Time to Save Money on Food

Today, The Simple Dollar is featuring a guest post by Jerry Kolber. Jerry is an award-winning writer, producer, and executive producer of film and television including Inked and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. He is a long-time reader of The Simple Dollar and recently launched a site offering insights into eating great food on a budget at ThreeDollarDinner.com.

One of the most interesting things happening as a result of our economic downturn is that grocery stores are thriving, farmer’s markets are doing great, and seed sales to individuals are up 25% this year. It seems like the whole country is following Trent’s advice at The Simple Dollar to cook at home more. Over the past couple of years, Trent’s writing has also influenced me to spend more time in my kitchen, and I am now more likely to have friends over for dinner than go out to eat.

After spending nearly a decade producing shows like Inked, Confessions of a Matchmaker, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, this year I’m actively making a point to do more of the work I love, writing and producing around the issues of social justice. Trent’s own journey to doing the work he loves – and his writing about the usefulness of being frugal and smart about money along the way – has been an inspiration to me and I look to him for both philosophical and practical advice.

One place I draw the line on cutting costs is on the quality of the ingredients we buy to make our meals. Eating is the only time that you voluntarily select pieces of the “outside world” to take into your body, and the energy of the food does quite literally affect the energy of your thoughts and body. Every time you buy or grow food, you are making a choice about what kind of food system you want to support with your money.

When going to the grocery store, it’s easy to be seduced by the best deal for your wallet. Though I am as much of a food bargain hunter as anyone, I’ve come to learn through years of research into nutrition, the food supply, and self-observation that sometimes the cheapest food actually has hidden costs. Meat, dairy, fruits and vegetable produced on “factory farms” can not only contain chemical residues of antibiotics, fertilizer, and pesticides, the production of these products is also one of the main causes soil and water pollution in America.

The mainstream conversation around “healthy fresh food” is mostly spearheaded by apparently affluent people who seem to have time to pick fresh arugula from their garden each evening. Yet I’ve found that even in Manhattan, the most expensive place in the world to shop for groceries, I can create delicious meals built around fresh, chemical-free ingredients very cheaply. Everything from stuffed burritos, to jaw-dropping macaroni and cheese, pasta with feta cheese, awesome chili, noodles with vegetables and peanut sauce – I’ve come up with simple and quick recipes that let me cook luscious, filling meals for less than a quarter of the cost of a fast food meal.

Earlier this year many people started encouraging me to share this information, so that other people on a budget could see that there was a way to join the food revolution without breaking the bank. With stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes offering cheap generic organic options on everything from beans to pasta to vegetables, and the rise of farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture (CSA’s) and food coops, it’s never been easier to make an affordable shift to a more traditional diet. And with sales of seeds for home gardens increasing 25% this year, it’s clear that many people are going to rediscover the joy of getting a 10 to 1 return on investment from their own patch of fresh fruits and vegetables. With all of this in mind I wrote a cookbook and guide about how to affordably join the food revolution that is quietly happening in America.

The cookbook – Three Dollar Dinner – is now available at ThreeDollarDinner.com, as is a free 25 page manifesto that explains how I came to care about what I eat. Unlike many voices in the “food movement” I don’t tell you what to do; and I don’t offer recipes that include anything you would consider “gourmet”. I just offer my own perspective in a gentle, fun way. I’m just a regular guy who likes to eat and have figured out how to do it in a way that is delicious, good for my wallet, and good for the planet. I don’t discourage any kind of food. I even include detailed shopping lists for two weeks of recipes.

Regardless of whether you get started with my cookbook, Trent’s recipes here at The Simple Dollar, or wherever you may choose, don’t be intimidated by trying organic and natural foods – you CAN afford to be a part of the real food revolution, and there’s no better time to join in then right now.

Here’s a few recipes from the book to get you started. Note that although I encourage you to experiment with organic ingredients (and have priced them that way) you can make them with whatever you want or have available. I include costs per serving for each recipe; you can simply halve the recipe for two, double for a party of eight, etc. The costs are based on Manahttan prices, so hopefully you can do better.

Chinatown Express Noodles with Peanut Sauce
Cost per Person: $2.12
Total Work Time: 14 minutes
Total Time: 22 to 25 minutes
Total Cost for Four People: $8.48
Calories per Serving: 640

This is a tasty, hearty noodle dish with a sweet and salty peanut sauce. It’s a complete one bowl meal with protein, carbohydrates, fats and even a generous serving of fresh vegetables. With snap peas, it has a nice crunch, or for a more traditional preparation used washed and dried greens like kale or spinach.

Ingredients
For the sauce:
2 tablespoons organic sugar, honey, or agave – $0.30
8 tblspns. organic peanut butter (smooth or chunky) – $1.00
5 tablespoons crushed garlic – $0.20
½ cup organic soy sauce - $0.50

For the noodles:
16 ounces organic pasta – $2.49
1 lb. organic snap peas or greens – $3.99

Directions

Step 1 (2 minutes)
Fill your large pot with enough water to cover the noodles, plus two inches. Bring to a boil by setting on your stovetop’s highest heat. Don’t put the noodles in yet. While you wait for the water to boil, go to step two.

Step 2 (4 minutes)
Snap both ends off the peas – if someone else can do this you can move to step two. Or if you are using greens, wash and dry them.

Step 3 (4 minutes)
Combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl plus one cup of water, and mix with a fork until it is completely blended. Start with five or six tablespoons of peanut butter, and add the last couple at the end if it’s not too thick.

Step 4 (1 minute)
By now the water should be boiling. Empty the pasta into the boiling water. Cook it for as long as the box or package recommends – typically between 8 and 12 minutes.

Step 5 (5 minutes)
Heat one tablespoon olive oil in your skillet. Sautee the snap peas or greens for three minutes, then add the sauce and turn the heat to low. Mix well. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water.

Step 6 (3 minutes)
At the end of the recommended cooking time, check the pasta by removing a piece or two with a slotted spoon. Let it cool for a moment and then taste it. If it’s too firm, let it cook for a minute or two more. Pasta gets softer as it cooks, so you don’t want it too soft – “al dente” is the perfect firmness, and it means that it has firmness to your teeth.

When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander then put it back in the pot. Add the peas or greens and the sauce and a dash of chili powder. Toss and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed on the noodles. Serve warm.

Kerouac Stew
Cost per Person: $2.20
Total Work Time: 27 minutes
Total Time: 67 minutes
Total Cost for Four People: $8.82
Calories per Serving: 550

Something about this stew reminds me of the cobblestone streets and charm of the old school West Village (aka Greenwich Village to most folks visiting from out of town) when Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were experimenting with words, life, and spirit. This stew combines vegetables, hearty grains, and rich stock to make a filling one bowl meal. It’s another good weekend recipe since it’s better the longer it simmers. With light, fluffy couscous, it’s vaguely Moroccan. If you’d prefer to serve with rice, or slices of crusty bread, go for it.

Ingredients
1 28 oz. can organic diced tomatoes – $1.79
Bunch (6 to 7) organic carrots – $1.99
8 small (or 4 large) organic potatoes (1.5 lbs total) – $1.50
1 organic onion - $0.60
3 tablespoons Better than Bullion or other bullion – $0.35
12 oz. couscous (one box or 2 cups) – $2.59

Condiments
1 tablespoon basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cinnamon (not essential, but if you have it you can add it)

Directions

Step 1 (10 minutes)
Peel the carrots; cut off ends, and peel with a vegetable peeler. Peel the onion (cut off ends and remove papery outer layers). Wash the potatoes and dry, but do not peel. Now coarsely chop all the vegetables into ½ to 1” cubes and slices (think “bite size”).

Step 2 (7 minutes)
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in your skillet over medium high heat. Add the vegetables and stir for five minutes. Set aside.

Step 3 (3 minutes)
Pour the entire can of diced tomato and juices into your Dutch oven or large pot. Add the skillet vegetables and two tablespoons Better than Bullion and one tablespoon dried basil, plus two teaspoons dried cinnamon if you have it. Stir and bring to a boil, then immediately turn down to a simmer. Let simmer for 45 minutes. Check every five or ten minutes and add a bit of water if it is getting too thick. You can let this simmer for hours – the longer the better, but after 45 minutes check a carrot or potato for doneness.

Step 4 (5 minutes)
After the stew has been simmering for 45 minutes, in a smaller pot or saucepan, bring 3 cups of water to boil. Add one tablespoon Better than Bullion and 12 oz. box of couscous (2 cups). Stir and immediately remove from heat; let sit five minutes.

Step 5 (2 minutes)
After the couscous has sat for five minutes it will have absorbed all the water. Fluff it with a fork, and serve each person a cup of couscous and a couple of generous spoonfuls of the stew.

Sunshine Risotto
Cost per Person: $1.63
Total Work Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total Cost for Four People: $6.53
Calories per Serving: 500

Risotto is the unsung sweetheart of the Italian kitchen. It’s not nearly as hard to prepare as some chef’s would have you believe, and I simplify the preparation even further. Purists may disagree with how I am about to tell you to make fast and delicious risotto, but you can’t argue with the golden delicious orbs of creamy goodness that you will soon enjoy.

Risotto is a rice dish that basically makes itself creamy without having to add any cream or cheese, though you can add both for taste and luxuriousness. This preparation with its lightness and splash of lemon makes me think of the summer I never spent in Italy. You can add a half cup of fresh or dried finely diced mushrooms but I make it just as it is below.

Ingredients
Two cups arborio rice (MUST be arborio) – $2.25
Four tablespoons butter or olive oil – $0.30
One cup grated parmesan cheese (3 ounces) – $2.00
Two big handfuls of greens – $0.98
Four cubes of beef or vegetable bullion – $0.40
One organic onion – $0.60

Condiments
Lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Directions

Step 1 (2 minutes)
In a large pot bring six cups of water to boil with the four cubes of beef or vegetable bullion. While waiting for boil, go to step 2.

Step 2 (7 minutes)
Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat in your skillet. Roughly chop the onion (peel off papery outer layers, cut off ends, and discard – then chop). Begin to sautee the onion, for about 3 minutes, keeping an eye on the pot of water.

Step 3 (20 to 25 minutes)
When the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Then add the two cups of rice, and your sauteed onions. Continue stirring frequently for about twenty to twenty five minutes, until liquid is mostly absorbed. While this is simmering, go to step 3.

Step 4 (3 minutes)
Toss two big handfuls of greens (arugula is great, but spinach works too) with about a tablespoon of olive oil, a dash of salt and a dash of pepper. Add balsamic vinegar if you want. Keep stirring your rice every couple of minutes.

Step 5 (3 minutes)
When the rice has absorbed the water and is creamy, add one cup of parmesan cheese and mix in along with two tablespoons of lemon juice. Taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. It should be slightly salty with a hint of lemon.

Serve the risotto with a side of greens. Mmmmm.

Garlicious Mac-a-Cheese
Cost per Person: $2.40
Total Work Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 to 40 minutes
Total Cost for Four People: $9.60
Calories per Serving: 500

Mac and cheese in a box is the classic “I’m eating on a budget standby.” But since you end up adding milk anyways, all your paying for is dried cheese and less-than-excellent noodles. You can make delicious garlicky macaroni and cheese all by yourself at home, for about the same cost and about 100 times the deliciousness and healthiness (yes, even healthier than Annie’s Naturals, though that’s not a bad choice if you’re really in a hurry).

This is called Garlicious Mac-A-Cheese because that sounds like a superhero name, and I’d let this Mac and Cheese duke it out with any other mac and cheese any day of the week.

Ingredients
8 oz. macaroni (whole wheat or white elbows or penne) – $1.69
1 free range eggs – $0.32
1 organic onion - $0.60
1 6 oz bag organic or natural shredded cheddar – $3.99
Three tablespoons crushed garlic – $0.25
1/2 cup breadcrumbs – $0.25
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (3 ounces) – $2.00
1 cup organic milk – $0.50

Condiments
Salt and pepper
Mustard

Directions

Step 1 (3 minutes)
In a large pot bring water to boil and add the pasta. Cook for as long as box suggests (usually about 9 minutes). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2 (4 minutes)
Scramble the egg in a large bowl for about fifty whisks. Add the milk, two tablespoons mustard, four teaspoons salt, and all the cheddar cheese to the bowl and mix. Grease your large casserole dish (should be about 9 inches by 7 inches, but exact dimensions don’t matter).

Step 3 (3 minutes)
In a small bowl mix the 1/2 cup parmesan with 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Step 4 (35 minutes)
When pasta is done cooking, drain it in a strainer. Now add it to the bowl of milk and cheese and egg, mix gently and then pour into the casserole dish. Top with the parmesan/breadcrumb mixture and put it in the oven for thirty minutes.

Step 5 (3 minutes)
The top should be brown and crusty. If it’s not, you can put your oven on “broil” and toast the top by placing the casserole under the broiler flame for 2 or 3 minutes. Handle with care – it’s hot.

Serve and watch as they pass out from the overwhelming pleasure of Garlicious Mac-A-Cheese.

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  1. Thanks for the recipes! I have been trying to eat as much organic as seems reasonable. Making the switch is sometimes difficult when you compare the cost of organic to “traditional” fruits, vegetables, etc…but you’re right, it does come at a cost, either our health or that of our planet, suffers.

    Thanks again for the post!

  2. Fern says:

    All these look so tasty. Except that my SO will not eat a meal with no meat..

  3. Candi says:

    These kinds of posts would be great if I liked half of the ingredients listed. As I don’t, I am certainly not going to double the cost and buy the organic versions. Then there are the ingredients that I cannot identify and as a picky eater assure you that I probably wont like. So why would I buy the more expensive organic again.

    While I am buying from an organic CSA for this season, I do not realistically expect it to be even a remotely good value. I am willing to try it for a summer but I am not hopeful. But I am trying.

    This post only works when you realistically have enough money to have the option of bargain hunting ones organic food. We wont mention the transportation issues for those who do not live in an urban environment with decent public transport.

  4. Johanna says:

    I cringe whenever I see anything described as “chemical free.” From the play “Proof”: “It can be organic and still be a chemical. Haven’t you ever heard of organic chemistry?”

    The fact that something is a chemical (as everything is), or the fact that it’s synthetic as opposed to natural, doesn’t have much to do with whether it’s good for you or not. I’m aware that things like synthetic pesticides do often do harm to people (farmers and consumers) and the environment – and conventional factory farming of animals does a tremendous amount of harm to those animals – but I don’t think that “certified organic” is something you should get too hung up on in deciding what ingredients to buy.

    For one, “organic” fruits and veggies that are air-freighted in from the opposite side of the country or the opposite side of the world aren’t so great for the environment – and often aren’t so great-tasting, either. For another, small-scale farmers often find it prohibitively difficult to jump through all the hoops needed for organic certification, even though they often take better care of their plants, animals, land, and employees than do the operators of large certified-organic farms.

    That’s why, for me, it’s less important to get “organic” food than to get good-quality, fresh, local, seasonal fruits and veggies. (Tracking down locally produced grains, beans, and things like that is pretty much impossible for me, so I don’t bother. And I don’t eat meat, dairy, and eggs, but if I did, I’d make sure that they were farmed locally too.)

    Thanks for the recipes, though. It’s great to see some meatless ones for a change. :)

  5. O. Berkeley says:

    Lovely recipes. Thanks.

    However, I think your prices are unrealistically low. As an example, there is no way that organic potatoes would sell for a dollar a pound and that a small organic onion would price at 60 cents — at least, not in my area.

  6. Nice post. You might be interested to read the story of a woman who fed herself and her husband a local/organic/fair trade diet on a food stamp budget, starting with bare cupboards. Yes, it really can be done. The biggest step is eliminating ANY waste.

    Story here:

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17726.cfm

    Incidentally, I’ve made that peanut noodle recipe with rice noodles and veggies from the garden (zucchini, cherry tomatoes & chard). Delicious, healthy, filling, and cheap! What more could anyone ask?

  7. Brian says:

    Those meals look great, but hardly have any protein.

  8. Anne KD says:

    @ Brian- The first noodle recipe has protein, so does the mac’n’cheese. Peanut butter has protein. Egg is protein. There’s a fair amount of protein in cheese, too. My husband is vegetarian, 6’5″, and this is something I take very seriously, as he would otherwise live on pizza, carrots and hummus. The other two recipes would be great side dishes.

    Thanks so much for the mac’n’cheese recipe, I’m gluten sensitive and it’s hard to get around a gluten-free cheese sauce (bechamel base). I can use gf pasta and skip the breadcrumbs.

  9. Johanna says:

    @Brian: Vegetables and grains (couscous, noodles, pasta, rice) have protein too – not a whole lot, but more than you’d expect. And most people don’t need as much protein as they think they do. You don’t need to eat meat at every meal in order to get enough protein.

    But if you want to add more, and if you want to keep the recipes vegetarian, you could add some tofu to the first recipe (cut it into cubes and stir-fry it in a little vegetable oil until it’s golden on the outside) and some chickpeas to the second.

  10. George says:

    Picky eaters! LOL. Guess that means more for me!

  11. Jim says:

    @Candi really? are you really really mad that a free website didn’t cater to your absurd taste in food?

    really?

  12. Vickie says:

    Most of the time posts like this have little use for me. How refreshing that as a vegetarian I can actually make all of these without a huge number of substitutions.

  13. Qubert says:

    Am I the only one who noticed that his cost per ingredient is not consistent?

    Peanut sauce recipe: 5 tablespoons crushed garlic – $0.20
    Mac and Cheese recipe: Three tablespoons crushed garlic – $0.25

    Risotto recipe: One cup grated parmesan cheese (3 ounces) – $2.00
    Mac and Cheese recipe: 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (3 ounces) – $2.00

    Maybe the numbers were crunched at different times?

  14. Vanessa says:

    The issue with eating on the cheap is that you’re likely to eat mainly carbs. To save money I could easily live on rice, pasta and bread.. but I try to avoid those and eat mainly veggies and fish. Very expensive indeed :-)

  15. Nelson M. says:

    Those are some tasty looking recipes.

    I’ll also voice my agreement with Johanna. Fresh local and seasonal ingredients are wonderful whenever you can find them!

  16. Mike says:

    ½ cup organic soy sauce – $0.50? Probably closer to $2.

  17. Jerry Kolber says:

    It’s true that all foods are, technically, chemicals. The term chemical-free is not meant to induce cringes. Rather it refers to food to which additional synthetic chemicals have been added to make it easier on the food producer (pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics). Some folks learn about this stuff and don’t mind the chemicals. As I explain on my site, I am not one of them.

    Regarding protein as some have pointed out already, and I also address, fruits, grains, and vegetables not only contain protein, they are the primary kind of protein that occurs naturally in our diet. All the animals we eat for protein synthesize their protein from vegetarian diets, and humans are more than equipped to do the same. That said, I am not advocating a vegetarian diet; however it is a lot cheaper to eat a diet that is “chemical free” if you can break the habit of meat at every meal.

    Finally in terms of transportation/environmental costs negating the effects of eating this way. This one is up for debate. Much “conventional” food is also shipped halfway around the world so it’s hard to totally make this argument, but the point is valid.

    Small farmers not being able to get organically certified is a problem, and I could not agree more that buying locally grown produce is the best option. For those of us who live in a place where this is not possible, there is nothing wrong with making more “organic” selections.

    My main premise is that what we now call “organic” is what was called “Food” as recently as fifty years ago, and we’ve allowed convenience for food producers to inject an ever increasing variety of synthetic chemicals into our food supply.

    Thanks for all your feedback and thank you Trent for helping spread the word.

  18. Jerryb says:

    For those of us that still eat meat all the recipes listed work very well as a side dish. The noodle recipe can be converted into a meat dish just by adding some left over chicken cut into strips. Same with the stew. Slice some beef or a nice pork roast along side the risotto or mac and cheese and you can cut down the portion size and still be satisfied.

    Finding Natural or Organic chicken at reasonable prices is becoming increasingly regular. Currently Trader Joe’s has All Natural chicken legs on sale for $1.29lbs, that’s the same price my local mega-mart has for factory-farm chicken legs.

  19. beloml says:

    Dark green leafy vegetables and broccoli have much more protein than meat. We eat beef because of protein–but where do you think the cows got their protein? From green grass!

  20. Cathy says:

    I tried the first recipe tonight for dinner! Pretty good. It’s very nearly a recipe I made all of the time when I was a broke college student called “Thai Peanut Pasta”. Except this recipe uses greens or snap peas. What a great idea for cooking greens. (I subscribe to an organic CSA so I get a lot of greens.)

  21. Bettsi says:

    Nice article! Those recipes sound truly delicious. As soon as I hit the “Submit Comment” button, I’m going to check out your website! Thanks!

  22. *sara* says:

    mmm, these recipes look so good! Thanks for the post, can’t wait to try them all! And, everyone, its easy to toss in some chicken or serve with a green salad if thats what you want to do.

  23. Jules says:

    Food for thought: organic produce requires more energy and more resources to produce the same amount as conventional methods, owing to the decrease in yields (losses due to bugs and what-not). In terms of measuring environmental impact, it matters far less how your food is grown, and far more what it is (meat or vegetable). 1 lb of organically-raised beef requires 1000x the water to grow the same equivalent of tofu. I’m not suggesting that we all eat tofu (I’m a vegetarian and I can’t stand the stuff), but if you want to be green without paying ZOMG prices, the easiest way to do so is to cut back on your meat consumption.

    As for the question of protein: it’s a question of availability. Pound for pound, meat is only 20% protein (the rest being water). Plants, depending on which plants, can contain more protein than meat, BUT–with the exception of soybeans–they do not contain all 20 that humans need. This is why vegetarians are always going on about rice and beans–the proteins in rice and beans complement each other. As long as you eat a variety of food, it is almost impossible to run a protein deficiency, and this is doubly true if, like me, you drink milk and eat eggs…although now that I think on it, it’s been a long time since I last ate eggs…

  24. Gail says:

    Sounds so yummy and inexpensive – thank you for the recipes and link!

  25. deRuiter says:

    Great recipes, will try the risotto! It’s time to start that garden if you have a patch of earth including a couple of pots on the terrace for growing fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes. Gardening’s a cheap hobby, forget all those silly articles about $30. tomatoes. Find a sunny spot, skim off the sod and establish a compost heap with it, compost all kitchen waste, most garden waste, and grass clippings. Turn the soil by hand with a few tools from yard sales, and buy seeds and a few tomato and pepper plants. START SMALL AND TAKE GOOD CARE OF THE GARDEN. Mulching with grass clippings, leaves, the wood chip / manure bedding from the local horse stable, whatever you’ve got, keeps down weeds and enriches the soil over time. Plant seeds according to package direction. When planting tomato and peppers plants put little newspaper collars around the stems to foil cutworms. Water everything in and water during really dry spells. It’s amazing how much produce you will get from a small patch and $10.00 worth of seeds and started plants. THERE IS NOTHING LIKE THE SATISFACTION OF PICKING AND EATING YOUR OWN PRODUCE.

  26. Kathy says:

    Is anyone else amused by the fact that it’s 8tbs of peanut butter and a .5 cup of soy sauce?

    For those not up on their kitchen conversions, it’s the same volume.

    And dude…. my mac and cheese is $1.00 per box (the Annie’s is like $1.50 per box) it’s not a “oh, it’s an easy price substitution) We won’t get into whether or not Annie’s is nutritionally better or not. It’s certainly advertised as being nutritionally better. I’m not sure that is truly the case.

  27. GayleRN says:

    Mac and cheese with 4 teaspoons of salt???? I truly hope that is a typo of some sort. Sorry, but you just negated any health benefits of organic with that much salt or any for that matter. There is generally plenty in the US diet even if you use no salt in cooking.

  28. Just a little note: you do not need to spend extra on organic honey (mentioned in one recipe). All honey is organic.

  29. Peggy says:

    I believe frugalscholar is using the “natural” argument to organics: that if it is a natural food, it is therefore organic. I believe the author is using a more precise definition of organic, like perhaps the USDA definition. “Natural” on a food label means exactly: nothing. There is no regulation for natural. This would seem to be the argument used in the early comments regarding chemical vs. organic as well. The USDA definition of organic is very specific and does not allow for pesticides, herbicides and genetically-modified ingredients.

    One note: please be careful of bullion and bullion-like substitutes. Many are very high in MSG (or MSG by another name like sodium caseinate) a very hazardous ingredient.

  30. Derek says:

    Sounds to me like more of a plug than a guest post. You should prove your writing skills as a niche blogger before peddling your book, in my opinion. Especially when the blog you’re guest posting on has better writing and editing.

  31. Jerry Kolber says:

    Thanks for all the great feedback. Peggy is right, you do need to watch for MSG in bullion as it can cause serious allergic reactions, but you should watch for MSG in everything.

    As far as specific ingredients and nutritional content or organic vs non-organic, I can’t reiterate enough that these are highly personal decisions that I would not advise anyone on. Information CAN be offered without personal dogma attached. That’s the whole point. There’s enough people already shouting their “absolute advice” about why organic is better than not, or vice-versa; meat vs. not meat; and all the different ways we can define these things. Taking responsibility for what we are eating and not taking anything on faith is the point.

    Derek, as Trent mentioned my career has been largely as a producer and writer of TV and Film. I am developing shows around the issues of environmentalism and food justice, and realized that this information needs to be available to everyone – regardless of whether they get cable TV. And I couldn’t agree more that Trent’s writing is fantastic and inspirational.

    Based on feedback from a bunch of folks over the past few days (asking if they can have a discount because times are hard) I am reducing the price of the cookbook to $3 from $9 and refunding the difference to anyone who’s purchased it already. I truly want this info into the hands of as many people as possible. Most of the income is going to keep spreading this information and a large portion of it is being donated to different not-for-profits around the country to help with issues of food justice and access.

  32. jc says:

    so much fear of food in these comments… fear of fat, fear of salt, fear of MSG, fear of bullion cubes, fear of anything not grown with poo, fear of anything grown with poo, fear of meat, fear of maybe trying something new…

  33. Sam Catt says:

    Anyone notice that the prices are unrealistically low?

  34. Claire says:

    Yum! Can’t wait to try these! :)

  35. Claire says:

    Yum! Can’t wait to try these! :)

  36. Henya says:

    A great way to eat cheap and healthy is to join a local organic CSA. Since joining, our family has been snacking on organic fruit and veggies all week. We’re signed up with a San Francisco organic CSA called http://www.AlbertEve.com and we love it. Firstly, we’ve been saving lots of money by cutting overprices organic produce out or our supermarket shopping list. We pay like $20 a week and get a delivery box full of local organic fruit and veggies that lasts throughout the week. The CSA concept is huge in San Francisco, and there are many options, but no matter where you live, you can probably find one in your area.

  37. clc says:

    thanks so much for sharing your thoughts & recipes. i always love the ideas of those who are intelligent & enthusiastic about what they are sharing. the recipes look fun, too.

    thanks to trent for having guests on your site! i found your blog a while back (homemade laundry detergent, i think…) – i don’t go exploring for blogs very often, so it’s nice when a trusted friend (you) does it for me :)

  38. Wayne Kale says:

    First of all I think it’s good to have a guest blogger that Trent feels good about. It’s a chance to read directly a post rather than going to the “recommended” site later. This post is very interesting to me and like any other post Trent writes will fit people differently.

    I love good mac and cheese and this recipe reminds me of a receipe a family member used to make but w/o the garlic. Unless I’m not reading it correctly, the recipe though calls for 1 onion and 3 tablespoons of crushed garlic but in the directions doesn’t say what/when to use them. Course I presume you chop the onion and add it with the garlic at the same time you mix the main ingredients.

    Looking forward to trying this recipe and to other blog authors Trent wants to introduce in this way.

  39. Sarah says:

    Geez, Candi, how depressing to decide that you wouldn’t like a food before you’ve even seen or smelled it, much less tasted it. Life’s too short to keep a closed mind like that! For some reason, I had never (that I can remember) eaten kale–certainly I’d never cooked it for myself. A couple of months ago, I was looking for recipes for dark green leafys and saw one in the NYT that sounded vaguely intriguing. Kale is delicious! I’m kicking myself for not eating it before.

    And, heck, today I tasted pickled green tomatoes at the greenmarket for the first time and they were so good I bought a jar.

  40. nancy says:

    i just have to add here i go to many kinda of places to shop, auldis, BJ ,a small market that has a meat frezzer but i think the most sillyest thing is that people are buying bananas for a 1.30 or so when they can get them for 49 a pound WHY would any one do that are they so dumb ? i just don’t get the people choises i just think wow am i the smart one and i only finished high school

  41. Lou says:

    Did I miss something?? In the “Garlicious Mac & Cheese,” when and how is the garlic incorporated into the recipe?

  42. Great post! Eating at home is a super way to save lots of money and eat healthier, and also a fabulous way to reap rich rewards by spending time with the people you love!

    Would it surprise you to know that kids who regularly eat dinner with their families make healthier food choices so they are less likely to be overweight, because they eat more nutritious meals?

    Studies have proven that kids who regularly eat dinner with their families do better in school and are less likely to smoke, drink alcohol and take drugs. Maybe it’s because they feel valued and cared about! Sounds like lots of great reasons to start cooking!

  43. Sam Catt says:

    I find it intellectually dishonest that you did not post my comment about the lowball estimate of your meal costs.

  44. Samantha says:

    WORSE writing and editing? Are you kidding me? I work in publishing – read writing of all kinds every day – and this whole post was wonderful. There’s a real life and energy to this writing that befits the author’s enthusiasm for the topic. I initially skipped the notice at the top of the post about the guest blogger, but after a couple paragraphs, went back to look for it. It was obvious that it was written by someone other than the blog’s regular writer.

  45. JT says:

    Wow, the noodle recipe looks really good – I’m just about to head to the grocery store so I may try that for dinner tonight! Thanks!

  46. tambo says:

    I’ll give them a try, but my problem is that, well, I don’t use much honey, peanut butter, etc when I cook and to buy those in organic form just to have them sit around on the shelf for forever after I use a tablespoon or two seems wasteful. Yeah, the units per recipe cost might not be so bad, but I’d still have to buy a whole bottle of honey. I already have honey… and peanut butter. And soy sauce…

  47. Brendan says:

    Wow. There is a lot of ignorance in the comments here today.

    First, for beloml: broccoli and other green vegetables do not give you much protein. They have a lot of good micronutrients and fiber, but not much else.

    It’s not necessary to have meat to get a large amount of protein, though it is easier. There are alternatives: soy products like tofu, mixtures of beans and rice.

    Also, 1/2 cup of soy sauce is way too much for portions of this size, even if you like your food very salty.

  48. MrzFitz says:

    There sure are a lot of negative comments, but it’s a good article with writer’s offering of 3 recipes FREE that you can choose to try or not try, and if you want specific protein with them just use these recipes as side dishes and add your favorite… steak yum :-)

  49. Bill in Houston says:

    Jerry said, “With stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes offering cheap generic organic options…” Here in Texas we call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck.” There is nothing cheap there, and by generic he must mean their 365 brand? I don’t know.

    That being said, I will probably try one or two of the recipes. I think the whole organic movement is bunk, but to each his own. My opinion is solely mine. I’ll use the ingredients in my pantry, though.

    I bought a pile of vegetables from a farmer’s market this past Saturday (on the way home from the cradle of Texas liberty, Washington-on-the-Brazos). Their open produce was all tagged as locally grown. Their bagged produce (we bought carrot) was actually grown in Texas. We’d go more often except Hempstead is 40 miles away.

  50. Johanna says:

    I think that Whole Foods markets in most areas have a reputation for being expensive, but I don’t think that reputation is entirely deserved. To say that “there is nothing cheap there” is simply false. When I go through and compare prices on items I buy between Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, independent health food stores, and “regular” grocery stores, Whole Foods often comes out ahead. For example, last I checked, their price on tofu was 40% less than at the regular grocery store ($1.50/lb vs. $2.50). They also have by far the lowest price on fair trade sugar (which most stores don’t even sell).

    Now, my grocery-shopping patterns are different from most people’s, so your mileage may vary. Whole Foods does charge high prices on animal products like meat and milk, as I understand it, because they buy those things from farms that have a higher standard of animal welfare. But that’s important to some people.

  51. Jen says:

    I like the sentiment, but I have some issues with your recipes.

    Where’s the instructions for what to do with the garlic in the mac and cheese?

    Your risotto recipe isn’t actually risotto. To make risotto, you saute and aromatic base (which almost always includes shallots), then add your rice and saute it until the grains turn translucent, then deglaze with something like vermouth. Then you add the simmering broth, one ladle full at a time, adding it little by little as it absorbs, stirring constantly. It’s also probably inadvisable to make risotto with bullion – it would be way to harsh and salty. You want a good homemade stock. Why would you bother buying expensive arborio for this?

    You’re almost there with the noodles. But you need some oil for texture – try toasted sesame oil. And cut down the amount of soy sauce by subbing some rice vinegar. You probably want to add some fresh minced ginger too.

    I think maybe you’re not quite ready to be writing recipes – it’s not as easy as it seems! You need people to test them, and then proofread/edit. You also can’t make really make a compelling collection of organic recipes by taking a recipe and tacking “organic” on to all the ingredients. Keep at it though – some tweakign and editing and you’ll probably end up with something worth reading!

  52. Bill in Houston says:

    Johanna,

    I do a lot of comparative shopping and Whole Foods is the priciest of the lot. I buy my produce from a Korean market (H Mart, started in Atlanta) for third of what they charge at WF.

    I buy my animal products at Costco in bulk.

    Sundries are also a lot more expensive at WF, a lot of which I coupon match at Kroger.

  53. Kathryn says:

    Hi Jerry,

    I hope you’re not overly discouraged by some of the feedback. I liked the tone of your writing and your enthusiasm for the subject.

    I think the two points made in the comments that I would encourage you to focus on are:

    1. Writing recipes is a lot harder than it seems. My note…It will definately get easier with practice though. Ideally one cooks A LOT (both from recipes and without recipes)before trying this – so that you have a thorough understanding and feel for various ingredients and the art of cooking. Giving your own recipes to people who may not know how to cook at all is a major act of detail-oriented and thorough organization.
    2. Taking into consideration when and where something is grown/raised (as in seasonal/local vs. shipped out of season from across the planet)is also a major consideration when discussing environmental impact.

    Best of luck! I’ll be sure to visit your site!

  54. Eating at home clearly allows you to upgrade the quality of the food you eat!

  55. EdTheRed says:

    If I may, I’d like to suggest a few tweaks to the Garlicious Mac-A-Cheese. Thanks for a great recipe to build on.

    Saute the onion and the garlic in a little EVOO before adding them to the milk/cheese/egg mix. The raw onion and garlic don’t quite cook tender during the baking, and are still a bit spicier than most folks are comfy with.

    One tablespoon of mustard ‘stead of two.

    Doesn’t really need salt. Eliminate it.

    Use 2% organic milk and cheese, the full-fat is a bit rich.

    Add a little EVOO to the bread crumbs and parm. mix, it will bake up extra crispy. I used Romano instead of Parm…it’s all good.

  56. Jon says:

    @Jen

    The author actually says that his method of rissoto preparation is not how a “purist” would do it. He’s just trying to make the dish more accessible.

  57. Jon says:

    To follow up, I made both the Kerouac Stew and the risotto last night. Both are easy and delicious. I added cauliflower to the stew.

  58. Jerry Kolber says:

    Jon, glad to hear the recipes went well for you – I love the risotto (even though it is not “purist”, it’s delicious). For the folks having trouble with specific ingredients or preparation, as with any recipe from anyone, you gotta taste it to make adjustments for yourself. Some people make these recipes exactly as written and love em, others tweak! There was a left out section in the mac and cheese, namely to sautee the garlic and onion for a few minutes and add to the mix – sorry about that, it got lost in the post but is correct in the cookbook.

    As far as prices, again depending on where you are in the country and how much you want to go organic, you have to do some research. Where I live CSA’s are a great deal (google community supported agriculture), the farmer’s market is a little less expensive than Whole Foods, and Whole Foods is a little less expensive than the smaller “natural foods stores”. My prices are based on a Whole Foods in downtown Manhattan as of April 2009 with nothing on sale.

    Keep on cookin!!

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