Eat Well, Save More by Cath Armstrong

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Eat Well, Save More by Cath Armstrong has some great tips for saving money and good recipes.

When I was young and very poor, I had an envelope system for my budget. Every week, I put $20 into envelopes marked electricity, car rego, insurance and so on. If I recall, I budgeted $70 per week for groceries (meat, vegies, dry goods, cleaning stuff, chocolate) but only used to shop every eight days, so that every once in a while I had a windfall of $70 fall into my lap. It was a great system.

I also made up a meal planner. The idea was, I’d have something worked out for every dinner for six weeks (sometimes it was something simple like eggs on toast or tinned tomato soup) and then I would just repeat as required. The plan was, there would be a good nutritional balance and I would be able to take advantage of specials in the supermarket by stockpiling.

It was a long time ago now, but it worked. I forget why I stopped.

Cath Armstrong has done all of the hard work for her readers, by making templates of grocery tracking spread sheets (the idea is that you fill in the prices of the products you buy so that you know when they are due to come on special again), suggesting low cost menus and things to do with leftovers.

There is also the idea of eating out of the pantry for a week and getting rid of all of the bits and pieces that have been ignored for too long. I could probably eat out of my pantry for several months. I do stockpile groceries on special to save money, but I also worry about the shops being shut (like on Christmas Day) and my family and I starving while we wait for them to re-open (on Boxing Day).

The recipes in Eat Well, Save More are very good too, all ordinary food that you don’t need to make a special trip to the shops for. I’ve copied down the author’s recipe to make Swedish Meatballs, a Vegie Quiche using leftovers and a few other bits and pieces.

I’ve also copied down the author’s recipes for vanilla extract, sweetened condensed milk and brown sugar. With the amount of biscuits, cakes and puddings I bake, these could save me a fortune.

My only problem with the book is the suggested serving sizes, which would not fill up He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers, who is a mountain of a man and needs more on his plate than skinny, little blokes. The author does state very firmly somewhere that you must stick to the serving sizes otherwise the budget will be blown and there will be nothing left to make leftovers with, but the reality in my household is, that won’t be happening. The family would mutiny.

I’m going to make the Mexican Haystack thing from the book for tea tonight, as I have everything in the pantry. I’ll have to go the shops tomorrow to replenish though, otherwise I’ll be traumatised looking at the gaps in the pantry. I’ll also have a look at the Cheapskates Club website, for more money saving tips from Cath Armstrong. I believe she has a recipe for her own washing powder, which costs around $10 for a year’s worth. That is a huge saving.

This book is well worth a look. The recipes are good and the money saving tips are even better.

Sweet Treats from Frankie Magazine

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Sweet Treats by Frankie Magazine is a gorgeous cookbook, full of old fashioned confectionery recipes for favourites such as Toffee Apples, Honeycomb and Fudge.

The styling in Sweet Treats is retro too, with the goodies photographed on lovely old plates (similar to what your Nanna would have used) and displayed on patterned tablecloths and doilies.

I made the recipe for Marshmallow Cones, which turned out exactly like the picture in the book. I have made marshmallow before, but must have buried the memory of how sticky home made marshmallow is. It tasted great, but believe me, it went everywhere. I was licking it off the kitchen benches, the beaters, knives, spoons, trays, you name it.

The recipe for Honey Joys is probably known to everyone in Australia, and is such a favourite that I expect most people can make them without following the instructions. Still, I had forgotten how to make Toffee even though I used to make about ten different recipes as a child (don’t ask me how many fillings I have in my teeth now, self inflicted, I know), but the photo brought back memories of just how good sugar, butter, vinegar and water are when boiled together, poured into a patty pan and sprinkled with 100’s and 1000’s.

I borrowed Sweet Treats from the library, but I’m on the lookout for a copy of my own.

Marian Keyes Saved by Cake

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Saved by Cake by Marian Keyes is one of the prettiest cook books I have ever seen and it is definitely the funniest cook book I’ve read.

Saved by Cake, as the title suggests, is all about baking, so it is exactly my kind of book. I’ve made a couple of the recipes and can highly recommend Zeny’s Banoffee Cupcakes, which are banana cupcakes (or patty cakes, if you’re old school Australian) with caramel in the middle. Yum. The Ultimate Chocolate Brownies were really, really good too.

This is exactly the right kind of cook book to read in bed on a lazy afternoon when you have no intention of actually cooking anything. (The next best way to spend an afternoon when you’re not actually baking).

The book is called Saved by Cake because the author, Marian Keyes was having a nervous breakdown. She turned to baking as a way of passing time and to give her something to focus on.

I look forward to my baking sessions knowing that no matter how busy and complicated my working week has been, making biscuits or cake is going to relax me. There is the pleasure of thinking about what to make, laying all of the ingredients in a row on the kitchen bench in preparation, and the best bit – the enjoyment of mixing and rolling and flattening and stirring. There is also the joy of tasting what you have made and then the sense of achievement which comes from feeding others something delicious that I have made.

Saved by Cake is girly. The pages are light pink (the ultimate feel good, pretty colour) and the recipe titles are swirly. The photos are absolutely gorgeous, pretty floral tablecloths and lovely china, and as for the baked goods, OMG. Everything looks good, even the Beetroot Cake. There are quite a few recipes with ingredients or combinations which I would not have imagined, but there are also quite a few recipes that you wouldn’t have to make a special trip to the shops to buy exotic ingredients to make.

The best thing about the book though are the author’s introductions to each recipe. Marian Keyes is funny. My favourite laugh out loud bit in this book is in her introduction to Quick and Easy Chocolate Fudge Pudding, where Marian warns fellow cooks to use a deep casserole dish based on her own experiences of having used too small a dish. “Poor Himself had a terrible job cleaning up after it.” I don’t care if that story is true or not, but I love the idea of He Who Eats All of Our Leftovers (my version of Marian’s Himself) cleaning the oven after my cooking – priceless. Sadly in my household it would never happen, but the thought of a husband, anyone’s husband in fact, cleaning the oven makes me really happy.

I’ve got a list of recipes that I intend to make from Saved by Cake, happy days ahead.