The Salt

#5DollarChallenge: We Mapped Out The Best Meals You Can Buy For Five Bucks Or Less

Young people want meals that are quick — and also fresh and healthful and interesting.

But can they get all of that for less than five bucks?

Three weeks ago, Youth Radio and NPR asked you to send in pictures of the best meals you can purchase for five bucks or less.

Based on the submissions to the #5dollarchallenge, we're happy to report that a Lincoln can indeed buy quite a lot of deliciousness.

Check out Youth Radio's interactive map for some of your favorite meals from every region of the U.S.

While we applaud those of you who sent in photos of meals you prepared at home with ingredients that cost less than $5, for this map, we chose pre-made meals you can pick up on the fly.

These weren't necessarily healthful meals, though lots of you sent in cheap vegetarian options — which isn't surprising. I'm vegetarian, and whether I'm buying a burrito or a burger, I usually end up paying less than my meat-eating friends.

But people sent in plenty of meaty submissions as well. Alongside all that meat, we also got a lot of burgers, burritos and pizza, which means: bread, bread, bread! Especially since gluten-free meals are a huge trend right now, it was interesting to see so many carb-heavy options.

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On the lighter side, many prepared salads came from grocery stores. This illustrates the "groceraunt" trend — more supermarkets are offering meals we typically expect from sit-down eateries.

There were a handful of breakfast options, consisting of the usual suspects: eggs, bacon and toast.

Some of the most appetizing-looking submissions were foods with origins outside the U.S.: tacos, tikka masala, sushi, fried rice and bahn mi sandwiches. These were some of the heartiest meals available at reduced costs.

However, very few submissions included a beverage. Five bucks can buy a range of food, but this tight budget may leave some of you thirsty. (Of course, tap water is often free.)

Thanks to all who participated in the #5dollarchallenge! And let us know if we left any of your favorite cheap meals off the map on Twitter — tag @youthradio and @NPRFood.

Kasey Saeturn is a reporter with Youth Radio, which produced this story as part of its series Fast Food Scramble with NPR's Sonari Glinton.

Copyright 2016 Youth Radio. To see more, visit Youth Radio.

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