The Whole Foods Budget Recipe Challenge — $3.98!!

NOTE: This post is one of the last published on this blog.  I’ve since moved to a new home at  Come see more up to date postings here.

It CAN Be Done!

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This was a little too close for comfort, but the exciting news is that today is the day I am going to submit my entry for the Whole Foods Budget Recipe Challenge. I made the dishes last week and wanted to have another go at it so that I could get the correct measurements, good photos and prices nailed down before clicking the Send link.

The WholeFoods Budget Challenge Meal

The Whole Foods Budget Challenge Meal

So I woke up this morning, checked mail, watched CNN for a while to see the latest videos and info on Gustav and headed into the kitchen. My entry actually works quite well for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner, so by the time I was done putting it together this morning, I sat down to a fabulous brunch which, for UNDER $4.00, included an entrée, a salad and dessert. Ok, so it was just $0.02 shy of $4.00, but I can still state that it was under. The challenge does not require that entrants submit a meal, just a dish, but I am never complacent, so I challenged myself to see if I could produce a wonderful meal for $4.00 or less and achieved that goal. So, no matter what happens with the challenge, I have come out a winner with a year ’round meal that I am sure to put together often and I have my mom to thank for the suggestions and guidance as we tossed around ideas in the past week.

Read on for details of the recipes with photos so that you too can make this DEElicious meal for yourselves, friends and family.


As frequent readers of Living the Justopian Life and viewers of know, I am not very good about efficiencies in terms of cost when it comes to what I prepare on camera, but this challenge was going to put my ability to prepare a Justopia-worthy dish for $4.00 or less to the test. Viewers have asked me to prepare budget-conscious meals and while I’ve made a few, I have not put much effort into it. This challenge has made me realize that not only is it possible to put together a fabulous dish, but an entire meal for $4.00 and that I could do this by shopping at Whole Foods, a market I love, but that I have avoided much of the last 6 months because I was feeling that my frequent trips there were killer on my wallet.

A Bag of Goodies
A Bag of Goodies in the Justopian kitchen “studio” with the Prep-cam in the background

My eyes have been opened and I am pleased to say that I will be putting WholeFoods back on my shopping list! Yaaay!

As I sauntered into the kitchen I thought that perhaps I should fire up the cameras and broadcast my efforts, but I decided against it. When I am on camera, I work hard to interact with the viewers and to respond to everything that is said in chat and as you’ve seen often, I lose track of either what’s being said or I totally lose track of the recipe. Things get tense and stressful in a kitchen with the burners on, pots and pans banging around, knives flailing and timers sounding so I decided to prep this meal alone.

But thankfully I am camera happy, so there are plenty of photos for you to walk through the process with me.

The Recipes

And now, on with the entries …


Summer Tomato Salad

Summer Tomato Salad

  • 1/2 ripe tomato coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 large shallot diced
  • 3 leaves fresh basil, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 lime (1.5 oz)
  • 1tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Place tomato, shallots and basil in a bowl. Mix to combine. Pour the lime juice and olive oil over the tomato mixture. I don’t whisk the oil and vinegar prior to adding, because I like to taste the smooth and the tart separately. Top with salt and pepper.

Bacon, Eggs and Pasta

Bacon, Egg and Pasta

Bacon, Egg and Pasta

  • 4 ounces pasta – preferably a thick spaghetti, I used Perciatelli
  • 1 ounce of bacon diced – using with kitchen shears makes it quick and easy
  • 1/4 large shallot thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon butter, if necessary
  • 1 egg, cracked into a bowl, ready to slip into the frying pan
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leaves of fresh basil chiffonade (thinly sliced)
  • 3 – 4 thin slices (shavings) of Parmesano Reggiano (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a pot of water to a boil for pasta. When at a full rolling boil, add pasta.

In the meantime, in a small frying pan, the same one you will fry the egg in, brown the bacon. When almost done, lower the heat and add the shallot slices. Cook until the shallots caramelize. Remove the pan from the heat and put the bacon and shallots in a bowl or on a plate while leaving the bacon fat in the pan for the egg to fry in.

When the pasta has just 1 more minute until it is done, slide the egg into the pan on medium low heat. Cook until the white has begun to set and then cover.

Drain the pasta and place on a plate or in a bowl and drizzle a tablespoon of high quality extra virgin olive oil onto the pasta. Add the bacon and shallots and stir to combine.

Remove the cover from the egg and slide it on top of the pasta, add salt and pepper and top with optional cheese. Serve before the hot pasta continues to cook the egg. When pierced, the yolk will coat the pasta and create a carbonara-like sauce.

Maple and Pecan Grilled Nectarine

  • 1 ripe nectarine, halved — remove pit and slice to create a smooth surface
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • 6 toasted pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon grade A maple syrup
  • 3 lime slices

Heat a grill pan on medium high, add butter and nectarine halves. Grill the nectarine until softened about 1/4 of the way through. Add the pecans to the edges where the butter has collected and let them toast further. When the nectarine halves have gotten grill marks, turn a quarter turn to make cross hatch marks. Cook until the grill marks have appeared and turn over.

In the meantime, remove the pecan halves to a cutting board and roughly chop.

Drizzle maple syrup over nectarine halves and remove to a plate. Sprinkle pecan pieces over the nectarines and pour contents of the pan over all. Squeeze one of the lime slices over the nectarine halves and garnish the plate with the other two slices to finish.

Practice Makes Perfect

I ran through the Pasta and the salad a few days ago on and put together the Maple Pecan Nectarines the other afternoon. Check out the photos!

Pasta and Egg

Pasta and Egg

Nectarines with "Cinnamon Bun" Toast

Nectarines with "Cinnamon Bun" Toast Squares

Cost of this Meal

7 Responses

  1. I hope you win! I hope you win! And besides…that looks like a lot of food for $3.98! Keep us posted.

  2. Thanks Jane! I hope I win I hope I win too! But you know how many incredible food blogs are out there with incredible photos and stuff.

  3. […] Living the Justopian Life: A Seasonal Three Course Meal […]

  4. […] public links >> foods The Whole Foods Budget Recipe Challenge — $3.98!! Saved by anthonypark on Wed 22-10-2008 Advertising Week Panel Series Saved by ouroboros on Tue […]

  5. Cool! I didn’t know about the Whole Foods challenge. I guess they’re trying to change their “Whole Paycheck” image. 🙂

    I found your blog by doing a search for “budget recipes” — I’ve been doing a series on budget recipes from my own kitchen. I am looking forward to exploring the other Whole Foods entrants, and also marking your grilled nectarines recipe to try next time they’re in season!

  6. Thank you for stopping by Katherine! I’ve moved to my own domain at: now and have some more DEElicious meals out there.

    I’m heading out to your site now.

  7. […] come up with an entire menu and meet the deadline and do it for just under the $4 challenge with my Bacon, Egg and Pasta menu which was posted on my original […]

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