A few years ago I decided to make a meal schedule. I devised a 5 week rotating schedule of dinners that utilized leftovers, transforming them into new different meals. I had a master ingredient list to use for shopping. It worked really well while it lasted, which was one winter season.
I have thought often of going back to something similar, but what can I say other than I am inherently lazy and the effort that is required to do begin and maintain such a system is beyond my grasp right now.
So you can imagine my delight when I was offered the book The Frantic Woman’s Guide to Feeding Family and Friends. It sounded like exactly what I was trying to do on my own.
I loved the premise of the book. I found though that it was less of a cook book and more of a guide to getting meals onto the table for your family. Joy of Cooking this ain’t. If you are looking for a way to step out of the fast food and restaurant trap, then this book might be right for you. It is chockful of tips and tricks and ideas and lists for everything kitchen and cooking related imaginable.
The book is divided into five sections. Part one offers tips for organizing your kitchen in a more efficient manner, the items you should stock in your antry, and the cooking tools you shouldn’t live without. Part Two offers Seasonal menus designed around a two week schedule. She tells you what day to shop on and when you will need to make a “pit stop” to the store for perishable goods. She even tells you if you should freeze your purchases or refrigerate them for later, and even if there is something you should hide from your family lest they eat it in advance. Part Three has special menus for guests, holidays, etc. Part Four offers some recipes for side dishes. And lastly, Part Five is a glossary of cooking terms, hints, and tips.
My complaints, which are admittedly small in the scheme of the book and what it is striving to be:
1) The meals don’t include side dishes. To me that is one of the most difficult parts of the meal, what to serve along side. She does offer suggestions of things that would go great along with the particular meal and has some recipes in Part Four of the book, but they are not included on the helpful shopping list.
2) The recipes generally say they serve 4-6 people. I don’t think we are particularly big eaters, but many of the meals seemed really skimpy. One example of this is Kid’s Mini Pizzas made from English muffins. The recipe calls for 6 English muffins and says it feeds 4-6. Four to six toddlers maybe, but not older children and certainly not adults. But the recipe did give me the inspiration to have the children make bagel pizzas for dinner one night with their own choice of toppings.
3) The over use of processed foods, such as creammed soups, macaroni and cheese, and canned bisquits.
Having said all of that, I still think that the concept of this book is a good one. It is written in a conversational tone with helpful kitchen hints sprinkled through out. The recipes that I have tried from the book were good.
As an organizational book I would give it five stars. It really gets down to the nitty gritty of being organized and the benefits of planning in advance.
As a cookbook, I would give it three stars.