7.21.2015

Struggling to Stretch Your Grocery Budget? This Book Might Help.

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day by Leanne Brown

Cookbook, Economics, Budgeting
Ebook/Print (208 pages, WORKMAN)
A perfect and irresistible idea: A cookbook filled with delicious, healthful recipes created for everyone on a tight budget—and a cookbook with a strong charitable component: With every copy of Good and Cheap purchased, a second copy will be given to a person or family in need.
While studying food policy as a master’s candidate at NYU, Leanne Brown asked a simple yet critical question: How well can a person eat on the $4 a day given by SNAP, the U.S. government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program informally known as food stamps? The answer is surprisingly well: Broiled Tilapia with Lime, Spicy Pulled Pork, Green Chile and Cheddar Quesadillas, Vegetable Jambalaya, Beet and Chickpea Salad—even desserts like Coconut Chocolate Cookies and Peach Coffee Cake. In addition to creating nutritious recipes that maximize every ingredient and use economical cooking methods, Ms. Brown gives tips on shopping; on creating pantry basics; on mastering certain staples—pizza dough, flour tortillas—and saucy extras that make everything taste better, like spice oil and tzatziki; and how to make fundamentally smart, healthful food choices.
The idea for Good and Cheap is already proving itself. The author launched a Kickstarter campaign to self-publish and fund the buy one/give one model. Hundreds of thousands of viewers watched her video and donated $145,000, and national media are paying attention. Even high-profile chefs and food writers have taken note—like Mark Bittman, who retweeted the link to the campaign; Francis Lam, who called it “Terrific!”; and Michael Pollan, who cited it as a “cool kickstarter.” In the same way that TOMS turned inexpensive, stylish shoes into a larger do-good movement, Good and Cheap is poised to become a cookbook that every food lover with a conscience will embrace.


A Generalized, Useful Resource (4 stars)

I grew up quite poor. I remember watching my mother slice the moldy parts off of 'government' cheese for sandwiches while things like chips and snack cakes were luxuries I only saw in the lunchboxes of my peers. But if there's one thing growing up mostly in poverty will teach you, it is how to be resourceful and grateful for what you do have... because there is always someone who has much less or does not have the skills to make do with what they do have. With this in mind I was quite eager to see what Brown had put together.

GOOD AND CHEAP has a lot of fantastic information about not just how to prepare food, but when and how to buy it to maximize your budget. Whether you're receiving SNAP benefits or just living on a tight budget as a single-income family there are recipes and information here that will help you eat well and even quite healthfully.

The one area it doesn't seem to hit on that I felt would have been of great use is food allergies. Having discovered earlier this year that my partner is allergic to wheat, rice, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and a host of other inexpensive staples I struggled for several months with horrifying grocery bills trying to find ways to avoid allergens while on a very tight budget. I'd have liked to see some budgeting advice for those who are struggling with food allergies or celiac disease because those conditions affect low income families just as much as those of wealth and alternative foods can be costly.

Overall, while I feel that some of the recipes and ingredients were still a bit unreasonable to expect someone of limited means to get on board with, GOOD AND CHEAP is still a fantastic general resource for anyone who wants to eat well with limited funds. This would make a terrific gift for young adults new to living on their own.



Notes: Review copy received via NetGalley.

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