Thrifty Cooking Challenges with Winter and Summer Menus, Recipes, and Cooking Plans
- What: Spend one week cooking most of your food from scratch and the next cooking all of it.
- Where: Kitchens everywhere!
- Who: Individual cooks, families, and groups.
- Why: You won't believe how easy, fun, and delicious it is until you try it. And you'll rack up the savings, for yourself or to help a charity or good cause.
Sign up! Get emails about the 2013 SNAP Challenge Support, with recipes, menus, and cooking plans. You can also sign up for the weekly Cook for Good newsletter, with a free recipe and food news or the Cook for Good highlights (about 6 times a year).
You'll develop the confidence and skill to cook delicious, healthy, seasonal food from scratch on a very low budget—in just two weeks. Use your savings to pay off your holiday bills or to make one of your other resolutions come true (maybe a trip to Hawaii?). Learn to make amazing food like this Chocolate Coldocado in just 10 minutes, plus an occasional turn of a handle (maybe you don't want to leave home after all?)
All the classic recipes are in Wildly Affordable Organic. The even healthier and thriftier plant-strong variation doesn't use any dairy or eggs. See below for the winter and summer indexes for both.
Use the Cook for Good Challenge to Jump-Start your own SNAP Challenge!
Before you reach for the ramen, check out my menus, recipes, and shopping lists for inspiration. You can eat fabulous food during your challenge if you eat with the seasons, cook from scratch, and don't waste anything.
Update: I posted a SNAP Challenge menu for Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is eating on a food-stamp budget in December 2012.
You can even eat organic! Chef Mario Batali, who took the 2012 NYC Food Stamp Challenge, tweeted this:
Thx @MarioBatali for buying 2 lbs lentils 4 his #SNAP challenge!
Cook for Good Challenges
Twice a year, hundreds of people take the Cook for Good Challenge. It's a great way to sharpen your cooking and food-management skills.
For the Cook for Good Challenge, you'll use the Twenty Minute a Day Starter Plan for a week and then cook everything from scratch for the next week. Starting in 2012, the Challenges will have two menu options. The classic menus are vegetarian, using no meat but including dairy and eggs as shown in my book, Wildly Affordable Organic. The plant-strong menus are vegan, using no dairy or eggs. During the first week, you'll be adding your own favorite dishes to your meals, with or without meat, dairy, and eggs.
Winter Fresh-Start Challenge Index
The Fresh-Start Challenge is tuned for the fall and winter. But because it uses the core cooking plan from Wildly Affordable Organic, it works in the spring too. Take it at your own pace any time.
Take the Summer Challenge at your own pace whenever tomatoes and peppers are in season.
Challenge taker Elizabeth Archerd says "I sure am happy"
The seasonal Cook for Good Challenges are variations on the Food Stamp Challenge, the SNAP Challenge, and "What If" Challenges, all intended to let you experience what it's like to eat on a very limited budget. Many people use Cook for Good techniques when taking other challenges. That's what Elizabeth Archerd of The Wedge Co-op in Minneapolis describes in her "What If" Food Challenge blog:
The unexpected impact of this Challenge was an upwelling of a sense of abundant generosity. Linda Watson of www.cookforgood.com points out that with the money you save eating “wildly affordable organic” you free up money for causes you support. There is a benefit for those of us who are not forced to live on a restrictive food budget to try it out.
When we do not live out to our “budgetary edges,” there is more freedom to respond to the needs around us. Frugal living does not have to be about being stingy, but can be a pathway to wise generosity. I knew this in theory, but was surprised at how strongly and joyfully generosity seized me when need became apparent this month. So I didn’t lose any weight, but boy, I sure am happy.
Support and Community Make it Easy
If you sign up for the Fresh Start Challenge, you'll get an email in mid-February with the shopping list and game plan. You'll also get daily emails with menus and action plans to help you make the best use of your time and money.
Share your experiences in the Cook for Good online community, where you can find and offer encouragement and help. Get tips and additional recipes from chefs and other experts, too.
You might also want to take the Challenge as part of a group. It's a great project for a book club, cooking, or church group. Organizations interested in the environment, local food systems, or social justice will find that it's a fun way to get members to vote their their forks. But you don't need a formal group to share the experience: just ask a friend or two to try it with you.
Week 1: Learn Core Skills with the 20 Minute a Day Plan
Use the 20 Minutes a Day starter plan to cook about 60% of your meals from scratch. Enjoy immediate, delicious results while learning to bake bread, cook dried beans, make healthy desserts, and more. Get recipes and tips for the rest of the dishes that use ingredients from the Cook for Good shopping list and optionally some meat or fish. Kick off your week by watching the Cook for Good in 20 Minutes a Day video. Fran wrote that the video sort of cuddled me along.
Track your savings by comparing your expenses to what you usually spend or to the USDA food plan that best matches your current pattern.
Week 2: Put Those Skills to Work with a Full WAO Seasonal Plan
Use the full Cook for Good cooking seasonal plan to cook all of your food from scratch for a week. Continue to track your savings. When you complete the challenge, donate your savings if you can to one of the charities we'll be working with (see below) or to your own favorite.
With or without a donation, you'll learn how to get a certificate that recognizes your accomplishment when you complete the two-week challenge.
Week 3: Share Your Savings and Skills
You'll probably be so excited about how easy and delicious it was that you'll want to share with others. Here are some ways to do that:
- If you can, donate your savings to one of these charities or to your own favorite.
- Hold a celebration to share your new recipes with others. If you did the challenge with a group, have a potluck lunch or dinner using recipes from the Challenge or others from Wildly Affordable Organic. If you did it on your own, invite friends over to try your new dishes. You may even want to make an additional donation of the difference between what you would have spent on a typical party and what you spend on the Wildly Affordable Organic one.
- Thrifty: $1
- Low: $22
- Moderate: $45
- Extravagant: $70
Imagine the impression you would make on your children ... and yourself! ... if you donated even a dollar a person to help others, just for this two-week period.
Donate to one of these causes or to your own.
The Community Food Security Coalition. Focus: fighting hunger and supporting sustainable food systems. The CFSC builds strong, sustainable, local and regional food systems that ensure access to affordable, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food to all people at all times.With almost 300 member organizations across North America, the CFSC develops self-reliance among all communities in obtaining their food and to create a system of growing, manufacturing, processing, making available, and selling food that is regionally based and grounded in the principles of justice, democracy, and sustainability.
|The American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Focus: helping people recover from tornadoes and other disasters. The American Red Cross is where people mobilize to help their neighbors—across the street, across the country, and across the world—in emergencies. Each year, in communities large and small, victims of some 70,000 disasters turn to neighbors familiar and new—the more than half a million volunteers and 35,000 employees of the Red Cross. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.|
|Kiva. Focus: Lending small amounts, one-on-one, to help folks climb out of poverty. Want to help on a personal basis? Try Kiva, which lets you see and learn about people who are asking for loans (not gifts!) to bootstrap to a better situation. Kiva is a non-profit organization that uses the Internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions to let you lend as little as $25 to help create opportunity around the world. Kiva works with microfinance institutions on five continents to provide loans to people without access to traditional banking systems. Link your loan to the Cook for Good Challenge team so we can see what a difference we are making.
|The Natural Resources Defense Fund. Focus: protecting the environment, from plankton to polar bears to people. The Natural Resources Defense Council is the nation's most effective environmental action organization. They use law, science and the support of 1.3 million members and online activists to protect the planet's wildlife and wild places and to ensure a safe and healthy environment for all living things. The NRDC works on curbing global warming, getting toxic chemicals out of the environment, moving America beyond oil, reviving our oceans, saving wildlife and wild places, and helping China go green.|