Terra Sigillata

MD/PhD student Jake Young at Pure Pedantry came up with a great idea and is collecting recipes for cheap, grad student/med student meals. (We of Eastern European heritage love a kid who suggests an inventive application of kielbasa.).

The submissions in the comment thread remind me that our food supply system is so screwed up that the most nutritious foods are the most expensive. When one is living on a student stipend, paying your own way, or , more seriously, if you are one of millions of US citizens living in abject poverty, one usually purchases the most calories per dollar. In our country, that usually means something high in saturated fat, high-fructose corn syrup, or both. Healthy food is expensive food.

So, take the challenge and go over to Jake’s to submit one of your favorite recipes for something that is both inexpensive and healthy. It’s not as easy as it might seem.

Comments

  1. #1 Davidp
    April 26, 2008

    A 25 year old story: When my (Australian) wife was living in Madison she gave a receipe for a lamb chop casserole to some American student colleagues. They said “If we could afford lamb chops we wouldn’t casserole them.” Lamb was very cheap (and still is fairly cheap) in Australia (lots of grass fed sheep) but apparently expensive and unusual in Wisconson.

    I’ll try to dust off some of the hearty soup recipes instead.

  2. #2 milkshake
    April 29, 2008

    That Kielbasa cheapo receipe: it has to be a Kielbasa-and-potato goulash:

    You brown 2 large chopped onions and the cubed kielbasa on some butter or lard, when brown you add diced potatoes (half-inch to 1 inch cubes), few bay leafs, whole black pepper and some allspice, dust generously with red sweet paprika powder (hungarizan Szeged works best) and stirr only for 1-2 minutes, salt generously, then pour in some water and cover and simmer for about 30-45 min. When the potatoes cubes are just nice and soft you take few potatoes out, mash them with a fork and stirr back in and cook for another 10 min, to get a thicker sauce. Cool, eat. Tastes best re-heated the next day. If you are a rich east-european kid, you can serve it with few dollops of sour cream.

    Not exactly a delicatessen, but a lot better than rahmen. $12 in ingredients yields about 6 large servings.

  3. #3 DuWayne
    April 29, 2008

    Actually, it is really easy to produce tasty, healthy food cheap. Crock-pot cooking makes it really easy.

    In my home we use a lot of TVP. In part this is because momma is a vegetarian, but it’s also because it’s so damned cheap. Once a month we get five pounds of dry TVP in bulk, costs about nine dollars, since prices took a recent hike at WinCo. About five ounces of TVP reconstitutes to the equivelent of a pound of lean ground beef, after the grease has been drained. When I am cooking something that momma doesn’t like, I will reconstitute the TVP with beef or chicken broth. When we make something that doesn’t contain cheese or other significant sources of fat, we add either olive oil or butter.

    The biggest expense in our food budget is veggies. Even there we can do pretty well, buying from one of Portland’s many local, neighborhood grocers. Even the produce they carry that is out of season here and therefor usually not domestic come cheaper in those than most of the chains. And when you get in season veggies, they tend to be uber-cheap, because the store is buying direct.

    One of my perennial favorites, is a ramen recipe (I am a ramen god). I will cook two packets (using only one seasoning packet) of ramen (abt $.20) with a small handful of TVP – probably between a tablespoon and a quarter cup (pennies, if bought in bulk). After it has cooked (abt three minutes after the water boils) I drain the water and add whatever sauce strikes my fancy, often adding the second ramen seasoning pack. We keep a variety of sauces on hand, which are themselves often very inexpensive when purchased at an oriental market. A few cents worth of sauce and you have a meal that will fill you up for less than fifty cents.

    Dandelion greens are not the tastiest, but they are a reasonable and widely available veggie for those looking for serious savings. They should be thoroughly washed, then go to town. They are much improved by steaming, as it cuts into the bitter. If dried, one can put them into the bottom of the strainer, before you drain the ramen to be reconstituted.