Almost 50 million Americans are now in a state of “food insecurity”, meaning they do not have access to the food they need. When I heard this story reported on November 17, 2009, I realized that no matter what happens to the stock market, we are still in a serious economic downturn – and people are hungry. People, by the way, includes one out of five children in America.
In reading up about what to do to help the hungriness problem, I was told that many food pantries can’t use the cheapest types of food (things like rice or dried beans) because the people who use them don’t know how to cook those types of food.
To me, it seems that this is a fixable problem – much more immediately fixable than getting more food or getting more money to buy food, though those would be quicker fixes. In my opinion, people need to know how to cook, for a whole host of reasons, only one of which is that food you cook yourself is cheaper. It is also healthier. Food you cook yourself tends to have less high fructose corn syrup in it, for instance, and fewer unpronounceable chemicals. And if you can cook, you can cook what grows near you rather than paying for food to be flown or trucked in from far away. You can eat the butternut squash that grows right in your own county, for instance, rather than paying for the transportation of tomatoes from another country – which also happen to be hard and flavorless AND a lot more expensive per pound.
This is good for the environment, good for the tastebuds, good for your community (you’re paying local farmers), and of course good for your pocketbook.
So you might be here for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to assume that all your reasons can be met by learning how to cook.
You can probably make the things I’m going to show you how to make with cheaper ingredients. As I’ll discuss elsewhere on this site, I use whole foods wherever possible, healthy substitutes for sugar, and organic foods wherever I can. You might not be able to afford those things right now. If you give up eating take-out, processed, or imported food, you might find that you are able to afford what I would consider healthier ingredients. But I’m not going to make those decisions for you. If you know how to make pancakes, you can make them with white flour, sugar, and nonorganic fat-free milk just as well as you can make them with whole wheat flour, xylitol, and organic full fat milk. Wherever you need to do some work to make your own substitutions, I’ll try to note it, but for the most part learning to cook is learning to cook. If cooking ten days a month helps you balance your budget, I will feel as though I’ve done my bit to help you stay afloat, and you’ll get no crap from me about eating junk food the other 20 days a month – as long as you can afford it. I have firm convictions about some things but no moral high ground. And in fact that’s why I think this website is necessary. I found many websites touting locavore cooking, or veganism, or low-carb cooking, or any number of food philosophies which don’t necessarily serve the immediate goal of putting food on the table. The point of this site is to help you learn how to cook.
I have no special claim to fame either for cooking or for cooking cheaply. I have been a starving underemployed recent college graduate; I have been unemployed (twice in two years) and living on food I could buy with a credit card from Wal-Mart. I have been in a family on WIC and I have spent years feeding myself and a partner on $40 a week. I currently have a good income and spend far more of my budget than I’d like on food. I’m trying to cut down my own food expenses at this time while eating the way I need to for my health and occasionally feeding my stepkids (one of whom is a healthy omnivore, the other of whom is a very picky eater who would live on sugar if allowed to). When you see me cook food on this site, you’re seeing me cook what I eat. No food stylists, no wanna-be-on-the-Food-Network, no interest in generating income from this website. I just want to help you learn how to cook – cheap.