source: ethan john
I do a lot of things to save money on food. I comparison shop, buy on sale and use up leftovers. Most people already know these tricks.
However, there is one thing I do that a lot of people don’t know about. What is it? I choose and use the right cookbooks.
The right cookbook can make all the difference between a dinner that costs $13.00 and one that costs $3.00. Cookbooks that require exotic seasonings and imported cheeses, are going to cost you big bucks at the grocery store. Cookbooks that are heavy on expensive cuts of meat, are going to be heavy on your pocketbook.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, if you know what to look for, it’s easy to spot a frugal cookbook. Here are some tips:
1) Consider buying a vegan cookbook. Many vegan meals use beans as their main source of protein. Use caution however, as many veggie cookbooks lean towards the expensive condiments and fresh herbs.
2) Look at cookbooks based on your region. Regional cookbooks will use ingredients that are common, and therefore cheap, in your area. I live in the Middle East, so those are the regional cookbooks I frequently use. Recipes using chickpeas, pita, olives and zhatar, are all dirt cheap for me.
3) Try some cookbook from poorer countries. The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook uses only a 1/4 pound of meat to serve 4 people.
4) Track down some older cookbooks. The original Joy of Cooking, Good Housekeeping Cookbook and Betty Crocker use almost no expensive convenience foods or exotic ingredients in their recipes. Instead, the good flavor came from everyday foods, carefully prepared.
5) Buy cookbooks that take advantage of your resources. Since bread in the Middle East bread is cheap and delicious, I own a sandwich cookbook. My sister has a father-in-law that gives her vegetables all summer long, so she has a salad cookbook.
6) Use cookbooks that allow for a lot of choice in ingredient selection. For instance, Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without A Book, encourages the reader to combine their favorite (cheap) ingredients with her basic recipe templates.
7) Get a book on substitutions. I own two books on substitutions that I use whenever I am missing an ingredient in a recipe. For instance, it is almost impossible to get water chestnuts where I live, but thanks to my substitution books, I know to use jicama instead.
8) Purchase a cookbook specifically labeled as frugal. I frequently use an excellent book called Good Recipes For Hard Times by Louise Newton.
9) Invest in a cookbook on specific frugal foods. For instance, I have two cookbooks on rice cookery and one cookbook on making dumplings. Not only do the recipes from these books make great side dishes, but I sometimes add a bit of cheese or a 1/4 pound soy meat and turn them into a main course.
10) Check out other people’s recommendations. I recommend The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. While this is not actually a cookbook, the few handfuls of recipes scattered throughout the book are so good, they make it one of the most valuable books I own.
If you have any frugal cookbooks that you would like to recommend, please leave a comment below.
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