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The $10 meal challenge and the first recipe!

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The $10 meal challenge and the first recipe!

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately on certain blogs and news sites about X number of meals for $XX.

Often, the writer will say they succeeded with only spending $20 bux at the grocery store, and they lived for a week with that, and what was in the pantry.

This is all well and good, but there was no mention of HOW MUCH food was already there.  I know if I went to my mother-in-laws pantry, I could successfully survive a nuclear holocaust, and feed most of Eketahuna well.

When I gave myself the $10 a meal challenge, I instinctively went back to my food costing thoughts, and realized I have to include EVERYTHING. Things like salt/pepper, that spoonful of crushed garlic, sprinkle of herbs, splash of oil. These all cost money, and should be included.

I’m not going to go down the track of shopping for each meal, but thought I’ll start a food cost sheet too.

In my household I do the grocery shopping. It started when we had the baby, so we didn’t have to take him out in the cold.  I used to not enjoy it so much but now its a great challenge to see the bargains I can get every week.

It annoys me when people say that it’s SO SO expensive. Well, yes it is. BUT it depends on what you buy.

Lamb Yes its expensive. Lamb mince on the other hand-not too bad.

Chicken breast. Can be, so why not try chicken thighs or pieces? Can always find these on special-Hell I even got 4 large pieces for $6 a few weeks back.  And anyways, vege options are a great change to the norm as well.  (Caveat: I’m not a vegetarian, but do think we tend to rely on meat, and therefore make boring meals.)

Anyways, rant over. Time for some noms. This meal is a PROVEN crowd pleaser. A lot of friends have had this at least once. You can vary the tomato sauce base depending on whats around. This week the wattie’s ones were 88 cents. BARGAIN! You could use a pre-made sauce too, just watch the salt.

So, here is a Porktastic Pasta and Courgette Bake.

Ingredients costed below.

Menu item Weight (K) price cost per kg total cost
tinned tomatoes 0.4 $0.88 $0.88
pork mince 0.5 $0.50 $10.00 $5.00
Budget pasta 0.3 $0.62 $0.62
courgette 0.165 $6.98 $1.15
cheese 0.1 $10.00 $10.00 $1.00
mushroom 0.15 $6.98 $1.05
salt 0.005 $1.33 $1.33 $0.01
pepper 0.002 $33.00 $0.07
soya oil 0.03 $4.80 $4.80 $0.14
mixed herbs 0.03 $1.15 $1.33 $0.04
total $9.96

You’ll note this is measured out. Its more for the costing part of the experiment. To make it easier, try it this way:

One 400g tin of tomatoes(flavored are good if on special-I used roasted garlic and onion), 300g bag of pasta, half a kilo of pork mince, 2 average sized courgettes and a  handful of mushrooms.

Have some oil/salt/pepper and mixed herbs standing by.

Oh, and handful or so of grated cheese 🙂

Get a large pot of salted water on, and bring to the boil.

First up, grate your courgettes (zucchinis to the Aussies reading this), and you can grate the mushrooms too. Its easy, and makes everything consistent. As a plus it helps hide the veges for the fussy ones.

Courgette and mushroom feeling "grate"

Throw this into a pan, and just lightly cook it till it limps up a bit. Then add the pork mince.

Porky in the pan!

While this is going, put your pasta on. You can see mine about to boil over in the above pic 😦 But i saved it 🙂  Should take about 6-8 minutes depending on the pasta.

Once this has browned up, add the canned tomatoes.

tomatoey porky goodness

Pop in your mixed herbs and let this cook out for about 5 minutes. Make sure you taste it a few times and adjust the seasoning as you need. Sometimes a tablespoon of tomato paste can make all the difference.

So by now the pasta will be done so drain it off.

Hullo Pasta (67c worth)

And while you are at it -grate some cheese.

100g of cheese. You see the measures I go to ! (Pun intended).

Then all you need to do  is chuck the pasta and the meat mix into a baking dish, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Then pop it into the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese browns and goes crispy:)

Then all things going well you’ll get something like below. Note the two trays of food!

My kingdom for a larger baking dish 🙂

This fed two adults with some hefty portions, plus  enough for 4 lunches.  It freezes well.

You might be saying to yourself…hmm student food.  The killer ingredient here is the Pork mince. It just tastes BETTER.

You don’t get the same claggy fatty mouthfeel that beef mince has. Price wise its always on special too.

And it came a smidge under $10. No creative accounting neccessary.This time  I used lasagne pasta, but this works just as well with penne. Which can be had for under a dollar a bag if you shop around.

Any questions? Hit me up on twitter @aaronpinkham.

Till next time….nom well!


Passion, rage and the price of tomatoes.

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Ever felt like throwing the remote at the tv?

Lately I have. Luckily I own a crt (read:big&old) Tv.

The price of tomatoes in the supermarket IS NOT NEWS. When they were expensive it was because IT WAS WINTER. Winter is cold. Tomatoes don’t like cold.

Celebrity chefs and politicians hideous keuwui pronunciation of basic ingredients has been grinding my gears, as well as the “passion” and “most important day of my life” reality tv contestants mentality.

Yes, i realise that I’m being suckered by slick editing but I’ve had enough. Enough of the rage, passion and apparent “ripping off” of the NZ consumer. We aren’t getting ripped. Things cost money to grow in a commercial environment. Farmers and growers do need to get paid!

As for those that rant and rave at supermarket prices-shop around. I did separate shops at two major supermarkets (the Packers and the Counters), and I had $5 difference.  And a huge difference in quality and variety. (And not the way you’d think).

So, I got sick of throwing remotes. My pledge (and not in the creepy american noveau-church way), is meals for 4  for under $10. It’s a tough one but I’m sure that it can be done.

As a caveat, I’ll be doing the meals as 1 each for myself and my wife, and two freezable meals for laters. (Having a six month old, these are awesome).

So…more to come after this weeks shop 🙂