Across the country, the recession is giving extra sizzle to cooking at home. But this isn't Mom's meatloaf or macaroni and cheese. People who grew accustomed to dining out every night still want to eat in style. Besides cooking lessons, they are poring over food magazines, snatching up cookbooks and replacing their dingy pots and pans in hopes of creating gourmet meals on the cheap.
Cookbook publishers know eating well doesn't have to be expensive. Nor do people need to sacrifice taste and nutrition when on a budget.
Several new books show how to create great meals at home without spending a fortune.
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"Supermarket Shortcuts: Shop Smart! 365 Recipes to Save Time and Money," by Better Homes & Gardens (Wiley Spiral Paperback; $19.95)
The key to getting dinner on the table is saving time not just in the kitchen, but during that time-consuming trip to the supermarket. "Supermarket Shortcuts" shows how to get in and out of the supermarket quickly, efficiently and cheaply with strategies for streamlining your shopping. Filled with 370 recipes utilizing pre-packaged foods and pre-set shopping lists, "Supermarket Shortcuts" includes a chapter that features 50 great-tasting convenience products followed by five recipes for each (250 recipes total), all ready with a minimum of time and effort. There's also a chapter focusing on make-ahead meals and one featuring 30-minute meals.
"The $7 a Meal Healthy Cookbook: 301 Nutritious, Delicious Recipes That the Whole Family Will Love," by Susan Irby (Adams Media; $9.95)
Eating good food that's good for you doesn't take much effort if you follow Irby's advice. She emphasizes a colorful plate, portion control and moderation, three small meals, healthy snacks and exercise. This book is set up just like "The $7 a Meal Quick & Easy Cookbook" and includes nutrition breakdown per serving and cost per recipe. A chapter on vegetarian entrees includes dishes like sautéed squash with mushrooms and goat cheese and oven-broiled portobellos with fresh herbs and provolone. Desserts are fruit-oriented but include pound cake and pudding.
"The $7 a Meal Quick & Easy Cookbook: 301 Delicious Meals You Can Make in 30 Minutes or Less," by Susan Irby (Adams Media; $9.95)
The advice is straightforward: Decide on a menu, choose the recipes, make a grocery list, check your pantry, take the plunge and get cooking. The "$7 a Meal" cookbook teaches how to get started with a list of pantry staples, basic cooking utensils and equipment, and freezer staples. A chapter on shopping strategies is followed by quick and easy recipes that take about five to 15 minutes to throw together. Beginner cooks will appreciate a prep and cook time for each recipe, along with quick and easy tips. Also provided is nutrition information per serving and cost information for recipes.
"The Frugal Foodie Cookbook," by Alanna Kaufman and Alex Small (Adams Media; $14.95)
Kaufman and Small say their cookbook will satisfy your "Stilton-cheese taste -- on a Velveeta budget." The founders of the food blog TwoFatAls.com share 200 recipes -- everything from pesto to quinoa risotto and blintzes to biscotti. Their budget-wise strategies include a top-10 list of ingredients for a frugal foodie pantry and 10 tips for being penny-wise. The recipes are simple and require no fancy equipment and emphasize the reinventing of leftovers.
"$3 Meals: Feed Your Family Delicious, Healthy Meals for Less Than the Cost of a Gallon of Milk," by Ellen Brown (The Lyons Press; $14.95)
From traditional American favorites to popular ethnic foods such as Tex-Mex, Asian and Italian, "$3 Meals" is brimming with more than 250 recipes the likes of seafood gumbo, old-fashioned chicken and dumplings, shepherd's pie with cheddar potato topping, and southwest spinach loaf. Brown, the founding food editor of USA Today and an award-winning author of more than two dozen cookbooks, uses only fresh, healthy and natural ingredients. The $3 figure is for an entire meal, including side dishes and dessert. The other books in the series are "$3 Meals in Minutes," "$3 Slow-Cooked Meals" and "$3 Low-Calorie Meals."