I’ll admit I was skeptical about Mary Ostyn’s new book Family Feasts for $75 a Week. The blurbs said it was about how a family of four can eat well on $75 a week, and since that is a heck of a lot more than my food budget for a family of five, I figured I would not learn much.
I was pleasantly surprised to find many helpful nuggets of information in the first part of the book, although a lot of them were things you probably already do or have considered if you are fairly frugal. I would bet that anyone could read this book and find at least one or two ideas for ways to cut your food budget and increase your efficiency in the kitchen. For example, I had not considered adding shredded cabbage to salads to bulk them up and add nutrition without costing much. I also learned a lot from the chart showing how many servings you can get (on average) from different cuts of meat. That’s the best way to really calculate how expensive a particular cut is – not just the per pound price. I’ve always wondered if bone-in cuts were really that much cheaper than boneless, and now I know how to factor in the weight of the bones and skins etc.
But really the reason you should read this book is because of the recipes. The first few are casserole recipes of the “cheesy creamy crunchy” variety and I know recipes like that are a dime a dozen, but once you get through the casserole part you’ll find some really interesting Korean and Ethiopian recipes (the author has adopted children from both countries and I think it’s awesome that she integrates these recipes into her family’s diet) that don’t require exotic ingredients! Hooray! Ethnic food for the rest of us! I’m especially excited to try the Kalbi and Chap Chae recipes, but I made note of sixteen other recipes I intend to try as well.
I do have to make one caveat about the recipes: the author is from Idaho and so she thinks it’s ok to put sugar on grits. Oh my word y’all that is so disgustingly nasty. Grits are supposed to be a savory food, so you can put salt and pepper on them or put cheese on them or put shrimp in them, but you are not supposed to put sugar or syrup on them. Gag me with a spoon. I guess, to be charitable, grits are just food, and if you need to put sugar on them to eat them, that’s ok. Just know that you’re as weird as people who put ketchup on their cottage cheese.
Aside from her odd recommendations for grits, I think this is a great book. Mary Ostyn is a personable and down-to-earth writer. This is not a book full of weird ideas, it’s a helpful reference for how you can be a good steward of your resources while also being normal. You won’t find tips like “use old bread bags as diaper covers for cloth diapers you made out of discarded tshirts you found on the side of the road” (not that there’s anything wrong with that, if that’s how you roll….) but you will find lots of tips on how to reduce your spending on food and ideas for how to do that incrementally so it’s not scary or strange.