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$10 meal for four

On the latest episode of Top Chef (Wednesday nights on Bravo, 9 pm CST), the elimination challenge was to cook a healthy meal for four with a budget of $10. There was quite a bit of grumbling about the size of the budget, and my husband and I looked at each other and just shrugged. $10 a meal is probably high for us most nights, actually! But we are big pantry/freezer cookers...

I was wondering what was the Chowhound's best idea for a $10 meal for four. No limit on cooking time, so braising or slow-cookers are ok.

My thoughts:

*Buy a cup of bulk polenta, some chicken thighs, some tomatoes (probably canned), and a small amount of cheese. Use the polenta as the base of a cacciatore-inspired casserole.

*A tortilla soup in the crock pot - my husband always calls it "soup of can" because everything is pre-made. Not the fanciest dish by any means, but tasty and hearty. Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts, one can of beans (rinsed), one can of diced tomatoes (drained), one cup of salsa (we use the home-canned from our garden), two cups frozen corn, chili powder, and some cumin & other herbs/spices to round it out. Cook all day on low.

Anyone else?

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  1. Arroz con pollo
    Pasta with tomato sauce
    Chicken noodle soup with salad.

    2 Replies
    1. re: ldkelley

      I saw that episode...was surprised that no one made chili. You can certainly make a big pot with ground meat and serve with rice, cornbread and fixins' for $10.

      1. re: susan1353

        I wonder if there wasn't enough time to make a really good chili? I don't remember how long they had, but I've always found that chili is much better the next day when the flavors have more time to "meld."

    2. Shepherd's Pie (I make mine crustless but flour etc would be cheap enough)
      Pork and Sauerkraut w/ Onions and Apples
      Pancakes with fruit topping and eggs

      1. A few homemade pizzas, including dough though could use canned tomato sauce. Light on the meat and cheese, heavy on the veggies.

        1. Quick, simple, and cheap - Stoffers Lasagne, Salad, and dinner rolls.

          2 Replies
          1. re: malibumike

            I'd rather starve than eat a Stouffer's lasagna. You can make your own which would be tastier and cheaper than that frozen crap.

          2. To me, the surprising part was not the budget (as you said, $10 for a meal for four seems pretty reasonable), but the fact that they were shopping at Whole Foods on $10. I can never get out of Whole Foods for less than $50.

            4 Replies
            1. re: maxim0512

              I know - I was thinking the same thing. Whenever I buy chicken at Whole Foods (2 breasts with bone) it's easily $8-$10. Maybe they get a discount...

              1. re: Obessed

                Me three. Whole Foods on a budget? No wonder they had problems stretching their $10.00.

              2. re: maxim0512

                You'd have to check out the sales--they have pretty good deals sometimes. And, I find better prices on flour and milk than I do at other stores.

                Having just shopped there and made dinner for the family, probably under $10, not counting pantry items, I roasted eggplant and tomatoes and made a tomato sauce. Cooked up chicken. Made whole wheat pasta and put all that together w/ pantry items, like olives, seasoning, herbs. Topped w/ parmesan cheese. Everything I used was on sale.

                1. re: maxim0512

                  oh my-- you can just look at stuff at Whole foods and spend 10 bucks-- I think you would have to go heavy on rice and canned beans-- use the 360 brand and totally bypass the produce, meat and cheese section:)