Slow Food’s $5 Challenge: Buffalo (or Bean) Jambalaya

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We had great fun participating in Slow Food USA’s $5 Meal Challenge on Saturday, which challenged participants to cook slow food for the price of fast food (under $5/person). The only stressful part was choosing what meal to make! Turns out we all regularly make – in general – healthy, natural meals under $5/person, so choosing which meal to make didn’t come down to which was cheapest, but rather what we really wanted to eat.

However, the meal we chose actually cost not just under $5/person, but under $1/person – due in part to using some garden-grown produce and only using a little bit of meat (1/4 lb for 5 people). If we’d chosen to serve each person 1/4 lb of meat, the cost of meat would have grown from $1.77 to around $8.50. But as it stands, we fed 5 folks a full serving of jambalaya for under $1/head.

The winning meal: buffalo jambalaya, a simple recipe from in.gredients team members Cat and Brian Nunnery that’s very forgiving when it comes to creativity. Tasty and filling, it makes use of seasonal okra and tomatoes from the Nunnerys’ community garden, and fills five large dinner bowls – and can be easily converted to a vegetarian recipe by subbing red beans for the buffalo. Here’s a shot of the buffalo version halfway through the cooking process:


+ Organic chicken bouillon (4 tsp): $0.44 (total cost of bouillon container divides to $0.11/tsp)
+ Water (4 cups): Less than $0.01
+ Organic white rice (4 cups): $1.18
+ 16 okras from community garden: $0.20 (ballpark based on cost to raise – this year had a bountiful harvest)
+ 1/4 lbs ground buffalo: $1.77 or 1 lb red beans: $1.19
+ 3 organic tomatoes from community garden: $0.45 (ballpark based on cost to raise)
+ 1 organic white onion: $0.92
+ Cayenne (to taste): Less than $0.10
+ Black pepper (to taste): Less than $0.10
+ Salt (to taste): Less than $0.10
+ Olive oil for drizzling on pans

Grand total (buffalo): $4.94, not including minimal costs of seasonings, water, and olive oil.

Grand total (beans): $4.36, not including minimal costs of seasonings, water, and olive oil.


1-1. Start a pot of boiling water for the rice. It’ll take the longest to cook. Pour rice in once water boils. Boil for three minutes, then simmer – or cook it however you normally cook rice!
1-2. If you’re cooking the bean version of the recipe, start a pot of boiling water for the beans at this point, and proceed to add the beans when you get a boil. If you’re not using beans, disregard this step.
2. Cut tomato into chunks; dice onion; slice okra into thin pieces
3. Start a skillet and saucepan on the stove; drizzle with olive oil.
4. In the skillet, begin cooking buffalo, breaking up / stirring regularly. Feel free to season for extra flavor. If you’re using beans instead of buffalo, disregard this step.
5-1. In the saucepan, throw in veggies and sauté for 3 minutes.
5-2. Boil water for chicken broth. Once boiled, mix in chicken bouillon – then add to saucepan and mix with veggies.
6-1. Once buffalo is fully cooked, add to saucepan. The same goes for beans, if you’re using beans.
6-2. Once rice mostly cooked, add to saucepan.
7. Season what’s in the saucepan (to taste).
8. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
9. Let simmer for 10 minutes.

Cooking time: 30 minutes
Hands-on time: 30 minutes


Like Slow Food says, eating healthy meals isn’t hard, if you’re willing to spend a little more time in the kitchen. We had fun participating, and can’t wait to offer good in.gredients in our store for folks to use to make more affordable, healthy meals.

(images via: Slow Food USA, Brian Nunnery)

Written by Brian Nunnery

September 19, 2011 at 1:11 pm

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