Book review: The Frugal Cook by Fiona Beckett

The tag line of this book is “Buy cleverly. Waste less. Eat well.” That’s quite a tall order, but if the bottom line is that you want to learn how to cut your food spending without sacrificing the flavour then this book is probably for you.

I was forced to study home economics at school long after it had become completely unfashionable, and remember vividly that every other recipe seemed to call for lard. However, it did give me a grounding in basic cooking techniques, a feeling of general competence in the kitchen and an understanding of how to plan menus. From the age of 10 I was also responsible for cooking a complete family meal without supervision, one evening each week.

Most people my age and younger don’t have the advantage of this kind of background, and yes, I do now see it as an advantage (even if I still question the wisdom of leaving a curious 11-year-old alone with a deep fat fryer). Many of us have grown up in households where people reheat ready-meals and don’t actually cook, and most of us tend to shop haphazardly and with the primary aim of convenience. When you shop purely for convenience, you nearly always lose out on economy and health, and quite often you lose out on taste too. Sometimes, though, making a change seems daunting to the point of being overwhelming.


So, back to The Frugal Cook. The main advantage of the book is that it teaches you from scratch how to shop for, store and cook your food. If you lack confidence it will get you started with ease, and if you’ve lost your way a little it’s a handy refresher course. It shows how to plan ahead, where to buy quality, and where you can cut corners. Fortunately it does not leave you slaving in the kitchen every night – times have changed and many of us do need quick easy meals that don’t need much preparation.

The recipes are divided into six main sections: breakfast/brunch, lunches/snacks, easy midweek suppers, bigger weekend cook-ups, and parties. Each recipe has variations mentioned afterwards, so that you can cook each one a few times without it feeling monotonous, and there are extra thrifty tips on each page too. There’s also a small chapter about leftovers, both accidental and deliberate, which is worth a read. It’s an excellent book if you want to learn how to get into a better mindset with your groceries – Fiona really knows what she’s writing about, and it shows.

My only gripe is that while colour photography has been used throughout the book, there are no pictures at all of finished dishes, which seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity as these are so helpful for novice or nervous cooks – but that sort of decision tends to lie with the publishers and not the author. Perhaps it would be a popular addition when the book comes to be reprinted or revised.

The Frugal Cook by Fiona Beckett is published by Absolute Press with an RRP of £14.99. In the average household it would pay for itself in less than one week of grocery shopping.

I also have one copy to give away to the first person to correctly answer this question: How many cookbooks has Fiona Beckett written to date? Leave your answer in the comments section below, UK entrants only please. Good luck!

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  1. According to her website, 20 books! might be out of date though 🙂

    1. Hi Emma – Fiona herself says it’s a bit less than that. I’m just looking for the cookbooks, not the wine books etc. Guess again!

  2. I can find 16 books on Amazon, some of which are food and drink together… is that any closer?

  3. It’s Friday, it’s time to pick a winner, and Katie is the closest. Congratulations Katie!!!

    Please email me your address and the book will be posted out to you on Monday.

  4. According to Fiona herself, the answer is 13 (including the cheese book that’s just about to be published). Many thanks to everyone who entered the comp – it’s in the post, Katie.

  5. i never took home economics since that wasn’t something in my college prep curriculum and I still don’t really know how to cook. I do a little this and a little that but none of its any good. I now realize the value of such basic skills.

    Great site design!

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