Cooking Creative Wholesome Meals on a Food Stamp Budget

14514671309_1a8bdeeda2_k.jpgHealthy food is gaining ground. Everywhere you look nowadays, there is a steady stream of information touting the benefits of eating well. Those who were once considered the "health nut foodies" of America are now becoming the majority. Gone are the days when McDonald’s slime-burgers reign supreme. While their sales slowly begin to slip, more health-conscious chains, such as Chipotle, are more popular than ever.

Even the larger grocery stores chains are taking note by offering more healthy choices to their consumers, including organic and local products. This is all wonderful news! It means that we (the consumers) have been heard, casting our votes with every dollar we spend on spinach instead of potato chips.

There’s a catch, however, to this newly available abundance in healthy fare. Although it is easier to find these days, such products still come at a steep price. The growing gap between food product price tags and the amount many Americans earn for a living has left an estimated 47 million people on foodstamps.

Recently there have been campaigns such as the Food Stamp Challenge from celebrity chef Mario Batali, which was developed in order to spread awareness about the challenges so many American’s face when it comes to eating healthfully. Self-proclaimed lifestyle guru Gwyneth Paltrow accepted the challenge, famously failing at her attempt to cook for her family on $4 a day. Of course some would say that her failure was in fact a success, by proving the point that it is an almost impossible feat. Almost but perhaps not quite…

Leeanne Brown, a Canadian who moved to New York to earn her master’s in food studies from New York University, noticed the disparity between the amount allotted to lower income families on food stamps and the cost of healthy ingredients. She also looked at the recipe books that normally go along with the federal government's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAPand found them lacking.

So Brown set out to create a cookbook of her own. Good and Cheap offers healthy recipes that are manageable on only $4 a day. She was able to realize her goal by focusing recipes around basics such as canned vegetables, dried beans and spices. Each meal in her cookbook is priced out by serving and Brown emphasizes flexibility when it comes to ingredients such as fresh produce, which tends to fluctuate in price.

Whereas recipe books such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals offer up droll black and white drawings and somewhat preachy ("this is the way you should be cooking") instructions, Brown’s book is a visual feast filled with gorgeous photographs that prompt user creativity.

A recent article in NPR comments,

One page, titled "Leftovers," offers tips on the myriad ways to make good use of old meals, like putting the fixings you originally used to top toast in a wrap or on a pizza, or turning almost anything into a sandwich. Another called "Popcorn!" recommends livening up the familiar snack by adding spices.”

This flexibility allows for creativity in the kitchen as well as a much needed sense of freedom and empowerment, an approach that is often found lacking on a tiny budget.

Browns recipe for Savory Summer Cobbler, for example, features seasonal vegetables of your choice under a peppery biscuit crust.

Free to download online, the book has garnered 700,000 downloads. Brown began a Kickstarter campaign recently to raise $145,000 towards print copies for people without computer access.

Image via Flickr

Sources:

Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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