My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 3

-by Jamie

Part 3!  Here we go!

The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria

I remember when I was just discovering my foodieness and I asked someone who the best chef in the world was.  Their answer was Ferran Adria of El Bulli.  So here we go with that theme again:  I just love knowing what a chef eats when they're actually cooking for themselves.  Chefs at El Bulli eat a "family meal" together every day and that's what this book is about.  They use purposefully inexpensive ingredients as they're feeding a crowd.  There is a back up of stocks, broths, and sauces in the freezer.  The family meals are well organized and coordinated with step by step instructions and timelines.  

Each family meal at el Bulli includes bread, a first course, a second course and desert. The coolest part is they really mix together foods from all different cultures, as the chefs come from all over the world.  In one night they'll eat burgers and ceasar salad and the next night its farfalle with pesto, Japanese style bream fish and Mandarin oranges in Cointreau.  This book is a great way to adventure out and try new foods on the cheap, plus I promise you will become best friends with your local fishmonger.


The Working Class Foodies Cookbook by Rebecca Lando

The title for this one says it all.  After the free PDF in part 1, this is my favorite budget cookbook.  Each meal in this book costs under $8 per person and it's really great stuff: risotto, all kinds of soups, shrimp n grits (yum!), pasta from scratch....  Lando also has great recipes for cheaper cuts of meat and explains how to get the best deals/ most bang for your buck.  There are recipes for lamb shanks, chicken wings, short ribs, various cuts of pork and the like.

The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

While the first key to cooking on a budget is knowing which foods cost the least (see book above) the second equally important key is to simply have cooking skills.  As Lopez-Alt explains, once you know all of the ways to cook an egg, the basics of soups and stocks, meat preparation etc. then you can make something from pretty much anything.  Instead of always following recipes you can think on the spot about what you'd like to cook with what you see in your fridge or whats on sale at the market.  If there's one book that will make you the best cook you can possibly be, it's this one.  It is the literal science of cooking, in a nutshell and Kenji Lopez-Alt does an awesome job of teaching.  (he even took all of the pics in the book)

For example, here is a display of eggs boiled at 30 second intervals so you can decide exactly what consistency you'd like:



Thus concludes my list of favorite cookbooks for the cook on a budget.  I'd love to know if you have a favorite budget cookbook.  Let me know in the comments :-)



My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 2

-by Jamie

Woohoo!  Time for part 2!  Up next on my list of favorite cookbooks for people on a budget:

Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

The day I discovered that I wanted to be Christina Tosi's best friend (not that she has any idea who I am) was actually the same day I knew that Tim was most definitely the man I should marry.  Tim made me the "Birthday Cake" from Tosi's first book, the Momofuku Milk Bar.  There are no words to describe how amazing that cake is but I shall try:  Imagine the best boxed confetti cake you've ever had but imagine it was three tiers and made from scratch and was twenty times as good and had chunks of cookies in it and and and

So yeah.  Ya'll may know Tosi as a judge on Masterchef but I've dribbled on photos of her baked goods for years prior to her TV debut.  #imjustsayin  :-)  For example, here's the Inside cover of Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I've made the above cookies countless times and it has taken me all of five minutes not including the time in the oven.  I suppose there's an ongoing theme in the budget cookbooks I've chosen- most are these sort of simplified or "at home" versions of fancier/ less budget friendly books by the same chefs.  This one's title explains exactly the point: This is how Christina Tosi lives.  This is the stuff she actually cooks when she's at home and exhausted after work, when she wants to entertain, on a weekend off, for a bbq, etc.  She has an entire section devoted to what she does for an ideal "girls night".  I tend to be the girls night host amongst my friends as well so this was of course my favorite part.

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session  photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I take that back.  My favorite part is actually the recipe for "Kimcheez-its" and dip

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

Recipe from  Milk Bar Life  by Christina Tosi

Recipe from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

In a nutshell:  Get you this book! 

Milk Bar Life: Recipes & Stories
By Christina Tosi



More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

I mean, look at that cover.  You want to eat that food?  I don't blame you.  

Tim made Bayless' pork chili verde and it was insanely good.  This is a budget cookbook review so here's the cost breakdown:  He bought a pork loin for $8 but only used half, bought tomatillos, serano and poblano from the Mexican Market for about $3 plus some garlic and onions for maybe $4.  This fed us for literally days.  

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

There are tons of recipes for legit Mexican food in Bayless' book and almost all of them are inexpensive and healthy.  You could easily eat Mexican food every day with this book.

Stay tuned for part three of this Budget cookbook review :-)





My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 1

A Three Part Series by Jamie Hayes

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown


My husband Tim and I met five years ago on  okcupid (A website which I highly recommend). We both took the website rather seriously, answering all of the voluntary 'about me' questions.  Like, I'm talking hundreds of questions. This is my very long way of saying that it is our theory that this okcupid algorithm matched us, in a nutshell, because of our love for food.  Another thing the algorithm seemed to grasp is that neither of us care about money and therefore we studied liberal arts and therefore we live, you guessed it dear readers, on A BUDGET.

Tim is an avid cookbook collector.  When he was younger, before he had any responsibilities, he would buy books like these:

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
By Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet

Flash forward a decade or so to us being parents on a budget and our go-to cookbook is a completely free PDF (more on that below) but we do budget cooking foodie style (although, to quote my bff Katie, I like the word gourmand better than foodie...maybe I shall say we are gourmands on a budget).  We pay great attention to the ingredients and where they come from. Sometimes that location is our own backyard.

We've managed to obtain quite the collection of cookbooks throughout the years and below are some of our favorites.  We hope you find your new favorite cookbook among them.


MODERNIST CUISINE at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet. Photography by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuta and The Cooking Lab Photography Team. Published by The Cooking Lab. 

Modernist Cuisine at Home
By Nathan Myhrvold, Maxime Bilet

Back in the day, Tim purchased for himself the original masterpiece in all of its glory: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Its five volumes include: History and Fundamentals, Techniques and Equipment, Animals and Plants, Ingredients and Preparation and Plated Dish Recipes.  Also included was a spiral bound Kitchen Manual.

But a few years ago after Modernist Cuisine was so successful, its creators made a shortened version of their original multi-volume series, this time geared towards the home cook interested in incorporating more modern techniques into their cooking.  Their new project became Modernist Cuisine at Home. This newer book is just one volume with an additional spiral bound kitchen manual.

Much like its predecessor, Modernist Cuisine at Home has the worlds most beautiful food photographs by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuts and the Cooking Lab photography team:

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

The reason I chose this book specifically for cooking on a budget is it can teach the aspiring modernist home cook all of the basic recipes they need, such as the worlds best pizza dough recipe (we swear by it) and Mac and Cheese that will possibly make you cry with happiness if you like cheese as much as I do and did I mention- the photos alone are worth every penny.

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home



The Free One: 

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

 To quote Brown's blog: 

Good and Cheap is a cookbook for people with very tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. The PDF is free and has been downloaded more than 1,000,000 times.

After the PDF went viral online, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund a print run, using a "get one, give one" system (like TOMS Shoes) so that people who bought a book for themselves could give another copy to a family in need.

The campaign was tremendously successful — I asked for $10,000 to print a small batch, but I ended up with 5,636 supporters who raised $144,681! That made it the #1 cookbook ever on Kickstarter.

To Download The FREE PDF:

Good and Cheap is my favorite!  This, I would say, is the book I think of and use the most day to day.  Its recipes are also the least expensive as they were designed specifically for people on SNAP/ Food Stamp benefits. Brown created the pdf with the budget of $4 a day in mind. (holy cheapness!) Good and Cheap is a great overall lesson on how to eat well even if one is on food stamps (or would like to spend much less money on food in general). Take note, Gwyneth Paltrow.  If I were to sum up Leann Brown's suggested lifestyle philosophy when it comes to eating on a budget, it would be to concentrate the most on plant foods, using meat sparingly.  She also has some great from scratch recipes for things like roti, tortillas, pizza dough, pasta, etc. but the best thing about this book is that you don't feel like you're eating cheaply. Instead you're thinking like a true cook- taking great care with everything you make at your kitchen counter.

*stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my series on cookbooks for the cook on a budget

Use It Up Challenge: A Tale of 4 Grains

-by Jamie

Well I'm just gonna go ahead and say it:  We sort of failed the "Use It Up" Challenge.  But only sort of.  I'll explain:

First, here's what I had in mind:  Tim and I were planning on using up all of the random stuff that we'd accumulated in our pantry by getting creative and looking up recipes, etc.  Then I was going to beautifully organize things with a plethora of decorative vessels.  What didn't occur to me when we chose this category to use up is that we had friends and family in town for the holidays, lots of holiday parties and pretty much never ended up eating dinner at home.  Oops :-)

Here's where it gets really embarrassing:

This is both the before and after picture of our pantry.  I know.  We are what I'd like to call "pantry shovers"; meaning ever since we moved into this house OVER A YEAR AGO we've been shoving our groceries into our cabinets, telling ourselves that we'll get around to organizing it all at some point.  Tim's random Asian ingredients ended up at the top where I can't reach...that's about as organized as we've gotten so far.

Now that our dirty secret is out of the way I would like to move on and discuss what I did get out of this challenge, which was actually a lot:

Tim and I both want to be healthier.  I recently had a doctors appointment during which I discussed with my doctor the fact that I have these huge spikes and dips in my hunger and energy levels and that I sometimes even get nauseous when I'm really hungry.  She said that this was probably due to my addiction to processed refined carbs aka my tendency to eat lots of baguettes and pasta.  She recommended that I try to not make those items such staples of my diet.

So, as you may notice, the only pasta left in our pantry is one box of lasagna noodles.  The question now was what do we cook instead?  That's where this challenge was hugely helpful.  While rummaging around I found all sorts of healthier grain options that I had either opened and tried once or, gasp, never even opened.  Here are some of the recipes we tried, with honest reviews on how they tasted:

1.  Rice (brown rice is of course ideal).  This one is obvi and I'm sure most people eat rice as part of their diet.  To go on top of the rice, for the "Use It Up" challenge I grabbed a pre-made curry boxed 'meal kit' and added to it sun-dried tomatoes, since I wanted to get those out of the pantry (an awful idea) as well as cabbage, tofu and fish sauce (a very good idea).  The consensus:  I will definitely continue to stock up on these sorts of ready made curry boxes as it was so easy.  We got a bunch at the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet.  And I will never again add sun-dried tomatoes to it.


2.  Quinoa

We had four boxes of quinoa that we purchased once from the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet because they were on sale for $3 each!!!  Then we tried it once and I didn't really like it.  The solution:  This recipe I got from pinterest:

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

It is sooooo good!  I won't exactly call this healthy cuz cheese but it is a great way to get veggies, protein and healthy carbs into the belly of Lil' P...she loved it.



3.  Millet

I'm gonna go ahead and say that millet as a stand alone is not so yummy.  But I have not given up on it!  I plan on trying to bake with it as well as use it in soup ...I think it will work better that way.  For millet I used this recipe:

Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale

While I find Millet blerg, I love love loved the gravy!!  I plan on making it again and putting it on top of a different grain.  Since I'm not vegan and because I was trying to use up what I had as opposed to go shopping, I made some substitutions/ changes to this recipe which I was happy with:

-I cooked the millet in vegetable broth. 

-I dissolved a chicken bullion cube into the gravy

-I also added Worcestershire sauce and dried parsley for some color

-I topped with Parmesean cheese!!!!!!!!


Oh man!  I'm not going to even bother with a recipe because I eat this stuff ALL THE TIME!  It is so good!  Follow the package instructions and cook it with broth instead of water and wow!!  Farro stands alone and can be used as a side dish for any, chicken, pork, you name it.  You can even make farro risotto (farroto).  Get you some Farro!!!!!


Ok well I think that's about it for this portion of the Use It Up Challenge but I'm not calling it quits.  I'd like to actually finish the challenge with Tim's help and use up a bunch more stuff in our pantry to make some space so that we can actually organize it.  We will of course keep you posted!!  Happy New Year!


P.S. don't forget to check out Ali's blog.  She'll be posting with what she did for the challenge tomorrow and I have a feeling it's going to be awesome

Good Little House

Stretch the Budget, Tip 1- Pork Loin Savings

By Tim

Hello and welcome to another recurring feature here at Hayes Amaze: Stretch the Budget, a savings tip series that will have you saving money and eating great for pennies on the dollar. (Disclaimer: It probably won't be that amazing. But it'll be worth it.) For our first trick we are going to take a large cut of pork loin and show you how to make it into several chops, a roast or two, and some meat for mincing or grinding.

I am an unrepentant carnivore. I am more than happy to make,  eat and cook vegetarian entrees. They can be delightful, filling and satisfying. They can even be wonderfully unhealthy. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I prefer a little meat in my dinner. And since meat can be expensive I look for ways to save a little money while getting a better product. And so it is that I introduce you to our guest this evening: Mr. Pork Loin

When I buy pork I try and avoid a pre-brined, injected cut of meat. They inject the pork to make it stay moist when it's cooked, put a little flavor into it and, most importantly, pump up the weight so you spend a little more. I find that the brined meat is a little too salty, throws off my recipes and generally has a strange quality to the meat that I don't appreciate. That said, if all you can find is an injected bit o' meat, don't feel bad about buying it. Just remember to watch any salt you put into the recipe as the meat is already fairly well salted.

So we have here a 4.25 pound hunk of meat at $2.29 a pound. How does that compare to pre-cut, supermarket chops? I'm glad you asked.

Pork chops in the wild.

Pork chops in the wild.

Here we have a package of four chops, about a half inch thick for $4.99 a pound. One, maybe two dinner's worth of meat for ten bucks. We have twice the meat for a lower price. Sweeeeet. We also have control over how thick our chops are. These are a pretty decent thickness for supermarket pork chops. Anything less than a half inch thick is going to be overcooked before it's done and you may need a saw to cut it, or at least leather working tools. And plenty of gravy to cover the dryness.

Alright, enough about those supermarket chops. We are through, and we've moved on to something much better and will never look back. So, first step with our pork loin: Remove the wrapper.

My knife is about a foot long. That's a big hunk of pig.

My knife is about a foot long. That's a big hunk of pig.

Removing the wrapper is best done over the sink. Set up your cutting board and take your pork and a knife to the sink and have a couple paper towels ready on the counter. There's going to be a bit of liquid and it's a little ooky and you don't want it all over the place. Food safety is no joke, friends.

Once the wrapper is off, hang the pork loin over the sink for a second to let any excess liquid drip off. It's not completely pleasant but it'll be worth it. Some people say you should rinse your meat, but that isn't really necessary, and present advice is to avoid doing that as water can splash bacteria all about and turn your kitchen. I don't know about you, but I have enough bacteria around my kitchen already, thank you very much. Take your paper towels (good thing you had them ready, isn't it?) and pat the meat dry. Lay the pork loin on a cutting board. Like the picture.

Now it's time to decide what you want to get out of your pork loin. Do you just want chops? Do you want three or four decent sized roasts? Maybe a mix of the two? Maybe you want to make a pork loin copy of Michelangelo's David. I cannot help you if that's the case. It may be too late for help at that point.

Here's what I decided to do:



We have here six inch thick chops, a lean chunk on the left there that I'll be using to make spicy bulgogi pork (Why yes, I will share that recipe with you! Thanks for your interest!) and a fatty chunk on the right that I will be grinding up to make meatballs. If you are going to make a roast I recommend using that fattier side and cutting a four or five inch section. The fatty bit will help the roast from being too dry. The leaner section is good for stir fry.

Now that you have decided what you want out of your loin (oh dear, that didn't sound right...), commence to cutting. Start by cutting your roast of one end and then work your way down, cutting piece by piece. Like I said, I prefer a thicker pork chop, about one inch. Chops that size won't dry out as quickly and can be pounded into thin cutlets that you can use to make schnitzel or tonkatsu (and I will cover those as well, thank you for asking). A half inch would be the minimum thickness I recommend, and you can go up to two inches for some real cave man sized double chops, if that's how you want to roll.

Take your knife and make long, slow strokes. Use the whole length of the blade. The less sawing back and forth, the smoother the surfaces of your chops and roasts will be. It should take just three or four back and forth motions to get through. If they do come out a little ragged don't worry about it. They will still be delicious. You'll just need a little more practice and maybe some better knives.

Now that you've parted the pork it's time to put it away. Decide if you're going to use any of the bits in the next day or so and freeze anything you will be saving for later. I like to put them in single layers in large freezer bags so I can take out one or two as needed. The roasts will go into individual bags.

Wash your hands (cross contamination is no joke, people!), get as many bags as you need, open them and grab some tongs. Alternatively you could ask a responsible adult to help you if one is near. They can hold the bags open while you fill them with your dirty pork hands. Today I was alone, so I used tongs. Be careful not to touch the outside of the bags or zipper area with the raw meat.

And there you have it! You'll note that one chunk is not bagged, that's because I used it to make meatballs immediately after I portioned my pork. The tale of the meatballs next time, my blog friends, but until then, enjoy!