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on September 2, 2014
This book was a fun read, but the recipes so far are far less than impressive.

I am an accomplished bread-baker, but am always up for trying new recipes. Therefore, the first recipe tried from this book was her "Everyday Bread." I had misgivings from the start, but I plugged on. I should have listened to my gut, as the recipe produced two bricks that weren't even edible straight from the oven (and I've found that even pretty awful bread is good straight from the oven with butter!). This weekend, I made the chocolate birthday cake recipe. This turned out fine, however, it's worth nothing that it is basically a Wacky cake AND it comes from someone else's cookbook (The I Hate to Cook Book, by Peg Bracken). The author includes a cooked icing recipe and says that her grandmother made it differently, but she feels this method is easier. The icing turned out okay, but not great, and I'm left wanting to ask how her grandmother made it, because I strongly suspect it's much better if made that way.

I also found her difficulty/hassle ratings to be baffling at times. For instance, she says that roasting your own chicken is a hassle and you should just buy a rotisserie chicken, but that homemade marshmallows are not at all a hassle. I'm not sure what planet she's from, on either account. A roast chicken is no work at all. And marshmallows, while not difficult, are a pain in the butt and a massive mess.

I will probably try a couple more recipes in the name of science, but thus far, I am not impressed. I'd suggest borrowing the book for a fun read, but pass on actually making anything from it.
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on December 6, 2013
I like this book and actually read it through before I made any of the recipes in it. Yeah, I read this like a book, not like a cook book. It's that kind of book.

I've since made quite a number of the items in here and still plan to try more of them. I like that it demystify's a lot of things (like butter, bacon and marshmellows to name a few) that you have probably just always bought at the grocery store. I am particularly fond of the vadouvan mac and cheese recipe (tip, I found the vadouvan spice locally at Williams Sonoma).

It should be pointed out that many of the recipes in this book are from other places. She acknowledges her sources as appropriate, but you may find (as I did) that some of the recipes are from books you already own. For all that, she covers SO MUCH GROUND in this book, that someone would be hard pressed to have made a majority of these recipes and still be interested in a book like this.

My one negative note, and it's a personal thing, but I find her writing style a little anoying. In a number of places it comes across to me as a combination of being preachy and self depricating at once. In those places, it feels like she is saying "I did this, it didn't work out, people (husband, kids, family, neighbors, etc...) were upset with me for doing it again and again, I was probably wrong, but I'd do it again because I was right to do what I wanted." Perhaps I'm reading to much into it.

Don't let that stop you from getting the book. As I said above, I like this book and look at it with some regularity.
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Top Contributor: Bakingon January 9, 2013
I just finished reading this book cover-to-cover today. I tend to do that with cookbooks anyway... but this one was especially fun, with its content as much entertaining anecdotes about family and cooking as it is recipes... including whether or not to raise chickens, goats, turkeys, bees... (I do have 3 beehives, and better luck with them!)

While I have not yet tried any of the recipes per se, the recipe for ricotta is very close to the one I always use with my raw milk. I'll be interested in trying the yogurt, since my raw-milk yogurt is usually really watery (though bread and our dog love the whey!). I've also made a lot of sauerkraut based on Katz's recipe, 1 recipe of kimchee similarly based, and several of the cured meats based on "Chaucuterie", and all of these have been delicious. This gives me faith in her other recipes. (If, when I cook more specifically out of this book and they do not work out well, I'll update this review.)

I am VERY appreciative of her personal approach to the perennial DIY question "Is it worth it?" I'm rather a DIY nut- as the previous indicates- so my answer is usually "Of course!" even when that is not a particularly sensible answer! And personally, I am itching to have the freezer space to make and freeze croissant dough and puff pastry. And I bet I could make a mean Napolean with that puff pastry.

If you're a DIY fan, I think you'll love this book, even when you disagree with her assessments. it's just so much fun! If you're not- well, this is probably not for you, unless you want to read it as a horror story and thank all relevant gods that you are not tempted to buy ducklings on impulse.

Edited to add: I just made the marinara sauce from this and put it on spaghetti. Wonderful! A very clean flavor, and a very straightforward recipe.
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on May 6, 2013
I have mixed feelings about this book, as it's not really what it's billed to be, but is still a worthwhile work.

I have mixed feelings about this book, as it comes from a point of view that my own frugality and background makes me squirm.

So, how it's billed: Writer loses her job and decides that it'd be a good idea to see if she can save money by not getting so much convenience crap, instead making stuff for herself. Love the hook. It's fantastic, interesting and relevant.

Not two chapters in, she's going on about spending $3500 on a fence for CHICKENS?

That little anecdote really lost any fellow-feeling for me in terms of how much that lost job really meant to the family. The long-suffering husband of the story must have still had a great job, even if the loss of her income was a bit of a blow. If that had been my family, a $3500 bill because I hadn't done my research would have meant the difference between having a place to live and homelessness. So...

In the face of that, Reese is still an entertaining writer, and she does make some excellent points about what it's worth to make on your own or not. I disagree with her about the difficulties of making stock, but agree that it's worthwhile. Yes, it is cheaper to make your own baked goods for the most part, and while she seems to be into making cheese, I'd really only do that as a hobby rather than a cost-saving measure, were I do to it at all.

This is simply NOT a book about how to save money cooking, though. The author lives in upper-middle class suburban Northern California and it really shows that she's not really in touch with people outside her income demographic.
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on January 21, 2012
I really like this book and it was just what I was looking for in terms of a breakdown of what I should make and what I should just forget about putting any effort into other than finding the item on a store shelf. I have done enough trial and error on my own so to be able to learn from someone's mistakes is a nice change. The stories were amusing and I could so relate to the very expensive homegrown eggs. Even with my own chickens ultimately costing more than I will ever get back they still add so much to our lives and the author was able to express that idea so eloquently. I laughed at the story of the goats, the bees, and the turkeys, and then I got inspired to actually work through quite a few recipes. All turned out great and the notes of what was a hassle or what wasn't turned out to be very actuate. Sure I could get a lot of the recipes in any number of places but I would not have had as much fun nor would I have learned as much or felt I had a kindred spirit watching over my successes.
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on March 16, 2017
There is too much narrative, but I like that the author provides cost breakdowns with each recipe. I would also want more commonly made household foods represented in this book. Some of the recipes are so out there. If it's not something you would make at home, why include it in a cookbook?
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on January 25, 2014
I bought this book - sight unseen - strictly on my mother's say so. Of course Mom was right. It is both informative and a 'good read'. Ms. Reese breaks down the cost as well as the level of difficulty when she advises for or against making certain foods at home. Even when she advises against it she cheerfully explains the details you need to try it anyway (or as she mentions, "at least once", just so you can say you tried it). The perfect gift for yourself or a friend who has been thinking about making foods from scratch for fun, economy or health reasons. I grew up on commercial mayo. My Mom starting making her own about the time I got married and showed me how. It's not the same food, homemade mayo is divine. But I agree with the author, "Tired? Buy your mayonnaise. Inspired? Make it". Make the Bread. Buy the Butter is written with humor and honesty (she has disasters just like the rest of us). Very enjoyable.
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on December 20, 2011
I read this book and enjoyed it. Got some recipes I will try and others (luxury/gourmet foods) that made me roll my eyes. This is not meant to be a 'be all, end all" purist treatise on frugality, gourmet cooking, or back-to-the-lander living. It's a fun, informative read and I enjoyed her honest assessments of trying to make various foods at home. The goat stories were great too. Can't imagine the mess that must have been her small suburban yard.....????? I learned quite a bit about things I would never have imagined making myself that I now plan to try. Sometimes folk, myself included, who aspire to homemade, local, organic etc... take ourselves too seriously. This book does address some serious issues, but the stress we put ourselves under can affect our health/quality of life more than the rare stop by KFC. This is a great, honest, LOL foodie book. Enjoy. :)
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on January 21, 2012
I LOVED this book, less because of its many great recipes (I'm a lazy cook, though an enthusiastic eater) than because it's so well-written and so laugh-out-loud funny. Jennifer Reese is a truly wonderful writer and story-teller, and the stories she relates are pretty fascinating. Like Reese, I spent my childhood reading "Little House" books and fantasizing about eating pig's ears from sows slaughtered and smoked by Pa, churning butter, and so forth-- so I found her project appealing and provocative (essentially she makes for herself everything we normally buy at stores, from the high-brow--cheese, baguettes, cured meats--to the very low-brow--hot dogs, marshmallows, etc.).

But what makes me love this book, and read it cover-to-cover in a day and a half, is that it's so hilarious. She can really turn a phrase. Her description of her tragi-comic experience of raising chickens that keep getting attacked by the neighborhood predators; her reasoning for preferring those chickens, who exhibit, she claims, at least some independent spirit, to the ducks that march en masse "like Hare Krishnas"; her too-late revelation that the tree she has chosen to house her bee hive in is poisonous for bee;, her story about the screaming goat she has for a day-- so many moments in this book made me laugh out loud. I love, too, her engaging candor, for example her confession that a day spent with her two kids eating KFC out of a bucket while being mesmerized by "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy was, ultimately, a more beloved and satisfying memory than the two-day marathon home-fried 30-step-recipe chicken and sides she made herself felt disarming and authentic. This book is a delicious treat.
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on January 21, 2015
This is a gem: a cooking / homesteading book that makes wonderful, amusing reading. There are recipes in here that I use all of the time (great advice on biscuits and pizza dough), and there are stories (the ducks! the bees! the goat!) that I often recall with a laugh as I'm out working in the garden or contemplating my next project. Great reading; great gift for the Earth Mother / homesteader on your gift list.
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