Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Five Dollar Meals

As I was scrolling through my news feed the other day, a Wal-Mart ad caught my eye (Thanks, Facebook!). It was a picture of a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese and a big jug of storebought, prepared Kool-Aid. The picture was captioned, identifying the combination as a "weeknight family meal". Now call me Judgy McJudgerton, but THAT is not a weeknight family meal! At best, it's a "there's nothing left in the pantry or refrigerator and payday isn't until tomorrow" kind of meal. Or even a "Mom is incapacitated and Dad's fixing dinner tonight" kind of meal. (See, now I'm judgmental AND sexist!)

All I'm saying is, it's easy to whip up a healthy, filling meal under normal circumstances without resorting to such extreme measures. I mean, at least serve a side of apple sauce or a handful of grapes with that meal! I'd be happy to show you just a couple of options for roughly the same price.

Let's just say I'm fixing lunch for my four little darlings. Here's what Wal-Mart's meal looks like:

Macaroni and cheese: $1.00 per box X 2 boxes = $2.00
Kool-Aid (purchased prepared): $3.00
Total Meal: $5.00
(Of course, this doesn't include the butter and milk needed to prepare the pasta. They'd be negligible.)

Here is a different option:

Black beans: $0.60 per can X 2 = $1.20
Tortillas: (1/2 package) $0.60
Spinach: (1/2 package) $0.40
Cheddar cheese: (8 oz) $1.90
Pineapple chunks: $0.90
Total Meal: $5.00

With these ingredients, plus some salsa and other seasonings you probably already have in your fridge, you can make Black Bean Soup, spinach and cheese quesadillas, and a side of pineapple!

Guess which meal is healthier? Now, I'm sure some of you may be saying that your kids wouldn't eat that, but I have at least two that don't like boxed mac and cheese! That's fair enough, though. I make homemade "Spaghettios" for my kids (and me!) all the time, and that's comparable to good old cheesy mac. Check this out:

Pasta: (2 cups) $0.50
Tomato sauce: $1.00
Tomato paste: (negligible, but let's say) $0.10
Cheddar cheese: (4 oz) $0.95
Gala apples: (3 small) $0.63
Greek yogurt, vanilla: (1/2 large container) $1.95
Total Meal: $5.13

That's a BIG pot of flavorful pasta, plus a side of apple slices with Greek yogurt for dipping (I add a sprinkling of cinnamon, too!) And neither of these two meals takes much more time than cooking up that blue box.

It's all about perspective and priorities. Sure, there's a time and place when all you feel like is that blue box and Kool-Aid, if that's how you roll. My objection is to the suggestion that those two items are a legitimate complete meal.

Let's come up with a better "weeknight family meal" advertisement, Wal-Mart!


  1. I want more 5$ meal options. I made bfast tacos tonight.

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