Open Thread

It has been cold and rainy the last couple of days, and the reports claim we might get snow, so like every normal rural American I rushed off to the liquor store the grocery store to get some essentials. I found a roaster chicken for about six bucks, and thought what better than a roast chicken tonight and then some good chicken soup for the next upcoming days. So I picked up a couple onions, a bag of carrots, some celery, some long grain rice, and some peas, and went home. Total purchase cost- less than twelve bucks.

Got home, roasted the chicken, had a little for dinner and butchered the rest for sandwiches and maybe a little chicken salad. Then boiled the carcass to get all the yum out of it, picked the meat off, threw all the veg in, and am letting it simmer for a while. I’ll freeze most of it and gnosh on it for probably the next week or so.

It made me wonder, has anyone ever assembled a cookbook for people on low income budgets that is free? Something that could be just given out at food pantries or soup kitchens or other likewise locations to give people who may not know how to budget and stretch their money? It sounds like the kind of collaborative project we could do here. I’ll set up the website, and I’m sure you all can come up with good, cheap, nutritional recipes, and I guarantee that someone in the readership is a nutritionist who could review the recipes and make them more healthy or highlight potential allergen problems.

It would be a complex project to undertake in the sense of collating all the recipes, but there are so many free resources we could use to do this. We could just use blogspot as the initial starting point blog, and people could even, were they willing, upload videos of themselves making the meals to youtube. Once we have enough recipes, we could even consolidate them into an easy to access .pdf file which would cost nothing for people to download.

With so many people going hungry and so many people becoming obese because eating healthy is harder when you are poor than just eating four 1$ McDoubles every day, and with food stamps and other types of welfare not going very far for people, this could be something really helpful. Maybe something like this has been done before, but I think we could do it better, and given the culinary talents of so many readers here, we could do it in a way that kids could enjoy a variety of tasteful meals that are not only inexpensive, but delicious, nutritious, and stretch the budget.

Just an idea. What do you all think? Could we do something meaningful and useful? Would any of you be interested in volunteering your time doing something like this? It wouldn’t address the most urgent problem that Michelle Obama has been working on, which is that many poor people simnly have no access to grocery stores and fresh food, but it might help a little. And helping a little is just the first step to helping a lot.

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164 replies
  1. 1
    Comrade Jake says:

    I posted this below, but a bunch of political/media folks in my twitter feed are applauding CNN for scooping Jake Tapper from ABC. Apparently the bar for excellence in journalism these days is pretty fucking low.

  2. 2
    Don says:

    Great idea. Should we make estimates for the cost, as well? Make use of the minimum of utensils and cookware? I’m in. FWIW…..

  3. 3
    JPL says:

    I wrote a long answer and erased it… Short answer yes…

  4. 4

    I think it’s a great idea. Unfortunately, my stove has been registered as a lethal weapon, so I can’t contribute recipes, but count me in in any other way I can help.

  5. 5
    Cassidy says:

    I’m in.

  6. 6
    ninja3000 says:

    “gnosh” ????

  7. 7
    lumpkin says:

    You are a good guy, John.

  8. 8
    rosalind says:

    delurking to say “hell yes!!!” have several simple recipes ready to go.

  9. 9
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    I have a couple of recipes from my days as a poor unemployed student that I could contribute.

    Q: You have one dollar. Your motorcycle has a bent pushrod. You need to eat. Both the pushrod and a bag of rice cost one dollar. Which do you purchase?

    A: Why,the pushrod of course!

  10. 10
    CaliMatt says:

    ‘nother lurker seconding this. awesome idea!!!

  11. 11

    Seems like a good idea. I learned how to cook when I lived in Honduras. I learned how to make the kick-assiest vegetable spaghetti sauce ever to be seen or eaten by mankind–but I don’t mean to boast. Also vegetable soup. The only thing is that we bought all our vegetables at the town market, and I don’t know how fresh vegetables would be here for a lot of people. Still, I’d be happy to throw in my recipe–such as it is.

  12. 12
    Violet says:

    If it’s going to be given away free at food banks, the essential portions will need to be in print. A lot of poor people don’t have internet access at home, so they couldn’t get to that PDF in the kitchen if they forgot to download it somewhere when they not only had internet access but also had access to a printer.

    The family I’m contributing to helping this Christmas has no internet access except for the kids at school. There’s no grocery store nearby either. Nothing but a dollar store a few blocks away and a corner store.

  13. 13
    Don says:

    @Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason: Daughter unit reported getting off the Metro in Paris, while a student there, facing the decision point – “Laundry, or dinner?” Dinner usually won.

  14. 14
    Rosie Outlook says:

    I’ll help! Maybe we should concentrate on recipes that can be made on a hot plate; really poor people may not have access to a stove. You could have simmered your chicken in a pot on a hot plate.

    I always thought charities should give poor people crock pots, too. Then their crock pot could be cooking real, nutritious food while they are out working their 2 or 3 McJobs.

  15. 15
    Joel says:

    One thing that has been very helpful for my wife and I is a set of recipes that we know basically by heart that are quick and relatively easy to make. They also tend to be very flexible.

    Things like pizza and bibimbap. The former requires a pizza stone (we use a Stoughton Steel to bake ours) but the latter does not require a rice cooker. In fact, we cook our rice in the microwave. It just takes a little experimentation.

  16. 16
    John Carter says:

    Amazon sells the “More for Less Cookbook” for around 10 bucks. Not free but worth the money. I’ve seen it and it’s very good.

    Here’s the url:

    More for Less Cookbook

    http://www.amazon.com/More-Wit.....083619263X

  17. 17
    imonlylurking says:

    Yes, definitely. One-pot meals would be a plus-a lot of the crock pot cookbooks are WAY too high in sodium.

    It would also be a good idea to have some basic menu planning. I guarantee you, there are people who would never think of buying a whole chicken and using the leftover carcass to make soup.

  18. 18
    curiousleo says:

    Couple of thoughts. You’re a good guy for thinking about this.

    One thing you’ve got going for you is time to do the roasting & chopping & soup making. People w/ a bunch of kids and multiple jobs likely don’t have that sort of time.

    There’s a blog budgetbytes that tries to break down the cost of various foods and shows step by step recipes.

    All that said, I think your idea is one worth exploring. Check with your local food bank/pantry to see what they’ve done or have thought about doing in this regard.

  19. 19
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Soundds good for a chilly night, John.

    Next time,before you start cooking down the bones, roast them in the oven first. You may be amazed at the additional depth of flavor in the soup.

    Oh, and fuck CNN and Tapper.

  20. 20
    John Carter says:

    Oops! That’s supposed to be:
    More WITH Less Cookbook!

    Sorry!

  21. 21
    Violet says:

    @John Carter: Oh my goodness. I own an ancient copy of that cookbook. It’s awesome. When I lived in the middle of nowhere, it’s the cookbook that helped me feed myself. Highly recommended.

  22. 22
    Rosie Outlook says:

    P.S. we can has Lily and Tunch, please? And what about Rosie? You didn’t kill her and bury her in the back yard, did you?

  23. 23
    Tod Kelly says:

    We’ve been doing this the past few months with our Cheap Ass Gourmet series, for all of the exact same reasons.

    http://ordinary-gentlemen.com/.....ed-greens/

    I would certainly volunteer my time or whatever else you might need done for such an endeavor.

  24. 24
    curiousleo says:

    @Rosie Outlook: Very good point about not every one having access to stove/oven. Of course, not everyone will have access to a reliable freezer, either.

  25. 25
    Violet says:

    @curiousleo: Not everyone even has a microwave. That’s one of the things our family has requested for Christmas.

  26. 26
    Chris Wolf says:

    Hey, I’d like to see a grocery store that caters to us single folks. Especially in the meat aisle. I don’t need 10 thin sliced chicken cutlets…two would do fine. I’d like to see a single New York strip steak sitting there waiting to be scooped up. Would it kill the bastards to cut a London Broil in half? I can only assume that it would.

  27. 27

    I’m in. My mother could buy a pound of ground beef (hamburger to you Americans) and stretch it to a week of meals. I know how to do this.

  28. 28
    JPL says:

    no ramen noodles.. there is to much salt.
    John is correct about grocery store roasted chicken because they can be used for several meals. You can take a can of beans, a lime and a few herbs and with a food processor make lo-cal almost refried beans. Now add the leftover chicken, tortillas and voila you have a pretty healthy meal.
    The bones can always be used for broth. Add an onion for flavor and freeze the broth for use later on.

  29. 29
    Corner Stone says:

    @Chris Wolf: I’ve been asking the meat market manager to cut the portions down to what I want. I agree with you on this whole “family package” sizing for every damn thing.
    They never seem to mind and I haven’t heard a cross word when I ask to get a half pound of something.

  30. 30
    J.W. Hamner says:

    We could do a Food Stamp Challenge I guess… or try to figure out meals to feed X number of people for less than Y dollars.

    Though making food that costs less than McDonalds or whatever is actually pretty hard… you have to get things on sale, buy in bulk, and hit the coupons hard.

    Still it’s an interesting idea, and I’d be happy to participate in some form or fashion.

  31. 31
    Garbo says:

    I love this idea. I have software that can generate a nutrition label from a recipe, so we have that covered if a nutritionist can set guidelines. I think we can have sections for different cooking methods: hot plates, slow cookers, microwaves, etc.

    Does anyone have a contact at a food kitchen who can advise on distribution?

  32. 32
    Brother Shotgun of Sweet Reason says:

    @Don: Mais oui. Dinner beats laundry. Pushrod beats dinner. Sorta like rock-paper-scissors?

  33. 33
    Narcissus says:

    Now I want a roast chicken.

  34. 34
    Linus Pickle says:

    Definitely. I have a few recipes up my sleeve that are 1) inexpensive 2) pretty healthy and 3) don’t require fancy equipment (though I should note that Megan McArdle’s thousand-dollar blender is very effective at turning any dish into a bland, uniform paste that can then be sculpted into a bust of Andrew Sullivan. But that’s only if you want to get really fancy!)

  35. 35
    Linus Pickle says:

    Definitely. I have a few recipes up my sleeve that are 1) inexpensive 2) pretty healthy and 3) don’t require fancy equipment (though I should note that Megan McArdle’s thousand-dollar blender is very effective at turning any dish into a bland, uniform paste that can then be sculpted into a bust of Andrew Sullivan. But that’s only if you want to get really fancy!)

  36. 36
    JPL says:

    @J.W. Hamner: McDonald’s is expensive, imo. The key is to have a freezer where you can buy a roaster chicken and freeze the leftovers. Most refrigerators have large freezers but most is not what some folks have.

  37. 37

    @Chris Wolf:

    My local store Food Lion has single steaks vacuumed packed, they also sell the Purdue single chicken breasts vacuum packed. It seems to me that they would be ideal for you.

  38. 38
    JPL says:

    hahahahahaahhaha plan b vote is delayed…

  39. 39
    Rosie Outlook says:

    I miss those half egg cartons. I’m the only one here who eats eggs and it can be hard to use a dozen before they start to float. (I buy the omega-3 eggs and they don’t seem to keep as long as the more plebeian eggs, but they are still worth it because they taste more like “real,” non-factory-farmed eggs.

  40. 40
    curiousleo says:

    @Violet: Yeah, I should have included a microwave w/ the other appliances I listed.

    I think we’re in agreement that a bit of thought needs to go into what tools might be available for the target audience. Whatever the target audience is.

    That’s why I suggest John Cole check with his local food pantry or shelter + food kitchen to see what they might suggest and what they’ve done in the past.

  41. 41
    FoxinSocks says:

    Fantastic idea!

  42. 42
    curiousleo says:

    @Rosie Outlook: Both of the grocery chains in my area sell egg 6packs.

  43. 43

    @curiousleo:

    My stove died years ago. I got sick of replacing them and instead chose to replace it with a two burner cooktop, a toaster oven and a rotisserie (all bought from the thrift store), I have since upgraded to a kick ass convection oven (bought from Goodwill for $8.99) which includes a rotisserie. There is NOTHING I cannot cook right now, including a full Thanksgiving dinner.

  44. 44
    Rosie Outlook says:

    One more thing. How is literacy among poor Americans these days? In the ’90’s’ the last time I paid attention to the subject, it wasn’t so great. Maybe a giveaway DVD would be better than a booklet?

  45. 45

    Along this line, and this might be beyond what we here at this humble blog can do, but there ought to be some kind of pressure group or lobbying group raising a stink about how hard it is for a lot of poor people to get fresh fruit and vegetables. Stores in poor neighborhoods or town often have truly awful vegetables and fruit, old and in bad shape, and what they do have costs a lot. Is there something even we goofs here could do to get a movement going? Or is there already something going on this?

  46. 46
    BH in MA says:

    I once bought two chickens from BJ’s at $0.89 per pound, took them home, took them apart (breasts, thighs, legs, wings) and made stock with the carcasses. I then weighed everything and compared what I had (3/4 gallon of stock, x pounds of breasts, y pounds of thighs, etc.) to what it would cost me in the store and discovered that for $10 worth of chicken and vegetables I had “created” almost $30 worth of groceries. A huge percentage of that was the stock and that’s made from the parts that most people throw away, tired vegetables from the fridge and water that comes out of the faucet, practically for free. So $10 turns in to $20 with 15 minutes of knife work and another $8 or $9 is conjured from “garbage” and water.

  47. 47
    Raven says:

    Sure. So much cajun and soul food evolved from the necessity of using everything. Some of it is healthy and some is not but the essentials of preparation can be combined with healthy ingredients.

  48. 48
    WaterGirl says:

    Count me in.

    A couple of ideas…

    Maybe someone here could write a grant to get funding for printing our cookbook for free distribution at food banks.

    What about a tandem project, where individuals could “sponsor” a crock pot that could be handed out, as well?

  49. 49
    charlie matthews says:

    De-lurking to mention that this is a good idea, but you might want to check out this free pdf to see if it fits your idea. I think they focused more on simple than cheap, but the two often go hand in hand.

  50. 50
    Cameron says:

    There’s an organization here in PA dedicated to just that, the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network (http://panen.org/). Their annual meeting comes up in Harrisburg this spring, and I’d strongly urge anybody interested in this issue to attend (I’ve been to a couple of them, since I work in hunger relief – they’re well worth it).

  51. 51
    John Cole says:

    @Tod Kelly: Sounds great. We could combine forces!

  52. 52
    Raven says:

    @Zapruder F. Mashtots, D.D.S.: Our local farmer’s market is as expensive as shit but they have a program where people on SNAP can get 2 for 1.

  53. 53
    Cameron says:

    What in the world did I do to get into moderation? All I did was mention the Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network.

  54. 54

    Also too. Did you know that while the conventional wisdom is that you should never feed chicken bones to dogs is correct, it is actually you should never feed raw chicken bones to a dog. Turns out if you have a slow cooker, you can put the carcass in there with water, put that sucker on low for a couple of days and the bones will literally dissolve into jelly and not only be harmless to your dogs (or cats) but actually be very nutritious. Fun fact.

  55. 55
    WaterGirl says:

    Also, for about a year now i have been thinking it would be great to do a Balloon Juice book (or more than one, maybe one for cats & one for dogs) that would be like this book:

    Found Dogs

    The proceeds from the book could go to fund this cookbook (and maybe also crockpot) project.

    If you click the link you’ll go to the amazon page, you can see the first few pages of the book to get a feel for what I have in mind. Basically it’s just a photo and a story about the person and the pet on each page.

  56. 56
    Cameron says:

    See panen.org

  57. 57
    Raven says:

    @WaterGirl: Cool, my knuckleheads could make it!

    You gettin snow?

  58. 58
    PeakVT says:

    It wouldn’t address the most urgent problem that Michelle Obama has been working on, which is that many poor people simnly have no access to grocery stores and fresh food,

    It would do more than you think. Access is a problem, but knowing what to cook is also a problem. A lot of poor Americans are just not very educated about food or cooking.

  59. 59
    Rosie Outlook says:

    @WaterGirl: That’s great!

    I wonder if it would be possible to give cooking lessons at a food pantry when people come there to shop?

    And don’t forget frozen veggies. IF you have a freezer and not much money they are better than fresh because you don’t have to worry about any portion of your purchase spoiling before it can be used.

  60. 60
    Sarah says:

    I’d like to help with this. I’m a personal trainer with a lot of experience helping people with easy meals and nutrition.

    One caution, from a New Yorker: our mayor has established very strict rules about nutrition and there might be some blowback about distributing something like this without signoff from the city. But in smaller places, I think it could be a great help to people.

  61. 61
    Tod Kelly says:

    @Garbo:

    Wow. Do you mind sharing what the name of the software is? I would love to a copy.

  62. 62
    Jay S says:

    @JPL:

    You can take a can of beans, a lime and a few herbs and with a food processor make lo-cal almost refried beans

    You don’t really need a food processor. I’ve done this with a potato masher. It does require time though. Especially if you cook dry beans to start.

  63. 63
    YellowJournalism says:

    That all cost you under twelve bucks? Lucky! Up here that would have cost me twice as much.

    I really can’t contribute because I’m a terrible cook, but I support any and all efforts to make the meals as kid-friendly as possible. This is something I know all families with small children struggle with, and it’s a huge factor in low-income families, especially.

  64. 64
    Rhubarb says:

    Count me in. Certainly for recipes.

  65. 65
    NotMax says:

    Gnews flash: No ‘g’ in nosh.

  66. 66
    Garbo says:

    @Tod Kelly: it’s called Recipecalc. You can get it at:

    http://www.recipecalc.com/

  67. 67
    Jill says:

    Yes, please count me in. Would love to help in any way I can.

  68. 68
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Rosie Outlook:

    Hmm. If it’s that much of a concern, I would lean towards doing a book with pictures rather than a DVD, because then you start to enter the realm of people who may not have DVD players (or TVs, for that matter).

  69. 69
    jl says:

    I think it’s a good idea, but have no idea what kind of recipe I could contribute. But I will try to think of something besides the usual, and ask around. If that doesn’t work, look for a bean stew recipe from me.

  70. 70
    fleeting expletive says:

    I worked at HUD in the seventies and coordinated with Department of Agriculture staff to disseminate their materials to public housing authorities. Back then, they had people whose job it was to sign people up for food stamps if they were eligible. They had great one-page handouts with shopping lists and recipes for tenants, in Spanish and English, I’ve still got a notebook of those in a box somewhere in the chaos that is my garage.

    Thing is, even then, it was like these folks had to be on the DL, doing something as subversive as trying to feed and educate poor people–they kept a low profile.

  71. 71
    parsimon says:

    Violet makes good points at 12 — this would have to be in print, maybe with online text/demonstrations to back up.

    As others have mentioned, check with local food banks; I’m almost positive that they’ve thought along these lines already, and may be providing recipe cards and such.

    The lack of equipment and time is a real issue. Anything that calls for 3 hours of endeavor is probably going to be a non-starter.

    There have been blogs on this, I almost think, focusing on how to cook when you have just a hotplate, one pot, maybe a skillet and forks and a knife, but not much else. Simple, simple, simple, and quick, as well as versatile. Recipes often wind up being vegetarian — think lentils — because you can’t preserve the food for long. Like camping.

  72. 72
    me too,also says:

    AN EVERLASTING MEAL by Tamar Adler is what you are looking for. great read and information.
    highly reecommended.

  73. 73
    Busy Body says:

    I am also a longtime reader delurking. I am an assistant manager at a foodbank in the Pacific Northwest. Let’s say that we live at the end of a very long dirt road. This is a wonderful idea and I would like very much to contribute to a cookbook. I know what kind of food comes into a foodbank like ours and the quantities that go out. Some of our people live off the grid or can’t afford the energy costs of extensive cooking (roasting big pieces of meat, for example). Also too, we’ll need recipes that are cooked on wood stoves and freezers are a luxury.Although organic foods are the ideal, it’s not a realistic expectation with our limited resources. Fresh produce and fruit are a rarity. This week we got 3 tons of food from various sources (we have 4 main sources for the bulk of our food) and gave out most of it. More later.

  74. 74
    LTL-FTC says:

    Great idea, really. My standby recipe for everything:

    pasta [preferably whole wheat]
    +
    garlic, dried red chile pepper, olive oil
    +
    [broccoli or chick peas or kale]
    +
    parmesan

    =
    goodness

  75. 75
    Rational Subjectivist says:

    Cold and rainy, is it? I’m stuck in Iowa, where I don’t want to be. The wind chill is -7 degrees and all of the airline flights are booked.
    Other than that, Happy Holidays, everyone!

    RS +2

  76. 76
    Raven says:

    My bride works for WIC and they do a good bit of nutrition ed.

  77. 77
    muddy says:

    I have a number of recipes based on 1 can of beans (various types) that I give to young people I know who are moving out for the first time. Be happy to contribute them.

  78. 78
    Raven says:

    And she just told me to direct you to WIC Works.

  79. 79
    parsimon says:

    @John Cole: I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but the League’s Cheap-Ass Gourmet calls for things for its roast chicken that are out of the range of financially-challenged folks. Olive oil?

    Great idea overall, don’t get me wrong, but it is a good idea to check with those who have been working with the issue for some time.

  80. 80
    Raven says:

    @parsimon: The princess is in agreement.

  81. 81

    @WaterGirl:

    Yes, yes, yes! I want to do that. I can’t organize my way out of a wet paper bag, but I can write fairly well, so I can’t get this thing going, but I can chip in.

  82. 82
    Suzanne says:

    I’m in. I’m vegetarian, so maybe I can come up with some cheap veggie foods. I can also InDesign.

  83. 83
    WaterGirl says:

    @Raven: Oh my gosh, we got our first snow today! So beautiful. We also have winds of 40-60 mph, so the wind is howling like crazy. Spooky.

    Yeah, I figure we have so many good writers here and so many good pet stores, I would love to do something like this.

    You getting snow?

  84. 84
    David Fud says:

    I talk about this with my mother-in-law all of the time: how would you spend your last dollars if we were living paycheck to paycheck and short on cash. We agree that most would spend at McD’s because of the time/money factor, and the lack of cooking knowledge and inability to access kitchens/food.

    I think this is a great idea. I am also for anything that gets people out of the fast-food line, so I’m easy to convince.

  85. 85
    WaterGirl says:

    @NotMax: Dear gNotMax, you made me laugh out loud!

  86. 86
    WaterGirl says:

    @Zapruder F. Mashtots, D.D.S.: I might be able to qualify for the organizing olympics, so if folks are interested, and it sounds like they are, we could make this happen.

  87. 87
    ruemara says:

    I’d be happy to help out. I write about food for a newsletter and live in a state of borderline food insecurity, so I know of which what I’m talking about. A big hurdle is the lack of cooking areas and equipment. Getting over that hump is the key.

  88. 88
    parsimon says:

    @Raven: The princess is your bride, I take it?

    Um, it really depends on who the target audience is, as has been mentioned upthread.

  89. 89
    peorgietirebiter says:

    Maybe someone has mentioned it but some basic cooking tools might be problematic for folks that haven’t been preparing many meals. measuring cups, basic bakeware, etc.
    Maybe the chefs here could compile an essentials list that can be found for next to nothing at places like Goodwill or yard sales.

  90. 90
    bemused senior says:

    I think perhaps people need to realize lots of folk don’t have food processors, microwaves or even refrigerators. (Read “Nickeled and Dimed”. The lack of a way to store food is a big barrier to eating economically.) Also, internet access is not common in families that are living in poverty.

  91. 91
    PeakVT says:

    If this kind of cookbook has been done before, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have another one – IF it is written differently. A lot of cookbooks are written in a form of shorthand/jargon that people who cook a lot understand, but less experienced people probably find somewhat confusing.

  92. 92
    parsimon says:

    I’ve been tempted to mention Ehrenreich’s “Nickeled and Dimed” as well. However. If people in those straits aren’t the target for a economically helpful cookbook, it’s a different matter.

  93. 93
    Mister Papercut says:

    Laid-off digital designer here, just point me to the sign-up queue.

  94. 94
    Thoroughly Pizzled says:

    The comic book Poorcraft is a general guide to living on a low budget that includes quite a bit of stuff on food. Highly recommended.

  95. 95
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Food pantries seem to be generous with stuff like grits and oatmeal, in addition to the usual pasta and rice. Not everyone knows what to do with grits or even oatmeal for anything but cereal.

    [And nevermind how I know this. :-)]

  96. 96
    JMG says:

    Most of the world’s great ethnic cuisine is poor people’s food. No, make that the world’s great cuisine, period. The French waste nothing. A People’s Cookbook, complete with what equipment to buy, etc., could be an outstanding DVD, and oddly enough, a big seller with more affluent folks, too.
    Tonight, my wife made a potato, squash, chickpea and olive stew with coucous. It cost less than the $15 bottle of wine we had with it, and there’s leftovers. Just an example.

  97. 97
    Ruckus says:

    I’m in.
    I lived for 6 years with a one burner hot plate and old, old microwave. I have been eating for less than $10/day for years now and I eat pretty healthy. Was feeding my dog(not cheap stuff!) and myself for that. Can’t do this with organic or generally from wholepaycheck though. It is much harder to cook simply because you have to cook every part of the meal one step at a time. As I am a pretty good cook(not natural just great teachers) I have learned how to make many cheap dishes this way. I don’t use many recipes though I could write down a lot of the meals. And most of them don’t even take that much time.

  98. 98
    Jager says:

    @Chris Wolf:

    Trader Joe’s

  99. 99
    ruviana says:

    I love this and could do something–not sure what yet. Another resource is Tracie MacMillan’s The American Way of Eating. MacMillan was trying to understand the whole interrelated American food industry but her experiences with trying to live on small amounts of income and her interviews with poor people and their strategies for purchasing and preparing food are interesting.

  100. 100
    Rosie Outlook says:

    I don’t know if we could get away with giving this advice, it probably violates health laws, but I am advised by elderly veterans that if you’re really destitute–say, marching through a war zone–you can cook up a soup with water, veggies, meat if you’re lucky enough for it to be available, a knife , a spoon, and a helmet sitting a campfire . So do not despair if you have very little equipment. Substitute a pot and hot plate for helmet and fire, and you’re in business with very little outlay for equipment. Although helmet soup probably IS better with Pink Himalayan salt.

    And the various U.S. special forces (can’t speak for other countries) also get a lot of training in making something out of next to nothing, so if you know a snake eater, retired or active, maybe pump him for ideas.

  101. 101
    Jay S says:

    I recall a few years ago a series on the Great Orange Satan with meal planing and cooking to minimize costs. It was geared toward people with a minimum kitchen with oven, refrigerator and freezer. I only read a few of the diaries but they seemed competently written.

  102. 102
    schrodinger's cat says:

    I am in. I have several recipes in my repertoire which are fast to cook and good to eat and are relatively inexpensive and use fat sparingly. I do use a lot of spices though.

    If you are in a time crunch nothing cooks faster than shrimp and though it is not exactly a budget food (usually between $4 and $6 per pound, where I live), you can add beans to make it go a lot farther.

  103. 103
    HumboldtBlue says:

    I want in, I guarantee I’m one of the poorest motherfuckers up in here and I can fricassee like a madman on methcrack with some basic-ass ingredients.

    Seriously, though, I’m in

  104. 104
    HumboldtBlue says:

    @Jay S:

    What he said, shit, motherfucker, I’m so po’ that sometimes I cook my meal over two charcoal briquets lit up in a cast iron pan with second hand butter, two old biscuits and some artichoke paste.

  105. 105
    Rosie Outlook says:

    We Americans, rich and poor, could probably all save ourselves a lot of money if we could learn to eat insects. I’ve had 2 chances to try and couldn’t bring myself to break taboo. Maybe next time.

  106. 106

    @WaterGirl:

    That’s impressive. Being an ADD kind of dude, I can’t even do a wash without going two days before I remember to take the clean clothes out of the washer and dry them. I go shopping with a list, and I still almost always miss something. I’m in neverending awe of organized people.

  107. 107
    NotMax says:

    Recipes from the Great Depression.

  108. 108
    clayton says:

    I haven’t read the comments yet, but this site — say mm — is the one I use to organize and work on recipes. It’s easy to use, puts together a shopping lists, prompts you to see what you already have etc.

    Oh, and it’s free.

  109. 109
    Dina says:

    John, if you still want to pursue this project after reading all the suggestions and already available options from the other commenters, I’m in!

    This is perfect for me because I am: (a) recently unemployed and will have the time to work on this; (b) the go-to copy editor for my friends/co-workers (English minor, word nerd, used to work in publishing); (c) a self-taught chef and nutritionist for the past 30 years; (d) getting my old food blog up and running again which already has a lot of easy & cheap recipes on it; (e) planning on getting an MS in Nutrition and becoming a Registered Dietitian within the next few years (already enrolled for Spring 2013 semester); (f) a huge proponent in making good food available for everyone.

    I’ll do whatever I can as far as scanning recipes for content, and proofreading/copy editing the website/printed cookbook. I’m also a project manager/meeting & event planner, so I can help with putting timelines and objectives/goals together for us when we’re ready to start.

    Let me know how I may help.

  110. 110
    Whidby says:

    This is a good idea but I have to to think thiis has already been done several times.

    If not, I’ll volunteer to do some assembly/ editing of recipes submitted.

  111. 111
    Whidby says:

    Lets see….

    Step one: buy 5 pounds of dry pinto beans.
    Step two: place your thermomix on the countertop

  112. 112
    Short Bus Bully says:

    John,

    I’m a Certified Executive Chef, been in the industry for almost 20 years, teach at a respected culinary school. I do this shit for a living. Just sent you an email.

    I’ll run this fucker for you if you want.

  113. 113
    Sailor says:

    My god, I love this blog.

    I’ll look forward to the progress of this, and of getting my hands on the pdf.

  114. 114
    Keith G says:

    I’m willing to pitch in.

  115. 115
    Beezus says:

    A while ago I watched a few shows about EXTREME COUPONERS (is that what they are called?) They showed these people with ROOMS dedicated and completely full of all sorts of – like a zillion boxes of mac & cheese or pudding cups, etc. Apparently, this couponing is an obsession.
    Why don’t they do this for FOOD KITCHENS, etc.? There is NO WAY a typical family could (or would) want to eat tinned whatever for several years… this would provide tons of free food and related items (paper towels, tp, shampoo, etc.) for pantries and shelters. The couponers would get their fix (and accolades) and hungry people would get food. Win win.

  116. 116
    Diana says:

    somebody in Brooklyn (not a low-cost town) did an entire blog on cooking, month in and month out, on foodstamps of $30 a week: http://thirtyaweek.wordpress.com/about/

    They eventually got into the DIY and community garden scene, and toward the end of the blog, when they started getting most of their eggs and vegetables for free. They are now renovating a house in upstate New York and I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they’re living off their garden.

    Just my two cents. Recipes on the blog were almost always awesome.

  117. 117
    clayton says:

    @Rosie Outlook: True story: One day I was talking with a couple of guys from southern Mexico and the whole bugs as food thing came up. They started telling me about jumiles, which are Mexican stink bugs, and how expensive they can be. I said that my back yard was full of them. We could be rich! They told me no, mine were gringo, so no go.

    Sigh.

  118. 118
    Busy Body says:

    Foodbanks rely on volunteers for the moving of tons of food in pickup trucks,vans and whatever will get food from the pick up center to the foodbank. It is a lot of very hard work. Getting goods from the couponers to the actual distribution point is a logistical nightmare. We serve, typically, 180 families a week with an average of 5 people per family and we’re not the biggest foodbank in our very thinly populated area. Donations of a box of cereal or so are very welcome but the real numbers are staggering. And, please, spare me the reciting of the times you’ve been reduced to beans and rice. Beans and rice get extraordinarily old after a while.

  119. 119
    Paul says:

    http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov

    Don’t know if someone called this out yet – federal recipe finder with cost and nutrition break downs.

  120. 120
    Shadow's Mom says:

    @Garbo: I have a contact at a local foodbank in our area. It’s one of the few that offers fresh produce.

    Further, I can provide a quick and easy recipes for homemade yogurt & granola.

  121. 121
    Jamey says:

    Sign me up, John. How can I help? I have a lot of great lentil recipes that have gotten me through bouts of marginal employment.

  122. 122
    Bondor Hoddleton says:

    I haven’t run through all 119 previous replies…but (after a quick ‘ctrl-F’ search) I don’t think anyone’s mentioned Working Class Foodies.

    I just came across them a couple days ago when I was looking for tamale recipes. They have a cooking show on YouTube where they create meals that cost less than $8 per person. And it looks like they just published a cook book.

    I haven’t tried any of their recipes yet, but the few shows I’ve watched seem pretty good.

  123. 123
    HumboldtBlue says:

    Shit, wait ’til I tell Betty Chinn

  124. 124
    Joe Max says:

    This is a great idea, John. Mrs. Max has some great recipes she got growing up on the wrongish side of the tracks in Indiana. Solid, cheap, decent, nutritious. Will you be posting more info about where we can submit?

  125. 125
    mai naem says:

    I actually think this is an awesome idea. Awesome enough that somebody should send the link to FLOTUS once it gets going. I am willing to contribute. While I don’t eat particularly cheap, my food tends to be cheaper because I’m veg. Meat in general is expensive. I gotta agree with what others have already said – not everybody has equipment. Baking stuff, blenders and other electric stuff is not cheap, neither are pots and pans. Also, the recipes need to be simple initially. You don’t want to intimidate people right off the bat.

  126. 126
    Frank says:

    I will happily contribute. When you post how to contribute, I’ll shoot some recipes your way.

  127. 127
    john mc says:

    Longtime lurker, and infrequent commenter is totally on board. I cooked for a halfway house through the local food bank, and would be glad to share. Please follow through and keep us updated.

  128. 128
    john mc says:

    Maybe there could could be a push for donations of utensils and equipment to local food banks. Pots, pans, spatulas, knives, plates, silverware…etc.

  129. 129
    Mnemosyne says:

    @mai naem:

    Also, the recipes need to be simple initially. You don’t want to intimidate people right off the bat.

    I just re-joined Weight Watchers and what’s interesting is that one of the cookbooks you can get takes exactly that approach — it’s a three-phase cookbook that starts with simple recipes and lets you work your way up to more complicated things as your skills improve.

  130. 130
    Betsy says:

    OH, duh on me, Linda’s blog, of course, is free: http://www.cookforgood.com/

  131. 131
    Betsy says:

    @Rosie Outlook: floating eggs don’t mean they’re bad. It just means that a bit of the water in the white of the egg has evaporated (the eggshells are porous). You are throngs away good eggs . An intact egg in the fridge lasts …months. I know, it’s shocking.

    The eggs won’t dry t as fast if you keep them in a less porous container, or store them in the veg bin which is at least closed up and so not as drying. Fridges are extremely arid places.

  132. 132
    Betsy says:

    I don’t know why but my comments are stuck in moderation. Halp

  133. 133
    Tony the Wonderhorse says:

    What do I think?

    I think you are a kind man John, and I like you very much.

  134. 134
    Jacel says:

    Take a look at a book written by a patron saint of foodies, M.F.K. Fisher, “How To Cook A Wolf”. (When the wolf is at your door, learn to cook a wolf.) The book was initially published in 1942 to help people deal with rationing and limits of energy for cooking and refrigerating. The advice drew on her experience in poorer years as a single mother
    http://www.amazon.com/How-Cook.....0865473366

  135. 135
    Tim I says:

    Cole, you had a good idea. I’ve been waiting years for this.

    OK seriously, this is actually smart. I’ve been planning lower and lower cost meals for the past four years as I’ve been unemployed and getting poorer fast. You can still eat well and eat cheaply.

  136. 136
    northquirk says:

    another longtime lurker willing to pitch in. We might get the most win out of this if we could build a simple database to tag recipes by ingredients, equipment, time, cost, etc. Folks with the intertubes could search, but it would also be relatively easy to build different pdf/print versions based on different circumstances – really tight budget, limited produce…basically however we choose to tag the recipes and build the InDesign files.

  137. 137
    Dwight Smith says:

    The bit about soup kitchens confused me. The best free cookbook is online at various places and is called the Armed Forces Recipe Service. Every single recipe works perfectly, and each is for at least 50 servings: Choose the zip file under download the recipe service at http://www.quartermaster.army......links.html.
    Second best are the Zeuss Recipes at Cornell: http://www.arts.cornell.edu/zeus/more.info.html, wherein each recipe is for five gallons.
    Obviously the cheapest way to eat well is to serve others. I haven’t paid for a meal in fifteen years because we serve 2000 meals each week to the homeless.
    While there are a number of great recipes available online for virtually any dish, it seems to me that the least expensive meals are made with what you have, not with what you must buy to create. We’ve created a contest among our volunteers to create the best tasting variations of the Zeuss recipes – we’ll be posting the winners on YouTube under the title “CookingForJesus,” in the hope that we can help other soup-kitchens. Anyone interested can drop us a line at admin@occatholicworker.org.

  138. 138
    Patricia Kayden says:

    As everyone else has said already, this is a fab idea. I’m in.

  139. 139
    BryanS says:

    You should get a Bernard L. Schwartz fellowship at the New America Foundation for this thread.

    Everybody who helps in this thread should try this. Move to the largest big city. Leave you cell phone, car, and credit cards. Only have the clothes on you back. You are allowed to bring $200. You can only take jobs starting at minimum wage. The highest level of education you can put on a job application is tenth grade. I’ll be generous and not require you to color your skin darker and adopt 2 kids.

    Live like that for a month. Then come back and tell these people how to live.

  140. 140
    BryanS says:

    Oh, and you’re not allowed to bring a tote bag either.

  141. 141
    BryanS says:

    Actually, this is crappy advice too. Every single poor, hungry, malnourished person is different and has a different set of circumstances that are making them that way. There’s no way to understand them all, but a god damn cookbook is only going to make yourself better and do nothing for them.

  142. 142
    BethanyAnne says:

    @Litlebritdifrnt: Lol, I remember when she came to visit, and you found a solitary (french fry, I think? carrot?) saved in a tupperware bowl in your fridge.

  143. 143
    c u n d gulag says:

    John,
    My late Father found an old Depression Era cookbook at our local dump, and brought it home.

    It’s got some GREAT recipes – though a lot of them call for lard (and FSM knows, I’ve got enough of that on my body, so I don’t need any more).

    I substitute canola or olive oil, and the recipes turn out beautifully – though I’m sure they would be even tastier if I used lard.

    Some are the recipes call for things we don’t eat much of anymore, or are extremely difficult to find now, but were common in that era, so I try to find a suitable substitute, and have been pretty successful.
    It also makes me thankful that I live in today’s world, where I don’t have to pluck my chicken or duck.

    I’ll be happy to contribute a few of them, and some low-cost Russian/Ukrainian favorites – minus the lard.
    Of course, once in a great while, a little lard never killed anyone, so, if people want, they can substitute it back in.

    This sounds like a great and worthwhile project!
    Count me in! :-)

  144. 144

    @BryanS:
    @BryanS:

    O.K., fair enough. But what’s your bright, shiny idea? Who knows, maybe this might help somebody. I don’t know, maybe it won’t. But if it does, even if it’s only one person or one family, isn’t that worth something? If you think this sucks, then feel free to do something else. But if all you can do is tell us how this isn’t good enough and we’re assholes for “tell[ing] these people how to live”–which is not how I read this idea, but anyway–then get off your ass and tell us what we should be doing, genius. I’m sorry if I’m being needlessly harsh here, but, jeez, if you think that what we’re coming up with isn’t helping, and that it’s only meant to make us feel self righteous or something, then, what does your whining do, other than also not help and, I don’t know, make you feel self righteous?

  145. 145
    Emily says:

    @John Carter: You can get More for Less and tons of other cook books for free at the public library.

    I used to volunteer at my local food bank. Often times, there would be a social worker there who would try to sign people up for various kinds of assistance (food stamps, help with utility bills, free cell phones). I asked her once if there were free cooking lessons anywhere for low income people and she said yes.

  146. 146
    Emily says:

    @John Carter Amazon sells the “More for Less Cookbook” for around 10 bucks. Not free but worth the money. I’ve seen it and it’s very good

    You can get More With Less and tons of other cook books for free at the public library.

  147. 147
    redheadwglasses says:

    “It made me wonder, has anyone ever assembled a cookbook for people on low income budgets that is free?”

    It’s called THE FRICKIN’ LIBRARY.

  148. 148
    Rosie Outlook says:

    @BryanS: Aw. I gotta do that AGAIN?

    People who read blogs are the literate minority, but not necessarily the rich minority. I will say my family used to be dirt poor, but that would be untrue ; there was no way we could have afforded dirt.

  149. 149
    redheadwglasses says:

    SOrry. I live in a big metro area where there is plenty of internet access at libraries. I forget there’s a world beyond my bubble!

  150. 150
    virginia says:

    Answer would be yes. We make a lot of chicken and chicken soup. Along with Spanish fritatas — Black beans and rice. Black bean soup with chicken stock. Spinach and potato anything. Onions, garlic, and hot sauce are essential. Rice — rice is essential. The people who have been broke and hungry understant how to make use of every last sliver of anything. And, because food is food and one of life’s unalloyed pleasures, you can bet that folks who are struggling, could provide the rest of us with their own fab cookbook.

    But like the person said above, you are a kind man and we love you.

  151. 151
    Baquist says:

    This is an excellent idea; count me in. You will have a blog post, I hope, so we dont all have to read all comments?

  152. 152
    Maude says:

    If it gets off the ground I can help. The rate that food prices are rising, things are tough.
    I was at the store and used my EBT card this morning.

  153. 153
    Jay C says:

    Count me in as well: I can’t think of any recipes, but I can contribute a little lettuce (IYKWIM).

    Though my inner cynic tells me (annoying bastard as he is) that there is probably very little effect any attempts at getting poorer Americans to eat better than they do will do much positive. Not in a country where there’s a fast-food joint peddling Jumbo McGorgeBurgers for cheap in every strip mall in the land.

  154. 154
  155. 155
    Tod Kelly says:

    @parsimon:

    Parsimon – You are correct.

    The Cheap Ass Gourmet posts are actually written for folks like students, young single parents, etc., and not necessarily those on the very bottom of the ladder. The target cost for the entire meal for our posts is supposed to be between $1.50 and $3 – not coincidentally, the same amount those folks normally spend on a fast food meal or an unhealthy frozen dinner – which I recognize can still create challenges for some.

    So, for example, when we recommend using a free range chicken, the extra $2 is divided up into 16 meals; for that audience, the trade off in health is worth the extra dime per dinner. For many of the people John is trying to reach, however, that extra $2 up front can actually be a significant barrier – and that’s assuming that they can even get access to something like a free range chicken wherever they live (which I kind of doubt).

    So your point is well taken; I would have no problem with adjusting whatever I contributed to fit the project.

  156. 156
    meadow says:

    /delurking

    oh HELL yeah! this is great!

    I’m enjoying my third round of food scarcity, this time with a child, so I really have to make sure there’s food on the table (otherwise, I’ll skip meals for… days, if need be). We haven’t yet been approved for SNAP so, yes, this is a great project!

    There are ways to stretch the food dollar. Fresh fruit & veg are not affordable and our local food pantries aren’t able to provide them. Someone mentioned that beans get boring… fckit! Beans & rice (or corn) make a complex protein and the shit fills your foodhole! Replace 1/4 of your hamburger with wheat germ and you get extra fiber & nutrition while stretching that meat. If you’re lucky enough to get some fresh veg, then save the tops of onions, carrots, peppers, etc., anything that you would normally throw away and use /that/ to add to your chicken stock.

    I have recipes, though, and I’d be thrilled to contribute. Hell, I wanna see everyone else’s recipes and ideas, too! Count me in — I’m looking forward to this. Peace.

  157. 157
    jpeg says:

    A website for cheap food ideas is a fantastic idea, John. There would have to be some sort of local community outreach for it to be practical, though. That would be the key to making the whole project useful. You’d need a website to collect the recipes, a downloadable version of the recipes that could be cheaply printed on some sort of card stock, local food pantries to distribute the recipes, and maybe some sort of database that keeps track of local produce prices so people would know what is cheapest. Food pantries could distribute recipes that contain the cheapest items at the time.

    As another random thought, it would be interesting to see if someone like Roger Ebert would be willing to donate copies of his rice cooker cookbook and some other company to donate cheap rice cookers to local food banks.

    http://www.amazon.com/Pot-How-.....B004X8W882

    I have ample time the next few weeks to discuss ideas if you’re interested.

  158. 158
    jpeg says:

    A website for cheap food ideas is a fantastic idea, John. There would have to be some sort of local community outreach for it to be practical, though. That would be the key to making the whole project useful. You’d need a website to collect the recipes, a downloadable version of the recipes that could be cheaply printed on some sort of card stock, local food pantries to distribute the recipes, and maybe some sort of database that keeps track of local produce prices so people would know what is cheapest. Food pantries could distribute recipes that contain the cheapest items at the time.

    As another random thought, it would be interesting to see if someone like Roger Ebert would be willing to donate copies of his rice cooker cookbook and some other company to donate cheap rice cookers to local food banks.

    I have ample time the next few weeks to discuss ideas if you’re interested.

  159. 159
    jpeg says:

    A website for cheap food ideas is a fantastic idea, John. There would have to be some sort of local community outreach for it to be practical, though. That would be the key to making the whole project useful. You’d need a website to collect the recipes, a downloadable version of the recipes that could be cheaply printed on some sort of card stock, local food pantries to distribute the recipes, and maybe some sort of database that keeps track of local produce prices so people would know what is cheapest. Food pantries could distribute recipes that contain the cheapest items at the time.

    As another random thought, it would be interesting to see if someone like Roger Ebert would be willing to donate copies of his rice cooker cookbook and some other company to donate cheap rice cookers to local food banks. I have ample time the next few weeks to discuss ideas if you’re interested.

  160. 160
    jpeg says:

    A website for cheap food ideas is a fantastic idea, John. There would have to be some sort of local community outreach for it to be practical, though. That would be the key to making the whole project useful. You’d need a website to collect the recipes, a downloadable version of the recipes that could be cheaply printed on some sort of card stock, local food pantries to distribute the recipes, and maybe some sort of database that keeps track of local produce prices so people would know what is cheapest. Food pantries could distribute recipes that contain the cheapest items at the time.

    As another random thought, it would be interesting to see if someone like Roger Ebert would be willing to donate copies of his rice cooker cookbook and some other company to donate cheap rice cookers to local food banks.

    I have ample time the next two weeks to discuss ideas if you’re interested.

  161. 161
    Raycharles90 says:

    May have already been mentioned but, Minnesota has a great WIC cookbook that I believe people can get for free. Here is the website with the recipes. http://www.health.state.mn.us/.....index.html

    A lot of recipes that taste great and are cost effective.

  162. 162
    smike says:

    @Beezus: Now that’s a good idea, as is the proposed project.

  163. 163
    Tata says:

    Count me in.

    There are different scales. A single person. Two people, usually elderly. A parent and x number of children. One grandparent and x number of children. Y money per month. Z money per week. A-B-C allergies or sensitivities. Throw one serious food allergy into a tiny food budget and all Hell breaks loose.

  164. 164
    Ivy vann says:

    Count me in. I wrote about food for years, and now run a community supper that feeds 75-100 a week. Our costs run about $2 a person/meal. Some of that is scale, but not all by ay means.

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