Sandra’s Money Saving Meals

Sandra’s Money Saving Meals: "Sit down, Semi-Homemade haters -- you're in for a shock. Sandra Lee can cook from scratch! OK, not everything Sandra makes on her new show, Sandra's Money Saving Meals, is entirely from fresh, unprocessed ingredients -- it's Sandra Lee, after all -- but she aggressively declares independence from the 70/30 philosophy with ..."

I didn't really expect to like Sandra Lee's new show. Her old one has cheesy charm, but I could probably count on one hand the number of her recipes I've tried. That's not to say they're all wretched, though a few are (cough -- Chinese Chicken Salad). Rather:

1. They often require shortcut ingredients I don't normally stock in my pantry, like meatloaf seasoning packets or cream soups. I'm not entirely opposed to using these, but I feel like they add extra expense while bringing no extra flavor benefit. It's true that you can mimic things like cream of chicken soup by making homemade velouté sauce, but once you start unpacking all those convenience foods you start making a recipe that little resembles the original anyway.

2. She seems to love mushrooms. We don't.

3. One recipe every show is for a cocktail. We enjoy cocktails, but our bar is not nearly well-stocked enough to make Sandra Lee's concoctions. She must have every flavor of vodka under the sun.

I could probably think of more reasons eventually, but number one is the chief reason. Ironically enough, I find many of her recipes too tiring to contemplate because of the sheer number of substitutions I'd have to make.

As an aside, Rachael Ray's recipes have also gotten tiring over the years. Once she broke out of upstate New York, she discovered all sorts of weird or overly gourmet flavor combos, stuff that requires an ingredient list a mile long.

Maybe if you're Rachael you can make a dish requiring 15 ingredients in 30 minutes, but if you're human you're spending half the time digging out said ingredients plus all the bowls and pans to put them in. Even her Express Lane Meals book has astoundingly long ingredient lists; she gets away with it by establishing upfront that you have to maintain a sizable pantry of her faves that you restock weekly. It was the last Rachael Ray book I ever added to my library.

Anyway, Sandra Lee's new show gets away from her shortcut philosophy, so in the first episode at least we got simple recipes that don't require finding raspberry-walnut vinaigrette or canned chow mein vegetables.

While I was ahead of her on most of the money-saving tips (I regularly check the day-old bread rack and always go generic unless I have a huge coupon), a couple did enlighten even me. Most people aren't so well-informed on grocery shopping strategies (like me a few years ago), and they'll benefit from having someone not only give the info but make the case for following through.