Going Gluten-FreeNovember 16, 2011

Can You Afford Your Special Diet?

Comments (3)

Posted by Alicia Woodward

As we approach Thanksgiving, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at some of the things we can be thankful for. We receive many letters from readers who, if born just 50 years earlier, might have died in infancy. The diagnosis? “Failure to thrive.” But these readers are thriving now because they are gluten free. In addition, there are tons of readers who are living without other key ingredients that trouble them, whether that’s dairy, soy, nuts--doesn’t matter. They are alive and well and interested enough in food to be looking for recipes and information that allow them to live fuller, richer, healthier lives.

But there’s another group living without. They are living without nutritious food, a point underlined by Linda Watson in her new book, Wildly Affordable Organic -- Eat Fabulous Food, Get Healthy, and Save the Planet All on $5 a Day or Less. Watson took on the challenge of  “eating green” and healthy on the cheap--but then expanded it. Why should the economically prosperous be the only people who can afford to eat healthy? She challenged herself and her family to eating nutritiously on the same budget that food stamp recipients would have. At the time in her home state, that was $5 per day. She did it and her account is a fascinating read, not just for delicious, healthy recipes (hint: lots of legumes and whole grains; in her case, not all were gluten free) but for the attention Watson paid to food preparation and grocery shopping. She planned meals by the month, making choices on where to splurge and where to be thrifty. One thing she did was track the life span of each purchase. For example, on her winter shopping list, two pounds of black beans would be used up 100 percent by the end of the month but there would be 20 percent of the five pounds of sugar remaining. The book is packed with hints on squeezing the most nutrition out of your food dollar.

We’ve reprinted a couple of Watson’s inexpensive, healthy recipes. Click here for those.

So how is all this applicable? For starters, we all understand that we must explore and experiment, which is what Watson is proposing. Most of us want to eat healthier. And the majority of us are concerned with the added costs of living on a special diet.

Is it possible to eat well (by that I mean, nutritiously) on a special diet on a tight budget? I say it is. Do you agree? If so, what tips can you share on cutting your food costs, especially as we enter a season focused on food?