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4.3 out of 5 stars148
4.3 out of 5 stars
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This book goes with the TV show on BBC2, which aims to create delicious meals that cost LOADS less. Paul Merrett is a chef I've seen before on TV, very accomplished and knowledgeable about food, but his co-author Allegra McEvedy is my favourite of the two. Tall, blonde, and a bit 'jolly hockey sticks', she shortens all her words, exclaiming "let's get in the kitch!" when she wants to start cooking. She just makes it all seem easy and fun.

There are a hundred recipes in the book, balanced between Merrett's, which are slightly more ambitious and restaurant-y, and McEvedy's which are tasty, tasty, tasty. (I'm not sure macaroni cheese with added artichokes is ever really going to make a truly 'cheap' meal, artichokes are just too pricey, but it tastes amazing.) She is the founding chef of London's LEON restaurant chain which specialise in really cheap delicious 'fast food', so she's great at knowing how to do things.

Most of the money-saving ideas are really good, and I'm impressed by the totting up of how much various households saved switching over to Merrett and McEvedy's system. Totally avoiding food waste is the most important element, with bits and pieces being used up to make stock, flavour soups and so on. And also they are great at sneaking illicit vegetables into dishes for kids who refuse to eat them normally.

This would be an okay book if it just put forward the system, but the recipes from these two fine chefs make it a must-have. Brilliant!

PS you can check out some of the recipes on the Guardian website, google Guardian and Economy Gastronomy and you should get four ways of cooking salmon.
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on 20 April 2014
Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett's book is full of useful and tasty-looking recipes. There is a chapter called "Bedrocks" in which they explain how to cook one large main meal and then spin the leftovers out into another two dinners (and possibly a lunch as well!). There are also plenty of other recipe ideas and a few puddings too. The one caveat I would express about this book is that it is about *cheaper* rather than *cheap* cooking. If you buy a lot of takeaways and ready meals and would like to eat more healthy and economical food at home then this is the book for you. It will save you money and be better for your waistline into the bargain. However, if you are cooking on a tight budget then the book would be entirely unsuitable and you would do better to go for Jack Monroe's book or something similar. A book containing so many recipes involving large, expensive joints of meat or a whole salmon, etc cannot really be anything other than a guide to help rather profligate middle class people to eat well for slightly less money than they were spending before. At one point they even exhort the reader not to throw out leftover meat but to reuse it instead. How many people do chuck out roast meat without even having the wherewithal to put it in a sandwich?
Nonetheless, There is plenty of inspiration here and their ideas for batch cooking mince, etc could be time-saving as well as economical. All in all, it's a good book but one aimed more at people who are not really poor but may be feeling the pressure of mortgage payments and rising fuel bills rather than those who are really struggling to make ends meet.
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on 16 August 2009
There's little to learn here for anyone but the least experienced cooks - except for a clear method that the cooks claim will save you money. Most of the recipes here are real standards that anyone with more than a handful of cookbooks will already have. Most recipes are very time consuming and not devised for people with limited time on their hands. The 'system' that McEvedy and Merrett advocate - creating a 'bedrock' meal then for days afterwards eating 'tumbledown' meals (ie leftovers) seems kind of crazy. Yes, leftovers are good, but what's on offer here is endless themes and variations on mince that you're supposed to consume across a week that would ensure that me and my family quickly gave up the will to live (or, at least, to eat). Some of the recipes just look plain ghastly. Anyone for Hot Dog Hotpot (frankfurters, egg noodles, white cabbage and a few other things)? No, I thought not.

There are plenty of other books anyone with a real interest in food will find far more useful: for ecomomy meals try Delia Smith's Frugal Food, Jocasta Innes's classic The Pauper's Cookbook or 101 One-Pot Dishes or even Fay's Family Food; for seasonal approaches try Delia's Summer and Winter, Jeremy Round's The Independent Cook, Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall's The River Cottage Year or Valentine Warner's new offerings. I'd recommend this book only to people who intend to rigorously stick to the 'system,'. It's not a recipe book to dip into if you already have the odd copy of Delia, Nigella or Jamie on your bookshelf.
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on 26 September 2009
Some good ideas in this book, which I have tried out, and will continue to try. However, the idea of bedrocks that take literally hours to prepare, both in terms of the bedrock, and then many of the tumble-downs - some of which aren't what you would describe as a "meal", eg.coronation chicken - does not appeal. If, like many busy families, you unfortunately don't have time to all sit down to a meal every night of the week, or plans sometimes change, then the bedrock and tumbledowns are also likely to go off.

Unless you have plenty of time to cook, you sit down every night to a meal (which I know we all should), and you don't mind eating the same thing for a few nights on the trot, then I would avoid this book and stick with your Jamie or Gordon quick and easy's.

And since when was it more cost effective to buy, peel and cook kilos of fresh tomatoes, rather than just buy them in a tin?!
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on 1 October 2009
mmm - a great idea in these recessionary times. The underlying philosophy is sound - making large amount of a 'base' recipe and then incorporating it in other dishes. There need to be a few more of these however, in order for there to be enough variety. For busy mums and dads, there could also be some suggested shortcuts e.g. the tomato sauce base using tomatoes that havent been skinned, cored and de seeded. One of the best moments in each of the programmes was the tips from the butcher/fishmonger for thrifty purchase. Such a shame they weren't included in the book. May be these could be put on a website.....
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on 31 December 2009
This book contains really good, tasty recipes and some useful tips. But the let-down is the style of writing, which can be patronising and tiresome, and takes this book out of the league of the more well-known cook books. The bread section for example begins "I feel a rant coming on!" and sure enough does - please, spare us!

The other problem is that it feels like this book is missing an "About the Authors" section. Who are Allegra and Paul? What experience do they have in the kitchen? And why should we sit up and listen to their advice over others? Why have they chosen to write the book together? It seems that the answer to this last question is that they haven't - each section is written by one author or the other and each recipe's name ends with the initial of the author. This doesn't really seem to be of any benefit for the reader, more for the two authors who perhaps didn't really want to collaborate with one another when writing the book.

My advice would be to borrow this book from a friend or a library, but don't buy as there are much better books out there for keeping on the kitchen shelf (Delia, Jamie, etc.), which achieve the same "economy gastronomy" remit, but do so in a much more helpful, friendly way.
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on 24 June 2010
Love this book, can't laud it's praises enough to be honest.

From Australia and a low income background, always prided myself on being able to look at the shelf of a house I was fortunate enough to crash on the couch at and kind of "pay my way" by providing good hearty meals with whatever I happened to find, but this book has seriously shown to me there is much more to be learned

Don't get me wrong though, the recipes listed in this book are as tasty and satisfying as you would find should you ever visit your grandparents for tea, long for that good old fashioned home-cooked meal and/or just want to eat well on a budget.

Gave it 4 out of 5 stars, much as I love the book there are a few confusing moments, such as when I made the pasties the recipe suggested i just fold it into a standard baker knot, so not being a baker or a chef i was a bit lost, though for other recipes involving pastries or that may be bit difficult have nice easy to understand frame by frame photos.

All in all a great cookbook, worth it alone in my opinion for the "tumbledown" recipes.

* side note: definitely an omnivore cookbook, while there are vegetarian recipes it is predominantly catered to folks who'll eat anything
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on 11 August 2009
I received mine this morning by post and have read it cover to cover. I am now making the hummous recipe for a picnic tomorrow.
I can see me doing the "bedrock" recipes time and time again, saving both money and time in the kitchen.
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on 9 September 2010
excellent book, our family live out of it. we have modified some recipes, the braised beef one by tripling the recipe and ending up with 6 meals for 3ppl each time. we freeze them and have 1 dinner a week made for 6 weeks. shephards pie that way is £1.45 minus spuds for 3 of us, ragu is 3.67 minus pasta for 3(inc using a bottle of red wine), chilli is 1.83 minus fajitas for 3. we save a fortune thanks to this book, its brilliant!!
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VINE VOICEon 30 August 2009
This is a big heavy book full of recipes, budgeting/cooking advice and the yummy looking photographs.
It isnt aimed at really experienced cooks but instead at everyay people, who have busty lifes and either little or no cooking experience.Its also aimed at people who are wanting to start to save money- and cummingily introduces cooking as a good way of doing so. Also returning to having nutricious homemades meals .
However it does this at a mostly managable pace and not throwing you into the deep end- without being patronising.

The book is split into sections The bedrock recipes- how to cook one meal and adapted it for 3 meals.The usual lunches, suppers ,treats section .
Their is also sections for Homemade takeaways, Gastropubary and Entertaining.
Added to this are small subsections throughout the book on tips like storage, shopping, basic meal planning, using resources etc. All to help support you in changing your shopping and cooking habits.

This book is definately not one of those basic budgetting books that has macaroni & chesse and chilli recipes .Instead it tries to introduce more exotic recipes so that you arent feeling like you are making dramatic changes.This is demonstrated by having takeawya and gastropub recipes .So while their is chilli con carni their is also recipes for Nararin of Lamb.

As for the recipes themselve so far I have found them a bit hit or miss.The brownie biscuits were a flop and I did finfd the recipe for butternut tagine a bit hard- even although I have some cooking experience.However I loved the cornish pasties and braised beef .However having the tv series to watch helps when attempting them.
On another note if you are vegetarian there are only a very few recipes in the book, with 90% of the book being meat and fish recipes.
Overall I do like this cookbook and would recommend this for anyone who is just beginning to try to budget .It is a well presented book and well informed.
Although it may not appeal to experienced cooks I do think it still has a nice range of ideas and is worth purchasing, especailly at its present price.
Even if you follow only a few of the tips and recipes you will get your money back.
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