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The Frugal Foodie Cookbook by Lara Starr and Lynette Shirk

My wife and I have been trying to cook more of our meals at home, rather than going out to a restaurant. Part of it is frugality, cooking at home is simply cheaper than eating out. However, an even bigger part has to do with being healthier. Restaurants tend to use way too much oil, fat, cheese, and salt (among other things) and eating out all the time can expand your waistline as quickly as it thins out your wallet. So when I was offered a copy of The Frugal Foodie Cookbook by Lara Starr and Lynette Shirk [3] to review, I was eager to see a cookbook that had frugality, rather than a particular cooking style or cuisine, in mind.

Who are Lara Starr and Lynette Shirk?

Lara Starr is coauthor of The Party Girl Cookbook [4], with Nina Lesowitz, a book that “makes everything quick, easy, inexpensive, and most of all, fun. No deep-frying at the last minute or stuffing miniature mushrooms for hours on end. The 24 themed ftes in this book each includes ideas for invitations, party favors, decorations, music, games, costumes, and tons of food and drink.”

Lynette Shirk is the accomplished chef of the pair, a classically trained chef that has worked in some of the finest kitchens in the world, including Chez Panisse, Masa’s, Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio, Bizou, Stars, and Williams-Sonoma corporate headquarters.

So in terms of credentials, these two have it.

Frugal Foodie Cookbook

The book is separated into nine chapters, covering each meal, some snacks (even midnight snacks), party planning and even gifts. The first five, as you can imagine, cover the various meals of the day: breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon snacks, and dinner. Chapter 6 covers parties on a shoestring, followed by kids meals, midnight snacks, and even a chapter on thrifty gifts!

All throughout the book are little “frugal foodie tips” that are absolutely brilliant. For example, the first Frugal Foodie Tip explains why nonfat milk makes better foam (for coffee) than low-fat or whole milk. The fat messes up the stability of the bubbles forming within the milk, so the absence of fat is best. When they make meringue, they whip up egg whites only because the yolk has fat that interferes.

Following each chapter is a “Cents-able Solutions” section that covers one key frugal idea that isn’t confined to the chapter. For example, at the end of Chapter 5: Dinners on a Dime, they give you a page and a half table of substitutions you can make to avoid a trip to the store. If you don’t have sesame oil, consider sautéing 2 teaspoons of sesame seeds in a quarter cup of vegetable oil. If you don’t have currents or dates, substitution with raisins. No molasses, make your own by dissolving 3/4 cup brown sugar into a quarter cup of warm water. Clever stuff that saves you gas and a trip to the store.

I really enjoyed the book, much more so than I expected because of all the little trivia bits, useful tips, and great “centsable solutions” like the substitution table. I’m always hesitant to recommend that you get a cookbook because if you’re like us, you have a bunch that you never use, but I really enjoyed this one.