Cheap. Fast. Good!

I’ve been having fun with the new Cheap. Fast. Good! cookbook by the authors of one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Desperation Dinners, a great book with good recipes that get on your table FAST, with few processed ingredients. They’re definitely not the “dump a can of cream of mushroom soup over some meat and bake” type recipes. The recipes are creative, make good use of a variety of ingredients, and–most importantly–taste good and are quite do-able for putting dinner on the table every night.

The new book is, as far as I can tell, full of similarly good recipes. I’ve tried half a dozen at this point, including the coffee granita I posted earlier, which is something very similar to a dessert my mother used to make. Last night I made the meatloaf, which truly does stretch a pound of ground beef into a full meatloaf and tastes delicious! I had a meatloaf recipe I loved and will be combining that with theirs for my next one! They’re “Good Old Beans and Rice” was another hit throughout, although their Chicken & Apples with Dijon Cream” was not quite as popular. But I have one child who doesn’t like much chicken at all these days, so the odds were against it. I liked it! The coleslaw recipe was good, as were a few others.

There is also some wisdom scattered throughout the book in short articles about ways to save money. I have some quibbles with some of it but overall it’s decent. I do like the fact that the authors tried to follow the government’s thrifty meal plan budgets for a week using recipes from the book to see if they could. They each share the menus they followed for the week, which is good to study. It’s tough to eat cheaply today without sacrificing your health tomorrow. It takes time and planning, something most people on the tightest budgets are probably lacking as they scramble to earn a modest living. I do know though that I’ve lived within this budget at times, although I don’t right now since I don’t have to. And I have people on my CheapCooking list who do better than this every week. So it is do-able.

I personally would have liked to see all the articles gathered up front or in back rather than having them scattered, but perhaps people are more likely to read them in small doses. There is good information in here but it feels a bit scattered to me.

So, in my humble opinion, the book is no More with Less Cookbook or Feed Your Family Fast, Healthy Meals on $10 a Day. It is not aimed at the die-hard “really need to cut back to the minimum” folks. But if you’re not used to watching your food bill at all and need to pay attention, there are a lot of useful tips. The basics of menu planning, loss-leaders, making your own stock, utilizing a freezer to your advantage, shopping warehouse stores, and more are adequately covered. The recipes cover a nice range of preparation styles, meat and vegetarian options, seasonal dishes, pastas, sides, and sauces.

Definitely a recommended book for those wanting to learn how to cut their grocery bill and still put more than “beans and rice” on the table every night.

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