The organic food stamp diet

As the economy falls, so do sales in organic food, according to reports from the Nielsen Company, a market research firm. Organic sales grew by only 1 percent this March compared to 24 percent in March 2008. Addressing the perception that eating “conscientiously’ can’t be done on a tight budget, writer Siobhan Phillips and her husband chose to eat only sustainable, organic, local or ethical (SOLE) alternatives for a month on the food stamp minimum. In their state of Connecticut, that came to $248 for two people. She chronicled her experience in in an article called “Can we afford to eat ethically?” The answer, she discovered, was yes.

She did it by reducing the couple’s meat intake to one whole chicken—the carcass of which was boiled for broth she froze; she also saved its fat drippings for cooking—some ground beef and sustainable canned fish. She also cut back on dairy. Taking center stage were whole grains, beans and pasta, which inspired her to take a note from global cuisine, cooking things like Indian dal and Middle Eastern mujadarra. She also started making her own bread and tortillas from scratch. These ingredients she bought only at places that accepted food stamps and were within walking distance. At month’s end, Phillips had $1.20 left.

Phillips realizes that her “reasonably flexible” schedule and cooking skills put her at an advantage many people on food stamps don’t have. However, she also found that the diet was easier than expected. Since her month-long experiment, more meat, cheese and fruits are again part of her regular diet, but she says she’s continued to use some of the practices she implemented during the diet and that her food budget has remained lean.