Good And Cheap: Cooking Delicious Meals On A BudgetThu 03 Jul 2014
Story by Leanne Brown
For her final project at New York University's masters program in food studies, Leanne Brown took on a simple question: Is it possible to cook delicious, healthy food on a US food stamp budget of $4 a day?
The answer was yes, and Brown’s final project produced a cookbook titled Good and Cheap—a gorgeously photographed, meticulously researched manual showing how to eat well on a limited budget.
And when Brown posted a free PDF of the book on her website, Good and Cheap became an instant sensation. One reader posted about the book on Reddit, and the PDF racked up nearly 100,000 downloads within a week. Buoyed by the project's success, Brown launched a Kickstarter campaign to print the book for people in need.
Using a TOMS-like “get one, give one” donation model, Brown’s Kickstarter has now far exceeded its initial $10,000 goal. Supporters have contributed enough already for Brown to give away over 3,400 printed copies of the book to low-income families, and she's also printing another 12,000 copies that non-profits can buy at cost ($4/copy). The PDF will continue to be free for download—printing the book just helps get it to those without computer access who need it most.
“Good and Cheap helps people learn how to make good and modern food that just happens to be inexpensive,” Brown says. “It fills a gap because there really isn’t a lot of stuff that helps you cook well if you’re using food stamps. And if you grew up in a family that didn’t cook, or isn’t adventurous with food, you really won’t know how to cook good things for yourself.”
It’s no secret why the book has become an overnight success. Inside, Good and Cheap explains thoughtful principles for stretching dollars at the grocery store and how to build a pantry. For example: don’t buy drinks, do buy foods like eggs that can have multiple uses, and meat and protein don’t need to be the center of a meal. Pages of beautiful recipes follow, with creative twists on oatmeal, salads, soups, and more.
“My intent was to create satisfying food that doesn’t require you to supplement your meals with cheap carbohydrates to stave off hunger,” writes Brown in the cookbook. “I strove to create recipes that use money carefully, without being purely slavish to the bottom line.”
Best of all, the recipes are written with variations in mind, helping readers understand the principles of great cooking, and encouraging them to tailor meals to their own tastes.
“Learning to cook has a powerfully positive effect,” she writes in Good and Cheap. “My hope is that this book will empower people to become better, more conscious cooks, able to conjure deliciousness in any kitchen, anytime, anywhere. Good cooking alone can’t solve hunger in America, but it can make life happier—and that is worth every effort.”
About the Author: Leanne Brown is an NYU food studies graduate who advocates for a better food system through a return to home cooking. In her spare time, she leads grocery store tours in Bushwick, Brooklyn for Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters at the Store Program. Before moving to New York, Leanne worked in city politics in her hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. An avid cyclist, Leanne and her partner Dan once bicycled 2700 miles across Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, all on bikes with just one gear.
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