5 Tips for Eating Well on a Budget

Our guest today is Leanne Brown, an avid cook and baker and the author of the new cookbook Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day. She shares her tips and tricks for eating well, with healthy, affordable recipes on a budget. 

Kara Rota
2-minute read
Episode #59

Leanne Brown created Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day as the culmination of her master's degree at NYU's food studies and food policy program. She released it online as a free PDF, then began a Kickstarter campaign to get print books into the hands of people who needed them most, hoping that the book could be used as inspiration for cooking fresh meals on a SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) budget. The book is now being distributed by Workman, and for every copy purchased, another copy will be donated to someone who needs it. Today, Leanne joins the Clever Cookstr to share advice for everyone about how to cook well on a budget. 

Here are her top five tips:

1) Buy things that you'll use in multiple ways.

For example, pulled pork is a shareable, celebratory dish that starts with an inexpensive cut of meat, pork shoulder. You cook it low and slow in the oven, on the grill, or in a crockpot, and it happily feeds a crowd. Leftovers can be used for sandwiches, tacos, or added to rice and beans or soup. When you're buying basic things that have multiple uses, you'll be able to stretch them over a variety of meals.

2) There are some places where it makes sense to splurge.

Using real butter instead of margarine is worth it in flavor, as just a little bit adds richness. While it might not be part of your kitchen arsenal yet, a microplane grater is ideal for everything from zesting lemons to grating cheese very finely, so you'll use less. 

3) Eat seasonally!

Produce that is in season tends to be both better quality and less expensive. Use summer tomatoes in a panzanella salad with cucumbers and stale bread: it's colorful and bright as well as flavorful.

4) Food can be both celebratory and economical.

Presentation on the plate makes a big difference. Making your own quick pickles, salsas, and other condiments and adding them to standards like hot dogs makes a meal perfect for a special occasion. 

5) Think outside of meat for sources of protein.

Leanne uses lots of eggs and legumes in her cooking. Think of meat as a part of your meal that adds flavor, but not the central part of it. 

Remember to check out past Clever Cookstr episodes. For more great recipes, you can also follow Cookstr on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

And here are this week's bonus recipes: Wilted Cabbage Salad and Spicy Pulled Pork.

Leanne Brown photo credit: Jordan Matter.

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.