Healthy recipes--with cost data
Want to eat a cheap, healthy diet? Want some recipes that use real food instead of packaged food products? Want to argue about how much it costs to feed a family a healthy diet? Here's a free tool, created by the USDA, that will help you with any of those.
Can you eat for $21 a week? If you had to feed yourself using just food stamps, that's about how much you'd be able to spend. To help people trying to do that--and probably to help policy-makers arguing about the food stamp program--the USDA created a database of recipes and then used cost data from stores (gathered by AC Nielson in 2001, and adjusted based on the CPI) to calculate the cost of each dish. Even if you're neither on food stamps nor a policy maker, the USDA's Food Stamp Nutrition Connection Recipes Finder is available for free.
It's kind of a cool tool. You can search by recipe name or by ingredient--that latter being very handy if you bought a bunch of something because it was cheap and are now trying to find a new way to use it. It provides not only cost per recipe and per serving, but also nutrition facts--a nice chart exactly like the one you find on any packaged food. It also lets you print the recipe in several different formats.
Another cool feature is that it will maintain a shopping list for you--click "add to shopping list" for the recipes that you plan to make and it will keep track and give you a list of everything you need. (Sadly, it doesn't total up the amounts when the same ingredient is used in several different recipes, but it does list them all together, making it easy enough to figure out yourself.)
As we've discussed in several recent posts, adjusting 2001 prices with the CPI is likely to underestimate actual costs. Since the data is based on national averages, though, regional and seasonal variations will probably be a greater source of inaccuracy than the inflation adjustment. (I couldn't immediately find a way to get at the price data used--it just presents aggregate prices for the recipes--so it wouldn't be easy to spot-check the prices for accuracy.)
Still, despite its limitations, it seems like a cool free resource for anyone who wants to make cheap, healthy meals out of real food.
The Blue Corn Pan Bread recipe looked good. They say you can make the recipe for $1.43, which comes to just $0.12 per serving:
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups blue cornmeal (yellow may be used)
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 3/4 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup sprouted wheat*
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
*To sprout wheat: Wash untreated wheat grains; drain but do not dry. Spread in a single layer in shallow pans and cover with damp cloths. Keep damp in a warm, dark place.
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line 8x8 inch cake pan with foil.
- Bring water to boil in a large pot. Add each ingredient, one at a time.
- Stir well until mixture is smooth and pour into foil-lined cake pan. Cover with a piece of foil.
- Bake for 2 hours. Bread is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.