Dana and I have had a lot of discussions about the state of food and the many movements (formal and informal) that are trying to change it – organic, local, vegan, raw, 100 mile, 250 mile, guerrilla, CSA, non-profit, full-profit, community-based, industrial, pro-food, pro-biotic, genetically modified, antibiotic, antibiotic-free and more. There are a lot of people trying to solve many confounding problems and opportunities within our current food chain.
There is no shortage of writing, talking, discussing and acting on improving the quality of the food we eat and how we get it, just as there is no shortage of solutions which sometimes compliment and other times contradict each other. There are a lot of experts and even more claiming to be who share their knowledge, ideas and theories.
I am not an expert in any movement though I am a passionate observer. Dana and I spend a lot of time discussing food, the current state of our society as it relates to food and examine our own behaviors within the food system. We are far from perfect and have a lot of things we continue to work on to improve our personal impact on the food systems around us. We are in no place to stand on a pedestal and are conscious of that. But I do read many posts which simply end by pointing out the problems with our current situation without providing practical solutions and wish more would help us start to solve our current problems today.
Consciousness is a theme of who we are and what we try to achieve with the time we invest here. The primary goal is to raise our own awareness to the choices we make and we hope this may be of interest to others. I do feel that if no one read these postings that I would continue to write daily at this point in my life – it is, pun intended, a way for me to chew on my own food for thought.
A story from Food, Inc still haunts me. A young family in the U.S. demonstrates that eating well is too expensive for many – that McDonald`s is a cheaper alternative, especially when people don`t have time or much money to cook.
It`s an argument I`ve heard from people in all financial brackets. Good food is either too expensive, too labor intensive, people don`t know how to cook or it`s just not worth the time.
It`s also a very sensitive topic. I was involved in the food movement in 1995 when my Member of Provincial Parliament (David Tsubouchi, who was the social services minister and making drastic cuts to our welfare system) left most of the entire province (and country) in shock and, frankly, disgust when he suggested that poor people should haggle on the price of dented cans of tuna to get them for 69 cents. He added insult to many when he created a menu for `poor people`that included pasta though he cut out the sauce as unnecessary (and out of budget). His suggested menu further criticism when the menu was compared to the one in our prison system and uncovered that local inmates would eat better and more healthy.
We have recently been discussing that some of the solutions for these complex problems are very expensive in their current forms. I saw organic red peppers from $7.99 per pound today – and that`s a single example.
We`ve been very fortunate (and had some luck to boot) in our careers. We are grateful to have options available to us that were not available only a few years ago and we try to remain conscious of that. It appears, to me, that some of the solutions that we see are leaving many behind ($8 peppers certainly leave us in their dust :)). Farmers Markets (something I am a massive fan of) can, in some cases, cater exclusively to high income brackets.
Certainly there must be a middle ground between selling food to the highest bidder and shoving off others to the crumbs left behind.
We are going to challenge ourselves to try to provide a solution to a real problem – wholesome recipes which are economical and accessible for everyone. We will be posting every Tuesday for the next several months on recipes that we think may help everyone extend their food budget while producing exceptional meals. We are not trying to simply make easy, cheap food. The intent is not to replace expensive ingredients with cheaper fillers or eat but to make great meals and show that they can be affordable and easy to make. These may not be everyday meals for everyone – where possible alternatives will be provided to alter the cost (sometimes lowering the price, other times allowing you to raise it as you wish).
Here`s our guiding principles:
- Meals must taste good enough to feed to my Grandmother. I may add hot peppers since she won`t eat all of it but she`s my baseline for quality control.
- Meals will cost around $5 per portion – $7 per portion is the absolute limit (based on the approximate price). This is not merely about saving money – it`s about eating fantastic food while being conscious of the price. We will provide ways to adjust the recipe to make it more economical where possible. Prices are, like us, in Canadian dollars.
- Portions will be generous – I am around 200 pounds and my healthy appetite will count as a portion.
- Portion cost will include leftovers. If additional ingredients are added to create something new with the leftovers, these costs must also be factored in. I.E. a chicken dinner that feed four and becomes a soup which has 4 portions will count as 8 total portions and all ingredients for both dishes will be considered part of the cost.
- Prices will include the cost of any food prepared for the meal, including waste. Unused portions that are used for other meals (i.e. unused parts of a block of cheese) will not be counted.
- All efforts will be made to accurately cost and measure things that can be done reasonably. Guesstimates for things like salt and pepper and other spices are permitted.
- Good food cheap takes time. For those without `free`time to cook, consider making this a family activity – kids that help cook are more likely to eat and experiment in the kitchen. Many recipes can be made ahead or doubled to freeze a future dinner with minimal additional work.
- I am not a chef or dietitian. There will be an effort to include healthy options which taste great. The posts are as much to stimulate thought and provide ideas than to be taken as instruction from an expert. Gourmet is a relative term in this case (as is cheap).
- We will include tips that are reusable beyond a single recipe.
- We welcome and encourage comments and ideas which can help everyone learn more from each other on eating well and on a budget.
The first post is next Tuesday – we hope you`ll come along!