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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 2 March 2014
As a subscriber to the A Girl Called Jack blog, I did worry that I wouldn't benefit as much from this book as others, but it is full of useful tips as well as recipes. It makes cooking far more accessible than any other of its kind, and less daunting for those who have never cooked before. And I love being given permission not to peel my potatoes and carrots!
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on 14 April 2014
I admire Jack Monroe. Her blog post Hunger Hurts is enough to upset even a miserable git like me. When I was a child there were times when my parents had very little money and I am pretty sure they skipped the odd meal to keep us boys clothed and fed.

Jack Monroe hasn’t been content to concentrate on her family now is gradually moving away from abject poverty. Instead she campaigns about food poverty. Nobody should be without regular food. This book will not stop food poverty. What this book can do is help you think about the way you shop, where you shop and most importantly what you buy. Given how tight my family finances are this book is very welcome at the moment.

There are some great pieces of advice in this book as well as the recipes. Woody herbs like Rosemary are almost impossible to kill even on a windowsill if they are kept damp. Growing chili plants is also great, not only in terms of flavour but also because they have some great health benefits too. Pickling leftover vegetables and freezing breadcrumbs are also great ways to save money and waste less. There are other similar tips in this book.

Soups are great. Even small children who don’t like vegetables will eat soup. My 6yr old loves bean soup without the beans. We blitz the whole soup so he is getting them. Don’t forget that those beans and pulses are sources of protein. There are not a lot of meat recipes in this book because meat is expensive and if you are on a very tight budget it is only ever a treat. There are plenty of breads to make and a surprising number of recipes packed with flavour. This is not a book for a dessert lover though. There are a few and they reflect the same ethos as the rest of the book. Some nice cheap jam for the sweetener is something I’m keen to play with.

These recipes are all quite simple to make. There are few ingredients, few utensils and not many steps to follow. This would be an ideal present for somebody just leaving home and learning to fend for themselves.
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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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on 6 March 2014
Brilliant book, feels more like a, ahem, 'proper' cookbook than Jack's blog but that's not a criticism. Tons of veggie recipes or things that can be adapted to make them veggie, though not so useful for vegans. A truly useful collections of recipes without the feeling of being precious over specific ingredients, encouraging substitutions if you don't have the exact right thing to hand and inviting your own experimentation. I know that I'm relatively lucky, I've had to cut back on my food shop through necessity but I'm by no means living on the breadline, wondering how I'll make a few pence last to the end of the week. I wish there wasn't a real need for a book like Jack's but the fact is that it really is and is likely to be for the foreseeable future. Reading Jack's blog made me ask questions of myself, I've always been keen not to waste food but thought nothing of spending £2.50 a day on a latte. That's £70 a month! I've changed my habits and use some of the money saved to donate to food banks - Jack's story shows that poverty can happen to pretty much anyone.
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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
I have a bookcase full of cookery books but I can see this one will stay in the kitchen. The recipes are simple, healthy and, very important, cheap. Oh, and they look delicious as well.
I have admired Jack's blog and her decision to use her own difficult situation to help others is commendable. Now finding myself having to be more thrifty, I am grateful that people like Jack share their expertise, and the recipes look fantastic.
I also like the fact that Jack is not 'cheffy' and I dont need any special skills to begin cooking. With her gentle guidance, I will certainly try most of the 100 recipes.
I think it would also make a good student cookbook - cheap, easy to follow, simple ingredients, uncomplicated instructions, healthy. Well done Jack
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