Good food is something that is so important to me and my family. I’m not just talking about flavor, but that comes as part of the package when we make our consumer choices based on how the animals, vegetables and grains we buy were treated, processed and shipped to us.
Some of you might know about my food stamps story, which I tell at length in my book (out in April). We moved to NYC and became acutely aware of our budget, $201 per month to be exact. While we worked long hours as a grad student and both of us freelance artists getting our careers off the ground, we needed help. We received food stamps from NYC for one year while J was in school. With this money we were able to eat all our meals at home (all three, really) and buy the majority of our food from local/sustainable sources all within the constraints of that $201, sometimes going over by $20-30; $230 for a month’s worth of food is still not breaking the bank for many under-employed people. Meat, of course, became a luxury item since we didn’t want to buy poor-quality, low-cost meats. We sourced our groceries from our food coop, from farmers markets around NYC (many of which accept EBT/food stamps), from pick-your-own farms and even one or two side dishes during the growing seasons from our own back-deck, bucket garden.
There’s still a huge stigma surrounding what food stamps recipients should spend money on, and unfortunately the roots stem deep into socio-economic factors and the still-very-prevalent stereotypes and rhetoric of welfare. As a former EBT recipient who was harassed in my food coop (of all places) for paying with EBT and owning an iPhone, I know it can be difficult. But as a self-employed person who still can’t afford health insurance, I’d rather spend an extra $1 at the grocery store on chicken raised without antibiotics than take my chances on food that’s not truly proven safe from a long-term health perspective. Medical bills are certainly not in our budget. We shouldn’t have to choose between taking care of our bodies with high-quality food and spending as little as possible on highly-processed, factory-farmed or GMO foods.
I know from experience that you don’t have to have money to eat food that’s both good for you and the planet. You have to be a wise shopper and learn to plan better in the kitchen, which is what I’ve been slowly learning over the past few years.
Now, off my soapbox, I’m so happy to share with you another great resource for beginning kitchen’eers, people who are just embarking on this journey or those of us who are getting the hang of it slowly. Cookbooks are a dime a dozen these days, but Amy’s book really stands out to me as one you should have on your shelf.
Poor Girl Gourmet covers the practical considerations behind eating like a king or queen at home. She adds it all up, highlighting money (or lack thereof) and getting high-quality groceries on a tight budget. The seven recipes (out of 83) that are more than $15 (and that all serve four or more people!) still don’t exceed $30. Where can you go out for a gourmet meal with three of your friends and spend less than $30?
One of my favorite things about this book beyond the price calculator and tips for getting the most bang for your buck at the grocery store is Amy’s coverage of wine and grape varietals. Up until now, I’ve happily proclaimed to know nearly nothing about wine, seeing as J is our resident wine expert. In this section Amy covers some of the great (low-cost) bottles that appear in our house regularly. I already feel more confident and empowered in the wine aisle when J isn’t by my side doing the choosing. [Next weekend I’m blogging at an Austin event called the Wine Ride, stay tuned for a breakdown of things I learn about wine pairings!]
And yes, guys, this is another book with girl in the title but is in no way for girls only. Amy shares her knowledge and love of the kitchen to anyone looking to eat better from their own kitchen.
Enter to win this book, courtesy of Andrews McMeel Publishing, by leaving a comment on this post telling me a trick you use to keep grocery costs low, without skimping on quality. Any trick, no matter how big or small the savings.
Enter by midnight on Thursday, Jan 27. Random.org will help me select a winner, who will be contacted on Friday, Jan 28. Entrants are welcomed from anywhere in the world, hooray for Andrews McMeel!
And don’t forget to leave an email address you actually check in the designated box on the comment form. Other readers won t be able to see it, just me, the person who will be emailing to tell you you won. If I don’t hear back from you by 5pm EST on the 28th, a new winner will be selected.
Good luck and happy eating!
I got a comment this morning that was not really an entry for the book giveaway and in the interest keeping that thread going so the random number generator works as randomly as possible, I’ve removed it and placed it here.
“I’m stuck on the iPhone thing and food stamps… How did you pay the $100+ bill each month?”
I’m sure that other people have thought the same but haven’t said anything (not including the cashier guy at my co-op who decided I should be in abject poverty and give up the phone that I purchased years prior when I had a full-time job with benefits in order to fulfill his expectations of food assistance recipient). It’s important to me to address this because the whole reason I wanted to share my experience is to prevent judgement of people you see using food stamps.
Well, I’m learning that food stamps sorta belongs in the list of categories that bring up heated discussions no matter who you talk to: politics, religion, public assistance…Whatever your stance on it all, please know that until you walk a day in someone else’s shoes, you don’t really understand their situation.
While there are people out there who may have trust funds or independent means and like to pretend they’re poor or people who are just ‘milking the system’ so called, I’m not one of them.
I replied directly to the commenter this morning via email discussing with her the things that led us to, made us eligible for, and why we went off food stamps one year after starting them, which has most to do with my partner, J, finishing her one-year intensive, full-time grad program and being able to work more than 15-20 hrs/week.
I welcome constructive discussion about this topic at length via the discussions tab on the Hip Girl’s Facebook page.
Silly me! I forgot to let you all know who won Amy’s delicious book.
After being graced with a zillion (ok, I’m an exaggerator) wonderful tips/entries by the deadline last week, let’s congratulate Amanda from Michigan. It was also her birthday on the Friday that she found out. Double fun; thanks all for such great comments.