ten dollar DINNERS by Melissa d’Arabian is as fun to use as it is peruse. Being an accomplished cook and my children are grown, I didn’t really think I “needed” this book. But, since regularly watching her show on Food Network, I just had to have it. I don’t “need” to put meals on the table for under $10 but I want to as part of my financial responsibility quest for financial independence.
The photography is incredible. Not only does the food look scrumptious but you get a glimpse into who she is and a little peak at her family. Few cookbooks offer that connection. d’Arabian allows her readers into her life with that personal touch. Seeing her family enjoying the recipes makes you want to cook them for your own family. Since most cookbooks are recipes, and sometimes a picture, but d’Arabian hit a home run.
Right from the beginning she throws down a challenge. She gives a top ten list “strategies for saving”. I have to admit, I knew some of them but didn’t practice them. Others she restated in such a way that I had not thought of which changed the way I look at everything from apricots to shrimp. d’Arabian started off with “Try a clear-the-pantry week”.
Thinking about my pantry, which she reminded me includes my large chest freezer, it will take more than a week to clear it. As a matter of fact, that freezer is so full, it will take a long time to get it cleared.
The most difficult part is deciding which recipes to make first and which recipes to group for a meal. Her recipe “Roasted Tomato Winter Gazpacho” looks like a good candidate for a first recipe. I already know I’ll do some things differently than written, but that is what cooking is all about. d’Arabian intends for us to learn from her and to make these recipes our own.
She developed a unique system of marking the recipes according to cost, but did not fix dollar amounts to them because she recognizes each market is different and prices change over time. Beyond that, the system allows you to easily pair cheaper foods with pricey foods to manage the budget more effectively.
Although unwritten, one of the key factors of making ten dollar DINNERS work for you is to plate the meal and serve appropriate portions. When you serve the meals in this fashion, like a restaurant, you will see a change in your wallet and waistline. While plating the food might seem strange to some of us, in the end it is worth doing.