It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. I know that a tight budget certainly brings out the creativity in the kitchen. In her book Good Cheap Eats, Jessica Fisher provides 200 recipes that illustrate this point. The mother of six, she knows how to make the food dollar stretch and shares her experience with budget-friendly cooking in this book.
Summary of Good Cheap Eats
The author describes her book this way: “This book is a road map toward shopping wisely, choosing ingredients carefully, and planning meals that your family will enjoy.” She also says it will help you do this with taste and style while staying under budget. She provides the reader with a quick overview of ingredients and tools that will be needed, then plunges into the recipe content.
The first chapter is all about going meatless. Plant-based meals, in general, tend to be more cost-efficient than those that are meat-based. In a logical progression, the next chapter helps the reader stretch meat out. This is where you’ll find dishes that may feature meat, however, they also give vegetables and starches equal billing. Next up is the chapter that focuses on meat as the star of the meal.
Once these three basics are out of the way, Fisher sets her eye on the environment of the meal, rather than the ingredients. The next chapters are about “Grilling and Eating Outdoors,” “Company Dinners,” “Make-Ahead Meals,” “Breakfast for Supper,” and “Meals on the Run.”
Sprinkled throughout are useful charts and helpful tips, such as knowing when meat is done and knowing what to do with leftovers.
What Worked for Me
I kind of enjoyed Fisher’s organizational framework for this. She eschewed the traditional organization based on time of meal or type of recipe, such as “Breakfast,” “Lunch”, and “Dinner,” or “Main Dishes,” “Sides,” and “Dessert” and did something all her own. I thought it was clever to look at meal planning through the lens of cost-effectiveness instead.
That said, if your brain works more in alignment with a traditional format, you can still find what you’re looking for using the index.
The photography is good. I like the icons that tell you when a recipe is meatless, gluten-free, make-ahead, and the like.
What Didn’t Work for Me
Because there is so much photography in the book, it is printed on glossy paper, which is pretty heavy. This cookbook has a heft. And, as is my wont, the trade paperback format makes it hard to keep the book open in the middle pages.
What I’d Love to See in the Second Edition
The suggested menus show up next to the main dish of the meal. This means you need to know what the main dish you want to make before you find the suggested sides. I would love to see a chapter that just lists the menus. I think it could be quite useful to peruse them first. Also, maybe include some suggestions for mixing and matching.
If you’re a busy mom, this could be the cookbook that helps take the chaos out of your kitchen and helps you keep the food budget manageable. It really is possible to eat well on a budget, and this book will help you do it.
Rating for Good Cheap Eats
Full Title: Good Cheap Eats: Everyday Dinners and Fantastic Feasts for $10 or Less
Author: Jessica Fisher
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Harvard Common Press
NOTE: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you’ve read past book reviews, you’ll know that I don’t pull my punches when I believe they are warranted. I also try to provide balanced information so you can make your own decision to read or not read the book, even if you disagree with my opinion.