The other day I was reading some of the discussions on the Simpleliving.net discussion boards and someone mentioned this site: Cook for Good. I have heard several stories of individuals trying to eat a healthy diet on a food stamp allowance. However, I was surprised to hear of a food stamp allowance of $1.99 per meal per person (for a family of four). I don't know how that varies across the country, but I am impressed to see her presentation of eating well on an even smaller budget.
The more we read and learn, the more our household has moved towards a more local and organic diet. Based on a presentation I saw by a financial manager, we have a grocery budget of $150 per person per 4 weeks. That's just $1.79/meal. (disclaimer: we do eat out occasionally, but I also end up throwing away more food than I care to admit.) I hear all the time how expensive it is to eat locally and organically. However, as we have made this adjustment, we have not altered our budget. Not only that, but our grocery budget includes cleaning supplies and any over the counter medications we use (ibuprofen, loratidine, etc.) What surprised me the most this summer was when we provided dinner for 12 at church one evening, we didn't go over budget at all that week.
What we have changed is that we eat more grains (barley, quinoa, brown rice, etc.) and we use a lot of dried beans. I also frequent the bulk foods section of our local Whole Foods. We've always eaten a lot of legumes, but we've switched to dried beans instead of canned. I usually make up a two pound batch of beans in the crockpot and freeze the leftovers in three-cup containers (it's the size we happen to have). We are also substituting ground beef for lentils in meals. A couple of favorite recipes are Taco Style Lentils and Rice and Cincinnati Chili with Lentils. We're also eating more in-season produce, which, pound for pound, is healthier and cheaper than meat. Through our CSA subscription, we have really enjoyed relearning when produce is "in season". At the grocery store, most produce appears to be "in season" all year because it is shipped from all over the world. When you get your produce locally, you find out when foods are naturally available in your area. For example, in the Spring we enjoyed a variety of lettuces and other greens. Now it is too hot for those, so we've moved on to corn, cream and purple hull peas (new items for us), and peppers. The zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers have been available most of the summer. This isn't produce, but I've also learned that, like us, the chickens aren't very fond of the heat either and they seem to have gone on strike when it comes to laying eggs.
We do still eat meat. We just stretch it. For example, we love what we call Mexican Chicken. I'll post the recipe later, but in essence, you put two chicken breasts, a chopped onion, two diced bell peppers (be colorful!), and a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes into a crockpot and let it cook on low 8-10 hrs. When it is done, shred the chicken and serve it with rice, pintos, salsa and shredded cheese in burritos, tacos, or as a burrito bowl (burrito without the tortilla). The leftovers from this last for days in our house. Add some Italian Seasoning, serve over pasta and you have Chicken Cacciatore. Today I boiled a couple of chicken breasts, chopped them up and added them to some orzo with pesto. Yummy! Last weekend, I grilled some fish and shrimp flavored with Southwest Seasoning and served it in tacos. Anyway, aside from our love of Southwestern foods, you should get the idea.
I hope you will find that you can eat locally and organic without breaking the bank. I have added the Cook for Good site to the Food Links list. I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!