Everyone knows that the healthiest and most budget-friendly meals are the ones we cook at home. For some, the process of setting a grocery budget and planning a menu that fits it –and which their family will actually eat– is overwhelming. Add in the confusion of trying to match coupons to sales that aren’t really good sales, and it’s understandable why so many homemakers wind up serving prepackaged convenience foods. (Sorry, but if the directions are “open box, add spice packet and heat” it’s not home cooking, and it’s probably not healthy, either.) They need Anne Simpson’s new 150-page eBook, Your Grocery Toolbox. ($4.99.)
Anne, who writes at Quick and Easy, Cheap and Healthy, sent me a copy of her book for this review. I have to say, I was very impressed with the abundance of helpful information:
Chapter 1: The Budget (establishing yours, with a helpful example)
Chapter 2: The Price Book (creating and using one to discern true sales from minor markdowns)
Chapter 3: Sourcing Healthy Food (finding good food deals both on- and offline)
Chapter 4: OAMS (Once a Month Shopping) (stretching your grocery dollars through once-a-month trips)
Chapter 5: Price Caps (setting boundaries on how much you’ll pay for grocery items)
Chapter 6: Coupons (increasing your savings by stacking coupons on top of sales)
Chapter 7: Do It Yourself Food (making pantry staples using Anne’s recipes to save even more)
Chapter 8: Take it to the Next Level (expanding your cooking skills for added value)
Chapter 9: Saving in the Internet Age (using group deals and other sites for even more savings)
While none of these sound like terribly fascinating subjects, Anne’s conversational style makes her book enjoyable to read. And have I mentioned the wealth of information she provides? There are printables to help you calculate your grocery budget and create your first price book, a tool I’ve used for a couple of years now to recognize true sales so I know when to stock up. When you’re ready to seriously save money by shifting to a once-a-month menu planning/shopping routine, Anne’s got you covered with printables to help there, too.
Then there are the recipes! Let me just say, I’ve cooked a number of things from Anne’s recipes on her website, and she’s never once steered me wrong. The recipes in her book are just as reliable and delicious. Her “Clouds of Chocolate” meringue cookies are a favorite of mine since they deliver that yummy chocolate taste without the horrifying calories of a candy bar. But we’re going to have to agree to disagree whether it’s acceptable to use bottled lemon juice when making lemon curd. (I say it’s not, especially when lemons are so cheap this time of year.)
Why the 4 stars, instead of 5? Simply put, at times Anne’s conversational style overwhelms. When it comes to extracting valuable information –which this book is full of– it’s helpful when an author either precedes or summarizes sections with bullet-points.
There were also times I found the organization a bit confusing. For instance, Chapter 8–Take it to the Next Level, covers everything from gardening to canning, then loops back and instructs the reader to plan a menu for the upcoming week (something covered in a previous chapter), before skipping to tips on using kitchen scraps… with a couple of recipes squeezed in, even though Chapter 7 is where the bulk of her recipes are. Phew!
But, listen, if all I have to complain about are a couple of organizational points in a book this chock-full of information, it says more about me and my nit-picking than it does about the author. Anne’s book is a fantastic, helpful resource that any homemaker will benefit from reading, and I heartily recommend it.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this review.
UPDATE: Anne has generously offered a free copy of her book for one lucky HWHT reader! Enter using the nifty widget below. (If you can’t see the widget, try refreshing the page using F5.)