5. Waste nothing. This is the essence of chef-think. "In a professional kitchen, you use everything," Rubin says. "There's no waste. For a long time, most Americans haven't had to consider how to use all of the pig or cow or chicken. Now we do. That's one silver lining of the recession." As Felder says: "There's no reason you can't get at least three meals out of one chicken. You have chicken and rice one night, Vietnamese chicken salad another, and chicken soup, using stock you made from the carcass, another." Even if you buy $7 natural, free-range chickens, she says, "each dinner costs well under $10."
6. Haunt ethnic markets. "At Asian or Hispanic groceries, you'll find aisle after aisle of unusual spices and produce," Allen says. "You may not be able to pronounce the names, but they're usually markedly less than the cost of similar goods at conventional stores."
7. Share. "I recently bought a quarter of a cow," Felder says—100 pounds of natural, grass-fed beef at $5 a pound, which she keeps in a five-foot upright freezer in her basement. "It will feed us for two years." To buy grass-fed meat from farms or ranchers directly (at a price that may be much lower than what you pay for natural meats in grocery stores), try EatWild.com.
8. Grow your own. "Gardening is so easy," Vilsack promises. Thanks to the example set by First Lady Michelle Obama and her compact, organic garden on the White House lawn, it's also hip. And it is mind-bogglingly frugal. For tips on how to fertilize, compost, and naturally repel insects, visit www.NRCS.USDA.gov/Partners/For_Homeowners.html; to learn how to plant a vegetable garden, go to WeekendGardener.net. And you don't have to stop with growing greens, either. "I have a childhood friend, once a very urban guy, who's now keeping chickens," Allen says.
9. Savor the small, good things. Don't forsake every beloved food. Just rethink portions. "Buy a good chocolate bar once a week, if that's what makes you happy," says Morgenstern. "Then eat only one square a night. Good things should be appreciated. We had so much for so long. Now it's time to savor and enjoy the little things."
10. Rethink what "eating well" means. "One of the big lessons of this economic downturn is that we need to revalue things," Morgenstern says. "All those jars of fancy sauces and gourmet salad dressings that we were buying before? We never needed them, and if we did, we could have made them ourselves. Self-sufficiency is being thrust on us. But that's not bad. Frugality is in our bones as Americans. We can make our own salad dressings and they will be better than anything we could buy." Or, as Cora says of feeding her young sons, "Eating a peanut butter sandwich with them—now that's eating well."
Next: Organics: When are they worth it?
We Hear You!