I have a much beloved book called Good Recipes for Hard Times, by Louise Newton. I picked it up from a used book store for $2.75 back in the early 1980’s. I had to put another book back so I could afford it. It was money well spent. I learned a lot about eating economically from that book. It’s hard to find now and usually costs far more than I would be willing to pay for it. Most of the recipes focus on wheat and dairy, things I don’t eat anymore. A lot of the information is dated now too. Still, it shaped the way I think about food and gave me a lot of encouragement when I really needed it.
One of the most important things I learned was the art of discerning which foods are cheapest and then learning to use those foods to their best advantage. When trying to adapt a gluten free, casein free diet to my budget I found this technique very helpful. I looked over my supermarket and figured out which GFCF foods were the cheapest. It turns out there are many foods that are naturally gluten free and dairy free, which cost very little. I took a few minutes to write them down and then focused on how to use these economical foods in my everyday cooking.
My list included:
- Corn Tortillas
- Rolled Oats (can contain trace amounts of gluten)
- Dried Peas, Beans & Lentils
- Soy Products
- Plain Meats (some processed meats may contain gluten or dairy)
- All the good fruits and vegetables
All of these foods can be found in almost any supermarket and they are very affordable. So I did my best to figure out how to use these foods in as many ways as possible. I designed my family’s diet around them. It was hard. It took a lot of thinking and testing and I made a lot of mistakes. Eventually however, I was able to use all of these items, many in new ways that I had never considered when we were still eating wheat and dairy. This website is a compilation of the results.
Which brings me to my next point. Here is the list (in PDF format) of the foods I have found to be the most economical and the most useful during Hard Times. Hard Times don’t last forever, but when you’re in the middle of them food gains far more importance than it does when times are good. These are the foods that can see you through the hard times, until things are better again.
This is a list of extremely economical foods that are useful when you’re trying to eat for as little cash as possible. You don’t have to buy everything on the list. However, if you’re not sure what to buy, these items are a good place to start. If one were forced to live for several years with only the foods on this list, one could still be assured of a nutritious, well-balanced, good-tasting diet. This list provides more variety than some people who lived before WW1 experienced in their lifetimes. When I am going through hard times, these are the foods I rely upon to see us through. They are readily available at most large supermarkets.
There is a section at the end of the list labeled EXTRAS. It includes items which cost more, but which add flavor and variety to a very frugal diet. You’ll find items like canned chipotle peppers and sesame oil. You don’t need these things, but they don’t cost much and they add a lot of flavor for very little cost. When you never go out to eat and always have to eat your own cooking, it’s refreshing to add new flavors to regular meals. Items like this keep food fatigue from setting in. Food fatigue is when you get sick of your own cooking and ruin the budget by splurging on take-out. Use a fraction of that cash to buy a few things that add a flash of flavor to your meals, and it will save you money in the long run.
Note: Most of these foods do not have GFCF specified in the list. I assume that you know enough to choose gluten-free and casein-free options. Take, for instance, Rolled Oats. If you are celiac or are extremely sensitive to gluten, you should choose certified GF rolled oats. If you are not, then conventional rolled oats will do. Make the best choices for your family and your circumstances.
All of the recipes posted under the Hard Times Category exclusively use foods on this list.
I encourage you to sit down and make your own list of the foods that are the most economical and useful for your circumstances. Your list will be different from mine. That’s okay. The main thing is to figure out which foods are the cheapest and family friendly. Then choose recipes that use these foods and your grocery costs will inevitably go down.
Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool. Proverbs 19:1