Author: Mary Ostyn
Price: $17.95 US
I was all set last night to sit down and write my thorough praises of Mary Ostyn’s new book, Family Feasts for $75 a Week, when my husband blithely reviewed the book better than I could have in pages with one sentence:
As I sat cackling over the money I’ve saved since reading a pre-publication copy of this book a month ago I said to Ryan, “I can’t believe how much money we’ve saved this month! I’ve cut our budget by 50% and I think I could easily go lower if we needed to.” To which he replied, “That’s insane, because we have been eating really well recently, too!” High praise coming from a man whose own mother (an amazing cook) dubbed him The Food Diva several years back when he commented on the amount of carrots she’d used in a favorite dish of his when we were home visiting for Christmas.
In case you aren’t already heading out to pre-order a copy of the book based just on that, let me elaborate just a little. Because if you’re anything like me you might be thinking, “Come on, seriously. Do we really need another book on how to save money on groceries and inexpensive recipes to feed our families? How many tater-tot casseroles with cheese whiz and Ritz cracker toppings can a girl try?”
If that’s you, I’m with yah sister. But let me just mention a couple of things.
- Delicious Recipes Suited to Any Skill Level: While Mary DOES mention tater tots once in her book it is only to tell you how much better homemade fries are. Not only that, but she upgrades the oven fries with her own homemade Ethiopian seasoning mix (and provides several other easy suggestions for seasonings if a mouth on fire is not your particular version of tasty). And all joking about those spuds aside, her recipes are seriously good, seriously easy and seriously cost effective.
In particular I must recommend her Thai chicken curry dish for which you can make your own curry paste and even your own coconut milk if you don’t have a can on hand but do have some shaved coconut in the freezer. Another favorite already is her suggested recipe for making your own granola cereal. (As I stood at the counter breaking up my first batch, chest swelled with pride, my husband gave me a smooch and seriously appreciative squeeze and raved about how amazing it was that I could make something like that all on my own. Sorry, Mary, I took that compliment for my own and didn’t re-mention the fact that I’d learned it from the book.)
- Flexible Ideas on Cost Cutting that Allow You to Create Your Own Plan: One of the frustrating things about many books like these is that, in order for the system to work, you have to change a million things all at once and after about two weeks (for the very strong and enduring, perhaps three), the whole thing goes out the window because it’s just too hard to maintain so much change all at once. Mary, however, is very clear about her desire for readers not to make this mistake. Instead you’re given four areas in which you can assess your strengths and weaknesses and then a ton of ideas to choose from in each of those areas to begin the process. This book’s plan is laid out like an a la carte menu of great ideas that you can tailor fit to your needs and your money-saving goals.
I hate to admit it but I’m the queen of starting strong, getting over my head, and fizzling out completely on things. This is something I dislike about myself and have been working hard to overcome. But ladies, this process has been seriously painless so far and the benefits have far outweighed the effort. Oh and another thing? You don’t have to use coupons! (But you can if you need to do penance or something.)
- An Easy and Interesting Read that Gets Right Down to the Issues and Lets You Start Saving Almost Immediately: I got this book on a Sunday. Inspired, I refused to go to the grocery store until Wednesday because I could see in my own kitchen several different great meals I could already make with things I had in the house. During that time I was able to use small portions of my time each day to figure out what changes I could make, lay out my plan, and embark. Holding on to just a few of the ideas I’d found in the book I set out my first week and was delighted with every grocery receipt I collected because I knew I was making wiser decisions already.
I am torn between a desire to be completely honest about improvements to our grocery budget because it’s so amazing and wanting to hide from shame about how easily I have saved so much in my first month of using Family Feasts for $75 a Week. I have literally saved several hundred dollars this month. I thought at first that I was unique in how much waste was happening in our home but a few conversations with friends let me know that I am certainly not alone. Some of my joking, if I’m honest, is to distract from the fact that it was painful to realize just how much room for improvement there was. I found myself in tears at one point as I worked through my new budgeting plan and list of easy changes – it was a mixture of regret over the waste I could now see over the last 5 years of my marriage and relief to have found in Mary’s advice a workable, helpful and thorough means by which to improve so drastically.
In Titus 2, Paul admonishes older women to come alongside younger women and, among many other important things, train them in the ways of their home. Mary has shared the resulting wisdom of years of experience, trial, error and success in this new book and it’s a fantastic boon to those of us who still have a lot of learning to do. In future I plan on giving this book for wedding shower presents so that my friends can start out ahead of the game in feeding their families well on a frugal but flexible budget.
I could not recommend Family Feasts for $75 a Week more highly.