The best part of creative poor food is that it mostly follows the same "recipe" when you think about it. Some cheap, filling carbs. A bit of protein, chopped up and spread out to last. All the veggies available from the garden, market, or root cellar.
Obviously some places swap this around a bit- there are still areas of New England and the Mid-Atlantic coast where shellfish are easy to find and cheap or free to collect. Or places waaay up north where hunting's *much* easier than growing plants or keeping even cows alive.
But for most places in the world, the cheapest (and often healthiest) recipes are made of a little protein (like tofu, beans, meat, cheese, eggs), some carbs (rice, bread, potatoes, oats, pasta, etc), and lots of fresh, cheap, local veggies. Seasonings if they're cheap or available.
My magic vat of Fried Rice is a good example of that.
- protein= 1/2C TVP +2/3C soy sauce
- carb= about 6 cups white rice (cooked)
- veggies= carrot, 1/2 onion, yellow squash, 1/2 cabbage, ginger
- seasonings= salt, vinegar, oil
I could make it healthier by using brown rice. I could make it cheaper by using less oil and soy sauce. I could even make it tastier by using either different protein or more (and interesting) veggies.
By the serving, purchased veggies and protein tend to be the most expensive actual food items in any kitchen. I think my TVP might be an exception to that, but I'm not totally sure (haven't run the numbers). No one should cut back on veggies- they're like food magic. Most Americans, though, could seriously afford to cut back on the protein.
I had this chat with my mom not too long ago, actually. What's the correct serving size for meat? 1 lb? 1/2 lb? 6 oz?
It's 3 oz, cooked. That's about 4 oz raw. For anyone out there who does metric, that's about 85 g of cooked meat. Some places list it closer to 2 oz cooked weight. How many people only eat 3 oz servings of meat?
Beans, of course, give a bit more space- it's 1/2 C or so. But tofu is 4 to 6 servings per pound. That's a lot more servings than *I* stretch it for. But a pound of chicken is that same 4 servings. If you use "chicken quarters" like my mom does, that's 4 servings of chicken for 50 cents or less. That might actually be *cheaper* than beans. I know it takes less time to cook. That's the *whole* protein section of that goofy food pyramid thing for two people for a whole day.
For veggies, of course, the price comes down when you buy in season. When you buy from rural local markets, when neighbors garden and *really* need to get rid of some zucchini. If you know what you're doing you can grow your own, or trade skills with someone who grows veggies. You can get permission to glean fields, pick fruit off neighbors "ornamental" trees, foraging wild plants and abandoned orchards. Some of those options require skills and knowledge, but there's plenty of that around. Both local and internet groups exist that organize or teach foraging, gleaning, or gardening. I don't do any of that- I'm too lazy, tho I won't pass up a chance at a decent looking berry bush.
So, what's your favorite "little protein, lotsa filler, plenty of tasty veggies" one dish-type meal? I admit I've got a soft spot (still) for chowders- potato, corn, onion.... Guess there's more old-school New Englander in me than I thought.
Just something I was thinking about while throwing together the latest batch of fried rice-o'-doom (+2 veggies).
Oh, yeah- I pulled day 226, it was forxing my page. sry.