by JoAnn L. Fogler
Wildly Affordable Organic; Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy and Save the Planet, all on $5.00 a Day or Less, by Linda Watson
Linda Watson is the founder of Cook for Good, an initiative to teach individuals, government agencies, and charitable organizations how to get basic kitchen equipment, access to good quality food, and the skills to prepare it healthfully. She lives in Raleigh with her husband, Bruce. She was inspired by a national challenge to eat on a food-stamp budget; which is very appropriate for the current economy. Everyone wants to eat healthy and save money. By buying local foods in season, the planet can be saved, too. Most people think “organic” means expensive, but Linda Watson shows the reader many tricks to cut corners, yet still eat healthy and enjoy it.
Instructions for shopping for ingredients, packaging, and freezing foods accompany each recipe. You can take the menus, recipes and great suggestions and work them into your own lifestyle and time frame. The print is a bit small, and the instructions are a bit detailed, but you can search out the relevant material that will help you save money, go green, and eat organic on a tight budget.
Someone on a food stamp budget or just wanting to economize will gain a lot from this book. Here are some rules Watson suggests:
- Your menu must provide balanced nutrition.
- Don’t cheat on staples.
- Cook from scratch, but don’t go overboard.
- Try to leave out packaged foods as much as possible.
- Look for good whole foods that your family will eat.
- Buy bulk as much as possible.
Watson makes suggestions about how to prioritize which products you should buy organic, and which you can get away with using non-organic. For example, she recommends using organic flour and oil, but buying non-organic salt and yeast. Watson even gives you a chart of items to scrimp on versus items to splurge on. For instance, Watson says scrimp on dried herbs and spices, but splurge on garlic. Use your spices instead of buying ready-made pumpkin pie mix. These same spices can be used again for other baking and cooking. Your own experience paired with Watson’s suggestions will help you become very good with your budget, yet be able to eat great food.
Instead of buying boxed food, freeze your own food. “Don’t freeze expensive pre-made food,” says Watson. Use your freezer space for your own delicious, fresh creations. This author says that with planning, much can be done and money can be saved. Yes, it is convenient to have boxed foods on hand, but it is also possible, says Watson, to have good quality, homemade food at your finger tips. At night, pull something out of the freezer and put it in the fridge to defrost overnight. Pack lunches to save time, hassle, and the expense of going out.
To help you transition into this “wildly organic” plan, Watson gives starter plans and sample menus. In the menus she gives suggestions and you fill in with your own foods that (hopefully) will be from scratch. Try out many of the recipes in this book and add them to your menus.
She gives some marvelous hints about freezing. Freeze in smaller units and if you are baking bread, bake two loaves at a time. Cut both loaves in half and freeze three halves for later. By freezing correctly, you can eat meals when you are in a hurry and/or have more when company arrives.
Start with a good breakfast, says Watson, such as peanut butter on toast with tea. It is quick, easy and provides protein, carbohydrates and fiber to help you stay active and alert until lunch.
There are many recipes in this book that are easy and sound delightful. I have chosen some for you to get started.
Bean Broth Gravy
1 tbsp. butter or corn oil
1 garlic clove, minced (optional)
1 tbsp. white, whole wheat, or all purpose flour
½ cup broth from cooking beans
Melt butter in a small pot over medium heat. If using garlic stir into butter. Whisk in flour and cook until smooth and bubbling, about 30 seconds. For darker gravy, cook flour until it begins to brown about a minute. Whisk in bean broth. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium-low so gravy barely boils. Cook until gravy thickens, about one minute. Whisk occasionally to keep from burning. Use immediately or keep warm until ready to serve. Great over potatoes, rice, or day old bread.
Serves 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish
4 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Use a non-stick rimmed cookie sheet or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut vegetables into bite size chunks, peeling as needed, and pile on cookie sheet. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Arrange pieces in a single layer and sprinkle with salt. Roast for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through until vegetables start to brown and are tender. Serve hot or at room temperature.
2 carrots cut into ¼ inch wide half moons
1 tsp butter or corn oil
2 tsp brown sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
Put carrots, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon into a microwave-safe bowl and cover. Microwave on medium-high heat for 2 minutes and then stir to coat carrots with flavorings. Replace cover on medium heat for another minute or so, until carrots are tender. Stir and serve hot.
Wildly Affordable Organic by Linda Watson, and the ingredients for these recipes, can be found at Tidal Creek Cooperative Food Market.