$5 Friday: How to Eat Healthy for Five Bucks a Pop

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Courtesy of Dana Velden

How much does it really cost to eat healthy? The organizers of a new slow-food challenge say you can do it for five dollars a person per meal.

Launching Sept. 1 with a Day of Action, the “$5 Challenge” is meant to inspire people to cook slow-food meals — using whole foods rather than processed ones — for as much as it would cost to buy a combo meal at a fast-food restaurant. The idea is to “take back the ‘value meal’,” according to the Slow Food USA website.

It’s no secret that a total overhaul of the average American diet would be a good thing — a lifesaving thing, in fact, given the prevalence of diet-associated chronic illnesses like obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

MORE: Study Is In: Weight Watchers Works

But for many people it’s hard to eat healthy because it takes time, money and no small amount of planning. So Healthland is jumping on the slow-food bandwagon on behalf of our readers: One Friday per month, we’ll offer the best seasonal recipe we can find for a slow-food meal, including an entrée, beverage and a side — all for $5.

Our inaugural value dish, below — a chickpea salad sandwich — comes courtesy of Apartment Therapy’s The Kitchn food blog and was inspired by the Kripalu Cookbook. It’s low in added sugar and saturated fat and high in fiber, with a nice balance of complete protein and fresh produce.

Chickpea Salad Sandwich
Makes 2; reprinted with permission from Dana Velden and The Kitchn

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed ($1.09)
1/4 cup mayonnaise ($1.13, or $3.99 for the bottle)
1 tbsp whole-grain mustard ($.07, or $1.49 for the bottle)
1 1/2 tbsp umebochi vinegar (we subbed easier-to-find cider vinegar: $.07, or $2.29 for bottle)
2 tsp celery seeds ($.50, or $3.39 for bottle)
1 celery stalk, chopped ($.16, or $2.99 per lb.)
2 sliced scallions ($.05, or $.79 per bunch)
A few turns of the peppermill (negligible)
4 slices of whole grain bread ($1.20)
A few lettuce leaves, washed and dried well ($.04, or $.99 for the head)

Place chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse two or three times to chop roughly. Add remaining ingredients and pulse two or three times more to incorporate.

Lay out the bread and place the lettuce leaves on two slices. Spoon on the chickpea salad and top with the other slice of bread. Cut in half and enjoy!

We’ve added a can of lemon-lime seltzer as a beverage, plus a side of apple slices with natural peanut butter for dipping.

PHOTOS: What Makes You Eat More Food

Cost Breakdown:
Two sandwiches: $4.31, or about $2.16 each
One can of lemon-lime seltzer: $.67
One apple with 1/4 cup of natural peanut butter: $1.38

Total: $4.21

Tune in next month for another installment of $5 Friday.

Meredith Melnick is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeredithCM. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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