I’ve lived most of my adult life thus far on a chronically tight budget, first as an AmeriCorps volunteer (with an $800 per month living stipend), and later, as a Ph.D. student (earning $1200 per month as a research assistant). I LOVE all things cooking- and food-related, but I haven’t been able to shell out the kind of bucks that a lot of good recipes require. Pricey pecorino cheese? Three pounds of wild mushrooms? An entire cup of olive oil in one dish? Please. I have rent to pay (and beer to buy).
To complicate matters further, I’ve become increasingly committed to eating the healthiest, highest-quality foods I can get my hands on, including organic vegetables, legumes, and grains; hormone-free dairy products; and naturally-raised/free-range/grass-fed meats. I am fortunate to live in a city (good old Minneapolis) with a thriving natural foods culture, where high-quality ingredients are widely available. But this stuff doesn’t come cheap.
Over the years, I’ve amassed a collection of recipes, techniques, and tricks that have allowed me to eat good, healthy, and primarily organic food on a relatively small budget. As a vegetarian, I generally ate well on about $40-50 per week, including a couple of pricey staples (such as $10/gallon grass-fed milk). Since I’ve started eating meat, my food costs have gone up to about $50-70 per week, depending on how much meat I eat. Though these numbers might seem high to those shopping in “conventional” supermarkets, they’re actually pretty low for the natural and organic food scene, where prices run (by my estimation) about 1.5 – 3 times the cost of “conventional” ingredients.
I am now gainfully employed, but I still balk at recipes calling for high-priced, luxury ingredients, and I am constantly on the lookout for ways to cut food costs without compromising quality. I believe that good, healthy, from-scratch cooking should be simple, unintimidating, and accessible to everyone, and I have little patience for recipes that are finicky and needlessly-complicated (i.e. recipes that call for 1/3 of a can of beans (seriously??), or leave you with half your cookware in need of washing). I often adapt recipes by substituting less-expensive ingredients or eliminating excessively-complicated steps, and I post my adaptations here.
This blog includes great recipes that are healthy, straightforward, and affordable; strategies for saving on food costs; tips on ingredient substitutions; and other food- and budget-related stuff. Welcome!