During the final month of working as Education Coordinator at Urban Oasis, I was asked to teach classes (cooking demos rather) for the Mississippi Market Natural Foods Co-Op. Since October, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of coming up with recipes that can feed a family of four for about $10 (sometimes try as I might it goes up to $12), along with trying to reach outside of my normal go-to recipe habits.
The first few classes, I could easily come up with a recipe or adapt something suggested by the Co-Op’s Education & Events Specialist to coincide with something they were featuring. There have been several repeat attendees and one lovely woman who has taken every class I’ve taught (swoon). Each class has left me excited about the final result and recipe while simultaneously frustrated that so many of the vegetables I love to eat are often out of range or off limits due to price. This has made me both aggravated and also more aware of the work that goes into growing my own food or volunteering with farmers and taking veggies home to preserve.
Despite this frustration, I love teaching these classes and I’ve found small tricks to leverage half a package here or there of frozen Sno-Pac or other basic veggies to incorporate into the recipe in place of bunches of greens or more than 2 or 3 fresh produce items that are featured and on sale. Almost every month, I half-heartedly resolve to try and eat on this budget more often and it’s the higher cost of using fresh ingredients and sourcing locally grown greens in the middle of winter that breaks me. Every. Time. The finished products are so delicious and I like to think pretty creative to accomplish the $10 average meal cost.
Over the next day or so, I will post the recipes I’ve demoed on this site along with any notes on the process for each (short answer: google it and use what some other food blogger has done, adapting ingredients to fit the budget). Until then, I’ve compiled some tips I’ve used while teaching in hopes they will be useful to you as well:
- Use your food scraps - turn the stems of greens into small pieces for soups or risotto; keep a bag in the freezer for your discarded root ends of onions, garlic husks, carrot tops, herb stems, etc. Make your own vegetable stock to save money for the recipes.
- Become BFF with your bulk section - especially for spices that you want fresher (you can use less) or only buy what the recipe calls for. Every class generally uses dried garlic or onion in order to save money and utilize your budget for other types of vegetables. Almost every class features grains or legumes purchased from the bulk section as well.
- Skimp on meat - which is sort of a no-brainer but it’s pretty hard to rationalize 1/3-1/2 of your budget on expensive meat proteins when you could use ingredients like eggs, legumes, frozen green vegetables, and a sprinkle of seeds to add protein.
- Watch your portions - there are definitely times I’ve made a recipe and thought “there’s no way this is going to feed four people” and had to rework things a bit or acquiesce that for some meals you won’t need a giant over-filling serving. This was mostly a thought for my oatmeal egg muffins, potato crusted quiches, and grain bowl classes. Which brings me to my final lesson...
- Stews/Soups/Sauces - these items are the easiest to bulk up with extra broth and grains or legumes and still fit in a bit of meat if you’re serving people who really want that as part of their meal. They have the largest margin of error if you are short a certain ingredient and want to sub in something else. They reheat well, generally can be frozen and turned into soup later; and with the right grains alongside or added into them, they can fill up anybody.
As I add them to my recipes section, I’ll be sure to link below and add any new recipes along the way to other updates and my Foodstuffs Section. For now, I give you... Co-Op Basics Fall/Winter/Spring (also known as : use all the root vegetables and frozen things…!) :
November 2016: Soup from Scratch & Autumn Fall Soup