Books,  Reviews

Save With Jamie

“Save With Jamie” is a beautiful and tactile cookbook filled with plenty of food images where the recipes are written in an easy to read style.  However, today I’m scratching beneath the surface to see if it measures up from a frugal food point of view.

The book centres around a number of “mothership” dishes which bear a close resemblance to the “tumbledown” recipes featured in another frugal cookbook published in recent years, “Economy Gastronomy”. The similarities are very noticeable and I would like to think that it’s because of the fact that cooking in this manner is something that generations of frugal families have done.

Normally when I’m reviewing a cookbook I take a look at it purely from a cookery point of view. This book is meant to be about saving and so I’m primarily reviewing it from an informed, budgeting perspective.

A typical store cupboard of 22 items in the UK will cost STG£20 but here in Ireland it rises to €36 so it’s difficult to compare this book in Euro based on the prices as published. However, what I have done is had a chat with my local butcher about a few of the suggested cuts of meat, taken a look at our store cupboard, my regular shopping list and equipment in order to assess the book.

Will this book save you money?

If you’re a family who have been spending €150+ a week on your meals or are overly dependent on take away meals then buy this book. It’s a great stepping stone between excessive consumption and cooking on a budget. For example, there is a recipe for “JFC” as opposed to a bucket of KFC which costs £16 to buy in the take away (as reported in the book). Here the sides are increased with better for you options, the meal looks fabulous and it should save about £3 on a bargain bucket meal.

If you are already cooking on a budget I’m confident that this is not the book for you. For example, the leg of pork for the “mothership” recipe alone will set you back €45 in my local butcher shop before you buy the vegetables/bits and bobs to go with the meal. That’s not even higher welfare meat. If I spent €45 on a piece of meat in 1 week, that’s over half of my food budget (€70 per week) blown before I even blink. I still need to feed the family for breakfast, lunch, other main meals and snacks. It is just not feasible to feed my family in this manner.

The vegetarian section at the start of the book is naturally cheaper cooking. In my experience though, that’s because cooking with meat and egg proteins is markedly more expensive than without. So actually if this were a full on vegetarian cookbook, it would in fact be more true to the brief of saving money!

Does it deal with food waste?

Throughout the book, and the TV series there are tips and tricks to deal with leftover waste. Jamie Oliver calls people who waste food “wasters” which I’m not sure is the best connotation! Anyway if you happen to have opened a bottle of wine and not quite finished it I’m sure these tips will come in very handy, likewise with an artisan loaf of bread. Mind you, I can’t remember the last time I opened a bottle of wine, let alone not quite finished one and artisan bread like ciabatta does make for fantastic leftovers, cheap as chips sliced pans do not, they only go mouldy I’m afraid.

Jamie Oliver’s new book, “Save With Jamie” was released a number of weeks ago to go with his TV series on Channel 4. I priced it on Amazon today (it was significantly cheaper than my local shop – €19.99 on discount in Dublin) where I would have been able to buy it for STG£9.99 plus a small delivery charge via Parcel Motel. Jamie and his publisher have donated a copy of this book to every library in the UK. Unfortunately that doesn’t include Ireland so it’s not available in my local library.

I’ve already written on attitudes towards food poverty and priorities on the blog in the past week. Mr Oliver if you do happen to chance upon this review, please click here.

Final Verdict?

Great cookery book, just not if you’re on a tight food budget.

I don’t say this lightly and it is with a heavy heart that I’ve reached this conclusion.  Jamie Oliver has a massive reach and opportunity to reach out to people.  The potential to make life easier for the hundreds of thousands, nay millions, of people who have found themselves thrust into eking life out on a budget.

I just wish this book did “what it said on the tin”.

Disclosure: As the furore surrounding the sentiments that Jamie Oliver expressed during the launch week of this book/series increased, a blogging friend suggested I contact his publisher and ask for a review copy. Let’s face it, I wouldn’t be able to afford this book otherwise. This book was provided to me for review purposes by Michael Joseph. My opinions are my own and I am not paid to give them.

I'm an Irish mother to 2 boys, born & bred in Dublin, Ireland. I like to cook simple & fresh food for the family, with the family on a budget.


  • Maud

    Well, I’m impressed about the library donations. I was going to remark that a beautifully-produced, glossy, hardback cookbook is not something any family on a budget can just “pick up” in order to see if it’ll save them money. So, even if it’s only in UK libraries, I think that was a thoughtful touch.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      I think it was a fantastic idea to donate to all the libraries in the UK. It’s great that he’s been able to do it. It’s also brilliant that he’s been able to offer this book at such a significant discount. It’s RRP is STG£26, so it’s way cheaper at the moment if you did have the means to buy it.

  • Ciara McDonnell

    Great review, very measured and fair. If I was given this book I would be delighted; it looks like something gorgeous I could take to bed and spend hours leafing through, imagining the fabulous dinner parties I could have. However, as someone on a tight budget, I think you have pointed out the key issues in his strategy. Making that ‘bedrock’ spend of meat or fish or whatever protein on a Sunday is a huge ask of families on a budget, and the fact that the leftovers will really only spread across one more meal, means that for those of us living on a truly tight budget, it’s not a great plan. However, I totally agree that it is a fantastic option for those of us who are looking to a) cut down on our food waste and b) lessen the takeaways. Well done for taking such a thorough approach to this review; it is important. x

  • Dee

    You could request it in your local library, just get the isdn number. They will definitely have it before long

  • MamanPoulet

    I’ve been watching the series so far (recording it as opposed to my usual watching it as it transmits) the premise of the inaccessible pricey mothership joint is ironic given the terrible stuff he was saying in pre launch publicity. Also the pricing are for 6 portions which is feck all use for smaller families and makes the food far more expensive. The food waste bits are scant enough in the show. I don’t have a tight budget but my portion costs are a lot less most of the time. Everyone has been told not to buy me the book and roll on next week when the new Nigel Slater is out. Yay!!!

    • Wholesome Ireland

      You see that’s the thing S. I think it’s a great cookbook for bigger families who aren’t under budget constraints. If it had another name then I would be judging it from a completely different perspective. If you get a chance to look at it, check out the list of people who worked on it at the back. I was amazed to see the industry behind the book and series. There were 2 double spread pages with their photos which is fantastic and it shows in the book but I wonder if it was actually tested on frugal families.

  • auroralapetite

    I’m really in two minds about the whole premise of the show (I don’t have the cookbook). I think it’s great to highlight to smaller households that they can save money by buying a larger piece of meat and using it for 2 or 3 meals, but why is he using premium cuts of meat? Pork loin is wickedly expensive in my local butcher as well, but pork shoulder costs less than €20 and made a great roast and turns into pulled pork for sandwiches.

    I like the takeaway alternatives though, I have always reckoned that a good homemade curry would blow my local Indian takeaway out of the water in a blind taste test.

    • Wholesome Ireland

      He is passionate about higher welfare meat and food. So I think this really bumps up the cost. Even for me a pork shoulder for €20 for 1 meal and sandwiches/another meal is too expensive I’m afraid. The take away alternatives are always going to beat them for flavours and for nutritional content/cost. That’s nothing new but I’m still going to try the recipes, just with a more frugal twist.

  • Looking for Blue Sky

    Very fair review – should I be shocked that anyone would spend €45 on a cut of meat? I didn’t know you could actually spend that much! I gather he is keen on the welfare of the animals? Well can’t you just buy a nice free range chicken for less than €10 and get at least 3 meals for the family from it? That’s what I do anyway 🙂

    • Wholesome Ireland

      In fairness LFBS there is a section in the book which deals with how to joint a chicken, roast a chicken and make other meals from the leftovers. However it still stands for me that a free range chicken in my supermarket would set me about most of my meat budget for the week. So what do I do for the other days? The book is well intentioned and like I say, great recipes, just not if you’re on a tight budget.

  • @ipadzorz

    He seems to be a bit out of touch or confused about the direction of this book. Is it for over-spenders who need to be educated on how be frugal? Is it for people at the poverty line in order to grasp some much-needed, money-saving tips? Is it for the well off to showcase just how well “poor people” can live in order to reimagine their spending? Is it for people who don’t fit into any of the above but are just happy to learn some cheap tips? etc.etc.

    He seemed to want to hit every base possible and aim to please every party, when a cookbook or series like this should really zone in on what the basic premise is, who the key ‘Save With’ reader is and stick to it.

    I have kept up here and there with the series and flicked through the book in a book shop on the day it came out and I agree, it is tactile, colourful and provides some good recipes but my overwhelming feeling is that it misses the mark. The TV series baffles me with the “food team” also who are given a starring role. Reading between the lines it shows on a subconscious level that he needs a team of experts around him in order to deliver his point correctly.

    This show/book and others of his (notably the 15/30 min meals ones) seem to rely on gimmicks – colour, throwing things around, fast-paced action, buzz words, shaky statistics – in order to make a point or, unfortunately, in order to gloss over some shortcomings.

    This ‘Save With’ book also came out in record time and quite quietly jumped to the market after only being announced a few weeks/months before which also suggests it was thrown together (with the help of the aforementioned “food team” of course)

    • Wholesome Ireland

      All very good points to consider P. As you know I’ve struggled with the overall concept from the start given I’m coming from a frugal perspective. Others who are caught in the overspending/over dependence on convenience food might disagree though. If it were a book by any other name or concept – such as a family food cookbook then I’d be far more positive about it overall.

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