Friday, December 13, 2013

Foodie stamps

Can you feed yourself on $30/week?

Zucchini latkes, made one summer with farmers' market eggs
 and yogurt, community garden zucchini, and homegrown chives.
Cost per serving @ $1.
    I did not take the official DC Hunger Solutions Food Stamp Challenge last week, but I've been there and so can attest that one can still eat well on not much money. It's odd being a self-proclaimed foodie while being not so far above the income bracket qualifying for food stamps these days, but it's not unheard of. Food education is important -- people tell me this on an almost daily basis -- but it doesn't pay that well. So in honor of the Food Stamp Challenge, I offer some ideas for ways to eat well when you don't have a lot to spend. Incidentally, these are tips that I often share with groups of low-income folks I work with here in our nation's capital:

    1. Learn to cook -- Not only will you enjoy the food more when you've had a hand in preparing it to your liking, but it's way less expensive than eating out. (And don't give me that "fast food is cheaper" line: you'll be paying for it in poor health and hospital bills later.) Plus, you will endear yourself to friends and family, and neighbors who smell the aromas coming from your kitchen.
    2. Go vegetarian -- Meat, especially sustainably-raised meat, is pricey. Lentils, black beans, cowpeas, chickpeas are your friends... and dry legumes are more nutritious and less expensive than their fresh, frozen, or canned brethren. Eggs are another good option. Need recipe ideas? Call me.
    3. Garden -- Grow some of your food. It's amazing what you can grow in a 4'x8' raised garden bed, or even a few pots on the porch, steps, or windowsill. And you may never have to pay $2.99 for a sprig of fresh herbs again. (Take that, Whole Paycheck!)
    4. Barter/workshare -- If you're new to gardening, you can learn by volunteering at a local farm or community/school garden, and the bonus is that folks often send you home with fresh goodies. (The free produce is limited in the winter, but spring, summer, and fall are bountiful in our region.)
    5. Learn to bake -- Flour is way cheaper than bread, and you can adjust the texture and ingredients to your taste. And there is the added bonus of killer triceps with all that kneading. Let me know if you want some sourdough starter.
    6. Drink less -- And have friends who are generous with their homebrew.
    7. Save your scraps -- Little odds and ends of things can be mixed together to make tasty soups, salads, stir-fries, and quiches. I've been saving bones and vegetable scraps in my freezer and making broth out of them for years, and my stocks for soups and stews are the tastier for it. (I also pack out my vegetable scraps for composting when I cook at friends' houses, but let's not get too crazy here. We can talk about composting another time.)
    8. Use your benefits wisely -- If you do qualify for food stamps, use them as much as possible at local farmers' markets that double (yes, you read that right, DOUBLE) the value of your food stamps. Your grocery store sure as heck doesn't double 'em, and the produce is so much fresher and healthier at the market. Even if you only spend $15/week at the farmers' market -- half of the allotted $30/week of the F.S.C. -- you'd get $30 worth of fruits, veggies, milk, eggs, and such at the market and still have $15/week left to spend on other stuff at the grocery store (orange juice, beans, rice, you name it).

    So that's my spiel. Whether or not you're on food stamps, I like to think that these tips might be helpful for those on a tight budget.

    Do you have other ideas for eating well for not a lot? I'd love to hear 'em.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment

    Thanks for your comment! Just making sure this isn't spam.... Thanks for your patience. :)Ibti