Saturday, April 2, 2011

Dining For a Dollar

I'm cheap but I adore shopping, so naturally I love dollar stores. I've found some surprisingly wonderful things there, like a great case for my 2nd-generation iPod touch. The case originally sold for $30 but was rendered obsolete by the release of the 3rd-generation "iTouch," so lucky me!

Of course, most dollar-store items really are worth only a dollar, or less. Every once in a while I try new items even if I suspect their true value falls in the "or less" category. I can usually steer clear of the junk food (I try to not shop when I'm hungry), but I'm a sucker for books, cookbooks in particular. On a recent trip to the dollar store, I came across a cookbook by a woman who loves dollar stores as much as I do, so all the recipes were based on inexpensive ingredients: dollar-store items, foods available for $1 or less (every day or during sales) at "regular" stores, or staple items like seasonings. I flipped through the book briefly and decided to buy it, even though I didn't immediately see any recipes that appealed to me.

Nor did I find any recipes I wanted to try after reading the book (somewhat) more thoroughly. I don't own a deep-fryer, and I don't care for refrigerated biscuit dough, no matter how much it's dressed up with cheese or cinnamon-sugar. (The author admits that "This cookbook should be called 1,000,001 ways to use refrigerated biscuits.") The whole book made me uncomfortable. I found myself irritated by the author's frequent references to her church and religious beliefs, but decided that it's her book, after all, and she's allowed to express her opinions and personality. (And a lot of good food does show up at church potluck I'm told!) But I couldn't get past the lack of proofreading, the overabundance of exclamation marks, the indistinct black-and-white photos, and most of all the (lack of) nutritional value of the recipes. The premise of the book is "to provide delicious affordable meals," but unfortunately in our culture, that often means food that's loaded with fat, salt, and refined carbohydrates.

A dollar store doesn't offer a lot of healthy options, but there are some. I don't think I could come up with a book's worth of healthy recipes using just dollar-store items, but I could probably manage a pamphlet, or at least a few blog posts. I shall have to think on this...

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