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
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