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Mar 31, 2014 03:57 AM

Cooking When You are Poor

Some of my best work has been done when impoverished by western standards. Back in college, a ten dollar bill could produce miracles. After having a career, and plenty of money to buy whatever the hell I want, there has been something that can only be described as a degradation in creativity.

Recently, I'm trying to cut back on food expenses, and get back to lesser meats, short sales, and work toward family cooking. Sometimes economic conditions change. Any thoughts on this?

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  1. Less meat, more vegetarian food. Cheaper cuts when having meat based meals. Make larger portions - eat one, freeze one. Look out for bargains at the supermarket - but make sure they really are bargains. Eat seasonally. Think through what youre cooking - a chicken will easily give you three meals - a roast, something withe the leftovers, and a carcass for stock/soup.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Second Harters' chicken suggestion.

      Less meat, unless you are a hunter or huntress. Many a deer has sustained a family. Of course, you need to have the wherewithal for bullets and refrigeration.

      Garden (if you're in an urban area see if there is a community garden) and put away food (freeze, can, etc.).

      Second pumpkinspice's suggestion "beans, beans, beans."

      Whole Foods used to have an article in their newsletter on feeding a family of four for $4 or something like that.

      1. re: financialdistrictresident

        I love my garden. I just harvested some of my winter garden yesterday before the snow here. I still have kale that should weather this little storm as well.

    2. - Only buy meat when on sale
      - Meat is never / rarely the star of any dish
      - Beans, beans, beans
      - Egg heavy dishes (quiche)
      - Frozen veg is your friend when not in season
      - Only buy what you think you will need/eat (especially if it can’t be frozen)
      - Freeze bread from the sales rack
      - Get deli meat ends (much cheaper than the regular cuts)

      9 Replies
      1. re: pumpkinspice

        Don't buy veggies when not in season.
        (carrots and other roots are obvs exceptions)

        1. re: Chowrin

          Completely disagree. Produce in-season is not always cheaper. Frozen vegetables retain more nutrients than fresh vegetables not locally-grown and consumed within a day or two of harvest. Frozen vegetables are very often cheaper than fresh, whether local or not.

          1. re: greygarious

            Cite me some numbers? I'm on a low budget, so frozen veggies are often evaluated as "is it better than carrots?"

            1. re: Chowrin

              I don't have numbers but I've also read that frozen veggies can retain more nutrients and aren't as awful as they used to be made to sound.

              1. re: Chowrin

                Around here, fresh carrots are 99 cents a pound. Frozen peas, green beans, and corn are also 99 cents for a one-pound bag but their fresh versions would only be that cheap during a supermarket sale. They'd be twice as much, or more, at a farmstand or farmer's market. The very short delay between harvest time and flash-freezing of frozen vegetables makes them more nutritious than any fresh ones unless they've just been picked from a local garden or field.

                So, "is it better than carrots"? In price, often. Nutritionally, always.

                1. re: greygarious

                  it's about .69cents/lb or so for carrots (buying 10lb bags)

                2. re: Chowrin

                  As opposed to canned goods, much less salt.

            2. re: pumpkinspice

              +++ on Beans, Beans, Beans............

              My favs are:
              Zucca,(winter squash) dry red pepper, olive oil and beans
              Greens and beans,
              pasta and Beans,
              Beans served room temp. as a salad, rosemary, olive oil, season to taste,
              I usually start with dry Great Northern (cannellini) or Garbanzo, (cici) beans.
              Tasty and high in protein!!

              1. re: ospreycove

                agree with ospreycove about beans but would expand it to include ALL legumes: beans, lentils, peanuts, etc.

                also, when it comes to cooking legumes, imho, if you are willing to look beyond european cooking, you will be well rewarded

            3. Cooking on a budget without feeling like you are on one is to focus on diversity. One large bag of starchy potatoes:
              Gnocchi, potato pancakes, spanish tortilla, mashed potatoes....
              Make your own bread, flatbread/pizza, tortillas and pasta
              Fish cakes are a great way to use up frozen fish and a little goes a long way-you can also make them with leftover mashed potatoes

              1. One further recommendation - buy this book:

                Monroe is from my part of the world, so probably you may not be familiar with the names of some ingredients, nor metric quantities. But she has become a very successful writer in recent months. You can follow her newspaper column here -

                FWIW, the book has recipes for dishes at bargain basement prices - often around 30p (around 0.50 USD)

                1. Make a lot of stews and casseroles like lasagna, and freeze what you don't eat. You'll end up with a lot of free meals later on.

                  Make sure you don't sacrifice nutrition for cost. You could end up buying a lot of cheap carbs and impact your health.