Slow Food Columbus Blog

Living the slow life… one day at a time

A $5 Dinner in 15 Minutes

with 3 comments

Most of the people planning Slow Food USA‘s $5 dinners have shown remarkable ingenuity in stretching their $5 far beyond what anyone would have imagined—preparing multiple courses of sustainable food that few would have believed cost less than $5 per serving.

I decided to try something a little different.

I stuck to the $5-dinner rules, but I wanted to address the criticism that many people have of cooking at home—namely, that they don’t have the time to do it. I didn’t seek out ingredients that I could stretch as far as possible; instead, I chose ingredients from the North Market that I could turn into a simple, delicious, sustainable meal, quickly:

  • One 4-1/2 lb. Amish chicken $14
  • 1 lb pesticide-free Brussels sprouts, Ann’s raspberry farm, $4
  • 1/2 lb salad greens, $2

(Prices are approximate; when you factor in the salt, pepper, and olive oil/vinegar that I added later, the result puts us almost exactly at $20, for four meal-sized portions.)

More importantly, I made use of a lot of the time-saving tips I described in the previous blog post. And I tracked the extra time it took to obtain the ingredients, prep them, and cook them on the Slow Food Columbus Twitter stream.  Some sample tweets:

@SlowFoodCMH Rather than documenting cost for today's #5challenge,
I'll document the time it takes. Proving we have time to cook.
@SlowFoodCMH Entering @NorthMarket
@SlowFoodCMH And done
@SlowFoodCMH Not bad... produce and poultry in 6 minutes. short
lines today
@SlowFoodCMH Sprouts prepped, salad prepped, kitchen cleaned,
trimmings thrown in freezer bag for stock. Clock stops: 21 minutes
this leg #5challenge
@SlowFoodCMH Dinner in 36 minutes. #5challenge
@SlowFoodCMH And a few more nights' worth of dinners, already ready for
the fridge. #5challenge
@SlowFoodCMH All told: 4 servings shopped for, cooked, and cleaned up
in about an hour's time—15 minutes per meal. Now time your next
fast food run.


I did relatively little to the ingredients: I removed the extra bits from the chicken, rubbed it with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary, and threw it in a 400° oven to cook for just over an hour (15 minutes per pound). Then I rinsed, oiled, salted and peppered the sprouts and put them on a tray by the oven, rinsed the lettuce and put it in the refrigerator… and went back to reading. When there were 40 minutes left I slipped the sprouts into the oven. When everything was done I pulled the sprouts and chicken out of the oven, quartered the bird, dressed the salad, put the remaining portions into Pyrex storage containers to cool, snapped a quick photograph… and sat down to enjoy dinner at my leisure.

It was far from the most elaborate meal that was prepared today. But it’s sustainable, it’s healthy, and it clocks in at around $5 per serving. And even making generous allowances for travel and cleanup the time spent obtaining and preparing it doesn’t exceed an hour, or 15 minutes per meal when you take leftovers into account.

You might be able to beat that with a trip to the drive-through window, maybe… as long as you don’t get stuck behind the guy who can’t decide whether he wants fries with that.


Written by Bear

September 18, 2011 at 3:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. heard a speech once at a Toastmaster’s meeting. The topic highlighted the term called “Retronyms”. For example, people used to have a television, then when color televisions came along there suddenly became “black and white TV’s”. It is the same with telephones. Now, we have “land lines” (as opposed to cell phones.) We used to just have a phone.

    Microwaving our lives to high speed internet pace has made us forget that we used to just eat. Now there is this group (new to me) called “Slow Food.” The question “who has time to cook?” is thwarted. It is not about time is it? Why are we asking about not enough time to cook (and eat)? What about our question “What are we using our time for that we are rushing through food and meals? What sort of cultural conversation do we live in that is full of stress of “too much” and “not enough”. We have “too much to do” and “not enough time” to cook/eat slowly.

    Tina Thonnings

    September 23, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    • If you enjoy cooking, by all means, linger over it—I didn’t mean to suggest that people should do otherwise if they’re not so inclined. Personally, I prefer to read, and to eat… and if you read through the blog post you’ll see that learning to cook efficiently is what allows me to spend more time doing the things that I enjoy more. The flipside of taking the time to enjoy something is having the time in the first place, which realistically requires learning to move more briskly through the things we’re not as fond of doing.


      September 23, 2011 at 4:49 pm

  2. I enjoyed the minutia of this post. That’s what’s important. My decisions from the door of my office to home and all the time involved in between precede my meals for the night. And, a little, not much, planning ahead can cut the bill down so much, it becomes easy to offset high quality ingredient prices. Good post.

    SeligmansDog (@SeligmansDog)

    September 27, 2011 at 12:31 pm

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