Cheap. Fast. Good!

Overview

Not a penny-pinching cookbook—a "get smart!" cookbook.
No more staring helplessly at rising grocery bills or, too harried for time, shelling out twenty-five bucks for mediocre take-out. The work of two brilliant problem-solvers, Cheap. Fast. Good! cuts through both the budget dilemma and the time dilemma with 275 recipes for great, family-pleasing dishes, most of which take under 25 minutes to prepare and ...

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Overview

Not a penny-pinching cookbook—a "get smart!" cookbook.
No more staring helplessly at rising grocery bills or, too harried for time, shelling out twenty-five bucks for mediocre take-out. The work of two brilliant problem-solvers, Cheap. Fast. Good! cuts through both the budget dilemma and the time dilemma with 275 recipes for great, family-pleasing dishes, most of which take under 25 minutes to prepare and average out to cost less—and usually far less—than $2 a serving.

Home Ec simplified
Saving money in the kitchen is as simple as one four-letter word: Cook. But cooking to save means cooking food you and your family are going to love—and cooking (and shopping) smart. In dozens of time-and-money-saving tips, techniques, strategies, and solutions, the authors show how to make the right choices again and again.

They'll never know you're thrifty
Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Pepper Medley
Stuffed Peppers with Kielbasa Rice
Zesty Chicken Sauté
Bayou Stew
Catfish with Pecan Crust
Cinco de Mayo Skillet
Quickie Cacciatore
Perfect Spinach Pesto Pizza
Moroccan Meatballs Over Couscous
Salmon Pasta with Tomatoes and Dill

...Even when it's time to s-t-r-e-t-c-h
Onion Chopped Steak with Easy Gravy
Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs
Fall Sausage and Cabbage Sauté
Ultra-Easy Veggie Quesadillas
Pasta e Fagioli
My Beef and Barley Soup
Ziti Mexi-Cali

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The focus in this collection aimed at working parents like the loyal fans of Mills and Ross's "Desperation Dinners" syndicated newspaper column is far more on how to save money than on quality or speed. The authors offer many helpful penny-pinching ideas, such as finding bread outlet stores and getting reasonably priced salad greens. Most of the recipes are quick to assemble, even for less experienced cooks, as long as frozen or canned ingredients are used and not the optional fresh or from-scratch versions. How tasty the food is will depend on the family; almost all the dishes, such as the simple, warming A Chicken in Every Pot, have an unfussy feel to them, which is great for picky kids but may strike some as too bland. The authors make gestures to international cuisine, as with the Moroccan-style Lentil and Chickpea Soup with Cilantro, and Mary's Greek-Inspired Pasta, but to minimize costs they use few spices or special ingredients, often resulting in inauthentic takes on another country's food. But cooks who are too thrifty or frazzled (or both) to be snobbish about the sophistication of what they prepare will undoubtedly relish the authors' familiar, easygoing but expert manner and the satisfying variety of recipes. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
From the authors of Desperation Dinners!, based on their syndicated column of the same name, and Desperation Entertaining! come more quick and easy, family-friendly recipes, with an emphasis on economy. In chapters like "Super-Saver Soups and Stews" and "Money-Saving Sides," Mills and Ross provide more than 250 recipes, along with lots of tips on smart shopping, information on ingredients and nutrition, and suggestions for substitutions or variations. The "cheapest" recipes-Calle Ocho Cuban Hash, Chicken Caesar Salad, and many more-are indicated with a special icon, and there is also a chapter on "Budget-Minded Batch Cooking." Sure to be popular. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761138181
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/12/2005
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 8.63 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 1.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross have been writing together as a team for almost ten years. Their weekly newspaper column, "Desperation Dinners", is syndicated by United Media and appears in over 90 newspapers nationwide. Ms. Mills lives with her husband and two children outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ms. Ross lives with her husband and two children in Raleigh, North Carolina. Their Web site is www.desperationdinners.com.

Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross have been writing together as a team for almost ten years. Their weekly newspaper column, "Desperation Dinners", is syndicated by United Media and appears in over 90 newspapers nationwide. Ms. Mills lives with her husband and two children outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Ms. Ross lives with her husband and two children in Raleigh, North Carolina. Their Web site is www.desperationdinners.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Eating Like a Big Spender for Just a Few Dollars
We're the Desperation Dinners Duo, and for the past decade, we have concentrated our energy on finding every trick and technique imaginable for saving time in the kitchen. The results have been published in two Desperation Dinners cookbooks, on our Web site, and in our syndicated newspaper column. A few years ago, we both encountered desperation of a different sort. Like many people, we watched our household expenses spin out of control while our retirement accounts took a dive and college savings accounts dwindled. Since then, we've weathered corporate downsizing and job changes, and, at times, we've worried whether the checkbook would balance.

While we realized that we were fortunate to still have investments to fret over and jobs to go to, the economic downturn jabbing at us—and at our friends and relatives—presented significant challenges. And then it hit us: What would happen if we shifted our energies a bit and started concentrating on saving money in the kitchen, in addition to time?

We went in looking for pennies, but what we found were dollars. After spending months researching every avenue we could find, developing thrifty recipes, and rethinking our eating habits, we hold these four truths to be self-evident:

First, saving money in the kitchen is as simple as one four-letter word: Cook. Yes, our Desperation Dinners cookbooks strongly advocate cooking, but good times allowed for plenty of dinners out, too. When we started to examine just a couple of months' worth of restaurant bills (including fast-food drive-through and pizza delivery), we were shocked. And we weren't alone. The average U.S. family of four speds nearly $240 a month eating out. In a typical year, Americans eat 70 billion meals at 870,000 restaurants. The good news was that, since we were spending so much eating out, we knew we could save all the more by eating more often at home. What we quickly figured out was that cooking amazing meals at home—even on a budget—is as basic as getting a plan, picking a recipe, and heating up the stove.

Saving money in the kitchen isn't really about pinching pennies, and, truthfully, we just weren't motivated to reuse tea bags and wash out used plastic storage bags. For us, saving money in the kitchen is about good stewardship— making wise buying decisions and then making the most of the ingredients once we get them home. We were startled to discover that the average American household throws away 470 pounds of food every year and that as much as 12 percent of purchased grocery items are never used. Guilty? You bet, and we vowed to change our wasteful ways. Fortunately, it's easy to do, and we've detailed exactly how, step by step, in the following pages.

The second truth is probably the most important: It's essential to cook meals that you're going to enjoy. Otherwise, that's money and time right down the garbage disposal. When we started telling family and friends that our next project would be a budget cookbook, we were a little surprised by their reaction. There seemed to be a definite bias against the idea of thrifty food: "You eat a lot of bean and rice, right?" The answer is, yes, we do eat some beans, but we also feast on the likes of Chicken and Apples with Dijon Cream, Moroccan Meatballs over Couscous, Marmalade-Glazed Ham, Stuffed Peppers with Kielbasa Rice, Beef Stew à la Guatemala, and Catfish with a Pecan Crust. And when we do eat beans, we turn them into a gourmet delight. Check out our Sassy Chickpea Burgers with Lemon Aïoli, Very Veggie Lentil Chili, and "Barbecued" Chicken and Black Bean Burritos.

Just in case you're dubious, too, we'd like to make one guarantee: Food doesn't have to cost a fortune to be wonderful! When it comes to cooking, spending a lot of money does not ensure that your soup, pasta sauce, or skillet meal will be delicious. And the opposite is also true: It doesn't take a lot of money to produce amazing meals that you'll be proud to serve to your family, friends, and guests. If you're like us, eating well—really well—is a priority, but it just doesn't need to cost so much.

As for the third essential truth: Time is a key ingredient. We will always be the Desperation Dinners Duo, and, probably much like yours, our hectic lives haven't slowed down for a minute. Our recipes must be realistic, easy, and relatively quick to prepare so that, when we're tired or rushed, we won't be forced to eat an expensive meal out or buy costly prepared foods.

The minute you walk through the kitchen door to start dinner, you're automatically saving money. You just need to decide how much money you want to save. After spending months slashing our own food expenses, we landed on our fourth and final esential truth: The amount of money saved depends on a willingness to take the necessary steps. For example, the fewer prepped foods we buy, the more money we pocket. The more cooking steps we do ourselves, the more we enhance the budget's bottom line. The more carefully we shop and the more carefully we go out of our way to bag a bargain or clip a coupon, the fatter the wallet is likely to get.

In the following pages, we'll cover each detail of these steps toward creating a smarter, more economical kitchen. Then you can experiment to find what works for you. When all is said and done, this book is simply about making choices. We'll give you the information and the recipes; you need to make smart and realistic ones that fit whatever time you have and whatever efforts you're willing to make. But remember that you don't need to spend half a day in the kitchen to eat well yet save money. So, enough said. Let's get started.

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Table of Contents

Super-Saver Soups and Stews (2)
Versatile, easy, filling, and delicious—what could be better than a freshly made soup or stew with plenty of adult and kid appeal? Ladle out bowls of Turkey Vegetable Soup with Brown Rice, Super-Saver Tortilla Soup, Minless Meatball Minestrone, and Beef Stew à la Guatemala.
Making Your Own Chicken Stock (10), The Conventional Wisdom of Food Cost Savings (22), Making Your Own Vegetable Stock (38), By Any Name, This Beef is Still Cheap(41), The When, Where, and How of Shopping (54)

Everyday Entrées (60)
A dazzling selection of budget-minded entrées keeps dinner interesting and inexpensive. Dig into Onion Chopped Steak with Easy Gravy, Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Pepper Medley, Camper's Chicken Pockets, Oven-Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs, Catfish with Pecan Crust, and many more.
Buying a Freezer (67), Freezing and the Single Cook (70), The Miracle of Menu Planning (74), Buying a Cheap Ham (81), Making Your Own Convenience Items (86), Motivate Yourself to Real Savings! (94), Cutting up a Whole Cooked Chicken (102), Beautifully Browned Chicken, the Easy Way (109), Eating Healthy on a Budget (112)

Sumptuous Skillet Meals (116)
When you're short on time, skillet meals come to the rescue. Fast and fabulous (not to mention cost-conscious, as well) recipes include Salsa-Cheese Beef and Rice, Mu-shu Pork at Home, Fiery Chicken with Vegetables, Chicken and Apples with Dijon Cream, and Fisherman's Seafood Creole.
Dinner Insurance: How Hamburger Can Save the Day (118), Easy Couscous (122), Draining Ground Beef (128), What Keeps You Out of the Kitchen Or Kitchen Psychology 101 (142), Skin and bone Your Own Chicken Breasts (146), Finding the Lowest-Ever Prices (158)

Empowering Pastas (178)
You can't go wrong with pasta—the price is right, and it couldn't be faster to prepare. Quickie Cacciatore, Thai Spaghetti Toss, Corkscrews with Chicken and Zucchini, Hungry Man's Macaroni, Tex-Mex Noodles—the shapes, the sauces, the toppings are so appealing and varied, there's something for everyone.
Shopping and the Single Cook (182), Expensive Spices and Dried Herbs (190), Tuna Time (222), Other Places to Shop (224), The Last Slice: Making Your Own Bread Crumbs (235)

Fast and Frugal "Sandwiches" (236)
A creative look at combos that are easy on the pocketbook and satisfying on the plate. Barbecued Beef on a Bun, Ham and Asparagus Crostini, Best BLT Melts, Pizza Cordon Bleu, and Fiesta Dinner Nachos—all delicous and dinner-worthy.
Shopping the Discount Bread Stores (240), How to Use up a Big Hunk of Ham (242), Buying the Cheapest Bacon (248), "New-Fashioned" with Frills (254), Let Them "Cook": Having Kids in the Kitchen Means More Hands on Deck (262), Making School Lunches Reasonable (266)

Simply Satisfying Salads (272)
Great as summer meals and super sides, these salads won’t cost you a fortune. Prepare Sweet and Savory Chicken Salad, Easiest Taco Salad. Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Ham, and Divine Deviled Eggs on Greens.
Saving on the Green Stuff (274), Smart Shopping at the Club Warehouse Stores (282), Salmon: the Good-for-You Fish (290)

Money-Saving Sides (298)
When you need more than crusty bread to fill out a meal, here are some cheap and delicious go-withs. Barley and Mushroom Risotto, Indian Rice Pilaf, Mexican-Style Black Beans, Maple-Glazed Carrots, Hannah’s Corn Sauté, and Garlicky Smashed Potatoes are just a few of the choices that help round out a meal.
Our Way with Broccoli (307), Corn Muffin Add-ins (310), Think Like Your Grandmother (320), Cooking a Giant Pot of Summer Corn (324), Oven-Bakes Sweet Potatoes (336), Inventing Your Own Rice Pilaf Recipe (338), Saving to Share (341)

Budget-Minded Batch Cooking (334)
Here’s a smart strategy that’s cost and time effective: Cook big batches of dinner basics when you have the time, and defrost them to help jump start dinner when time is short. Basic Beef, Savory Pork Pot Roast, Chunky Seasoned Chicken, Amazing Baked Potatoes, and Dried Bean Bonanza are just some of the recipes that will give you ahead start for future meals.
Keeping Tabs on Your Grocery Inventory (350), Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: Time vs. Cost Savings (355), Super Potato Toppers (367), How to Cook and Store Dried Beans (370)

Sassy Sauces and Toppers (376)
Dress up plain dinner fare with these bright sauces and condiments. Burgers, chicken, pork chops, and sandwiches taste even better with Sheri’s Romesco Sauce, Quick Herb Butter Sauce, Pesto Mayonnaise, Super Sofrito, and Pineapple Cranberry Relish.
A Refrigerator Check-up Makes Good Cents (381), Mayonnaise Saves the Sandwich—and a Lot of Other Stuff (382)

Special Breakfasts at Home (392)
Turn weekend breakfasts into brunch with these stress-free recipes. Serve a Mushroom-Swiss Frittata or Sausage-Pepper Strata, Croissants with Chocolate Gravy, Myra’s Monkey Bread, or Pumpkin Raisin Biscuits. Irresistibly god, and no one will miss the long lines at the pancake house.
An Orange Juice Dilemma (397), Pancake Mix Fix-ups (404), Turn Everyday Coffee into a Gourmet Treat (411)  

Delectable Desserts (416)
Budget meals can and should include a scrumptious dessert. Here’s a full selection of recipes that cost little to prepare and that you’ll be proud to serve: Old-Fashioned Gingerbread with Lemon Glaze, Banana-Pineapple Crumb Cobbler, Grandma’s Éclair Cake, Aunt Ada’s Cranberry Pie, Caffe Latte Granita, and so many more.
Cheap Desserts from the Store (423), No Need to Be a Gadget Junkie (442)
Conversion Tables (454)

Appendix:
Eating on $100 a Week—Our Experimental Cheap Extravaganza (456), Our Best Coupon Advice (466)

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Eating Like a Big Spender for Just a Few Dollars
We're the Desperation Dinners Duo, and for the past decade, we have concentrated our energy on finding every trick and technique imaginable for saving time in the kitchen. The results have been published in two Desperation Dinners cookbooks, on our Web site, and in our syndicated newspaper column. A few years ago, we both encountered desperation of a different sort. Like many people, we watched our household expenses spin out of control while our retirement accounts took a dive and college savings accounts dwindled. Since then, we've weathered corporate downsizing and job changes, and, at times, we've worried whether the checkbook would balance.

While we realized that we were fortunate to still have investments to fret over and jobs to go to, the economic downturn jabbing at us--and at our friends and relatives--presented significant challenges. And then it hit us: What would happen if we shifted our energies a bit and started concentrating on saving money in the kitchen, in addition to time?

We went in looking for pennies, but what we found were dollars. After spending months researching every avenue we could find, developing thrifty recipes, and rethinking our eating habits, we hold these four truths to be self-evident:

First, saving money in the kitchen is as simple as one four-letter word: Cook. Yes, our Desperation Dinners cookbooks strongly advocate cooking, but good times allowed for plenty of dinners out, too. When we started to examine just a couple of months' worth of restaurant bills (including fast-food drive-through and pizza delivery), we were shocked. And we weren'talone. The average U.S. family of four speds nearly $240 a month eating out. In a typical year, Americans eat 70 billion meals at 870,000 restaurants. The good news was that, since we were spending so much eating out, we knew we could save all the more by eating more often at home. What we quickly figured out was that cooking amazing meals at home--even on a budget--is as basic as getting a plan, picking a recipe, and heating up the stove.

Saving money in the kitchen isn't really about pinching pennies, and, truthfully, we just weren't motivated to reuse tea bags and wash out used plastic storage bags. For us, saving money in the kitchen is about good stewardship-- making wise buying decisions and then making the most of the ingredients once we get them home. We were startled to discover that the average American household throws away 470 pounds of food every year and that as much as 12 percent of purchased grocery items are never used. Guilty? You bet, and we vowed to change our wasteful ways. Fortunately, it's easy to do, and we've detailed exactly how, step by step, in the following pages.

The second truth is probably the most important: It's essential to cook meals that you're going to enjoy. Otherwise, that's money and time right down the garbage disposal. When we started telling family and friends that our next project would be a budget cookbook, we were a little surprised by their reaction. There seemed to be a definite bias against the idea of thrifty food: "You eat a lot of bean and rice, right?" The answer is, yes, we do eat some beans, but we also feast on the likes of Chicken and Apples with Dijon Cream, Moroccan Meatballs over Couscous, Marmalade-Glazed Ham, Stuffed Peppers with Kielbasa Rice, Beef Stew a la Guatemala, and Catfish with a Pecan Crust. And when we do eat beans, we turn them into a gourmet delight. Check out our Sassy Chickpea Burgers with Lemon Aioli, Very Veggie Lentil Chili, and "Barbecued" Chicken and Black Bean Burritos.

Just in case you're dubious, too, we'd like to make one guarantee: Food doesn't have to cost a fortune to be wonderful! When it comes to cooking, spending a lot of money does not ensure that your soup, pasta sauce, or skillet meal will be delicious. And the opposite is also true: It doesn't take a lot of money to produce amazing meals that you'll be proud to serve to your family, friends, and guests. If you're like us, eating well--really well--is a priority, but it just doesn't need to cost so much.

As for the third essential truth: Time is a key ingredient. We will always be the Desperation Dinners Duo, and, probably much like yours, our hectic lives haven't slowed down for a minute. Our recipes must be realistic, easy, and relatively quick to prepare so that, when we're tired or rushed, we won't be forced to eat an expensive meal out or buy costly prepared foods.

The minute you walk through the kitchen door to start dinner, you're automatically saving money. You just need to decide how much money you want to save. After spending months slashing our own food expenses, we landed on our fourth and final esential truth: The amount of money saved depends on a willingness to take the necessary steps. For example, the fewer prepped foods we buy, the more money we pocket. The more cooking steps we do ourselves, the more we enhance the budget's bottom line. The more carefully we shop and the more carefully we go out of our way to bag a bargain or clip a coupon, the fatter the wallet is likely to get.

In the following pages, we'll cover each detail of these steps toward creating a smarter, more economical kitchen. Then you can experiment to find what works for you. When all is said and done, this book is simply about making choices. We'll give you the information and the recipes; you need to make smart and realistic ones that fit whatever time you have and whatever efforts you're willing to make. But remember that you don't need to spend half a day in the kitchen to eat well yet save money. So, enough said. Let's get started.
Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2008

    Wonderful for Families on the Go!

    This book is fabulous!! The recipes are great-and items that are usually 'staples' in your pantry. One reviewer was disappointed with the make ahead 'shredded beef' for the cowboy pie-obviously not a working mom who needs to make things do in a pinch. I made the same cowboy pie using left over rump roast from an earlier crock pot dinner-it turned out awesome! The potatoes and carrots from this same crock dinner became the ingredients for the chicken hash. Another great recipe! My family used to wrinkle their noses when I rattled off a recipe from this book, but now they know even if it sounds 'odd', chances are it is really good. Like any recipe, you need to tweak it for your individual 'constraints'- I use this book at least twice a week; never been disappointed in ANY of the recipes.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2006

    Indispensable for busy cooks

    I have used the Desperation Dinners book extensively and love it, so when I saw this title by the same authors I snapped it up. The whole family is glad I did. The money-saving aspect was appealing, but my favorite part of the book has turned out to be the batch cooking recipes. The pre-cooked and seasoned meats that now stock my freezer enable me to put supper on the table within 15-20 minutes -- and half that time is spent defrosting the meat in the microwave. It's so easy to make dinner at home we are much less likely to order takeout. And it all tastes wonderful. These two authors produce wonderful recipes -- I've yet to try one that my family did not love. We like to use healthy ingredients with lots of flavor, and these recipes deliver on both counts.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2009

    The best cookbook ever!!!

    I use this book more than any other cookbook I have ever owned. My family loves the food, I love the ease of cooking and I am saving money too!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 13, 2012

    Good Cookbook

    This is a good cookbook for the beginning to the older cook. Even though I have been cooking for years, I found some recipes and great hints in this book. If you are trying to control your grocery bill this is for you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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