Cookbook Review: Good and Cheap

In my last post, I wrote about how cooking can be a joyful and warming activity during the colder months. While I stand by that, I also recognize that acquiring quality ingredients can be inaccessibly expensive, and many of us are far too busy as students to find the time to make labor-intensive recipes. And perhaps, you may be at the point where you have not yet learned to cook for yourself and don’t know where to start. Why don’t they teach us this stuff in school??

At any rate, if you’re looking for some inexpensive and healthy inspiration, look no further than Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown. Good and Cheap was created as a capstone project for Brown’s MA in Food Studies at New York University. Each recipe is designed so that the ingredients would be affordable to those living on SNAP, the program that used to be called food stamps. The rule of thumb is those using SNAP have about $4 per person per day to spend on food, so just about every recipe is $2 or less per serving (the most expensive recipe is a spicy broiled tilapia dish and is still only $4.50 per serving). Disclaimer: This book was originally released in 2014, so exact pricing of ingredients as well as SNAP program funding has changed. If you’re already interested in reading, there’s no need to run to the bookstore – the entire book is available as a free PDF.

Before the recipes even start, Brown spends a few pages offering tips on “eating and shopping smart”, which in my opinion might be the most impactful part of this book. It’s a very common sentiment among Millennials and older Gen Z that we wished we would have spent time in high school learning how to set a budget and cook for ourselves, rather than calculating derivatives and reading Shakespeare. That’s why I find it so wonderful when there is free and accessible content like this teaching us how to “adult”. Some of the best tips in this part of the book include “buy foods that can be used in multiple meals” and “think seasonally” when it comes to buying produce. And these aren’t just tips for survival – these tips show the reader how to create truly delicious food and indulge their senses without breaking the bank.

The recipes are broken up into a lot of different categories, including full meals like breakfast and dinner, but even includes smaller staples like different sauces and drinks. As you scroll through the pdf, the magnificent pictures on each page are filled with brilliant colors and professional-style plating that will actually make you excited about cooking these dishes. Some of my favorite recipes in this book are the banana pancakes, the smoky and spicy roasted cauliflower (shown below), and the smoothies 4 ways. The best part is that these recipes are so delightfully simple that they’re easy to tailor and customize to fit your taste and budget.

If you want to cook more but don’t know how to get started, this is a judgement-free and budget-friendly resource that EVERYONE should know about. Happy cooking!
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