Sunday, May 30, 2010

The $5 Dollar Dinner Mom Cookbook

Rarely do I care to critique or review anything, much less take the time to write about it. Not a movie, a product or even a book because I feel that what may appeal or work for one person may not (and usually does not) work the same or appeal the same for another. HOWEVER, I am making an exception.

First, I should explain to you a bit about what it is that brought me to this endeavour. Really kind of the silly side, to begin with, but now it has grown in to a cause or mission so to speak.

It really was a humble little start. We went on a camping trip up the mountain to ride the trails with our dirt bikes and my quad, several minor things went wrong to cause a change in plans for the whole weekend. Our first choice for camping sight was still closed off to the public due to snow. Yes, this late in May and there is still a lot of snow up there. Guess it is all that rumored global warning. Don't worry, I am not getting started on my feeling about that propagandist lie. We, or rather my husband, had to back our thirty foot trailer down the single lane dirt road to get to a large enough spot to turn around. Now I ask you...would have really taken too much manpower or money to have someone post a sign at the BEGINNING of the road that the campgrounds were closed? You know back where there was room to turn around?

So on to plan B and off to our usual spot to camp. Normally this spot about the lake is really warm this time of year...but, a little front had moved through bringing cooler temperatures and rain. I always have a good stash of emergency ... shall we say supplies for alternate activities. Such as games, DVDs, crochet bag, magazines and such. About a month's worth actually. Growing up with Gilligan's Island am always prepared for the two hour tour to end up taking longer. We get set up and find that while the generator will turn on, it is not kicking over to create electricity. Hubby looked all over all the connections and announced we would be with electricity for the night and he would check it out the next morning when he had more light. Okay, we have battery lighting, propane cooking, fridge and heat. No problem. While I am heating up the chili for hot dogs, hubby and his margarita jump up from beside the fire, grab a flashlight and go check one more thing. He informs me it is now working, he found the problem. He plugged it in. PLUGGED IT IN?

So it was that on the last day of camp, my daughter-in-law and I decided we would let the rest of the bunch ride in the rain and cold while we would watch a movie. We watched Julia & Julie. Most definitely a chick flick, but now romance. I won't spoil it completely if you haven't seen it, but Julie, a modern day city dweller, obsessed with cooking, decides to create a blog in which she post about making all the recipes from her hero, Julia Child's cookbook. One year to make over 500 recipes. You understand that the cookbook is about French cooking for the American housewife? My family would throw it back in my face if I prepared a meal of tomato aspic. Why aren't there books about normal cooking? I don't get it. I understand about having a cause, I have one as well. I want to blog about, and read about, real meals with normal ingredients. Plan out the menu so I don't have to think about it, maybe even do some cooking ahead. I want to put a meal on the table and still have time for all my hobbies. You know, Farming on Facebook, quilting, machine embroidery, crocheting, scrapbooking and such.

So, after watching the movie, and being a little lost myself, well not really lost since I know where I am, which is back to being a stay home mom, but better to say overwhelmed with the changes, I started thinking. Thinking I needed something to motivate me, to feel so strongly about. No, not a blog about Julia Child, it has been done, and never mind the fact that there are probably less than ten recipes out the over 500 that my family would actually eat or that I could afford to make. I did however renew my desire to plan out some affordable meals that would be eaten. So, now you are up to speed with how it came to be that I pulled out a cookbook from my bag and started looking for recipes.

I recently bought a cookbook written by Erin Chase and titled The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook. When I first picked it up, the recipes sounded like my family would like them. That was a good start. Then, the ingredients were much of what I use normally. Another good start, no running off to specialty stores or the cost of those stores. She had frugal tips and strategic shopping guides, all of which sounded reasonable. And the recipes are set up for a family of four, and we are now three. The introduction to the book states, and I am paraphrasing, that the author set out to feed a family of four on $5 a meal using the best and most wholesome ingredients. All good at first glance.

Now I say this because some time ago I had gotten caught in to the web of frugality a little too much. I was a member of an internet group whose goal was to feed a family of four on four dollars a day. Four bucks for all three meals. That was about the same time I had gotten my Tightwad Gazette and both of those groups suggested going to the feed store to buy oats and making lots of oatmeal. They also lived in an area that had orchards and farms you could pick your own fruit and they raised their own eggs. Then, the four dollar group started posting their menus. Yikes, lunch was a half a sandwich? It may work for them, but not for my family, which at the time included two boys that ate double servings.

So, you can see how really good this book looked. I bought it. Then, I started looking at it a little closer, in a little more detail. First few glances were looking good. Each recipe listed the ingredients needed, and the cost of each ingredient, bottom line was that all the recipes were costing $5 or less for each meal. Even some recipes for homemade things like seasoning mix, baking mix, the everyday things. This was really sounding great. Now all I needed was to make a list of recipes to cook. Then, last night, my brain found it. The errors. Nothing really major, just what my dad would call "over thinking a bit" but enough to rial me up. Kind of like watching a movie about early Rome and seeing a watch on a Roman soldier or jet plane fly over as a multitude of arrows were released upon the enemy. I am the first to admit that I am one of those persons that notice these things, like typing errors or listing wrong descriptions. Like in a novel when the couple meet in a Chinese restaurant and after visiting with each other to set the stage for what is coming they order pizza. Or go to see a movie and leave from a play. Like I said, nothing major in the grand scheme, but bugs me.

You get my meaning. That is how it started. I would notice that a recipe for 4 people called for 2 cups of corn. That is like two can, which is a lot of corn, especially when added to a casseroled or soup. Then, the really irritating thing was when I noticed the price of ingredients. I pay close attention to grocery prices and the book is way off, at least for my area. So here it is, my take.

The book is:
1. Very inconsistent with pricing of ingredients. One recipe list 3/4 pound of ground meat for .76 while another recipe listed a 1/2 pound ground beef for .75 so am wondering where you buy meat that you get a quarter of a pound for a penny. Can I have three of those quarter pounds that cost a penny to make 3/4 of a pound for three cents? Of course not. And, in the book the same 3/4 of pound is also listed with the cost of $1.12 a pound. Now I am no math whiz, but the cheapest I find ground beef is $2.28 a pound which doing the math would make that come out to around $1.68 for 3/4 pound. Other ingredients are just as inconsistent. Roast listed on one recipe as one and half pounds for $2.73. Sorry, on sale roast is running over three bucks a pound. Another example is a recipe that list an egg for ten cents. WOW would I love to be able to get a dozen eggs for a dollar twenty. Or sour cream, half a cup for fifteen cents. Why do I feel like I am getting a huge bargain when it is on sale for $1.59? I want a carton of sour cream for thirty cents! I could go on with much more, but you get the idea.

It was enough to spur me on. To prompt me in to action. I will blog about the recipes in the book and evaluate my cost and families reactions to them.

I must say, the book has good home style recipes and her strategic guide to shopping makes sense. I just felt that the author and publishing company should have checked the final copy for the little details better. The author is soon releasing a lunch cookbook and in all honesty will probably buy it as well.

If you read this, please comment. It is always nice to know someone read it.