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on 21 April 2015
On the one hand I applaud anyone who tries to communicate - against the huge commercial tide of the food manufacturing giants - that cooking from scratch is generally cheaper, healthier, tastier and more enjoyable than buying processed food, ready-meals and takeaways. So I was pre-disposed to like this book. (Bought for my son when he went to uni).

On the other hand, when read objectively, without my rose-tinted foodie-specs on, I actually found the book fairly unhelpful for the audience at which it is supposedly aimed. If you're a parent thinking of buying this, I'd urge you to take a close look at it `in the flesh' before you purchase - and to be honest with yourself about how many of the dishes your teenager is really likely to try when they're away from home for the first time, living on a meagre budget, cooking in a small ill-equipped kitchen that they share with 4/5/6/7 other students, with one oven, one fridge, one hob, and limited prep/storage space... it's a lovely fantasy that they will all bond and decide to pool resources and share ingredients / the cooking, but what are the realistic chances of that happening? Slim, I reckon.

In the preface to the `Store Cupboard' ingredient list, Sam rather patronisingly comments that you shouldn't "rush out and get it in one" (as if any student would do that, the complete list would cost a couple of hundred pounds if not more!). His list makes no distinction between `must-have basics' and `as you need them/can afford them'. He directs readers to "Use it as a checklist before you go shopping" but again, that's a pointless instruction - an average student's shopping list is based on what they're planning to eat for the next one/two/three days, not on a long wish-list of theoretically desirable ingredients. Four types of vinegar? Five types of oil? Four types of rice? Four types of lentils? Four types of flour? Three types of dried paprika? Really not helpful for a student. Even if they aspired to use/could afford to use all these ingredients, where on earth are they supposed to store this stuff as they accumulate it? I'm an experienced / reasonably adventurous home cook with a large kitchen and plenty of storage space at my disposal, and even I don't have all those things!

On top of that, lots of the ingredients included are simply too expensive for the average student. Much as we might hope our little darlings will choose to spend a big chunk of their student loan on gorgeous fresh ingredients from farmers markets and artesan food shops, again, the reality is sadly somewhat different for most. Fennel, salmon, fresh herbs, steak, pine nuts, Parmesan, tahini, fresh raspberries, duck breast, etc, etc... lovely ingredients, but not in the realm of most student budgets (and try finding them in the campus shop or the local convenience store, the only realistic everyday shopping options for lots of first-year students!). Far too may of the recipes fall into the category of `pricey treats' or `if you love cooking' or `special occasion'. Most students just need a storehouse of simple, nutritious, low-cost recipes for one person. Flicking through, I estimate less than a quarter of Sam's recipes are for one person - he does indicate where extra portions can be frozen or eaten cold next day, but the fridge/freezer space is going to be a problem in most student kitchens. There are a few useful tips in the book, to be fair, but also a load of impractical ones - beach fishing anyone? (because SO many UK unis are located near a beach and SO many students possess fishing tackle...) Growing tomatoes and herbs in a window box? (he suggests grow-your-own basil makes homemade pesto "well cheap". Any idea how many plants you'd need to cultivate to reap the amount needed for one small jar of pesto? More than even the most motivated student has room for, that's for sure!) Growing potatoes in an old tyre on the doorstep? (growing yr own potatoes is actually more expensive than most supermarket spuds!). Investing in a food blender/muffin tins/griddle pan/pestle and mortar etc? (Sam does note that these are "next league" items, not essentials, but then three out of the first six recipes in the book require one of these items!)

Scrutinising the recipes further, many examples further illustrate how out of touch Sam is with the average student, even one who can cook quite well, eg, `DIY Cream Cheese' - because every student has a muslin cloth to hand, right? Homemade chicken liver pate - really?? I could go on and on, literally page by page, pointing out what's wrong with the recipes from a student point of view. But hopefully you get the gist.

The reason I can go through the book page by page to write this review is that my son (who these days mostly cooks from scratch, thanks to Jamie Oliver, BBC Good Food/Good Housekeeping websites and his girlfriend) returned his copy to me after two years at uni. Mea culpa, I bought it for him based on the reviews, the attractive design, and if I'm honest, a large dollop of guilt that I hadn't done a better job of teaching him to cook while he lived at home! He sheepishly admitted that he'd found the book next to useless and had only ever tried two recipes from it. Says it all really. This book is more of a comfort purchase for anxious parents like me than it is a practical guide for the vast majority of students.
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on 12 September 2008
I went to uni with "How to Boil an Egg", a hand-me-down from my older brother. I, like my older brother, used this book for 5 minutes and then ate pasta, tinned tuna and pesto for the remainder of my degree only really discovering the 'oven' after graduation.

My older brother and I have just bought this book for our younger brother who is off to uni in October. I like Sam's easy writing style especially when applied to more testing recipes. This book's legend is particularly useful not only stating how many each recipe feeds (from 1 to 12) and whether or not it's vegetarian but going that step further telling you how quick each recipe is to make and most importantly an approximate gauge of how expensive the recipe is (skint/average/flush).

With any luck our brother will leave uni healthy, knowing how to cook properly and without a mountain of debt!
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on 8 September 2008
This is a brilliant new book. I have the other books in the series by Sam Stern which are all good. But this is by far the best one. The recipes are simple and tasty but also offer something for the more accomplished cook. The lay out is great, clearly stating the preparation times, number of people and difficulty etc. Great pictures and the perfect size to fit in any students bag on the way back to University. More than that any kitchen should have it. A definite must.
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on 3 October 2008
Although I am no longer a student, I heartily recommend it to would-be cooks of all ages. I have a toddler and we have enjoyed making several of the recipes together, especially the cinnamon jam buns. The idea of cooking on a budget should appeal to families and students alike. A great book.
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on 30 January 2010
Well produced and presented - can't help feeling that I agree with another reviewer - it completely misses the point. Students need to spend less time in the shops buying lemon grass or making homemade pesto and get to some lectures, or the pub. Not a day-to-day student cookbook.
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on 17 April 2010
I am a student who enjoys cooking, so I thought this book might be better for me than the average student cookbooks, which tend to be a bit basic. However, this book is not realistic for a student lifestyle. Fillet steak, roast duck, or mussels anyone?! He even suggests growing your own veg in an allotment! Seriously, I think the author needs to come down to earth and actually become a student, as he clearly isn't, and certainly has never had to cost out every penny he spends because he's at the limit of his overdraft!

In addition to this, I find the way the book is written downright patronising. The book is filled with phrases such as "this is well tasty", and "slap on the cheese". This attempt to be 'in with the common man' is in stark contrast to the self indulgent photographs of the author staring whimsically into space (pages 200, 66, 64, 31, and the inner cover are exceptionally special). These are plastered on practically every page of the book, and are often irrelevant to the recipes! The photography of the actual food is quite good. I'd recommend the author gets over himself and deletes all the photos of himself! However, his photographs do make excellent doodling material.

To sum up: I would not recommend this as a stand along student book. I might recommend it as a supplementary book as it has a few good recipes (sadly overshadowed by the photography and voice). I've had this book 1 year, and have used 2 recipes.
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on 19 September 2015
There are some good recipes but I don't think it's particularly suitable for students as a lot of the recipes call for the use of a food processor. How many students pack one of those in their suitcases when they move into Halls?
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on 10 November 2009
Clearly most of the reviews on this book have been written by parents hopeful that their child will become the next masterchef whilst away at university just by providing them with this cookbook. Sadly they, and the book itself have entirely missed the point in their lofty expectations. It is not linked in any way to the actual reality of student cooking. Many students have basic equipment, hand-me-downs and a bare store cupboard. Apart from salt and pepper and possibly brown sauce, students generally do not have the store cupboard ingredients that the author expects, and the lengthy list this book recommends is unrealistic and far too complex to motivate a student new to the culinary arts to invest in. The truth is that the vast majority of students will have to cook properly for themselves for the first time when they are at university. This book assumes the reader will have much more knowledge than most will, and has overly complex and time-consuming recipes that will not inspire a first time chef but in fact have the opposite effect. Furthermore, the young upstart who walks you through the recipes is not cool and for most people so obnoxious as to them off even opening the book. The whole raison d'etre of student cooking is simplicity and speed, which this book does not provide. If you really want your kids to get into cooking properly get them Beyond Baked Beans which has a far better grasp of the reality of student cooking.Beyond Baked Beans Budget: A Student Cookbook
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on 13 September 2008
Both my family and I use the other three Sam Stern books so much that I pre-ordered this before it was released. It has not disappointed - this is a stylishly presented book with an impressive range of recipes for all abilities and budgets. Sam is writing for students but don't let you put that off if you are not a student. There are recipes in here for everyone - whether you are studying, working or at home with the family. And in the current economic climate, the helpful key indicating the expense of each recipe will help you entertain or cook for your family without bankrupting yourself! In summary, a lovely looking book full of recipes that will get you and your family into the kitchen. As Gordon Ramsay says on the cover, don't enter the kitchen without it!
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on 23 November 2008
This book is great value because it is jam-packed with tonnes of new recipes of all different kinds, with the added bonus not only for students but for anyone right now is that it helps you to keep within a budget.

My favourite Sam Stern book up to now was 'real food real fast' but this is definately up there with it, mainly for the volume of recipes- you could never run out of ideas even when watching the pennies with this book around!

The new handy size almost makes it an easy book to use- esp for those such as me (and most likely many students!) who have very small kitchens.

Buy it- not only for students or teens, for anyone who wants to cook good fresh food with limited funds!
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