Today I stumbled across Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown. Ms. Brown ran a Kickstarter to allow her to produce a free cookbook aimed at helping people with limited financial resources to eat well. (She aims for eating on roughly $4 per day.) I was pleasantly surprised by this book.
Firstly, I very much like the approach Ms. Brown takes for this kind of cookbook. While her previous cookbook is a vegetarian cookbook, and a lot of these recipes are vegetarian, there is no moralizing about what you chose to eat. In fact, her primary goal seems to have been to create a flexible cookbook that would give people basic skills, recipes, and flavor combinations to build on. She also acknowledges that building a pantry to aid you in eating cheaply has an upfront expense. She recommends slowly investing in pantry ingredients to give yourself more flexibility and better flavor. Lastly, she acknowledges up front that her cost estimates are based on using seasonal produce, but she talks about also using appropriate canned or frozen produce.
All-in-all, this is not simply a book of recipes. It is a book that teaches you a fair bit about putting together your own inexpensive meals to your own tastes. There’s a group of recipes called “Things on Toast.” It’s a collection of loose recipes of exactly that — simple open-faced sandwiches. She also has a section entitled “Leftovers” in which she makes suggestions for interesting ways to use up leftovers from the other recipes in the book. Lastly, she has a section on “Staples” which covers how to make things like tortillas, a basic tomato sauce, breadcrumbs, and cooking dried beans.
While I have not made any of the recipes in it, I can tell you that from their construction that they should be inexpensive, tasty, and fairly simple to make. I would highly recommend this book to novice cooks who are on a budget. I think it would be an excellent college student cookbook. A few of her recipes are time-intensive, which would be unrealistic for many people. (How many of us have time to make our own tortillas regularly?) That said, so many of the recipes are simple, quick-to-prepare, and very flexible to individual tastes that I’d can’t really hold that against the book. I think it’s well worth considering picking up the second edition ($10.21 on Amazon) for the sake of having a paper copy for your kitchen or sending her a $5 tip for the free version.