Take this statement from the Hungry for a Month blog:
It’s a strange experience now when I eat with other people. I eat fast (since it all tastes like crap), and then I get this real boost of energy (since everything I’m eating converts pretty quickly). Other people tend to mill about their plates, sigh a number of times while eating, and after eating, immediately go do something like sit down some more.
While I admire the idea, I ask where are the folks who are interested in actually proving the theory that you can't eat healthy for less wrong? One gal, the author of Less is Enough, seems to have figured out how to do that, but most other bloggers out there seem dedicated to convenience foods and low cost, which is just going to cost them more later in healthcare costs. There's another story with her in it from ABC News.
I'd be willing to bet those folks out there who know how to cook eat better, yet spend less. Think about it--how much stuff do you pass up or throw away?
At this very moment, I've got a pot of "free" chicken stock going. Rather than buying stock at the store, I keep a couple of large freezer bags in the freezer for catching chicken fat, bones (yes, even from after the chicken was cooked--actually, those are better), onion peels, garlic cloves that are infuriatingly small, carrot and celery ends, carrot peels, parsley and other herb stems . . . well, you get the idea. When I have winter squash like butternut, those peels go in too (talk about the pretty golden color!), and I do the same with the trimmings from sweet potatoes. This is just a pantry staple for me--when I take the last 2 cup container of stock out of the freezer, I know it is time to throw the stock pot on and clean out my stash and start over.
At the end of the process, I'll have very low sodium, virtually fat free stock. All from things I would normally throw out when cooking.
I shop sales too, and take advantage of the produce manager's attempts to clear things out that are not consumer-pretty--yesterday, I scored enough super ripe mangoes to make sorbet for 99 cents. I also got a fresh pineapple for a buck, as well as a carton of strawberries that are going to get washed, trimmed and individually quick frozen for smoothies later, if I don't eat them first--cost? 1/2 of what the not quite ripe, scentless cartons next to it. I also got four advocados in a bag (I was going to make tacos and guacamole sounded good) for the price of a single underripe one. They had a bag of Hatch chiles for 79 cents, so those got roasted to go on the tacos, and shrimp was 4.99 a pound for 21/30 count if you bought a 5 pound bag. That's 10 or more meals around here, with generous shrimp portions. As Hodding Carter mentioned in one of his posts, sometimes going to the store without a list is the best plan--I menu plan as I shop.
Some of the blogs talk about not stocking up, which I think is rather silly. Perhaps it's my background and the fact that Mom has enough stuff in her back up pantry and freezers to feed us all for a month or more, or maybe it is from those days of grad school and being an instructor where I got paid once a month and not very much, but I always have things like chickpeas, rice, lentils, pinto beans, flour, yeast, sugar and even powdered milk in my pantry. I could probably do a no grocery store month (not that it would be necessarily pretty in terms of fresh veg, but the freezer's stocked with frozen).
At any rate, I'm not quite sure what the point of this post is other than I got completely wrapped up in that idea that even something as interesting as "how to eat on a dollar a day" can get "Americanized" really quickly to "let's see how cheap we can eat as fast as we can, not giving a crap about whether it's good for us or tasty." Isn't this how we got in this mess of obesity and chronic disease in this country to start with?
We eat pretty good around here, and we certainly spend more than $30 a month each on food (heck, our CSA basket costs that much, but for us that's about supporting local farmers), but I think we probably spend less than a lot of other folks who don't eat as well. I'd be willing to bet, though that some of our vegan friends who cook save even more. It's definitely something to think about.