Top Five Budget Cooking Resources on the Market
When I first bought my first home and started my career and tried to find something to make for dinner besides tacos and spaghetti, I began noticing a pattern in the cooking resources I was using: young women like me don’t have the money to have a lot of items in these recipes on hand.
I mean, some women do, but I don’t usually have capers or phyllo pastry dough handy in my cupboard. And I certainly don’t have time to slave for three hours in the kitchen hovering over the stove, following the fifteen million steps it takes to complete the meal. I have a budget and not a lot of time.
So over the years I have developed my favorite cooking resources that I use at practically every meal. The common theme with these resources is that real people contribute their tried and true recipes. Not to say that professional cooks are not people, but the individuals that write my kind of recipes have little time to devote to the stove and use food staples that practically everyone has and can afford. Here are five of them:
Taste of Home: Dinner on a Dime ($7 on Amazon.com)
My mother actually bought me this book last Christmas. Not only does this book have the typical sections (like breakfasts, beef, and side dishes), it also has a section for “freezer pleasers” and “planned overs,” so that you can stretch your dollars and your food as long as possible.
Every month or so, I would make several of the “freezer pleaser” recipes so that I would have something quick I could throw in the oven without the prep time after work. I now use many of them when cooking for my husband. I’ve always been very pleased with the results!
The “planned over” section is very creative in that the first meal is extra large so that you can make a completely different meal with the leftovers. That way the kids (or the husband!) won’t complain about having spaghetti and meatballs for the second or third night in a row. Instead, the leftover meatballs are put into lasagna or hot sub sandwiches!
Local Cookbooks (Varies—mine was $10)
I don’t know if you have one in your area, but every small town I've ever lived in had it’s own community cookbook. After looking through several of these when I was younger, I finally cracked and bought my own local community cookbook after perusing some of them and seeing so many great cooks submit their own recipes.
My friend Kathy is an exceptional cook and makes the best pizza in the world along with desserts that look like they came straight from a restaurant. Lucky for me, she has submitted several scrumptious recipes in this cookbook, and I know that those pages are already dog-eared. That’s the advantage of going local!
In these books, there is normally a “local flavor” section where recipes for local meats, vegies, and fruits are found. Obviously, not every local cookbook will be the same, but they will most likely have something of a local flavor. If you Google cookbooks for your area, you’re sure to come up with something.
I’ve gotten some of my all time favorite meals from this site, including the best in the world southwestern meatloaf. Not only can you search whatever you’d like to make, like cheesy chip dip and easy cheesecake, there is also an “ingredients” tab so that you can type in whatever you have in your refrigerator or pantry to generate a meal!
For example, if you have ground beef and pizza sauce, but you don’t want to use any macaroni, you just type in what you do and don’t want and you come with recipes such as “meat lover’s pizza bake” and “pizza burgers.”
There is also a rating feature where you can read other people’s reviews on the recipe. Some will add their improvements while others rant or rave.
Another thing I love about this site is the printing option. You can customize how you print off a recipe, down to what size card you want to make it and if you want the picture with it or not.
One thing about this site is that to access certain features, you have to pay to be a member.
However, I’ve never found it necessary to do so. That’s only if you want to post your own recipes or change the font of your recipe print-off. It doesn’t at all affect what come up in your recipe search.
Family Cookbook (Free)
A year or two before I was married, I discovered that my husband's family had compiled a cookbook with a few favorite recipes from each family member (and if you have a large family like him, you understand how heavy that book can be!). We now use it all the time as my husband has tons of family favorites he likes to eat over and over.
You might not have the luxury of having a family who does the work for you, but you can always put a family recipe together yourself! Send out one big e-mail asking everyone for their favorite recipes and they’ll get a copy of the finished product (sometimes you have to bribe them, you know).
Spice it up with some clip art or have your son or daughter illustrate each recipe (that’s what my sister-in-law did, and a lot of those illustrations are very humorous!). Print it out and put the recipes in a binder with slipcovers and you’re done!
Fix-It-And-Forget-It: 5 Ingredient Favorites ($8 on Amazon.com)
I’ve saved the best for last, ladies. Anyone who has used a Crockpot knows just how amazingly simple they are to cook in and how little effort goes into such a wonderful finished product. Any recipe is just incredible from Fix-It-And-Forget-It. I personally have this book and it does wonders for my budget.
Again, this book is compiled from “real” people all around the country who are gracious and brave enough to invent their own Crockpot recipes so I don’t have to (who knew that adding Pepsi to a roast makes it so tender and tasty?).
There are also all sorts of cooking tips in little footnotes all throughout the book. I will give these tips credit for 80% of my cooking knowledge. I used this book almost every day while I was still in school and I can’t describe how wonderful it is to walk into the house after a long day and smell the wonderful aroma of dinner ready to be served.
My husband’s favorite chili recipe comes from this book, and I have made some downright awesome roasts out of the beef section, if I do say so myself (although I always like making every recipe my own).
Becoming a wonderful cook don’t require breaking the bank with a single grocery store visit. With the right resources, you don’t need capers or phyllo pastry or fifteen million steps to make great meals that satisfy you family, guests, wallet, and you.
Check out one of these great resources to make your own great recipes!
Do you like to use a oookbook when you cook?
© 2013 Victoria Van Ness