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on 1 June 2014
I want to write this review so people can understand what this book is and what it is not, so forgive me if it seems to ramble a bit but it is quite essential to get the point across.

A few years before Jack went to her local supermarket to buy one of each of everything in the budget range I did exactly the same thing. I found what was edible and what was not. The aim of course was to be able to eat cheaply, the reason was my debts were exceeding my income to the point where it was getting hard to eat. I managed it, sort of. I have to say that no matter what folks say about supermarkets, in reality the service they are providing with their budget range puts them close to being some sort of Saviour to many of us. I know that comment is going to be a bit controversial, but when your belly is empty and your pocket not far behind then you really start to feel like a kid in a sweet shop when presented with cheap goodies. The fact I did it, and Jack did it, leaves me to believe many others must be trying the same.

But what I did not have was Jacks ability to cut the cost whilst upping the nutritional value at the same time. Her ability to substitute one ingredient for a cheaper one whilst in many cases upping nutritional value makes this book well worth while. Her other trick is to recreate and fix stuff that is both lacking in nutrition and expensive by making them more affordable and healthier by cooking not-quite-from-scratch. Sure, you could make it more nutritional, or even better tasting, but not in the same sort of budget constraints. This is really about cooking as cheap as possible and keeping or upping that nutrition as much as possible.

Her recipes are better tasting than the budget foods in supermarkets, cheaper and more nutritional.

She does this whilst still keeping to simple cooking tactics, the easier it is then the more likely she, and you, and me are going to make it time and time again.

Of course, if you were to throw money at a recipe you could find better. But if you have never walked into a supermarket knowing exactly how much money you have to spend, and wondering how you are going to pull off a miracle of biblical proportions then you are probably not going to understand. I am not going to go too far into political stuff, the book does not so why should I, and there is hundreds of personal reasons why folks need the budget nutrition this book offers. So it does not matter really if your benefits have been stopped, or you have miss spent, or made some bad life decisions, hunger tends not to care and neither does this book.

If you buy budget food get this book. It will reduce your spending and also up the quality of your meals. It goes without saying that if you notice one of your relatives buying lots of budget food then it is also worth buying this book and asking them if they want to borrow it. Honestly, after being there myself, this would be the best gift anyone could give anyone stuck on budget food.

To the folks that can fund any recipe in almost any celebrity chef book, or if you can afford organic everything from the most expensive section of the supermarket for every meal, this one is probably not for you unless you want to buy it to give to someone else. To the folks looking at a cupboard wondering how they can make their food stretch, this book is for you.
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on 28 February 2014
I followed Jack online, but having no money to buy a new printer for her recipes, the book was a much better financial option. All her recipes are budget friendly, allowing the financially pinched and those who just want to cut down an opportunity to do so. A fair number of Jack's methods are wonderful to get the kids involved in the lost art of home economics. Learning to knead bread and melt chocolate, prepare hummus and blend vegetables for soups. A well seasoned cook I may be amongst family and friends alike, but our finances are not what they were like millions of others.
Children, homes and fuel are as ever more expensive, food is one area to save, but there is little point if no one will eat the cheap fair you can present on a table. Not so the case when following these recipes. This beautiful and well written book has opened my eyes to traditional food with modern takes for those wishing to be financially economic during 2014.
There are both sweet, savory, light and filling meals, plenty of photographs to indulge the eyes over. Jack's personal story at the start, flowing through 100 recipes to her her much happier life experiences now.
Jack has become someone to look up to, from those who, like myself many, many moons ago, came from wondering if having the heating on was worth the financial ramifications and final demands from the council tax office later that month. Struggling to look people in the eye lest they know you were living off jacket potatoes and cheap ice cream so you could buy that extra blanket to keep warm.
Jack has been there too, and I am thrilled that she has made it through poverty and come out still smiling. This book is truly inspiring on all levels.
Long may her cooking career and campaigning against poverty continue.
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on 19 March 2014
I am a massive fan of Jack's. She has worked wonders on a low budget and I find her inspirational. I was really looking forward to this book and I have now cooked a number of recipes from it.

The recipes are easy to follow and the ingredients are the sort of things we all have in our cupboards. Nothing is hard to find - unsurprisingly all ingredients are available at your local supermarket, no specialist retailer required. All easy to follow and mostly very tasty. I must admit my children are obviously not quite so good with veg as Jack's SB and there are a few recipes that they won't touch such as the Aubergine Curry and Mushroom Chasseur, but on the whole a family friendly book.

However, I don't feel that it has been double or triple tested as thoroughly as some of my other cookery books. You know if you use a Delia recipe it will work. I have had to adjust a few of the recipes I have cooked. Before everyone jumps on me, I know Jack is not a professional chef and I know she typed the book on her phone etc. I'm not having a go - Penguin have published the book and surely its down to them to test. For instance - the bread recipes - most use a 7g sachet of yeast for 200g - 300g of flour. Half would do - 7g is the amount generally needed for 500g of flour. I've made the brunch loaf and garlic and herb loaf. The garlic one needed much less liquid, the chickpea one more. The not meatballs didn't stick together very well - I blended the mixture a bit to help. The amount of rice per person in the risotto recipes varies - I stuck to my usual amount of 75g per person (and am afraid that I will stick to short grain rice - long grain doesn't work for risotto, sorry). I think Jack is an instinctive cook and probably each recipe is a little different each time she cooks and she has written the recipes as she would write them for a friend.

BUT, I do like it. I would recommend it. I think there's a some good ideas there, good ways of using up leftovers, good advice on shopping. They are, mostly, healthy recipes. Quick and easy to make, from store cupboard items. It is an ideal book for students - especially as a lot of the recipes serve 2 (one thing I have to take note of - I'm so used to recipe books serving 4). It will be going to uni with my daughter in September - albeit with my scribbled notes over it.
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on 27 February 2014
I am a great admirer of Jack and all that she has done and what an inspiration she is to us all.

Her recipes always work and to get 100 in a book is amazing - just what is needed. None are complicated and all of us can make them without trouble. What's more they cover all the different types of food and all times of day. It is so different to those TV cooks to whom cooking on a budget means buying the Big Satan's finest pork instead of buying it from a rare breed farm outlet.

There are some handy tips on how to shop and what to keep in the cupboard and what you need to cook with - all eminently sensible BUT I do feel she could have passed on more of her undoubted expertise in this field.

Pay heed to her bread recipes - they are quirky and very good - not found elsewhere - and of course she tells you exactly how to do it.- there are easier ways but hers works. If all that kneading is too much look at the Atomic Shrimp website.

I simply cannot tell you just how good this book is and how grateful I am to have got it. Arrived first thing this morning and everything else was put to one side while I devoured it. I look forward to devouring all the delicious food she has described (I have tried a fair few that were in her blog so I KNOW they work.

Well done Jack - BRILLIANT.

EDIT : some surly person has been through all the excellent reviews made of this book and marked each one with an unhelpful tick in the box to "no this review wasn't helpful". Amazing. This occurred at about 5.45 p.m. on 27th February - wonder what his/her agenda was?
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on 27 February 2014
This book turns surviving on far too little money into an inspirational challenge. The recipes are varied and interesting but can be cooked by anyone that can read. The ingredients are basic and appear in numerous recipes meaning that even small households can benefit from buying certain things in bulk because they won't go to waste. If you're looking to save on the food bill or looking to support a friend or relative on a tight budget, this is the book to get.
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Regular readers of Jack Monroe's blog will be familiar with her excellent recipes that conjour up quick tasty and above all, cheap meals from store-cupboard staples such as tinned chickpeas, lentils and cut-price bacon.
Those who have tried the recipes will know that they mostly work, and work extremely well.

This book is a collection of the blog recipes along with new ones but it is also so much more. The first nice surprise was the format - an A4 sized softback packed with beautiful but realistic photos by Susan Bell of each dish opposite the ingredients and method.

For some recipes such as 'Use -Me-For-Anything Tomato Sauce' there are helpful stage by stage photos arranged to make the procedures easy to follow; ideal for nervous novice cooks.

Each recipe has plenty of suggestions for variations - vegetarians and vegans will find that many of these recipes can be adapted to suit them.
For those not too familiar with her work, Jack introduces herself with some moving extracts from her blog - including the now-famous 'Hunger Hurts' piece - and at the end of the book, 'Hunger Hurts - One Year Later', showing just how far Jack has come in that time.
There is some incredibly sensible advice on the basics needed to equip a kitchen. The only expensive item required in many recipes is a blender, and Jack's cost under a tenner.

Sound advice is given on how to shop with a very limited budget and build up a store-cupboard at the same time - proteins first, vegetables second, then one store-cupboard carb per week -rice, bags of pasta, tins of potatoes (tins work out much cheaper than fresh and are surprisingly versatile). Then back to the fruit or tinned fruit with any spare cash.
It's this grounded sensible no-nonsense approach that infuses the book and makes it such a valuable read.

If you read Jack's blog regularly you may think you have seen all these recipes already; well, you haven't - many were new to me. There's some brilliant advice on getting a decent batter coating in a lovely Scampi Roes recipe (using tinned herring roes), and an inventive way of making gnocchi using tinned potatoes.
With recipes being so budget focused, ingredients lists are almost always under ten items and often seven or less.

I've been cooking for many years using Shirley Goode's and Jocasta Innes' budget recipes. Jack is their equal, if not better, in that she is bang-up-to-date in what ingredients are readily available to today's cook.
Costings aren't given but very few recipes appear to be more than £1.50 per head - and many are substantially less.

Since first writing this review, I have tried more recipes, having only tried those on the blog previously.

Some are very good - mixed bean goulash, sausage and lentil hotpot, creamy salmon pasta - but there is one that doesn't work and that's the Diet Coke Chicken.
Jack describes it as being 'sticky', but to be sticky it needs a sugar content, and there is none in the recipe. It's a rather boring non-sticky tomato reduction, not very nice and the Diet Coke may as well have been water. I would like to try it again with more of my conventional BBQ sauce ingredients such as honey, plum jam or golden syrup, Worcestershire sauce and tomato puree.

I would hope that those public libraries that are left following council cutbacks buy multiple copies of this book. It deserves to be made widely available to those who will need it most. I bought and donated a copy to my local library.

Jack is exceptional in the way she has fought her way out of the poverty that mindless bureaucracy imposed upon her, but there are many, many like her who need her wisdom and hard -won knowledge.
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on 28 February 2014
Practical, down to earth recipes that will save you money without making you, your kitchen and your store cupboard feel inadequate! Easy and readable style of writing and huge sincerity make it a pleasure to browse.
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on 27 February 2014
Like the other reviewers, I have followed Jack's blog for some time, often peering at my iPhone's tiny screen while recreating her recipes. I am very excited to have 100 of them in one book, complete with beautiful photography. The sausage and beer casserole is bubbling away on my stove as I type - unbelievably easy to throw together in between working, cheaper than a ready meal and infinitely more satisfying. I intend to cook Avoglemono tonight for my picky toddler and I know it will all disappear!

Inspired by Jack and her tireless campaigning against hunger and poverty, our family has decided to set ourselves a strict budget for a month and cook our way through this book. We will donate the difference between this and what we usually spend to a foodbank. I don't think it's going to be much of a sacrifice as we will be very well fed by Jack's creative cooking... Who knows, maybe this will become a long-term commitment?

Even if you have never heard of Jack (and politics aside), this cookbook stands on its own merits and delivers exactly what it claims - delicious, imaginative and easy recipes on a budget. However, these are not recipes you cook because you have no other options, these are meals you really really want to eat.

I can't resist the smell of that casserole any longer, where is my fork....
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on 27 February 2014
Jack is fantastic and I was really looking forward to her book. I downloaded it on my Kindle as soon as it was available and I love it!
Great recipes, easy to make and indeed super cheap - a welcome change from the multi awarded chefs, with the endless lists of exotic ingredients just to make a tiny starter.
The bread chapter is my favourite! I'm looking forward to bake some sweet loaves like the white chocolate tea bread.
Whether you're on a budget or not, this is a lovely cookbook to have.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 27 February 2014
Having been a regular reader of Jack's blog for some time now, I have been really looking forward to her cookbook coming out.

It has been well worth the wait.

The first few pages introduce Jack, helping the reader to understand where she is coming from and leading into the 100 recipes very effectively.

The recipes are divided into sensible sections...

Bread and Breakfast
Super Soups
Beans Pulses and Lentils
Take a Packet of Pasta
Or a bag of rice
Vegetable Dishes
Fishes
Birds
Piggy
Sweets and Treats

The recipes are sensible, and are for dishes that you want to eat.

They are for the home cook, rather than created by a chef for showing off at dinner parties.

I have a pan of Feisty Soup on the go at the moment, which is filled with garlic, ginger, lemon and chilli to banish winter colds.

I am also looking forward to cooking Avgolemono, having loved it for some time, but never having had the recipe...

So to sum up, the things I love about this book.

It is sensible
The dishes sound delicious, (this is a book I am going to cook my way through)
The photography is excellent but not excessive
The recipes in general use store cupboard or easily available ingredients
The recipes are cheap to make, but worthy of a dinner party
I have yet to find a dish I would not love to cook, though the Diet Coke chicken (the coke is used in a BBQ sauce) is taking me to the edge

100 must try recipes, that will not break the bank, have elevated this to one of my favourite cookbooks...

And that Feisty soup is AWESOME!
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