Food-Stamp Budget Cookbook Offers One Solution to Unequal Food Access

For some people, grocery shopping on a budget might limit them to cut out a few items they consider “luxury,” such as gourmet coffee or fine wine, maybe even buying generic instead of name-brand.

For more than 45 million people who receive funding from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) though, typical grocery shopping means a limited budget of $126 a month — roughly $4 a day for meals.

That’s about the same price for a medium-sized latte from your local Starbucks.

This makes eating well (getting the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, grains and protein) and staying within a small budget seemingly impossible.

However, one woman has come up with a way for those on budget to have more options when it comes to finding and making healthy choices. Leanne Brown created the budget cookbook, “Good and Cheap, as part of her master’s project while studying food policy. Brown’s book, which began as a free PDF, focuses on using ingredients that the average food stamp user can purchase (such as canned vegetables, dried beans and garlic) and creating healthy meals.

After the free PDF had been downloaded more than 200,000 times, Brown took the opportunity to launch a Kickstarter campaign back in May in order to use the proceeds to fund printed copies for those without access to computers. She started with a goal of $10,000, and eventually raised almost $145,000.

From the money raised, Brown will be able to fund 6,000 free copies of the cookbook and provide another 25,000 copies for nonprofit groups to purchase for $4 each for distribution to those who could use the book.

In an interview with NPR, Brown says in her research she found that people on tight budgets were eating a lot of processed and carb-heavy food because they (including the 47.5 million people on food stamps) didn’t have the same choices for food as many others.

Brown’s cookbook opens up a great variety of possibilities for those using food stamps, or on a tight budget in general. People can use Brown’s cookbook as a guideline for what to get and how to maximize their ingredients for each meal. The book doesn’t have strict meal plans, meaning there are plenty of options for substitutions and flexibility for seasonal produce, and each meal serving is priced out.

“Good and Cheap” is a great resource for those on a food stamp budget (or just a reduced budget) who want to introduce more healthy options into their diet or want to be foodies but didn’t think they had the resources.

Of course, the book alone does not solve the problem of unequal access to food that many people face.

As Maryn McKenna writes, even if organically grown produce and humanely raised meat were available in convenient locations across the country, the prices would still drive away those who cannot afford it — mainly those on food stamps or SNAP.

Today a common interest between people is food, and many people would even call themselves “foodies.” A “foodie” is someone who is very interested in food — from how it’s made or produced to how it’s prepared and eaten. There are many different blogs, websites and groups devoted to talking about good food.

But for all the talk about what food is good to eat, there is not much about good food for everyone. For all the interest “foodies” have in food, it seems to be based solely on personal tastes and how individuals benefit from making and getting delicious, sometimes unique food. For example, typical “foodies” shop locally at farmers markets, but not many think about local people on low-income budgets who cannot afford the same food.

The word “foodie,” as well as people who call themselves “foodies,” should try to make the word have more meaning behind it, as Mark Bitman suggests.

Brown could be considered a food activist — someone who is working to try and better the system of how people can get quality food easily. She and others who are invested in this are going beyond seeing food as a personal interest, and are focusing on figuring out solutions to allow everyone to have culinary interests — or at the very least, be able to provide healthy and cheap options for their families.

Being a “foodie” should mean more than just making and eating food for one’s own personal tastes and pleasure, and it should even mean more than shopping for locally grown vegetables at the weekend farmer’s markets and looking into how food is grown. It should not just rely on what benefits the individual, but what can also benefit all members of a community. Not just one person should have access to healthy, affordable food; everyone should.

The cost of the locally grown, organic fare needs to be addressed. If good food is cheaper (as well as readily available in several locations), more people will be able to buy it; and if more people can buy good food on a tight budget, more people can create healthier meals. “Good and Cheap” offers one possible solution to the problem of creativity; but solutions to the problem of affordability and availability need to come from local vendors, farmers, community members and lawmakers.

Brown’s cookbook takes the first step needed in moving the discussion of good food for all toward affordability by providing cheap and healthy recipes. Now “foodies” everywhere need to figure out how to continue to better the food system on all sides, from how food is grown to where it is available, how much it costs and how to prepare a delicious meal. Farmers, buyers, amateur chefs and those who just need the basics for a meal could definitely all benefit from cheaper options.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Randy Q.
Past Member 12 months ago


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Kay M.
Kay M2 years ago

good idea. i need to get a copy.

Anna Wang
Anna Meng Wang2 years ago


Val M.
Val M2 years ago


Karen H.
Karen H2 years ago

Good idea, but my partner is on hospice care for stage 4 cancer. What she can/will eat can change from day to day as meds change her sense of taste. I have to buy what she will/can eat, so budget sometimes has to go out the window. I try to do it healthy, but I want her to have quality of life, and giving her what she likes is part of that.

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B2 years ago

Good idea, thank you.

Elizabeth F.
Elizabeth F2 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O2 years ago

Nice idea. It's becoming increasingly harder to be able to afford food to eat at all much less eat healthy.

Barry T.
Barry AWAY T2 years ago

It's a good idea and I applaud anything anybody does to address the problems of poverty etc. BUT the real solution is a paradigm shift in which we understand that we ARE our brothers keeper, that we cannot and must not tolerate poverty (and the greed that drives it) and we CANNOT lay claim to being a community or a society when the division of resources is structurally designed to make sure that poverty CANNOT be eradicated ... simply, poverty AND OUR ACCEPTANCE of it is what allows "the 1%" to continue to feed their never-ending greed and desire / demand for even more.

This may sound like rhetoric, but it is just where we currently stand as a culture - one that is now almost globally entrenched.