There are a lot of cookbooks out there, but none quite as fascinating nor as helpful as Leanne Brown’s Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. The book is filled with a variety of recipes that will fill your stomach without depleting your bank account, ranging from simple to complex, and hitting all of your nutritional requirements.
I’ve thumbed through my fair share of cookbooks, and browsed through a number of online recipes, but this one stands out to me for a few reasons:
- Brown offers sound advice for working with a low budget. Living in New York City is not cheap, and with rent eating away at the majority of your paycheck, it’s hard to budget for healthy, plentiful food. But rather than just giving the recipes and leaving you to learn things the hard way, Brown walks you through building up to having a good stock of ingredients always on hand, and how to use them effectively. Throughout the book, she states the reality of buying food a budget: it takes some planning and work to make sure that all your needs are covered, but it’s doable.
- Each recipe lists the price of the meal, based on the current price of the ingredients and how much is used in the recipe. To be honest, this information is a little misleading; just because you plan five $2.15 meals for dinner every night of the week, if you have to get a lot of different ingredients for each meal, it may end up being more than $10.75 at the grocery store. Prices change all the time, and some planning needs to go into making sure that you buy similar ingredients for your meals each week so that you can get the lowest cost, but it’s a good tool to help you realize that eating cheaply is still possible.
- There is a fantastic variety to the recipes. From breakfast foods, to snacks, to categories like “Things on Toast,” there are a lot of recipes to choose from, making it so that one is never bored in the kitchen. And, everything looks so delicious!
My one criticism is that the recipes themselves don’t list the nutritional facts, though I know that’s harder to do when working with home cooked foods. Still, eating any combination of these meals every week is much healthier and cheaper than eating fast food or microwaveable frozen dinners.
The most difficult elements to all of this will be the planning and time management: planning the meals beforehand so that one can shop in the most efficient way, and making time to actually cook the meals, whether that’s every day or maybe taking one day of the week to cook a lot of food to stock up in the freezer.
Resources like this are extremely valuable to everyone who has to budget their money tightly. But there’s one more thing that makes this book even more amazing: it’s available as a free PDF that you can download, and she’s raised the funds to print copies of the book to distribute to non-profit organizations serving low-income families. More information can be found on her website.
For anyone in a tight money situation that needs help taking care of their nutritional needs, I highly recommend Good and Cheap. (And if you want still more resources, a quick search of “cheap recipes” will yield hundreds of results.)
Happy eating, everyone!