You might think you can’t afford to eat well, so you stock your shelves with the cheap and processed stuff, like packaged ramen noodles and Easy Mac. Leanne Brown, a graduate of NYU’s masters program in food studies and policy, however, proves that anyone can afford to eat healthy food every day in her book “Good and Cheap: Eat Well On $4\Day,” a guide to eating nourishing, fresh food a budget.
Brown’s book was created with the 46 million Americans who live on SNAPin mind. It'sthe country’s food stamps program that allows for a daily budget of $4 per person. Though really, it’s for anyone living on a budget looking to eat better, whether you’re a penniless college student a recent retiree.
In “Good and Cheap” Brown argues that limited funds shouldn’t hold you back from eating well because when you’re armed with cooking ability, a dash of creativity, and incorporate a bit of planning, the options are endless.
The book doesn’t illustrate a strict meal plan, but instead provides a diverse range of “simple, real food” options centered on fruits and veggies, which you can then tailor to your own tastes and needs, or use to spark ideas of your own.
It’s got recipes for everything from savory breakfasts, to sauces, to desserts and smoothies. Plus grocery shopping tips, pantry must-haves, kitchen equipment basics and a guide to repurposing leftovers.
Check out three of Brown’s top tips for saving money at the grocery store below — then try out one of her recipes for yourself.
Skip the drinks
You already know soda is just straight-up bad for you, but even fruit juices usually contain a ton of sugar without the benefits of fiber from the whole fruit. When on a limited budget, why spend your funds on something that doesn’t benefit your body?
As Brown writes, “Except for milk, most packaged drinks are overpriced and deliver a lot of sugar without filling you up the way a piece of fruit or bowl of yogurt would.”
So nix the drinks and stick with water. If you’re looking to mix things up a bit or want something a little sweeter, indulge those cravings by throwing in some chopped fruit, making a smoothie, or drinking tea.
Always ask: “what’s in season?”
If you buy fruits and veggies out of season, you’re usually paying more money for lower quality produce, Brown says.
Instead, stick to buying fruits and veggies when it’s their growing season, and look for canned or frozen items when out of season. Brown suggests looking for great deals on quality zucchini near the end of summer, and stocking up on oranges in December and January.
Buy in bulk
When shopping for foods you eat regularly, or ingredients you’ll be able to use in multiple meals, buy in bulk whenever possible, Brown says.
“Buying larger amounts of one item can usually bring down the price per unit. When you’re working within a tight budget, you won’t always be able to afford to shop for the future, but you should do it when you can.”
If you’re a yogurt eater, that’s one item Brown says to always buy in bulk. Instead of buying a few small individual containers with toppings or strange chemical flavorings, just buy buckets of plain yogurt and add whatever fruits or toppings you like.
Though you shouldn’t get too carried away and fill your cart to the rim like you’re stocking up for the apocalypse. If it’s something you won’t be able to finish before it spoils or it’s just more than you actually need, stick with a smaller amount.
Serves 2 - $2.60 per serving
4 cups chopped lettuce
1 cup cooked beans, pulled pork, or ground beef
2 small tomatoes, chopped
½ cup corn kernels, canned or fresh
2 or 3 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup tortilla chips, roughly crushed
¼ cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or queso fresco
¼ cup sour cream or yogurt
juice of 1 lime
saltand pepper, to taste
chopped jalapeño (remove seeds for less heat)
bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1) Mix the lettuce, beans, tomatoes, corn, scallions, tortilla chips, cheese, and any additions in a large bowl.
2) In a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Taste it and adjust the salt, pepper, and lime to your liking.
3) Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Eat immediately, maybe with a few extra chips on the side.
Adapted from Good and Cheap