Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, Slow Food Boston

Public Radio Kitchen

July 13, 2010

Things been a bit tough the past few years? Maybe your consulting gig as a $150/hr e-enabler went south after the 2008 financial industry meltdown. Maybe your stupidvisor called you into her office all teary-eyed and gave you the “things aren’t working out” talk. Maybe you foolhardily decided now was the time to dedicate yourself 100% to your dream of becoming a world-famous Twitter artist. The fact is more than half of us are struggling with a downsized income, and 62% have clamped down on our spending. Praise be!

Last month, I posted about my attempts to eat slow ‘n’ cheap ($1.25 per person-meal; the allotment for a family of four with an annual income of $44,100), and got so discouraged I wandered into the wine section to drink up my grocery wad. You responded by giving me an earful (in the form of over 135 suggestions, some of them running to several paragraphs) on how to adhere to Slow Food principles* without blowing the rent money—here on Public Radio Kitchen, the Slow Food USA blog, the Slow Food USA Facebook page and in person at the PRK/Slow Food Boston “Slow Food on No Dough” potluck held June 30th. Thank you. I’ve read each and every one, and I now see the light.

Not only is it possible to eat well without spending a lot, it’s better for you—and the planet!

All you people currently subsisting on thrice-daily Extra Value Meals? No more excuses! Everyone can afford to eat the Slow Food way! (Some businesses in low-income neighborhoods provide more access to liquor than to fresh, local food, but that’s a different issue.) And once you trim the most costly items from your bill—usually animal products or prepared foods—you inadvertently follow Micheal Pollan’s famous seven-word prescription for a healthy diet: “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” So, if the Great Recession has decimated your earning power, rejoice. This is a golden opportunity for an eating habits makeover.


Base your meals on beans, peas, legumes, whole grains and vegetables. (And don’t forget the nuts, seeds and oils.) For inspiration, look to the peasant cuisines available on virtually every continent, for example, these inexpensive Mediterranean dishes.

Eat less meat. Eat some meatless meals and use meat as flavoring rather than the main act. Buy your meat from farms and if you have freezer space, by the side or quarter. Use cheaper cuts.

Eat less dairy. How much milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and ice cream does your family really need? Use dairy products sparingly, to add flavor and richness.

Eliminate or reduce prepared and convenience foods. You know which ones I mean!

Buy fresh produce from farms—CSAs, farmers’ markets, farmstands—in season. (But don’t sweat it the rest of the year!) To reduce cost further, you can do a CSA workshare, attend farmers’ markets just before closing (when vendors really want to get rid of stuff) or, if you’re eligible, with food program coupons and discounts. If you have to buy produce at the supermarket, follow the EWG’s guidelines for avoiding the most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables.

Buy in bulk. Both in the bulk aisle and by purchasing larger-sized containers.

Choose smaller fish. The lower on the food chain, the cheaper. Also: fewer bioaccumulated toxins. For seafood lovers, there’s the Cape Ann Community Supported Fishery, or pick fish from this list from the New England Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program.

Keep a garden. Choose easy-to-grow, prolific and nutritious vegetables such as greens and herbs for flavoring. If you have no space, try window or porch container gardening, or contact your city or town about community gardens. Forage a bit if you know how. (Volunteer to weed at a farm; many edible weeds—purslane, lambsquarter, amaranth—flourish in fields, and you’ll have the added benefit of knowing they haven’t been sprayed.)

Cook from scratch. Here are some recipes from our potluck to get you started.

Break the rules from time to time! (After all, Moses did—literally!) Treat yourself to that Wagyu filet mignon or Extreme Kickin’ Chili Doritos®! No one likes a food fanatic.


*Slow Food Principles
1. Buy local, seasonal and sustainable food when possible.
2. Prepare food from scratch.
3. Enjoy meals in community.