Dining with the Dollar Diva - Elizabeth Fisher (Cookbook)
Released March 2010
The basic idea behind Dining with the Dollar Diva is that all recipe ingredients cost a dollar or less. The book is packed with recipes for appetizers, meals and more. Recipes range from Oyster Stromboli to Espresso Brownies.
In this tight economy, cooking on a budget is a necessity. As much as I'd like to recommend this book, the simple truth is that the premise of the book -- all ingredients cost a dollar or less -- is not going to work for everyone. The author states her grocery store often sells many of the ingredients through 10 for $10 sales. Never have I see frozen meatballs sell for $1 a bag here. Our area discount store may offer yearly garage sales where I can get things like tofu or muenster cheese for a dollar a pound, but that's very rare, and it's been years since I've seen more than mozzarella sell for that little.
I'm not sure where the author lives, but I want her grocery store! Around here, the stores often do buy-one-get-one free after jacking up the buy-one price. They also will offer 4 for $20 deals on things like frozen meatballs or ground turkey, but that only happens a couple times a year. The author states she shops a lot at her area dollar store. Even our dollar stores have increased their prices so that all items in their stores cost $1.25, they're really no longer dollar stores.
One recipe, in particular, stood out particularly as being unrealistic. There's a very delicious sounding recipe for lobster rolls. I decided to go to my two favorite grocers and my local corner store to see what this recipe would really cost here in my corner of Vermont.
The author does use the imitation crab/lobster which will save money. Right now, at Shaw's, lobsters are selling for $4.98 a pound. The imitation crab is $2.99 for the smallest packet. I'd rather splurge and get the real deal. At Hannaford, they are 2 for $5. An eight-ounce packet of frozen shrimp is $3 at Hannaford. Shaw's only sells by the pound and that's a cost of $9. If you buy from the fresh seafood counter, the lowest current price is $6.99 a pound and you must purchase at least a a quarter of a pound.
Frozen scallops, I'm going with bay scallops because they're usually cheapest. The scallops are $4 at Hannaford, an 8-ounce bag is the smallest they sell. Bay scallops cost $5 a pound at Shaw's. Their smallest container is a pound. If I went to my local corner store, the shrimp and scallops are $9 for an eight-ounce bag and the imitation lobster is $3.49 for the 10-ounce package.
Many of the remaining items, I have on hand anyway. Horseradish is one I don't keep because my husband's allergic to it. Therefore, I'd likely skip that ingredient anyway. Mayo I do have on hand, but I've never gotten it for less than a $2, even the store brand. I always have dill in my herb garden, so that's not a problem. Lettuce is another item growing in my garden. Otherwise, it's $1.49 for the bagged store brand of shredded lettuce or $1.99 a pound. Hot dog buns is the only item that I could get for less than $1.
I don't want to condemn the book because their are some great recipes, but to get the ingredients for a dollar or less simply isn't realistic in my area. Buy it for the recipes only because not every recipe is going to save you money if you happen to live in a region where grocery prices are higher than average.