working on a rice stockpile from before Madeline was born.
Ok, so we have chicken and rice. Now for dessert… when we went apple picking again last weekend, we lugged home a few pounds of apples. They are $1.19 a pound at the orchard, cheaper than they are at the grocery store. Guess the manual labor of us picking them off the tree is worth something. ;) For dessert, I used 4 of the apples (small ones that I weighed – approximately 3/4 lb), so let’s say 80 cents or so. The rest of the ingredients are basic pantry items (water, brown sugar, raisins and walnuts) that I had on hand, and you probably do too. Even if you didn’t, it wouldn’t cost you more than a few bucks to make, if that.
Lemon Parmigianno Chicken
1 pound chicken thighs – $2.29
stockpile ingredients: white wine, garlic, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese
3/4 pound of apples – 0.80
stockpile ingredients: brown sugar, walnuts, raisins
Rice – 0.75 (although I paid 0.09 when I bought it)
Now to the recipes … if you haven’t made the Lemon Parmigianno Chicken, you must. It takes literally five minutes to whip together, and then it peacefully bakes and does its thing in the oven without interference from you. Once done, it’s cooked perfectly and produces tender, juicy chicken with a sauce that is divine over rice. This is a recipe for when you don’t want to cook. For when you don’t want to think. For when you want to order take-out, but don’t want to spend the money. This is that recipe.
I think the greatest success in this challenge can be had when you have a small amount of ingredients, but good, solid ones that work hard for you. You know, the whole less is more theory. Or the principles behind Jamie Oliver’s “naked” cooking – you don’t need an ingredient list a mile long – keep it simple and it will shine. The second aspect is thinking about what you have on hand and how you can make it best work for you. It’s too easy to run to the grocery store with a new list every other day. What’s in your fridge? Your freezer?
Now, how did you do on the challenge? Let’s hear it.
P.P.S. Baked Apple recipe coming tomorrow.