4 tips to eating well on $4/day

WATCH ABOVE: Is it possible to eat well on roughly $4 a day? A former Edmontonian says ‘yes.’ Trish Kozicka has more.

EDMONTON — Eating well doesn’t have to be expensive. That’s what Leanne Brown is determined to show as she serves up a smorgasbord of meal ideas in her cookbook Good and Cheap.

Created as part of a Master’s project in Food Studies at New York University, the cookbook was designed for people with limited incomes — such as the nearly 47 million Americans who live on a $4/day food stamp budget.

Its author, a former Edmontonian, decided to post a free copy of the cookbook on her site earlier this year. It didn’t take long for it to go viral.

“90,000 people downloaded it in a week,” she recalls.

Seeing people’s voracious appetite for her affordable and  “generally healthy” recipes (she stayed true to her Canadian roots and even made one for poutine), Brown decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign on June 3 to fund a print version of the cookbook.  She figured it could then reach people who may not have a computer.

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Her initial $10,000 fundraising goal was met in approximately 36 hours. In just over a month, more than ten times that amount has been raised.

“I ran it the same way I would a political campaign,” Brown admits, adding she would “hustle every day” to get the word out.

READ MORE: How Kickstarter enabled over $40,000 (and counting) in potato salad funding

The now-New Yorker isn’t new to that. She worked with Edmonton mayor Don Iveson on two of his campaigns while he was still a city councillor.

READ MORE: Edmonton mayor trying to live on $1.75 a day

It was actually during that time that she discovered her passion for cooking.

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“When you cook something yourself and it’s good and you like it, it feels amazing. Then in addition to that, what it can do to your health and your energy level is just tremendous. And I think that’s a concept that people really believe in,” she says.

Brown shares the following four tips to help stretch your dollar, without sacrificing a great meal:

1. Always have eggs on hand.

AP Photo/Matthew Mead

“If you have eggs in your fridge, you will always have a decent, satisfying meal moments away because they can be cooked in so many different ways,” Brown explains.

Aside from the typical scrambled or poached eggs you may be used to, she suggests using them to spruce up an otherwise dull salad or bowl of grains.

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They’re also great for baking and making sauces, Brown says, and extremely inexpensive.

2. Try to keep a well-stocked pantry.

Items like whole grains and canned vegetables will give you a lot of bang for your buck.

“Buying foods in their most raw state and then cooking from scratch is really the way to save money from food. You can’t get by on $4/day if you have to buy prepared foods. It’s just not going to happen.”

Brown considers rice to be a great staple to have, same with oatmeal.

You can add an egg to your oatmeal to make it savoury, she says, or fruit and nuts. One of her favourites is her pumpkin oatmeal, which calls for canned pumpkin, some brown sugar, and cinnamon — perfect for a little dessert!

Pumpkin oatmeal dish from Leanne Brown’s cookbook, “Good and Cheap.” Supplied

3. Don’t buy drinks.

As Brown writes in her “Tips for Eating and Shopping Well” section (p. 5), “[a]ll the body needs drink-wise is water.
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Except for milk, most packaged drinks are overpriced and deliver a lot of sugar without filling you up the way a piece of fruit or a bowl of yogurt does.

If you want a special drink, make an agua fresca (p. 109), smoothie (p. 110), or tea.”

A recipe for “Agua Fresca” from Leanne Brown’s cookbook “Good and Cheap.” Good and Cheap, by Leanne Brown

4. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

“It can be hard if you haven’t grown up in a family that cooks very much,” Brown acknowledges.

Rather than getting overly ambitious right off the bat — which can lead to quickly getting overwhelmed — she recommends easing into cooking.

For instance, start by just making a grilled cheese sandwich; then next time, try stuffing a little zucchini in there.

Brown is big on the vegetables.

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Spicy green beans from Leanne Brown’s cookbook,” Good and Cheap.” Supplied

You can read her full cookbook below. In it she explains how she has come up with the prices attached to her recipes and adds that “naturally, prices in other cities…will vary, so please think of the numbers as a guideline.”


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