Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good food cheap

When I was a young single mother on welfare, I came across a small book entitled "Eating Well on $5 a Week", or something to that effect, the key words being "$5 a Week." Now, this was back in the '70s, so $5 a week is a little less outrageous than it would be today (it's tough to produce a single decent meal on $5 today!), but still, even by 1970s standards, a grocery bill of $5 a week was pretty damn good.

This book was written by a Ph.D student at either the University of Manitoba or the University of Winnipeg, not sure which but the book was published in Winnipeg. Her doctoral thesis was about nutrition, her goal was to show how a person could eat healthily on the prescribed budget for welfare recipients at that time. So presumably the welfare folks in Manitoba had decreed that recipients of government largesse should subsist on $5 a week.

The introduction to the book explained what she set out to do, and how one should shop for groceries with only $5 in one's pocket. She gave a list of basic staples to keep in one's pantry, described how to build the supply of spices and flavourings over a period of time, and listed fresh foods to be bought weekly so that meals could be prepared very thriftily. She was a big believer in only shopping for groceries once a week. She also described how each food item contributed to a healthy balanced diet. It was a fairly restricted diet, but it covered the basics and included a few sweet treats.

The rest of the book was recipes and meal plans. The diet she proposed was vegetarian, but without the "exotic" items available to today's vegetarians: no tofu (yay!), no yogurt, no soy beans, no bean sprouts or alfalfa sprouts, no "ancient grains". Instead she relied on very traditional foods: navy beans, cabbage, wheat flour, milk powder. In those days, milk powder was very cheap and plentiful. Eggs were treated as an expensive treat, to be used sparingly.

I remember one recipe/meal plan in particular. It was a navy bean soup that you made in quantity on Sunday, and then each successive day you did something different with it, and there were seven recipes for the whole week. If you were single it lasted the week, if you were feeding a family, then it would be gone after a few days. Boy, I loved that bean soup!

I don't know what I did with that book, it was a real gem and I can't find the book title anywhere now. I imagine that diet would cost considerably more than $5 a week now, but it sure was a great idea for a cookbook. Good healthy food for cheap!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like an interesting cookbook! I've been eyeing the "More-with-Less Cookbook" for a few months ( It has pretty good reviews.

Zabetha said...

Hi Tamara,

Yeah that's a good one too. I've got an older version of it that I still use regularly, the new version is probably even better!

I just made Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies from More With Less with my grandson who is home sick with chicken pox, we called them Chicken Pox Cookies (lots of chocolate "spots") ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'd love to find that old cookbook, Anne, but appreciate the new title info, Tamara!