‘Stay at home mum’ Jody Allen follows up her fantastic book, The $50 Weekly Shop, with a cookbook that expands the menu options for those on a budget. More than that, Allen provides each recipe in its original form, accompanied by her suggestions to bring the cost down. Having two variations of each recipe not only doubles the value of this great follow-up, but provides a plethora of examples about just how easy it can be to cut costs.
Like the first book, Allen spends the first part of the book giving an overview of her savings plan. Topics include substitute ingredients or brands, her ten commandments of successful cooking, and hacks for food preparation.
While talking about being frugal, Allen never talks down to reader, coming from a place of personal experience. She’s able to present from first-hand knowledge, making this series of books feel more like a casual chat amongst friends than a lecture on doing better. She’s not afraid to acknowledge the difficulties of shopping cheaply while celebrating every success with motivating words and ideas.
The book is printed paperback style and, at almost 300 pages, it does need to be propped open to follow a recipe, well away from any mess you might make. The recipes are segregated into well-defined chapters including beef, chicken, pork or lamb, and vegetarian dishes, alongside more specific topics such as egg recipes, sauces, quick eats, and super cheap recipes for those who are “totes broke”. The table of contents is complemented by a thorough Index at the back.
Going against assumptions, Allen’s large selection of recipes range from slow cooker casseroles to simple stir fries. It’s a good range to cater for all tastes, including fussy eaters. The layout of the recipes is typical, with a column for ingredients and a wider column for the method. Underneath lies her ideas on how to make the recipe cheaper. Instructions are easily followed but, in line with the frugal nature of the book, there are no photographs.
My own attempts to shop frugally from this book included picking two of the most basic recipes, which I then served with a salad and side dish. Both were delicious and, while not of the standard you would expect from a celebrity chef’s cookbook, the meal were tasty and enjoyed by all. Joy Allen knows what she’s talking about and her ideas inspire new ideas, helping you to seek out ways to cut costs in other areas of your life without suffering too.
Oven-roasted orange chicken drumsticks (page 116)
I find that meat is cheaper to buy from my butcher than the supermarket and, as a bonus, the butcher is willing to remove the skin off the drumsticks for no cost, cutting down the calories significantly. By marinating the chicken without the skin, the flavours permeate the meat rather than staying on the outside. I highly recommend it.
This tasty roast recipe could be used with any chicken pieces and involves marinating the meat overnight in orange, paprika, honey and red onion, and then crumbing the meat in French onion packet soup before cooking. By using generic brands for most of the ingredients, there was no discernible difference in taste. The result was a nicely textured dish with a range of complementary flavours and just enough zing to raise an eyebrow. There was barely any preparation involved but the result was flavoursome.
Minted lamb rissoles (page 133)
I’m a sucker for rissoles. I went with Allen’s tips again, opting to use beef mince because it was cheaper. I also swapped the feta cheese for grated tasty cheddar cheese and found that no one noticed any lack of flavour.
This particular recipe is designed to serve eight people however I found that it made a lot more rissoles than I expected, which lasted for several meals. A hint of mint added to the taste of these scrumptious meatballs, although I’d probably add a bit more mint in future to satisfy my love of all things minty. Easy? Yes. Impressive? Absolutely. And it went well with the potatoes and salad I served them with.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9
Released by: Penguin Australia
Release Date: October 2017
RRP: $24.99 trade paperback, $14.99 ebook