Living on a shoestring budget fueled by ramen is a quintessential part of life in your early 20s – or so they say. Unfortunately, though I’m in that demographic, my tolerance for the 99-cent meal in a cup lasts only so long before my taste buds threaten to mutiny.

Lucky for me, cookbook aisles are filled with options for ways to eat on the cheap. The tough part is weeding through the duds and finding one that will actually make good food. “Cheap Eats: Budget-Busting Ideas That Won’t Break the Bank” delivers. With over 150 recipes for family dinners, entertaining guests and late-night treats, there are plenty of great options.

The book is one in the four-part Cook Me! series by Sterling Epicure; the others in the series cover brunch, party food and stir fries. These small, colorful paperbacks make a nice set both physically and as a collection of recipes for any occasion.

The big pictures, short ingredient lists and easy-to-follow instructions set “Cheap Eats” up for success, but it’s the bonus sections that really make this a winner. From weekly meal plans and shopping lists to tips on how to stock a pantry and make terrific stocks and dressings, these sections transform a simple cookbook into a guide for a budget-conscious lifestyle.

I flagged several recipes to try, including Stuffed Chicken Thighs. Despite its uninspired name, this meal was a knockout. The thighs stayed juicy, bacon infused each bite with smoky flavor and the stuffing was flavorful and fresh. Enclosing the filling inside the chicken and bacon was a challenge, but worth the effort.

I’ve bought a number of cookbooks that promise exceptional quality at low cost, and I’ve been disappointed many times by their lackluster delivery. “Cheap Eats” exceeded my expectations, providing instructions for interesting and varied meals that actually taste good.


I won’t be stuck forever in the culinary purgatory of early adulthood, but I know I’ll keep this guide around for whenever my budget is tight.

It would make perfect reference for a family on a budget, for a college grad who needs an introduction to the kitchen or for someone like me, a young professional with rebellious taste buds.

Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Serves 4

2 cups fresh white bread crumbs

3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese


2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

8 slices of smoked bacon


Seasonal vegetables, to serve

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Put the bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, basil, lemon zest and plenty of salt and pepper into a medium bowl and stir to combine.

Open out the chicken thighs on a cutting board, skin side down. Spoon some of the crumb mixture down the middle of each, then fold the meat over the filling. Wrap a slice of bacon around each thigh to help secure the filling in place.

Transfer the stuffed thighs, seam-side down, to a nonstick baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes until golden and cooked through.

Serve with seasonal vegetables.

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