Good and Cheap Teaches Home Cooks How to Eat Healthy, Inspired Food for Just $4 a Day.
By Samantha Marsh
Eating good food is not always as easy as I would like it to be. My busy life often take precedence over putting a healthy meal on the table, and I end up spending our well-earned dollars on food that is fast, convenient, and much more expensive than I’d like.
There are so many barriers when it comes to food: accessibility of quality ingredients, the prevalence of “food deserts,” increased rates of diet-related illness, etc. In an effort to make sure that a tight budget or a lack of confidence in the kitchen do not get added this list, Leanne Brown has created a cookbook geared specifically for those living on a SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) budget.
The 29-year-old food studies scholar started writing Good and Cheap as a capstone project for her master’s degree in food studies at New York University. Soon, the free PDF (available on her website LeanneBrown.ca/) went viral, and Brown started a KickStarter campaign to fund the printing of hardcopy cookbooks for those without internet access. A huge success online, Good and Cheap will soon be available in print.
The cookbook includes recipes for eating healthy, creative, and delicious meals for under $4 a day—an amount equivalent to the SNAP budget in New York City, where Brown resides. Unlike the uninspired, canned-soup-laden pages of budget cookbooks past, Good and Cheap offers recipes using fresh ingredients that are appealing to everyone. Brown’s tips for eating well on $4 a day include stocking your pantry with items like grains, dried beans, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and spices, and spending little to no money on store-bought beverages.
Good and Cheap is not a vegetarian cookbook, but Brown emphasizes using vegetables as the focus of the dish. Each recipe includes the total price per recipe and per serving. Brown maintains a friendly, nurturing tone throughout, empowering readers and reminding them that they too can cook healthy meals for themselves and their families, no matter what their budget may be.
“Learning to cook has a powerfully positive effect,” Brown says in the book’s introduction. “Good cooking alone can’t solve hunger in America, but it can make life happier—and that is worth every effort.”
This is one of my favorite ways to use roasted cauliflower other than eating it straight. It’s a delicious change from the usual vegetable taco offerings. Just look at all those crunchy bits!
Roasted cauliflower (recipe below)
½ cup cheese, grated
½ to 1 cup salsa (recipe below) or sauce of choice
Warm up the tortillas in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, or on a hot griddle or skillet, or put them in a warm oven covered with a towel while you prepare everything else.
Place 2 or 3 tortillas on each plate and fill with a generous serving of cauliflower.
Sprinkle the grated cheese overtop and drizzle with salsa or sauce of your choice. Enjoy!
2–3 servings, $6 total, $2–$3 per serving
Smoky and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower
Roasted veggies are always delicious, but there’s something magical that happens to cauliflower in the oven. It gets so crispy and nutty, and that flavor is brought out even more with the spices here. I’m happy to just eat a bowl of this for dinner, maybe with an egg on top.
1 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400°.
In a medium-sized roasting pan, arrange the cauliflower pieces and the unpeeled cloves of garlic. Pour the butter over the cauliflower and then sprinkle the spices over the top. Use your hands to thoroughly coat the cauliflower with butter and spices.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how crispy you like the florets. Squeeze the roasted garlic throughout and trash the skins.
Serves 4, $3.40 total, 85 cents per serving
Summertime salsas combine a load of fresh tomatoes with smaller amounts of choice vegetables and fruit. In the winter, cook canned tomatoes for a few minutes first.
Apart from its usual use on tortilla chips and tacos, this salsa is a wonderful topping for fish or chicken, as a sauce for cold noodles, or as a finishing touch on a savory breakfast.
½ medium onion, finely diced
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1 lime, juiced
¼ cup cilantro, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Diced mango, peach, plum, or pineapple
If you like raw onion, go right ahead. Otherwise, take the edge off by simmering the onion with a bit of water in a pan over medium heat. The onion is ready once the water has boiled off. If you aren’t a fan of cilantro, substitute another herb: mint, savory, or lemon balm work well.
Mix the onion, tomato, and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl. Be sure to add enough salt and pepper!
Taste the salsa. You’re looking for a balance of spicy from the peppers, sweet from the tomatoes, and bright and fresh from the herbs and lime juice. If something’s out of balance, add the appropriate ingredient to bring it back into balance.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. Fresh salsa won’t last as long as store-bought salsa because it doesn’t have any preservatives, but it’s so tasty that I’m sure you’ll finish it fast!
Yield: 3 cups, $2.25, 75 cents per cup
Visit LeanneBrown.com to download a copy of Good and Cheap, pre-order a hard copy, or donate to make paper copies of the cookbook available to people without internet access.