Clever Cooks, Footnote Frivolity***, Reviews

A frugal diet: Smart Food – 101 recipes that won’t break the budget

All the ingredients can be bought at the supermarket—nothing is exotic or expensive—and the dishes are delicious and simple to make. (blurb from Smart Food)

Using pantry staples such as carrots, canned tomatoes, and mince, the Australian Women’s Weekly’s Smart Food trots out predictable fare: soups, pastas, stews, pies, and the occasional curry or stir fry. A North African pork and cabbage rolls recipe is the only oasis in a culinary dessert, and even then it requires mince and canned tomatoes.

There’s logic behind the lack of imagination. By showing what can be done with a restrictive list of ingredients, Smart Food reduces waste in the kitchen, potentially saving households $1,036 each year*. Unfortunately, such a narrow focus makes thrifty cooks feel like they’re on a low-fat, low-sugar, egg-and-dairy-free diet**, especially when desserts have been excised from the Smart Food menu.

I attempted the Smart Food regime, spending a fortnight cooking meals by the book. Individually, recipes like the spinach and chicken lasagna, the orecchiette boscaiola, and the spaghetti siciliana tasted wunderbar; they were easy to assemble and worked well as leftovers. By the end of it, however, the Tuscan bean soup sat untouched in the fridge whilst Cheap Geek and I ate takeaways on the sly. Like with most diets, moderation is the key to success with this book, so supplement with the occasional indulgence.

Title: Smart Food 101 Recipes that won’t Break the Budget

IBSN: 978-186396924-6

RRP: N/A (out of print, but may still be available from discount bookshops)

*’Research by the NSW Government shows that the average NSW household throws out $1,036 of food per annum. In looking at food waste around Australia, Do Something calculates that Australians throw out $7.8 billion of food every year. That’s a huge waste of money!’ (via Do Something’s FoodWise website)

**Cooks on actual diets, however, will be pleased with the nutritional values at the bottom of each page

4 thoughts on “A frugal diet: Smart Food – 101 recipes that won’t break the budget

  1. This is the problem with recipes that cost very little to make and reheat well – they’re kind of boring. And extremely Anglo… Still, at least you can stir fry a heap of veggies, add some lime juice, soy sauce, and black pepper and serve the whole lot with rice noodles without breaking the bank! 🙂

    1. True, true. And the leftover stir fry/rice makes a mean rice paper roll the next day! There’s some great non-Anglo recipes out there that are very budget/freezer friendly like chilli con carne or Chinese dumplings. I’m surprised that they don’t appear in a lot of budget-focused cookbooks.

  2. interesting book, thanks for the review, the book is worth checking out. I use all left overs so nothing goes to waste. Having said that…sometimes the left overs are forgotten in the deep end of the freezer so they end up in the bin too ;-(


    1. Same here. I’ve been ignoring a bottle of chicken stock that was made many moons ago. Not sure if it’s safe to consume, but I really don’t want to chuck it out…

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