CTV Vancouver consumer reporter Ross McLaughlin decided to take on the $5-a-day meal plan challenge. Read the full story here, then scroll down for the recipes he used.

All recipes are from $5 Foodie with some substitutions by McLaughlin On Your Side.

Day 1 

$5-a-day meal plan

Garlic and lemon roasted chicken with sweet potatoes

Makes 6 servings - $2.91 per serving

  • 1 whole 3 to 5-lb chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • pinches of salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 6 large sweet potatoes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. With wet paper towel, wipe the chicken clean and pat it dry. Remove any extra chicken parts from inside the chicken and discard. Place breast-side up on a roasting pan.

2. Slice 6-8 small strips of the yellow peel from half a lemon (the white pith is bitter), then cut small slits in the flesh of the chicken and insert the garlic cloves and lemon strips into the chicken. Save this lemon half (to squeeze over the chicken before serving). Slice the other lemon half into rounds and place them decoratively on top of the chicken; they will caramelize deliciously as the chicken cooks.

3. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and pour about 1/4 cup water and half the oil (about half a tablespoon) into the pan to prevent the juices from burning. Place chicken in the oven. Spooning the remaining oil (another half a tablespoon) over the chicken after 30 minutes will help it brown. Roast for about 1 hour, or until the chicken is golden brown and cutting into the thickest part yields juice that runs clear. You can also test the chicken with a meat thermometer, which should read at least 165 F.

4. While the chicken roasts, poke holes in the skin of the sweet potatoes with a fork (to prevent a potato explosion), and place them directly on the oven rack. Bake about 40 minutes or until they feel soft to the touch or a fork can easily be inserted to the centre of the potato.

5. To serve, cut sections of the chicken and place them and a caramelized lemon slice on each plate. Spoon pan juices and the juice of the remaining half lemon over the servings. Cut the potatoes open, season with salt, pepper (and butter if you like) and serve them alongside. Optional: garnish with fresh herbs or greens you may have on hand.

Day 2

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Blackberry-lemon muffins

Makes 12 servings – 34 cents per serving

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup oil (a mildly flavored one like canola or safflower)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 6 ounces blackberries (fresh or frozen and well-drained)
  • pinch of cinnamon or confectioner's sugar

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with baking cups or grease the tin thoroughly and set it aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, oil, milk and vanilla. Add the zest of one lemon for another layer of flavour.

4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and mix quickly and lightly with a fork, adding the berries last. Tip: Do not overmix or bother to remove lumps or the muffins will be tough.

5. Spoon batter into the muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the muffins are light golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.

6. Sprinkle with cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar (optional) and enjoy hot from the oven or at room temperature.


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Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Makes 4 servings - $1.70 per serving

  • 8 strips of bacon
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pinches red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces spaghetti (or other long pasta such as linguine or pappardelle)
  • 1 cup green peas (frozen)
  • 4 eggs (medium sized), beaten
  • 8 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
  • pinches of salt and pepper

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

1. Cut the bacon into bite-size pieces and cook in a large sauté pan over medium heat until just done but not crisp. Drain off bacon fat (or don’t pour off the bacon fat if you crave that extra-rich taste), turn heat to medium-low and add olive oil plus a pinch or so of red pepper flakes. Heat gently for five minutes, remove from heat and cover.

2. Meanwhile boil salted water and cook pasta until done, al dente; add peas for the last minute of cooking; drain pasta and peas. Add them to the pan with the bacon. Toss with the beaten eggs*, then the parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve right away.

*Be sure to add the eggs when the pasta is still very hot so that they cook, or else use pasteurized eggs



Day 3

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Coconut chia pudding

Makes 4 servings - $1.12 per serving

  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 1 can of light coconut milk (13.5 oz), melted
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 ounces blueberries
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint

Prep time: 5 minutes

1. Combine chia seeds with coconut milk, maple syrup (or honey), and vanilla in a bowl, and stir well.

2. Cover and refrigerate at least 2-4 hours or overnight. Top with berries and mint and enjoy.

Notes: The coconut milk should be melted so that it is a liquid, but not hot. If you like a thicker pudding, add more chia seeds or for a thinner consistency, stir in additional milk.


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Chicken, herb and sweet corn pie

Makes 4 servings - $2.14/per serving

  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, drumsticks, or one whole chicken breast (or pre-cooked leftover chicken pieces)
  • 1/2 onions (small), diced
  • 3 tablespoons oil (or butter)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon thyme, tarragon, or dill
  • 3/4 cup corn, frozen or freshly cut off the cob (if frozen, defrosted and well-drained)
  • 1 prepared pie crust, thawed according to package instructions (or homemade)

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 25-45 minutes (depending on whether you're using fresh or pre-cooked chicken)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F. If you're using pre-cooked chicken, remove meat from bones, cut into bite-size pieces, set aside, and skip to step 2. If you're using fresh chicken, place the chicken and about a half cup of water in a tightly-lidded saucepan or frying pan and cook for about 8-15 minutes, depending on size of the chicken pieces. Test for doneness by cutting into the thickest part. Place chicken on a plate to cool, then remove any bones, shred the meat to bite-size pieces and set aside.

2. In a medium-size saucepan (you can use the same pan that you cooked the chicken in), sauté diced onion in oil (or butter) until softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add flour, stirring to blend. Slowly pour in the milk while stirring—a whisk is helpful to break up any lumps.

3. Cook the white sauce over medium heat, stirring now and then until it simmers, and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking. Continue cooking and stirring a few more minutes until the sauce has thickened enough to coat a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in the seasonings: about 1/4 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste), along with the pepper and thyme, tarragon or dill.

4. Place the chicken and corn in the white sauce, stir, and taste again for seasoning. Pour the creamed chicken and corn into the pie crust. Turn the other pie crust upside down out of its foil plate onto the creamed chicken and pierce the crust a few times with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the crust—coarsely ground salt and pepper from a mill are especially good—and press lightly.

5. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the sauce bubbles around the edges. Garnish with thyme or sliced scallion and serve right away.

Notes: This dish is great with an assortment of vegetables you may have on hand. Instead of—or in addition to—corn, you can use broccoli or cauliflower florets, chopped celery or carrots, diced potatoes, or sliced mushrooms. Just add them along with the onion in step 2.


Day 4

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Orange-banana French toast

Makes 2 servings - $1.09 per serving

  • 2 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon oil (or butter)
  • 4 slices of bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (or honey)
  • 2 bananas, peeled and sliced about 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons rum*
  • 1 orange, juiced

*Optional ingredients are not counted towards pricing

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

1. Break two eggs into a wide, shallow dish, add a tablespoon of water, a pinch of salt, and pinches of nutmeg and cinnamon. Beat with a fork to mix well.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil (or butter) in a medium-size frying pan until it shimmers. While the oil heats, dip four slices of bread, one at a time, into the egg mixture and turn to coat each slice. Place the bread, two slices at a time, in the pan and cook over medium-low heat until golden brown on both sides. Remove to plates.

3. Add 2 tablespoons butter (butter browns the bananas better than oil) to the pan, heat until it bubbles, then add the sliced bananas and a teaspoon of sugar (or honey) and cook quickly so the bananas turn light brown. If you have any rum, you can add a splash to the bananas now and cook for a minute before adding the orange juice.

4. Add the orange juice, cook a few moments till juice is warm, and spoon the bananas and orange sauce over the French toast. Garnish with chopped nuts if you like.


$5-a-day meal plan

Spinach-rice soup

Makes 6 servings – 40 cents per serving

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 6 cups quick chicken broth (homemade), or 4 cups packaged chicken broth + 2 cups water
  • 3/4 cup arborio rice (or brown or white rice)
  • 1 pound heads of spinach, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese (or romano or pecorino), grated
  • 2 pinches nutmeg

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes (50 minutes if preparing homemade broth)

1. If you will be using homemade broth, use the chicken bones from day 1. If using packaged chicken or vegetable broth, skip to step 2.

2. Add the oil and garlic cloves to a medium-size pot. Cook them over low heat until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and smash the garlic with the back of a cooking spoon.

3. Add 6 cups of homemade chicken broth (or 4 cups of packaged chicken broth + 2 cups of water) and bring to a boil. Place rice in the pot and cook covered over medium-low heat for 7-10 minutes before adding the spinach. You want the rice to be just slightly underdone at this point. Simmer the soup, covered, for about 5 minutes more, or until the rice has given the soup creaminess. Add spinach, which cooks faster, at the last minute.

4. This is a thick soup, but if it seems too thick, add a little water. Check the seasoning but go easy on salt, because the cheese will add more. Last, cover the soup with the grated cheese and an optional two pinches of nutmeg. Replace the lid so the cheese softens, and in half a minute it's ready for dishing up.

Notes: Prized arborio rice imparts a creamy, yet slightly chewy texture to risotto and to this soup, although brown or white long-grain rice can be substituted. Brown rice will take a lot longer to cook, so allow at least 30 additional minutes of cooking time, or else precook it according to package instructions.