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Dust off your frying pan and hide your wallet!
March 17, 2010 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Eating healthy on a budget isn't just for hipsters on food stamps. While some have called Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman's ideas about cooking and eating "elitist," there are many cooks who are smart enough to know that cooking at home is the only way to eat healthy on a budget. While Jamie Oliver pledges to give all school children "10 recipes that will save their lives," almost anyone on any budget can change the way they shop for, prepare, and think about food.

Blogs that focus on budget & healthy eating:
Budget Bytes - easy recipes, cost breakdown, some veg-friendly dishes.
Thirty Bucks a Week - vegetarian, weekly receipt breakdown.
Eating Organic on a Food Stamp Budget
Cheap, Healthy, Good - nutrition and cost breakdown, weekly vegetarian focus.
Not Eating Out in NY - cost and health breakdown.
And many, many more in this list of 100 frugal cooking blogs. (Although not all of them with a healthy focus)


Budget challenges:
Savory Sweet Life - United Way Hunger Challenge
Cheap, Healthy, Good - One Week, $25 Challenge - super interesting, provides calorie/fat/cost/time breakdown, also recipes & tips.
Eating healthy on a fast-food budget

General tips and advice for cooking on a budget:
Get Rich Slowly - Healthy cooking on a student budget
Ask Metafilter - Budget ethical gourmet - Best cuisines for a tight budget - Spaghetti twice a day gets old fast - Quick food that isn't fast food

(And of course, you could always grow and preserve your own food, but that is a whole 'nother can of beans.)
posted by sararah (80 comments total) 519 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yay! I love CHG. I'm glad that you spotlighted it here. I get a kick out of eating well on a budget. It means I can afford to splurge every now and again without going into debt.
posted by inmediasres at 3:38 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Fruit and vegetables being, in general, cheaper than processed and over-packaged junk, eating healthily *should* be less expensive than the alternative. However, the two problems are; a) reasonably convenient access to healthy food (i.e. not every neighborhood has a decent supermarket) and b) time (not everyone has time to cook complex meals). Seems to me that b) is less of a factor than a), though, because there are lots of simple-but-healthy dishes you can whip up in less than half an hour.

On preview, throw in c) education. Hell, I was well into my 20s before I realized soda had calories.
posted by you just lost the game at 3:42 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fight's already on.
posted by applemeat at 3:44 PM on March 17, 2010


8 years ago, I ate out roughly 5 days a week and cooked at home 2 days. Between then and now I've pretty much exactly reversed that.

I should really have a go at figuring out how much money I've saved myself with that lifestyle change. I didn't do it for that reason, but it's a great fringe benefit.
posted by gurple at 3:45 PM on March 17, 2010


But on the bright side, you'll see what an energetic topic you picked for an FPP!
posted by applemeat at 3:46 PM on March 17, 2010


applemeat, did you read the FPP?
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:48 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else sick of constantly talking about and thinking about food? This has to be some sort of national disorder.
posted by muddgirl at 3:51 PM on March 17, 2010 [22 favorites]


hooray for non-political-food-wars-hipster-poor people vs. stupid people-filter.
posted by bam at 3:51 PM on March 17, 2010


applemeat, did you read the FPP?

Ugh. Whoops. I'm sorry, sararah!
posted by applemeat at 3:53 PM on March 17, 2010


Could someone do me a favor and mention which ones aren't all "LOSE WEIGHT FATTY?" and don't obsess about calorie counting?
posted by Wuggie Norple at 3:55 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wait, wait.
posted by poe at 3:57 PM on March 17, 2010


I just bought and cooked a chicken last night with the plan to follow CHG's 1 Chicken, 17 Healthy Meals, $26 Bucks, No Mayo
posted by Mick at 3:59 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nicely done. Excellent post, sararah. :)

Now, I'm going home to make dinner.
posted by zarq at 4:04 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is anyone else sick of constantly talking about and thinking about food? This has to be some sort of national disorder.

Historically, 'constantly thinking about food' is the baseline state for humanity.
posted by notswedish at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [18 favorites]


Is anyone else sick of constantly talking about and thinking about food? This has to be some sort of national disorder.

I think it's part of being an animal alive on this planet, and not a disorder at all. Look around you into the animal kingdom. What do you see? Everything alive is either seeking out food or resting from seeking out food. (Well, or fucking, but we'll leave that out for now.) That's pretty much as base as life is here, and we're part of it, not above it or separate.

The trick is to find a way to create food with soul which is good for you, and not have food be a guilt monster or a gorilla in the room nobody is talking about.

And cooking at home REALLY IS CHEAPER. I've reduced the food budget (minus beverages) for our household of two down to well under $100/month. More like $60-70 most of the time. We don't eat fancy, but we eat well. I throw very little away, I don't always cook with leftovers in mind, but I do buy ingredients with overarching meal types being considered. Staples from Costco in 50 lb bags, almost zero prepared foods... It takes time to learn how to get all this stuff to flow properly in one's kitchen, but with practice it can be done and is totally worth the effort. We've never eaten more healthy or spent less on food than we do now.

The trade-off is time. I have been out of work for a while, so I have the time to spend 2 days making soup starting with bones for stock, or I can hit the grocery every day to buy fresh, or whatever. Finding a way to consolidate my time will be the next task in my kitchen management, because I just KNOW the economy is going to turn around and I'll find a job here soon.
posted by hippybear at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is just an excellently crafted post.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2010 [4 favorites]


I for one am hella glad my part of Oakland has such good access to Asian groceries. Best prices around on fresh veg around, plus lots of less common stuff like lemmongrass, bok choy, and really fresh noodles.

At least I can get to real ingredients. Some places like South Central are absolute fresh food deserts.

An hour and a half on the bus, each way, through streets lined with endless fast-food joints selling fried corn and gallon-buckets of HFCS cola for a $1.99, just to find a place that even sells veg? I can see why a lot of people couldn't make that happen several times a week even if they were motivated to.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:08 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and if you didn't get it the first time, Thank you for such a great post sararah.
posted by bam at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2010


Protip: Dried beans and a pressure cooker.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:12 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


The criticisms of Bittman that are quoted (though refuted) at that link, based on the idea that a family with kids wouldn't have time to follow his recipes, are hard to square with his actual writings. Most of his dinner recipes are at least as fast as going to a restaurant. For a cookbook writer, he has a remarkably lenient, laid-back approach to food. It seems like people haven't bothered to read what he says and just enjoy lashing out at a socially/environmentally conscious chef for being elitist.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:12 PM on March 17, 2010


If you don't learn to cook for yourself you'll never eat what you like only what you can accept.
posted by Max Power at 4:14 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


> The criticisms of Bittman that are quoted (though refuted) at that link, based on the idea that a family with kids wouldn't have time to follow his recipes, are hard to square with his actual writings.

Yeah, I don't get the hate for this guy. Kitchen Express is chock full of fast, easy, healthy and cheap recipes. Maybe it's "elitist" in that it's not comprised entirely of variations on meat loaf and pasta with sauce....???
posted by Stonewall Jackson at 4:17 PM on March 17, 2010


At least I can get to real ingredients. Some places like South Central are absolute fresh food deserts.

Fresh & Easy Opens in South Los Angeles.
posted by sideshow at 4:17 PM on March 17, 2010


Oh man, these are great links!

Another food blog that is good is this one, which I love for its enthusiasm (and total disinterest in calorie-counting). There are a lot of exclamation points! And it is inspiring to see so many recipes that are about using whatever vegetable looked excellent at the store to make a tasty dinner.
posted by bewilderbeast at 4:24 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bloody Jamie Oliver, he annoys the shit out of me, but his online recipes are fucking brilliant. And, they are fucking cheap. Cheap if you make a full weeks worth and have to option of freezing four days worth. Of course there are a lot of other great recipes online, but fuckface Oliver's seem to be consistently workable.
posted by Elmore at 4:24 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Fresh & Easy Opens in South Los Angeles.

Nice.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:25 PM on March 17, 2010


Oh yeah, meant to say - great post. Thatnks sararah.
posted by Elmore at 4:25 PM on March 17, 2010


Is anyone else sick of constantly talking about and thinking about food? This has to be some sort of national disorder.

I think what gets to me is the moralistic undertone to much of the discussion. There is constant judgment over how much food, what food, where the food comes from, how much you spent, whether you cooked or not, are you being "healthy" or not.

I used to greatly enjoy cooking but I can't cook anymore and there isn't anyone who can cook for me and my family of disabled people. When I could cook, I would have found many of these links helpful, so I am grateful for good posts like this. But I get how the constant discussion can be wearying.
posted by Danila at 4:40 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


While some have called Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman's ideas about cooking and eating "elitist," there are many cooks who are smart enough to know that cooking at home is the only way to eat healthy on a budget.

Ummm, the people who were calling Bittman's ideas elitist were cooking at home, too. Perhaps "elitist" is the wrong word, but a squeezy thing of lemon juice is both cheaper and easier to always have on hand than fresh lemons. Prepackaged breadcrumbs are easier to buy than to make. Actually cooking up dried beans is a pain in the ass and not worth my time. That is what people were commenting on.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:50 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, if frugality is elitist I for one would welcome some new elite overlords.

Ditto if you replace "frugality" with any of the gustatory, nutritional, social, educational, or recreational benefits of home cooking.

Mmm. Back to my lentil stew. Mmmmmm.
posted by eritain at 4:53 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


On post-view: In "frugality," I definitely include dried beans. Which aren't so bad; they just take planning. Talking of which, I think I'll set those chickpeas to soak.

I'm using lemon juice right now, but fresh lemons actually keep a decent length of time, and they do taste better. So I can understand what Bittman's driving at. I have no patience for doctrinaire "you MUST use only fresh lemon, you ignorant peasant" kinds of guiltmongering, but I take his point.

I am so totally hungry for hummus right now.
posted by eritain at 4:59 PM on March 17, 2010


Danila, I also agree it's a good post as far as how the post is worded. It's some of the links that I find troubling, like those you mentioned (whether you cooked or not, are you being "healthy" or not, junk food tax, etc). I'm sorry you aren't able to do the cooking that you used to be able to do; if I could cook I would cook for you and your family!
posted by Wuggie Norple at 5:01 PM on March 17, 2010


Fantastic. Thank you.
posted by rtha at 5:21 PM on March 17, 2010


Elmore, what's with the hate on Jamie Oliver? He's a great teacher about cooking (I miss his TV show) and has dedicated a lot of time and resources to teaching poor and disadvantaged people about cooking great food. And his recipes, as you point out, are super.

Thanks, sararah, for this fantastic post, BTW.
posted by bearwife at 5:22 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Great post.

I'm currently in an interesting situation with my roommates, who have utterly different ideals than mine, food-wise. They keep telling me that I have "rich man's tastes," but I notice that I spend a good deal less money on food than they do. This is partially because they insist on eating meat with every meal, but the big chunk of it is the major problem in American food, I think: packaged foods. People are frequently tricked into thinking that spending five bucks on a TV dinner or a cardboard box of powdered 'man n cheez' is some kind of good deal, but in fact it's a ridiculous ripoff. In fact, it's just so much cheaper to simply cook food yourself, in a pan or in the oven, and it means eating healthier, too.
posted by koeselitz at 6:10 PM on March 17, 2010


In order to afford the necessities of life, the average family in America needs to have two wage earners. In many scenarios, both parents work over eight hours a week, either with high-pressure full-time jobs, or several part time jobs. An individual or couple with less job-related pressure or fewer kids to raise might find cooking for two every day a fun diversion, but making two or three squares daily for four or more is a different story.

Sure, staples are cheap when you buy at Costco or a market with bulk goods. But a lower-income family may live in an apartment or very small home, and not have much storage space to keep food. Perhaps they have a bigger home, but one in which they have to worry about attracting (or repelling) rodents and bugs. They may not have room for a chest freezer to keep a substantial number of meals or frozen goods ready for all of the family members.

The lower-income family may have a man and a couple of teenage boys to feed. This requires a not insubstantial amount of protein. A tall, active, healthy man or growing teenage boy might well need 100g of protein daily. The serving sizes of "cheap and healthy" recipes are likely to be targeted to daily nutritional needs of women and below-average men, and the real costs to the family are likely to be much greater.

What's so elitist about cooking from scratch? What's so elitist about buying local, organic, or even healthy? Because the economic reality of being an average family in America precludes that family from having the kind of time, money, or facilities to be able to take advantage of the kind of cooking advice Pollan or Bittman give. It's telling that the United Way Hunger Challenge link includes workarounds like getting pizza at Little Caesars and ordering Chinese, things that doubtlessly would make Pollan or the authors of many of these recipes blanche.

If you don't find much of this advice elitist, you might well be one of the elite.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 6:31 PM on March 17, 2010 [6 favorites]


Because the economic reality of being an average family in America precludes that family from having the kind of time, money, or facilities to be able to take advantage of the kind of cooking advice Pollan or Bittman give.

You don't seem to be very familiar with the kinds of cooking advice Bittman gives. Many of his recipes are simple, fast, and straightforward. You can make them in less time, and for less money, than it takes to get equivalent food at a restaurant.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:40 PM on March 17, 2010


I guess the economics part that isn't taught in home ec. Actually, I wasn't taught that at all. Our home ec was more or less 101 ground beef recipes :S Frugality was not emphasized at all.

I find my savings to be all in meal planning. Take an hour to find recipes that will save you the most amount of time, effort and money and then cook them up on a weekend. For example, one trifecta of dishes I often make on a Sunday are beef meat pies, turkey masala meat pies and chili. When you choose dishes that all use similar ingredients, it's easy to chop them up, parse them out and get them all cooking at the same time. Those three all freeze well too.

My husband bought me a Crockpot Trio for Christmas - it's three 2.5 quart Crockpots in a single element. I have five slowcookers now and I could gush all day about them because they're such a handy appliance. They redeem the toughest cuts of meat and do wonders for meat that is slightly freezer burnt.

I spent about $50 Cdn on groceries from Safeway* for my big batch cooking day last Sunday and the inaugural use of the Crockpot Trio. I made cran-cherry bread pudding (6 servings), Hungarian paprikash (about 6 servings) and cooked a $14 roast in the last Crockpot. Better Homes and Gardens has these "Master Meat" recipes where you cook a pork shoulder, roast or chicken thighs and then use the resulting meat for recipes all week. So we had lunches ready for the week and a couple of beef noodle dinners all ready to go for $50 and 2 hours of effort.

*I know Superstore is cheaper than Safeway, but the stores drive me absolutely bonkers.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:45 PM on March 17, 2010


well, that didn't take long. :(
posted by bam at 6:49 PM on March 17, 2010


Excellent post, and lots of great commentary, but there's one part of one comment early on in the thread that I must take issue with, and it's this:

you just lost the game - Fruit and vegetables being, in general, cheaper than processed and over-packaged junk,

Thing is - this just isn't true, certainly not if you look at calories-per-dollar, and certainly not "in general". In a just world, it would be true, hell, it should be true, but the sad truth is - it's not true.

I buy fresh fruit and vegetables for my family all the time, but, homes - fresh fruit & veg ain't cheap.

Both my kids get fresh fruit to take to school with them for snack time. They rotate between carrots, grapes, strawberries and - my son's current favorite - blueberries. Now, granted - in season, locally-grown fruit & veg can be reasonably priced, but for most of the year, and depending on where you live, that's just not practical. But right now, for example, I'm paying $6/lb for blueberries, and I'm not talking about high-end organic heirloom varieties - that's just a regular grocery store - and my kids will easily go through a couple of pounds of blueberries in their snacks in a week. That's $12 - how much cheaper would it be if I gave them junk like potato chips, or cookies?

None of this, by the way, is meant to contradict the larger point that eating at home can be way cheaper and healthier than eating out - but let's be realistic about the price of fruit & veg.
posted by kcds at 6:51 PM on March 17, 2010 [2 favorites]


excellent post.
posted by ms.jones at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2010


I honestly thought that was the funniest thing about the whole hipster stamps debacle. Really? Cooking your own food, with your own hands, in your own kitchen? THAT makes someone elitist?

Also, an aside:

23skidoo > Actually cooking up dried beans is a pain in the ass and not worth my time. That is what people were commenting on

You! 23skidoo! You need a dose of 90 minute no-soak beans, stat! You too, eritain! Total hands-on time is about 3 minutes.

Seriously, that link (which came from somewhere on AskMe) has changed my kitchen habits permanently. The only flaw is that you can't do more than one type of bean at once--the flavours blend and black beans dye everything.
posted by Decimask at 7:10 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


fresh fruit & veg ain't cheap... carrots, grapes, strawberries and - my son's current favorite - blueberries

You're cherry-picking an awful lot there; the fruits you've named are some of the highest per-pound you can get, unless you want to get into the 'exotic' categories. A five pound bag of red delicious apples or a ten pound bag of potatoes is quite cheap. Also, you just lost the game didn't stipulate "fresh."
posted by frobozz at 7:26 PM on March 17, 2010


I couldn't find the 10 recipes....
posted by lathrop at 7:54 PM on March 17, 2010


I EAT TAPAS: “What's so elitist about cooking from scratch? What's so elitist about buying local, organic, or even healthy? Because the economic reality of being an average family in America precludes that family from having the kind of time, money, or facilities to be able to take advantage of the kind of cooking advice Pollan or Bittman give. It's telling that the United Way Hunger Challenge link includes workarounds like getting pizza at Little Caesars and ordering Chinese, things that doubtlessly would make Pollan or the authors of many of these recipes blanche. ¶ If you don't find much of this advice elitist, you might well be one of the elite.”

I get the feeling you don't know what it's like to live poor. Those things don't make me blanche – my roommates eat them all the time, and I must admit that Little Caesar's has some pretty good deals for a single eater – but they're ridiculously expensive when it comes down to it, such that I don't know how United Way can recommend them. My own calculations on Little Caesar's is that their pizzas are generally about $5 to feed a single hungry person. That's fantastic when you're talking bang-for-buck restaurant pizza-type food, but it's atrocious when you're trying to go through the daily grind of getting the right amount of protein.

You're correct that it's hard for a lot of families to get through. But most families have at least a freezer, and most have at least the time it would take to throw together a few meals. What's more, they simply can't afford pre-prepared foods; and if your suggestion is supposed to be that they can't afford the time to prepare meals, I think you're missing the point: that, if it's a struggle between time and money, these folks will likely have more time than the other thing.

And it really is. Made-for-one TV dinners and frozen quick meals are outrageously expensive, pound for pound, and simply don't make economic sense. The only recourse the working poor have is to do some simple, basic home cooking.
posted by koeselitz at 7:58 PM on March 17, 2010


lathrop - sorry, Jamie Oliver mentions the "10 recipes" in his TED talk, but I didn't find a list. Maybe he will talk about this on his new ABC show starting at the end of the month.
posted by sararah at 8:03 PM on March 17, 2010


koeselitz- the blog doing the United Way challenge was not actually from the organization, just someone trying the challenge on their own food blog.
posted by sararah at 8:09 PM on March 17, 2010


The lower-income family may have a man and a couple of teenage boys to feed. This requires a not insubstantial amount of protein.

But, girls? Hey, just give 'em some carrots and a book on unicorns.
posted by regicide is good for you at 8:36 PM on March 17, 2010 [21 favorites]


I live in a country with easy access to cheap and fresh produce.

I had pre-packaged ramyeon for dinner last night. Thing is, I hadn't had it for a while and actually had a hankering for pre-packaged ramyeon.

Damn you, body.
posted by bardic at 8:40 PM on March 17, 2010


I EAT TAPAS -- Uh, you might want to rethink '100 g of protein' requirement. See the CDC's page on recommended protein amounts. Most Americans grossly overestimate how much protein they actually need (and as many proteins come with large quantities of fat, it's easy to eat too many calories).
posted by R343L at 9:07 PM on March 17, 2010


Thing is, I hadn't had it for a while and actually had a hankering for pre-packaged ramyeon.

Actually if you don't have access to an Asian grocery, pre-packaged ramen isn't a bad way to buy noodles, if you just toss the flavoring packet. Of course they're fried and not particularly redeeming from any sort of nutritional perspective, but there are a lot of clever quick recipes you can make with them. (I am partial to doing them with a spicy peanut sauce made from peanut butter, sesame oil, and curry paste.)

It takes — from start to finish — less time than delivery food does to arrive, and costs something around $1/serving depending on whether you get the noodles on 5/$1 sale or regular price, and how big a can of Jiffy you buy.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:08 PM on March 17, 2010


My own calculations on Little Caesar's is that their pizzas are generally about $5 to feed a single hungry person.

A large one topping pizza at Little Caesars has 8 slices, 2250 calories, and costs less than $6 in most areas. That's easily enough to feed 3 people.

Food stamp benefits where I live provide around $500 in vouchers monthly to the most needy, three person families. If Little Caesars pizza could be purchased with food stamps, even the poorest families would be able to eat Little Caesars for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

if your suggestion is supposed to be that they can't afford the time to prepare meals, I think you're missing the point: that, if it's a struggle between time and money, these folks will likely have more time than the other thing.

My suggestion is that in order to afford the increasingly rising costs of housing and medical care, parents in modern lower-income families often work extended hours so as to avoid poverty, which make fast food meals that -- while technically more expensive than the cheapest bulk staples -- are not only inexpensive, but take a minimum of time to coordinate desirable.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 9:09 PM on March 17, 2010


You're cherry-picking [sic] an awful lot there; the fruits you've named are some of the highest per-pound you can get, unless you want to get into the 'exotic' categories. A five pound bag of red delicious apples or a ten pound bag of potatoes is quite cheap

Red delicious are cheap because the industry has ruined them: they look good, but the taste and texture are awful. They're the kind of fruit-product that put people off of fruit entirely. Potatoes are great but we were talking fruits and vegetables.

Unless it's grown not too far away and in season, fresh fruit is expensive.
posted by cogneuro at 9:50 PM on March 17, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is anyone else sick of constantly talking about and thinking about food?

No, it's how you think about food, or thinking about it at all.
posted by porpoise at 10:03 PM on March 17, 2010


I EAT TAPAS: “A large one topping pizza at Little Caesars has 8 slices, 2250 calories, and costs less than $6 in most areas. That's easily enough to feed 3 people.”

Er... I have met these creatures. They are single-serving. You can claim that they're enough to feed three people, but those are some seriously hungry people afterwards; it sure as hell won't feed them. Maybe I'm just a big fat sloppy pig, but I know I'm not the only one here.

“My suggestion is that in order to afford the increasingly rising costs of housing and medical care, parents in modern lower-income families often work extended hours so as to avoid poverty, which make fast food meals that -- while technically more expensive than the cheapest bulk staples -- are not only inexpensive, but take a minimum of time to coordinate desirable.”

I grant that somewhat. But there are a couple of things: first of all, while I know this is routine, I believe firmly that these people could usually exchange the extra time they spend working to afford the slight luxury of fast food if they simply prepared food at home. This would make for a happier and healthier lifestyle; it's not easy, I know, and it takes some know-how to make the leap, but it's better for the family and for the kids. The non-profit I used to work with, a non-profit associated with Denver Juvenile Probation which saw a lot of these kinds of families, made encouraging those kinds of meals a big priority, because it's one very large shift you can make in a family dynamic when you make the kitchen more central in the family life.

Second, I really wish more was done to counteract this. Fast food ought to be placed under more restrictions that require it to remain healthy. There are some movements to do this in California, but unfortunately the American system hates regulatory measures passionately. However, it's something I think we need to do if we want to improve the health of those on the low end of the economic scale.
posted by koeselitz at 10:43 PM on March 17, 2010


cogneuro: A potato is a vegetable. And many types of apples and oranges are sold cheaply by the bag; if you're too good for them I really don't know what to tell you. Nobody is saying the best of the best is the cheapest. They're saying buying fruits and vegetables to make your own meals is often cheaper than eating pre-prepared food, which is true.
posted by frobozz at 11:41 PM on March 17, 2010


A potato is a vegetable.

Yeah, forget the blueberries. Just send the kids to school with a raw King Edwards in the lunchbox.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:10 AM on March 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Heh. Bearwife, I can't speak for Elmore specifically, but most of the Jamie Oliver hate stems from a persona that he used for his first show.
Jamie Oliver The Guy Who Pressures Governments About Rubbish School Food, Jamie Oliver The Guy Who Runs a Charity That Tries to Get Really Fucked Up Kids Jobs in Kitchens, Jamie Oliver The Guy That Makes Pretty Great Food, etc...nobody hates that guy.
The mockney jackass that he played on The Naked Chef, though, that guy needed a swift ass-kicking. Even if they realise it was just a character, a lot of people's first response when they see him is still "Man, that guy needs a swift ass-kicking," just based on their initial impressions of him.
posted by Kreiger at 3:58 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I only vote for candidates who eat low-protein gruel. Anyone who eats otherwise clearly thinks they're better than me, and thus NOT FIT TO LEAD.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:58 AM on March 18, 2010


Thank god for this. My dinner 5 days in a row has been black beans, tortillas, avacado, cheese, hot sauce. FIVE DAYS.

My poor son's meals (he's 15 mo) has consisted of pancakes/fruit for breakfast, fruit for snack, a ground meat/veggie or pasta for lunch and dinner. EVERY DAY. He probably hates us by now.
posted by stormpooper at 6:20 AM on March 18, 2010


but most of the Jamie Oliver hate stems from a persona that he used for his first show.

Agreed. I used to loathe Jamie Oliver. His first show was unbearable because it was promoted as Jamie Oliver: Sexy Manchef and used a lot of MTV camera angles and quick cuts. Then awhile back someone bought me his book Jamie At Home and it's frankly pretty fantastic. Lots of recipes built for home gardeners and people who hunt and fish, not overly complex or requiring special cookware, great pictures, just very well done. A little preachy occasionally, but it's nothing compared to fucking Alice Waters endless moralizing.

Also, Thirty Bucks a Week is a fantastic website.
posted by electroboy at 6:58 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just throwing this out there: Grits by RZA.
posted by mike_bling at 8:58 AM on March 18, 2010


The one thing that has helped me drop my food costs lately is a baking stone. I've been learning to make really good homemade bread (oh, and yes, pizza) and this has been a very worthwhile investment. I'm also fortunate to live in an area where we have several Mexican-oriented supermarkets, meaning much more affordable produce. Lately I've been learning to cook my own tomato sauces, how to use tomatillos, and a few other tricks. The amount of processed food out of a box, jar, or can that we have eaten lately has dropped to near zero.

I definitely understand the argument that produce can be expensive. Before I discovered the wonders of Food City and El Super, I had been doing most of my shopping at Fry's (part of the Kroger group of stores.) I'd mostly given up on produce since it was so expensive. Now my kitchen is stocked with fresh fruits and veggies, and I'm usually able to come out with three or four grocery bags stuffed with produce for under ten bucks. Unfortunately, there are a lot of areas where Mexican or Asian grocery stores simply aren't an option.

As for Red Delicious apples - yeah, I hate 'em. If that makes me elitist, so be it. But since I've started using fresh fruits in my cooking and baking and snacking, I've discovered how lousy those apples are. They're useless for making applesauce because of their high water content; if I run them through the food mill, I get apple soup instead. For snacking, the lack of good crunchiness combined with the flavor just makes them bleh. I'll spend a few cents more and get the Galas for snacking, the Granny Smith for pies, and the Braeburns for applesauce. I love to dice up apples and sprinkle them with cinnamon and a bit of sugar.
posted by azpenguin at 9:11 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, excellent post sararah.

Mick's CHG link about the chicken is great too, especially if you're not used to cooking that way. Leftovers can easily be extended into meals that are miles away from what you started out with. That was exactly how my Mum cooked, and it wasn't until I moved out that I realised that people threw leftovers away...it still bothers me when my flatmates do it, years later.
posted by Kreiger at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2010


I just discovered Your Dekalb Farmer's Market this weekend. There's a MARTA (rapid transit) station right across the street, so it's accessible to the masses. Lots of organic and locally grown groceries and VERY reasonable prices.

For me I had to schlep to the other side of the world, but I was very impressed and I plan on returning next week.

It wasn't a typical farmers market, no individual stalls. It was more like a VERY CROWDED grocery store. You push a basket, (and many baskets are pushed into YOU!)

You do have to work with your groceries once you buy them. In buying organic chickens, I had to buy the whole bird and cut them up when I got home. They have boneless, skinless breasts, but not organic. I had to shell my own shrimp, but I had lots of choices of wild caught shrimp, both size, color and origin.

You pay at a cashier, so they might take food stamps. (I don't know for sure.)

Prior to this I was a big coupon advocate, but I didn't spend any more than I would have for regular groceries at Kroger or Publix. Certainly my organic chicken at $5.45 per pound was more expensive than the .99 cent chicken breast at Kroger, but my total bill was less.

I don't mind cooking, so the extra time in the kitchen to cook from scratch isn't a deterrent. I also second that emotion for the Crock Pot. So easy to use! So inexpensive to buy!

I do believe that sustainable farming is important, and I'm willing to travel and to eat differently to put my money where my mouth is.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:34 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Looks like Jamie Oliver will be adding recipes when his series starts up in a few weeks, there is a placeholder for them on his website. It will be interesting to see how that show goes!

A few more links:
Cooking on a Budget from Allrecipes.com, includes tips on cooking for one, cutting up a whole chicken instead of buying parts, etc.
Budget cooking from Simply Recipes
Some great links on the Simply Recipes blog, including one to the SanFran Food Bank's $3/Day Hunger Challenge.
posted by sararah at 10:53 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


We are pressed for time; I work two jobs and Spouse works full time++, and we have a middle-schooler during the week.

We typically cook 5 days a week, in the manner of the elitist Bittman-Pollan conspiracy. While time is always tight, if this kind of cooking is a priority, you make it work. You learn what you can get going in the morning before you take off for the day. You become clever with modulating prep and leftovers throughout the week. This isn't just dinner; it is often lunch the next day, too.

Of course there are very real time and budgetary constraints on what people can do, but I think part of this is a headspace problem. If you want to eat real food that you've made yourself, you may have to re-evaluate how you spend your time and money.

Also: a cocktail or aperitif during cooking is the best.
posted by everichon at 11:06 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


sararah, what a terrific post. You rock!
posted by blucevalo at 11:16 AM on March 18, 2010


His first show was unbearable because it was promoted as Jamie Oliver: Sexy Manchef and used a lot of MTV camera angles and quick cuts.

Yes, it was pretty cringe-inducing, agreed, but I had a guilty case of the hots for him, especially when he was dribbling food in his mouth and making grunting noises, so it didn't much matter.
posted by blucevalo at 11:19 AM on March 18, 2010


if this kind of cooking is a priority

I think this part is really key, and also why some people (like me) who don't have a lot of food competence (I would guess that I fail Ellyn Satter's factor #4) sometimes get annoyed by the whole conversation that seems to place a moral imperative on "this kind of cooking". Do I love that my husband is unemployed an can make delicious but time-consuming meals? Yes, absolutely. Would I rather he had a job, even if that meant we ate grilled cheese sandwiches instead? Yes, absolutely.

So I guess I'm glad these sorts of resources are out there for people who want to cook on little time, but I'm sad that it's become this ethical issue where those of us who don't like to cook are looked down on because we eat pasta and take-out.
posted by muddgirl at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, it was pretty cringe-inducing, agreed, but I had a guilty case of the hots for him, especially when he was dribbling food in his mouth and making grunting noises

As I was writing that I was thinking "You know, Nigella Lawson's show wasn't all that great and you still watched it." So yeah, understandable.
posted by electroboy at 11:40 AM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the food conversation is almost guaranteed to annoy almost everyone at some point because it combines all the things people are sensitive about (class, environmental issues, body image, health, corporations, politics, etc) combines it with a lot of unsolicited advice and makes value judgments about how you should spend your free time.
posted by electroboy at 11:50 AM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I never understood the hate for Jamie Oliver. His early shows taught me how to cook. He made his recipes simple enough for a beginner to understand and demonstrated them clearly. He also explained how adjusting ingredient amounts would alter the flavour, which might be obvious to many, but as someone who would measure 3 tablespoons of soy sauce very carefully it was a stunning revelation. I still maintain that chucking a couple of extra red chillies into his 'Shrimp with chilli, parsley, ginger and garlic on toast', from "Happy Days with...", and the subsequent amount of white wine the girl I cooked it for drank is responsible for our entire marriage.
posted by IanMorr at 3:49 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I never understood the hate for Jamie Oliver.

He suffer from mutation of Bono Syndrome, except in this case it compels him to save white kids from doughnuts.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:19 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I never understood the hate for Jamie Oliver." He's hateful because there is no statistical relationship between income and nutrition. Poor people eat as well as rich people, just with less variety. One could argue that *only* poor people really know how to cook; there is no 'middle-class' cuisine, just varied fashionable reproductions of the cuisines of, typically, the working classes of a variety of other countries, while emphasising authenticity or exoticism.

But Jamie Oliver flies in the face of evidence and makes money by showing cherry-picked poor people how to 'better themselves' by teaching them how to cook peasant dishes from some other country. Which is televised for the entertainment of middle-class viewers who interpret it as evidence of their moral superiority.

I think that a lot of things that your typical middle-class individual believes about food are based on self-affirming beliefs, bigotry justified as common sense. In the context of MeFi discussions, these posts about food always turn into affirmations of conformity - conspicuously demonstrating agreement with the values and beliefs and practices held as self-evident by those who feel they belong to the dominant status group - and the policing of these values, which sometimes extends beyond Metafilter into places it's not welcome.
posted by chrisgregory at 5:19 PM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


He's hateful because there is no statistical relationship between income and nutrition.

Woah, there. There's a bit of a (pdf) problem with your premise.

Second sentence, first link: "Low income is associated with poor nutrition at all stages of life"

Further down the same para: "These problems arise primarily because parents do not have enough money to spend on food, not because money is being spent unwisely."

You will be hard-pressed to find a better source than that first link, and impossibly pressed to find a better source refuting its thesis.

You can make an argument against Jamie Oliver - if you like - for a variety of reasons, but claiming poverty and malnutrition is a feel-good bourgeois conspiracy is frankly nonsense, and flies directly in the face of about thirty years worth of peer-reviewed nutrition research.

I find equally bizarre your characterisation that promoting recipes from other cultures is somehow inherently snobby or wrong.
posted by smoke at 8:14 PM on March 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


As for the Bittman/Oliver hate, my wife, who hates cooking, is fascinated by Oliver, and basically introduced me to him. On his show, he made cooking look fun and exciting, and his books are actually pretty well written, and have a lot of good advice. With Bittman, maybe on his blog he's pretty preachy, but in the books of his I've got (How to Cook Everything and The Best Recipes in the World), recipes are usually accompanied with the "right way" to do it, and then with Bittman's note on how to make it easier, take less time, or what you can substitute out if you can't find it. His cookbooks are some of the most laid back I've seen.

I understand time constraints, lack of money, difficulty in securing transportation as an obstacle for home cooking. I grew up on food stamps while my mother raised us on her own. One of the things that helped her get by was that she taught my sister and I to cook as early as she thought we could handle it. Kids don't need to know how to braise ox-tails, but there's no reason why a kid can't learn a couple simple recipes that allow them to help out around the house. Not only do they learn a valuable skill, it's a huge chance to allow a kid to feel proud of themselves. I'll never forget the first time I made shabbat dinner, and hearing from my mother and sister how good they thought it was.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:06 AM on March 19, 2010


Bearwife, that's funny. Most of my post was praise for Oliver. As said above, I like his recipes - they are from scratch, easily done, great tasting, and relatively inexpensive compared to jars or canned goods of the same. He's also a self loving monkey, who plays up the monkey part as his own branding thing. He puts his name on worthless blobs of plastic with plastic balls inside for mixing up salad dressing. He does a show about how we should all eat from our garden, and has a gardener producing amazing heirloom vegetables that are completely infuckingpossible to actually buy unless you own the jet you need to travel to markets around the world to get them. Other than that, he's ok.
posted by Elmore at 3:52 PM on March 19, 2010


correction: imfuckingpossible
posted by Elmore at 3:53 PM on March 19, 2010


I, too, am possible.
posted by everichon at 4:21 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


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