Eating well doesn't have to cost a fortune, says local health guru Linda Watson.
Watson is the founder of Cook for Good, an organization that promotes affordable ways to eat healthy by offering classes, videos, example menus, recipes and shopping lists.
"Cook for Good if you want to save money by cooking and eating delicious, seasonal food from scratch. You'll make a positive difference, too: for yourself, your family and for your community and planet," said Watson.
Watson started her own experiment in thrifty-yet-delicious eating in the summer of 2007.
After reading Michael Pollan's "Omnivores' Dilemma," Watson was disturbed by the author's findings.
"Pollan declared that that the only rational plan for poor people was to wallow in the center section of the grocery store, buying as many calories as possible with the little money they did have," Watson said.
Inspired by the efforts of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, to take what he called the "Food Stamp Challenge" - living off the food-stamp allowance of a dollar a meal - Watson endeavored to take on the challenge herself, with a twist.
Watson wanted to show she could not only create meals from scratch spending only a dollar per person, but that she could do it while eating well and healthily.
After managing to cook meals such as grilled pizza and black bean salad, Watson's experiment confirmed her suspicions that it was possible to eat well for less, and she began her journey with Cook for Good.
Nearly four years later, Watson has developed four seasonal month-long menus, developed a starter plan that offers recipes that can be made in less than 20 minutes and hosts cooking classes and demonstrations for community members all over the Triangle.
"Linda's techniques are accessible to people of all levels of experience and means, and she truly cares about helping to remove the barriers to wholesome, fresh foods that sometimes keep families from experiencing the joys and benefits of eating seasonal, real foods," said Nancy Halberstadt, lifestyle center director at Whole Foods Market on Wade Avenue.
Watson also has participated in local fundraisers, partnered with the Interfaith Food Shuttle to bring wholesome food and essential kitchen equipment to needy families and donated proceeds from cooking classes to local charities, including the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.
Though the Triangle benefits from her efforts on a regular basis, Watson wasn't satisfied with keeping her knowledge and discoveries within the state's borders.
Last year, Watson took the Cook for Good show on the road, traveling from Wilmington to Portland, Ore., for the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference, and teaching classes along the way back home. Ten percent of the proceeds went to the Community Food Security Coalition, an organization dedicated to addressing many of the ills affecting our society and environment because of the current food system.
"The main goal of the tour was to help people see how easy and affordable it is to cook real, seasonal food from scratch," Watson said.
Watson has many tips for those struggling to find the money to eat well, some as simple as eating with the seasons, or making a pot of her signature "stoup," a stew-soup made from leftovers collected throughout the week or month and frozen in a container big enough for two or three servings for a family.
For more, visit her website at cookforgood.com.