These books about budgeting and cutting expenses are on par with diets, in my humble opinion. They’re a great idea that may have some short-term benefit but in the end they are unsustainable, often unhealthy and usually more trouble than they’re worth.
What an eye opener then, to suddenly discover this gem of a book which is an instant bible for practical living. Far from a fad, Jody Allen takes the reader through the realities of life, from small families to large; student living; and the large appetites of teenagers. She acknowledges different incomes and budgets, and sets out ideas and examples that can suit most people.
Some of her advice is obvious – although a reminder never goes astray – like comparing prices, buying home brands and writing up shopping lists so you arrive at the supermarket prepared to just buy what you want. Other advice is about the kinds of things we don’t necessarily realise – like the psychology behind product placement on supermarket shelves, or the need to get your kitchen organised so you’ll be more likely to stick to your goals.
Flexibility, trying new things, different cuts of meat, loyalty cards, treating yourself, and buying in bulk are just some of the other vital topics covered.
Allen’s writing style is relaxed and easy to ready. The Table of Contents at the beginning lays out the structure of the book very clearly, while the Index at the back is structured with a lot of forethought to find both information and recipes.
The book includes ample examples of menus, from precise meal planning to more generic ideas like “Mexican on Wednesday, Curry night on Thursday”. It includes personal stories which allow the reader to either relate to the information presented, or to discover a practical way of implementing the ideas presented.
More than half the book is taken up with recipes that fit within three given meal plans: the Family of Four plan, the Student Living on Nothing plan, and the Hungry Horde of Kids plan for larger families. Each plan comprises a shopping list and a range of suggest recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and snacks. The recipes can be mixed and matched, of course, but offer a healthy variety of nutrients and a much-needed variety of taste and texture.
Information about storing food, tips from the Depression era, and how to buy or make kitchen staplex add to the extensive knowledge base provided within the pages.
The $50 Weekly Shop is an excellent resource. It’s informative, practical, inspiring and sensible. It’s a book that hasn’t made it to my book shelf yet because it lives in easy reach on my kitchen table.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Distributed by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: February 2017
RRP: $24.99 trade paperback, $12.99 eBook