I did the math. There’s a lot of meals you can sneak in under the $10 wire, like bibimbap with flank steak; roasted mushroom and lentil soup with crusty bread (don’t worry, you don’t have to make the bread, but it’ll be even cheaper if you do); and spicy bean chili with buttermilk mashed potatoes—a meal I practically lived on for lunches and dinners as a bright-eyed and empty-pocketed assistant.
You might notice, as you page through the slideshow, that most of the recipes are either vegetarian or use meat as a supplementary flavor instead of the centerpiece ingredient. As more and more stories on pink slime and neurotoxins used as pesticides make the rounds, I hope it becomes clearer and clearer to all Americans: cheap meat is not necessarily good meat. Meals like the ones in this slideshow can ease us all into eating smaller portions of better meat rather than oversized hunks of factory-farmed chicken and preground burgers, supplementing with smart vegetarian proteins like beans and lentils or organic (and pastured if at all possible) eggs. A $3.99 container of organic eggs is more versatile in the kitchen than a pound of boneless skinless chicken breast—and when you see that organic, pasture-raised chicken on sale for $1.99 a pound, snatch it up! That’s what your freezer is for.
It’s true, you totally could order a $5 dish of cold peanut noodles from your local Chinese takeout joint, but after waiting for and tipping on delivery (you are tipping your delivery guys, right?) you’ll be spending just as much time and money as if you’d made the meal from scratch. With a big bowl of fresh green beans on the side, no less!
Take a look at all ten recipes under $10—with the cost breakdown for each recipe—and take the cold peanut noodles below for a spin. Your delivery guy will miss the tips, but you’ll be eating better and cheaper in the long run.
*Back in the dark ages of my collegiate years, Walmart and Weis Market were the most easily accessible stores for us youths. You kids today don’t even know how rough we had it!
Spicy Peanut Noodles with Green Beans
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total cost: $8.54
Makes 4 servings
- 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons hot sesame oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1-inch chunk peeled ginger, minced
- 1 lime
- 2 scallions
- 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
- 1 package chow mein noodles
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a small food processor or blender, blend the peanut butter, chicken broth, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and the zest of the lime until smooth. Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Mince the dark and light green parts of the scallions and roughly chop the peanuts.
Bring a 4-quart stockpot of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the noodles from the boiling water and toss with the peanut sauce.
Top the sauced with scallions and chopped peanuts, and serve with lime wedges.
Use the same boiling water from the noodles to cook the green beans, and serve with butter and salt.