Image of Shadow Lawn, the actual house, circa 1980.

Cover of Cheaper & Better.

Cheaper & Better
by Nancy Hayfield Birnes

Homemade Alternatives to Storebought Goods

The recipes described here will show you how to make foods and household items that are both cheaper and better. The concept of “cheaper” is obvious: if you make every item in this book just one time, you will save a total of $1,656.80 ($3,0over the cost of those very same items purchased from the grocery store, drugstore, hardware store, or garden center. That’s a lot of money, but is it worth it to you? In other words, is it “better”?

For many people, the simple fact that an item is cheaper means that it is better for them. Everybody, it seems, can be ridiculously cheap about certain things. They may save string or the tiniest slivers of soap, perhaps, while at the same time buy an extravagantly priced condiment or costly piece of computer equipment without blanching. Therefore, the wide range of items covered in the following chapters gives you plenty of leeway to experiment and indulge your cheapest tendencies while saving loads of money for private indulgences.

For some people, a homemade item is better because all the ingredients that go into it are known, familiar, and safe. Consider that the food and products you make yourself will not contain any additives to prolong their shelf life or spark up their appearance. Nor will they contain excessive amounts of salt, sugar, or any ingredient a family member may not like or which might cause an allergic reaction. It is becoming obvious that the less we stabilize, chemically alter, or dye the food we eat and the cosmetics we use, the better off we will be, both physically as well as economically.

Obviously, you will save a great deal of money by packaging your food and household items yourself in simple wrappings or in reusable containers. We pay a small fortune for the informative, eye-catching, theft-resistant, and tamper-proof containers that hold the items we buy, and since some of the containers are costlier than their contents, you will have the opportunity to use and reuse those containers you’ve already purchased to hold your own creations from Cheaper & Better.

There’s even a measure of built-in convenience when you make it yourself, from scratch, in the quantities you will need. You can make and freeze a jumbo supply of tomato-based sauce from ingredients you’ve purchased in bulk at the end of the summer and then make fresh Mexican and Italian dinners all winter long by varying a few spices and side dishes. You can make up shampoo and cleaning solutions in gallon-size containers and eliminate constant and expensive trips to the store for these items. You can even package individual servings of granola snacks, frozen pancake batter, or herbal teas so that breakfast can be simple and quick, yet still inexpensive.

Of course, all this takes a bit of planning and organization, and that’s what Cheaper & Better is all about. I’ve spent over 20 years keeping a house, clipping coupons, learning gourmet and restaurant cooking techniques, and especially, learning how to save money. Over those same years I’ve tended to two husbands, four kids, five dogs, two cats, four apartments, several houses, one entire Brownie troop, and assorted gerbils, fish, frogs, plants, gardens, and cars. In addition, my parents and grandparents taught me many thrifty habits from the “old country,” from the Depression, and from the years during World War II when Victory gardening, scrap collecting, and rationing were the norm.

Since those cautionary voices from the past are fainter now, some of the lessons they taught us are in danger of being lost in the din of good and plenty that we hear all about us. The truth is, most of us have less to spend than we would like, so the way we spend our money is more important than ever. On the following pages, I will show you how to create a Cheaper & Better way of life for yourself. You will learn how to plan and organize your time for cooking in quantity, for buying in season and in bulk. I will describe how to recognize and save useful containers, what kind of supplies, equipment, and tools you will need, and give you general information about how to complete the recipes which follow.

It’s really not very difficult to learn to save money—a little or a lot—as you will soon see.

☞ Product details and how to purchase:
  • Paperback: 423 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (May 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060960574
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060960575
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
Image of leafless tree for the Print Version.