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Good and cheap

GAYS MILLS - The title of the book grabbed my attention: ‘Good and Cheap, Eat Well on $4 a Day.’  Having recently written a column back in December of 2016 about  surviving on a dollar a day and being a “fiscal conservative,” I thought I’d give it a look. I liked it so much that I bought a copy of this book for the Gays Mills Library. It’s just too good not to share.

The backstory of this book is interesting. The author, Leanne Brown, was working on her master’s degree in food studies at New York University. As a capstone project in pursuit of her degree, she studied the possibility of eating well on $4 per day. That’s the amount, on average, that folks on food stamps, AKA SNAP benefits, are allotted. She posted her results, an earlier version of what became the eventual book, on her webpage, ( and was overwhelmed at the response she received. The PDF was viewed over 500,000 times in six months. She decided to self publish the project as a book and it has become a somewhat accidental success for her. Whoops, I wrote a best selling book!

And you can see why. The book talks about eating frugally and well, preparing healthy, diverse meals on a very strict budget. It’s possible, Brown asserts, if you get involved in the process as compared to eating processed foods. “Kitchen skills, not budget, is the key to great food,” she writes.  And not special, esoteric skills, either.   Just basic good cooking. To eat good and cheap involves creativity and thought, and harkens back to when most food was prepared at home from basic ingredients.

The book is largely recipes, dozens of recipes. Each recipe has a tantalizing picture with it of the finished product-the photography is fantastic. Each recipe has simple to follow instructions and she aims for doable, non-threatening dishes that will build the confidence of a person who is developing the kitchen skills she believes are the key to the book.

In the short introduction to the book, Brown gives 17 tips for eating and shopping well, all of which made beautiful, practical sense. There is a page on supermarket strategies, which point to building up your pantry (tip #3) of foods that can be turned quickly into scrumptious meals. There is a handy page on how to deal with leftovers. She has a seasonal chart that shows the best time to buy fruits and vegetables. Finally, there is a list of the basic kitchen equipment needed to make a “good and cheap” kitchen function.

Brown emphasizes that her book is a strategy guide, not a typical cookbook. She wants her readers to gain confidence in their own ability to create dishes and meals after mastering a few basic skills. This is a new guide, you could say, to home economics with the emphasis on economy. I recommend it to you highly.

It’s at the Gays Mills Library. Check it out.