Eat Well for $4 A Day? Yup, It Can Be Done
Media sensation and author Leanne Brown offers advice on how to get the most out of your food budget and how to avoid tossing spoiled food in the trash in her bestseller, Good And Cheap: Eat Well On $4 A Day. The collection of recipes and sound advice was originally offered as a free download aimed at low-income people on SNAP, and was such a huge hit, it turned into a book that makes frugal power cool.
In a recent phone interview from her apartment in New York City, Ms. Brown ticked off some suggestions for cutting food costs that sound like common sense, which should make them easy to follow.
"Before going to the store to buy more food, take a look in your fridge and pantry to see what you've got. Maybe there's even enough in there, so you can make dinner without going to the supermarket." Keep a can of garbanzo beans on hand, and you can cook up the satisfying Chana Masala, pictured above, recipe below.
"Don't toss wilted veggies. Get creative with them." She often uses less than fresh greens in her crust-less quiche, and stirs them into soup or uses them in a saute.
"Save that chicken skin and turn it into schmaltz!" Rendering the skin creates a cooking oil that's got a long history of making dishes extra tasty.
"Store leftovers in the freezer." In the intro section of her beautiful book, Ms. Brown advises readers to "treat your freezer with respect." One trick she learned in college was to fry up an entire package of bacon and store crispy bacon bits in small packages in the freezer. "This makes it easy to add a small amount of bacon to the dish without the temptation of using the whole package or the fear of rancid meat."
Cook more often. "There are a lot of people who think of cooking as a chore, something they're just not good at. But if you embrace it, if you try to make the dishes you really love... like pizza, then you're more likely to cook, and that's really the way you're going to get the most value out of your food budget."
Chana Masala from Good and Cheap: Eat Well On $4 A Day
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 tablespoon ghee (an Indian clarified butter) or 1/2 tablespoon butter plus a splash of olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat)
1 cup pureed canned tomatoes (see box, page 29) 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
Chopped fresh cilantro and yogurt for garnish
Combine the coriander, turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, smoked paprika, if using, and salt in a small bowl. Melt the ghee in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it begins to sizzle, add the cumin seeds and stir for about 5 seconds until you can smell them. Add the onion and sauté until it's a little soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the ginger and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the spice mixture you made in Step 1, then the pureed tomatoes. Mix, then put a lid on the pan and let everything cook down, 5 to 10 minutes. Once the tomato has reduced and the ghee starts to separate from the sauce, add the chickpeas and ½ cup of water. Stir, bring it to a boil, and then decrease the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, and then squish a few chickpeas with the back of a spoon to thicken the sauce before serving.
Makes 2 servings.