HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Recipes for low-income people

I recently visited a friend on disability who, because of all the problems with red tape with HUD and medications had very little money to spend on food. He had lost fifty pounds in the last six months on his starvation diet. Does anyone know of a good recipe book currently in print that would address a balanced diet for people on very limited incomes, including folks like this guy with limited cooking skills? I've sent him beans and rice recipes, but there has to be more for him.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Off the top of my head I'd suggest the More With Less Cookbook. I really feel for your friend and hope things improve for him.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fern

      I'll second the More With Less Cookbook, I'd also suggest that he look into other social services--fifty pounds in six months might be unhealthy, depending on his starting weight. And since he's not TRYING to lose weight, I'd be a little worried about him.

      Agree with the poster who suggested Meals on Wheels. They will help folks on disability and he'll likely see some variety in his meals.

    2. If he truly has lost a significant amount of weight in the last few months he needs to go to a physician and get checked out.

      1 Reply
      1. re: DaisyM

        I agree. First, he should definitely be checked by a doctor to see if illness is responsible for that much weight loss. Wherever he is getting the prescriptions for those medications must have a physician around someplace. Second, does he have a dental problem that is keeping him from eating? Third, is he actually preparing food? Does physical or mental disability keep him from taking care of himself? Is he perhaps too depressed to bother? Fourth, can this disabled person physically get to the store, even if he has money? Fifth, if this person is receiving income maintenance because of disability there should be a social worker somewhere on the horizon. Find him or her and draw a line between the person and the problem as all kinds of relief may be forthcoming. Big drug companies have assistance programs for patients who need their drug and have zero money. BigPharma...well, we could say a lot about them, but generally they don't expect patients to starve to death. Also, consider where the person is living; some kind of rent assistance may be available. In short, this person needs a lot more than recipes. You are kind to care.

      2. Try this: http://www.amazon.com/Quick-Thrifty-C...

        It even includes calories per serving and tips for adjusting recipes to taste.

        1. My heart goes out to your friend - what a tough situation. It's not so hard to be thrifty when you have the energy to hunt out cheap ingredients and the time and skills to cook cheap food from scratch (as per rworange's thread on eating well for $3/day: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/411382 ), but really difficult if you don't. My memories of being poor and in poor health (though, luckily for me, not at the same time) are that time and energy are as scarce as money.

          How about a cookbook for starving-and-poor college students? I don't have a specific one to recommend (I have several, but they're British, all-vegetarian, and out-of-print). But I saw one on Amazon that looks pretty good - less use of expensive convenience foods than some others:

          - College Cuisine by Leila Peltosaari

          This next one seems to be mostly how to jazz up ramen noodles, but ramen packets are cheap, and if your friend is losing weight, the extra calories in ramen shouldn't be a problem.

          - Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? How to Feed Yourself for About $5 a Week by Tony Sakkis

          Best wishes for your friend!

          1. In addition to recipe books, a lot of extension programs run by the traditional ag schools are good resources for information about thrifty, healthy eating choices and other money management tips, along with a host of other "how tos" (from gardening to canning).

            1 Reply
            1. re: willownt

              I've been disabled and I know how hard it is to work the social services system when you are ill. There are lots of good suggestions here for your friend, but in the meantime, I recommend homemade soup. You can buy the wilted vegatables in the supermarket, because cooking them will wilt them anyhow and some scraps of bony meat or chicken, lots of beans, rice, potatoes, or noodles. and throw in any food starting to age in the fridge. Eat it down, and add more stuff making a new kind of soup. Toss into containers and freeze when sick of soup and still having leftovers. It almost always comes out tasty no matter what you add and has more nutrients than most more expensive meals. Soup just takes a big pot and turning the stove on low and almost no cooking skill to make something yummy as long as you add lots of those marked down veggies.

            2. Sorry that I don't have a recommendation for a cookbook, but as a social worker I'd like to respond with suggestions that support several of the other posts. A fifty pound weight loss is a red flag that your friend needs to see a doctor first, and if clinical issues are ruled out, the doctor may provide a referral to a nutritionist. If your friend is homebound, the doctor may suggest a home nursing visit and possibly a social work visit to help him sort out resources that are available in your area. Sounds like he also needs an advocate to help him to sort through the red tape with HUD. If he is uninsured, someone with internet access (you, perhaps) can access www.needymeds.com, type in the generic or brand names of the meds, and print out applications for indigent drug programs. Your friend will need to have a doctor complete a portion of the application. Other option is to access Target or Walmart for their $4 prescription programs which are available to anyone, insured or not..
              For access to food programs, I would suggest that he contact the local United Way. They will provide locations for food banks, information about Public Assistance, Meals on Wheels, Food Stamps, and agencies that provide temporary assistance with expenses such as rent and utilities (St. Vincent de Paul is one such program). Best wishes.

              1. There are quite a few online sources where you might be able to find recipes to print out for him. A lot of them seem to use processed foods which I think can be expensive but there are good ones.


                I don't know where your friend is but maybe he could see if there is a community action center where he is. I volunteer at a place where we provide groceries for families in need but don't quite qualify for aid. It's hit or miss on the type of food we have, it's donated by individuals, and by grocery stores so sometime we have unusual things--frog legs, snails,...

                2 Replies
                1. re: chowser

                  Thanks to everyone for their replies. My friend's disabilities are getting medical attention. Unfortunately, he moved to a small southwestern town recently. He couldn't take winters in the north because of arthritis resulting from severe injuries some years ago in a major car accident. The housing offices where he has moved are in disarray, and he has been trying for months to get HUD assistance for rental. Medication was another problem. If he can hang on for another month or two, everything should be straightened out. But he definitely needs help in getting good nutrition on a low income. He just told me that his food stamps were increased. But, like so many disabled, he needs help to get the maximum benefit from them. I'll follow up on all this stuff and send it to him. He wants so much to get back on his feet and to start being productive.

                  1. re: Father Kitchen

                    The agency that provides the Food Stamps should be able to refer your friend to an agent for Food Stamp Nutrition Education. It is a free service that is provided to any Food Stamp recipient with the exactly the same goal in mind that you mentioned, to get the maximum benefit from them. If your friend hasn't been able to consult with one, please see if there's someone who can come by for an individual consultation or see if there are group classes available for him to attend. Best wishes to him (and you as well).

                2. I work w/ people on public assistance and/or seeking disability, and I know how tough it is to prepare wholesome food on a very tight budget, often with limited cooking skills and/or energy. In fact, I was thinking of writing a cookbook for such folks.

                  I checked around and learned from a non-profit that works w/ low-income folks that there are such cookbooks available. I suggest you check w/ your local Community Action Program or other nonprofit. If you don't know of one, you can call the Legal Services program (may be called Legal Aid, depending on where you are) and ask them for a referral to the local Community Action Program for the county where your friend lives.
                  In addition, your local county Cooperative Extension Service (affiliated generally w/ an agricultural/land grant college in your state) should have pamphlets on healthy low-cost cooking.

                  1. Check out the Angel Food Ministries. They do an amazing job of providing a box of food for $25, a week's worth for a family of four, or a month's worth for a single person. It's mainly starches and meat, so your friend should get his vegetables and fruits elsewhere.

                    Depending on what your friend is going through, I know that there are aid groups out there specifically for people with AIDS, domestic violence escapees, or the elderly with pets, etc.

                    1. Frozen veggies are often inexpensive and on sale. They're usually picked and immediately frozen at their peak, so they retain more of their flavor and nutritious elements than canned. If you're sending beans and rice recipes and he's able to make them, it doesn't take much more effort to stir in some thawed frozen spinach, green beans, mixed veggies, etc. I second the suggestion to check out food pantries: here in Phoenix, several churches and community centers sponsor pantries. Best of luck to your friend!

                      1. Father Kitchen your are getting lots of advice,but one more just in case you haven't tried this one. In the front of your phone book are county listings. See if there is one for his county called Department of Human Services. Just a hunch, but if you have one, maybe they have another way to help him while these next few months pass.

                        Creamy Garbanzo Bean soup - for two double - $4
                        This is a really good filling soup. Have him leave the chili out if he doesn't care for it. And also the lemon is just an additional thing I do, he can still have a tasty soup.

                        2 cans garbanzo beans drained
                        1 med white onion chopped
                        2 serrano chilies ( one for less heat)
                        3 large garlic cloves sliced
                        1 stalk celery chopped fine

                        Saute everything in olive oil together slowly, adding the garbanzo beans last, then the spices - low heat,almost like roasting everything in the pan, it will carmelize and contrribute really good flavor. This is beautiful served in tiny espresso cups with a tiny cheese straw or bacon beiget. A thin freshly baked olive baguette warm and sliced is perfect as a dipper.

                        1 T cumin
                        1 T herbs de province
                        1 T onion salt
                        1 T white pepper
                        salt – be careful taste it before adding any.
                        lemon juice
                        Additional toppings: cilantro, creme fraiche, fresh parsley, pimento, chopped black olive ( a tad to tie in with the olive bread) jalapenos, tomaotes. Pepitas also work. All up to you.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Not food advice, but make sure your friend has a copy of the $4.00 generic meds list that you can find on the Wal-Mart and Target websites that he can take with him when he visits his doctors. Yeah, it's a pain getting prescriptions filled (parking, long walk inside to the pharmacy, the wait) but if he doesn't have insurance it might be worth it to him.

                        2. This organization has a program set up for folks on a limited budget. This link is just mid-Atlantic, but I participated with them 20 some years ago in Florida,so I suspect they have operations in other areas. At that time there was always some mystery meat, a fair amount of cheese, dried beans/grains and usually a full grocery bag (paper) of veggies. There were minor religious overtones, but never pushed.