Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cookbook Review: "The Frugal Foodie Cookbook" & a Giveaway

When the lovely people at Viva Additions/Cleis Press emailed me and asked if I would like to review an advance copy of "The Frugal Foodie Cookbook: Waste Not Recipes for the Wise Cook" by Lynette Rohrer Shirk and Lara Starr, being published in September, I immediately said yes. I thought it would be a great opportunity since while I believe I have the "foodie" part of the equation nailed down pretty well, I am not so good at the "frugal" side of things. Between tracking down lots of spendy ingredients for recipes and being easily seduced by seeing something that looks good or I want to try, I am definitely not a bargain shopper, cook or eater. I need all the help I can get and authors Starr and Shirk have teamed up to write a cookbook and guide for eating and living well in these tough economic times. There is plenty packed into this small book with chapters like "Bankable Breakfasts", "Snacks on a Shoestring", "Clever Kids Meals" "Pulled Purse-String Parties" and "Thrifty Gifts" among others, combined with lots of money-saving ideas and tips. 

To start, I made the "Garlic Chicken Confit", where whole chicken leg quarters are roasted in olive oil, garlic and herbs. Being cooked low and slow in their own fat makes the chicken legs rich and flavorful. Of course I had to buy organic chicken leg quarters (not so frugal) but they were on sale (pretty frugal) and after a good blotting of the chicken and removing of the skin, I enjoyed the tender meat of one leg with some rice. (Sorry it is really hard to take a good picture of chicken legs!)

Since the authors consider chicken to be "the backbone of the frugal kitchen", there are several recipes, including one for "Exponential Chicken" where a whole chicken is poached and used for meals for two for 5 days. I did a slight modification, and used my remaining "Garlic Chicken Confit" to make two of those dishes. First I made the "Tacos Naranjas", where the chicken is added to onions and garlic sauteed and cooked in orange juice, cumin and jalapeno. I was surprised at how much flavor and how good the resulting fajita-like tacos were with so few ingredients--they made a great lunch on whole wheat tortillas.

Next I tried the "Chicken Curry", a basic curry with onions. garlic, tomato and spices. Because there is no milk or cream, this is a lighter curry but it has good flavor (if you use a good curry powder!), and it was nice over leftover rice (very frugal of me!). 

I had heard about "Cracker Toffee" before and couldn't resist trying it. Basically butter and brown sugar are boiled and poured over a sheet pan of saline crackers and baked in the oven until nice and bubbly. With two sticks of butter and a package of chocolate chips (I made the "Toffee Twists" version with chocolate), I am not sure how truly frugal this recipe is, but I guess it is cheaper than buying a big thing of toffee. Warning: I found it oddly delicious and somewhat addicting and had to give most of it away or I would have eaten it all. The cracker takes on an almost shortbread quality and with the thick layer of chocolate and the nice crunch, I find my chocoholic little heart is still thinking about it. ;-)

I thought the Lentil Burgers sounded intriguing, especially using red lentils. I did find one thing a bit odd, the authors say "...and using red lentils gives it an attractive color more similar to beef than other veggie burgers." I am not sure I have ever eaten an orange-ish beef burger, (lucky for me--hopefully that's not the color of frugal beef!), and when you mix cooked red lentils with grated carrot and onion, there is a distinctly yellow-orange color to the patties. 

Even though they didn't resemble beef in color, they were quite tasty, easy, good for you (they are baked in the oven), and quite frugal too! I ate mine on a whole-wheat bun with some of my own "special sauce" (non-fat Greek yogurt with ketchup, Dijon, capers and black pepper), lettuce sprouts and tomato. 

Because I am a sucker for long baths with good smelling bath stuff, I exercised my craft gene and tried the Time For Tub Tea from "The Frugal Beauty" in the "Thrifty Gifts" chapter. These little muslin bundles have Epsom salts and good stuff from the kitchen like oatmeal, powdered milk, baking soda, chamomile and rosemary.

Easy to make, they make a pleasant, lightly scented bath treat (I road-tested them myself), and would be fun little gifts. They are easy enough you could do them with children. (I say that because I was able to make them with no problems!). There is a coffee scrub in the book that I think I am going to need to try too. 

The book is also full of advice with frugal living tips sprinkled throughout. My favorite tip? The head-smackingly, should be obvious and very brilliant idea of using the smaller end of your melon baller to scoop capers out of the jar. It fits perfectly, the hole means they drain easily and now your melon baller is a double-duty tool! Duh!!! Why didn't I ever think of that?! I use a lot of capers and because a spoon never fits in the jar, I usually pour them into something else and spoon them out or pierce them with a fork and pull them out... Anyway call me a geek, but that tip alone made my day. 

The Frugal Foodie Cookbook isn't fancy--it's a cute little book with black and white illustrations to break up the text, rather than pictures of the dishes, however the recipes are easy enough and accessible for all levels even without photos. Everything I made was tasty and made with pantry basics that any savvy frugal shopper could find on sale. This book would be good for someone starting out, people cooking for families, or really anyone who wants to eat more frugally, but wants to do it in a pretty painless way. Did it help make me more frugal? Well...maybe not exactly, but I am a hard case and it did give me food for thought and some good ideas and fun recipes. Thanks to the publisher for giving me the opportunity to enjoy this book and for helping one of you to enjoy it too with the ultimate in frugality--winning a free copy!.

Want To Win Your Own Copy of The Frugal Foodie Cookbook?

The publisher very generously offered to give one of my readers their very own copy of "The Frugal Foodie Cookbook" when it comes out next month. If you would like a chance to win it, leave a comment on this post (by 6:00 PM (HST) on Tuesday, August 25th) with your favorite frugal foody-style tip. (Something you do to stretch a dollar). A winner will be randomly drawn from all the comments (actually only the comments that have tips!), and will be announced on Wednesday 8/26. You don't need to have a blog to win but don't forget to make sure I have a way to contact you to get your mailing address in case you are the winner. Good Luck!


  1. This cookbook seems pretty awesome. I am constantly looking for ways to save money and have a definite weakness for grocery store impulse buys. I think the easiest way to stretch a dollar is to not waste leftovers! My parents always make too much food and then it goes into the fridge where it is promptly forgotten. This really irks me and so I always make sure to eat everything that I cook. I also do research on what is on sale at the nearby grocery stores and then menu plan to take advantage of the week's deals.

  2. We've recently been restricted to a new budget and I'm having a hard time with it. I've always been frugal with everything...except food!

    I actually recently wrote about how I buy the market roast chickens and use the dark meat for one meal, and then the breast meat for two others. I've been able to stretch that roast chicken over three nights!

    Excellent cookbook review, Deb. I love the real examples of recipes you've already tried. I know there's such an endless selection of online recipes, but I'm old school and still like the tactile feel of a good book!

  3. This cookbook sounds fantastic! I am really bad about spending money on food as well (case in point, whole lobsters just to try a recipe for TFF!). This may seem like an obvious tip, but whenever I find whole pork loin on sale (recently for $1.39 a pound), I buy one or even two whole loins and slice them into butterflied or breakfast chops myself, then freeze in individual packages.
    Those little thin-cut breakfast chops run over $4 a pound on an average day and the hubs loves them!
    So, there you go...I do the same with local grocer recently had whole ribeyes for $3.99 a pound, which I promptly took home and sliced a $50 whole ribeye into 13 steaks, 1 1/4 inches thick. My freezer is very happy now, as well as my checkbook and my meat-eater hubby!

  4. I think the tacos really sound yummy and looked good, Deb. This is the sort of cooking I do all the time- making use of every ingredient and turning leftovers into ingredients over several nights.

    I guess a good frugal tip is to not toss out your bones after making a chicken or even after eating a rotisserie chicken you picked up. Boil that in some water with some veggies and you can get a rather decent stock.

  5. A perfect book for the times!
    Chicken is actually fairly pricey here..
    I have never made a confit before. It's on the list! or, it should be.
    But what I am loving especially is the bath bombs, what a great gift idea!

  6. I haven't commented in time but the book does sound like a winner. I am trying to search out the best "veggie" burger out there and this does sound good.

  7. Another excellent cookbook review! You've shared some wonderful tips with us. my money saving tip - make your own condiments.

  8. They stole my name!

    No seriously, it sounds like a great book.

    Hmm, frugal tips, so many. But really, the best one is the best all around - buy in season. Those are the foods that are likely to taste the best, and be on sale.

    This is one I am surprised I don't see more often. I never buy light coconut milk. Even if you want low fat, just buy regular and dilute it with water or your favorite milk (alternative in my case). One can equals three cans of the light.

  9. This book seems to be right up my alley as a poor graduate student!

    My favorite tip is this: I almost always debone my own chicken breasts (that I buy for $0.98 a pound) and save the bones in a big ziploc bag in the freezer to make a big pot of chicken and rice soup. I get an additional 6 meals out of just the bones that way and there is always a bit of extra chicken on them.

  10. Great tips so far guys! (Sorry about the name One Frugal Foodie!) ;-)

    Bellini Valli--you did comment in time--I just wrote the wrong dates! I corrected them and I am counting your entry since I am a dork. ;-)

  11. this cookbook sounds great, especially for a new grad student like me! Every penny counts. My favorite frugal tip is buying the Organic Tomato Soup that is in a box at either Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. They make a wonderful base for a tomato stew (you can throw in all kinds of cheap root veggies) and the best part is it's good for you and inexpensive!

  12. I love when people do cookbook reviews and show the recipes they tried, very informative!! Seems like a good book with good tips and ideas. I never thought of the melon baller/caper tip either....makes me think there must be other great tips in the book! Plus, this book would be great for my Creative Thursdays post every week. I like to make a game out of what's in my fridge/pantry and see what I can come up with. One of my favorites is to make my own pizza crust. I can usually scrounge up enough goodies to top a pizza and make everyone happy! Great post!!

  13. Cracker toffee is so good! Love to use matzoh too. Also delish.

  14. Absolute favorites are Cracker Toffee and your Tub Tea. Anything with chocolate and stuff that will easy my wrinkly body has got to be good! :)

  15. Mm-mm! Those lentil burgers look downright delicious! I'll have to try that someday.

  16. I would so love to win this book. Great giveaway. I've been couponing and checking out the discount meat section of my grocery store. It's worked so far in cutting costs quite a bit.

  17. what a great book! I usually use my 1/8 teaspoon to get capers out since I don't have a melon baller :)

  18. Cool giveaway (how did I miss this post!?) A tip from me... NEVER GO SHOPPING HUNGRY!!! And always make a list...and stick to it. :)

  19. Make a shopping list and stick to it- except when you see something that you always use discounted.
    Use coupons only when the name-brand item will be cheaper than the store-brand. Use fresh fruits and vegetables in season, not out. Thanks!

  20. I would love to have this book!
    My best tip is to take the time once every couple of weeks to make breakfast foods (pancakes, waffles, muffins, etc) and freeze them. Then, they are ready for before school/work breakfast and are cheap and healthful.

  21. Sounds like a great cookbook and your recreations look wonderful! I've really gone back to more homemade recipes since living abroad and I plan to continue when I move back to the States to save money. Things like dried beans, chicken with bones and basic rice and grains. I also substitute a lot of beans and vegetables for more expensive meat.

  22. The confit chicken looks really good! I've started to buy capers in a wide-mouthed jar to do away with that problem. I never thought of my melon baller!

  23. Count me in! Here's a frugal foodie tip: When you are peeling potatos for a dish, save the peels (skip the ones with bad parts or eyes) and then toss them with some of your favorite spices, some olive oil and pop them in your oven or toaster oven. Then when they are nicely crisp, sprinkle on a little grated cheese and toast a little longer. Voila, crispy potato peel snacks!

  24. Love tips to save money and more so I think you did a great job on the Book Review.

    I always look for ways to save money so I make bags of bread crumbs, season them if I want and save on buying. I do the same with cookie crumbs and crumbles. I usually make too much so I bag it and freeze it and there is another crumble for the price of what should have been one.

  25. Thank you for the awesome review! I'm so glad you liked the book, and good luck to all of the commenters, I hope the winner likes their copy too!


    Lara Starr
    author, The Frugal Foodie Cookbook

  26. I always do my best to save money at the grocery.
    One tip is to avoid 'ready' food and try to make everything you can from scratch: cakes, fruit juice, sauces... ingredients are less expensive than finished goods.
    The second tip, well... leave the hubby at home :)

  27. Great review Deb! Sounds like a great book, especially since that has been my focus in the last couple months. I love everyone else's tips, leaving the hubby at home really is the key. I have been looking to CVS and Walgreens for food and household things. I have been getting cereal for $1 a box. I like the gift ideas too- we usually try to do a lot of that for Christmas.

  28. oh pick me !!!!!!!!! i love cookbooks..........i have a huge collection.......!!!!!!!!!


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