Magazine Review: Big Buy

Magazine Review: Big Buy

I’m going to be honest with you: this isn’t what you’d call a glowing review. Think of it as more of a warning, not just against this magazine, but other books and magazines like it.
The full name of this magazine is The Best of Fine Cooking: Big Buy. I was attracted to it at the grocery store because of a subtitle on the front: “Buy in bulk. Use it all up!” This is one of the biggest problems a prepper runs into with their food storage. What to buy? What stores best? What to make with what to buy? How do I store the rest? I foolishly expected this magazine to answer these, and other questions.

Fatal Flaws

This magazine shares many of the fatal flaws of modern journalism. It contains just enough content to look interesting, but then skimps on anything worthwhile. Many of the key concepts behind the magazine are actually quite good; but the execution is poor. Luckily, if you’re into food photography, you will not be disappointed. The photos in here are beautiful, and some even made me do double-takes. But I didn’t buy the magazine for the photos, and I certainly didn’t buy it for the recipes. I bought it hoping for tips and tricks to help with my food storage scenario.

There are tips and tricks inside. For instance, there is a quick freezing chart that lists a few common foods, and the length of time that they can be frozen for. This is key information, not only for one buying in bulk, but also for one growing their own fruits and vegetables, yielding an unwieldy crop. The chart is short, but it is a nice starting point. One section suggests keeping specific items in stock for easily-made soups, based on the season. This is not bad advice, since it helps you rotate your food supplies.

But the next section, on how to throw a (really) big party reveals the magazine’s fatal flaw when it comes to preppers: it is designed for people who buy a lot of really fresh food all at once, and then suddenly find themselves wondering what to do with it all before it spoils. The bulk of the magazine takes a group of individual foods that can be purchased in bulk, spends a page briefly talking about that ingredient, and then follows that page with a short collection of recipes focused on that food.

Each ingredient overview is a double-page spread with large, pretty pictures, and a mere smidgen of text on the side, in fonts large enough to keep from providing too much useful information. The section on canned tomatoes recommends specific Italian varieties, which are likely outside of your budget. Some items, such as the Grana Padano (it’s a Parmesan-like cheese), only seem to store for as long as 3 weeks. The section on fresh salmon is laughable when it comes to long-term storage. Most items listed store anywhere from 1 to 3 months.

What to Buy Instead

In the end, if you’re looking for a beginner’s guide to handling large volumes of food, this might be a good buy for you. Take a look at it at the newsstand first, to make sure it’s what you want, but hurry: the front cover says “DISPLAY UNTIL NOV 30”. For the rest of you, your $9.99 (cover price) could be better spent elsewhere. Look for resources that cover several food items, and have in-depth information about them; not just a 2-paragraph blurb. Recipes are nice, but be more concerned with technique. If you have an excess of canned tomatoes that need to be used quickly, and only three recipes and no other knowledge, you may be in trouble.

Beware of recipe collections. Some do have useful information on techniques, but many (especially in the prepper world) are little more than collections of old family recipes, many of which the “author” has never personally tested. If you do buy a recipe collection, start testing the recipes yourself as soon as possible. If you find yourself in a dire situation with large (but limited) supply of food and a few recipes that you know nothing about, you may find yourself wasting a lot of valuable resources on something that you won’t, or can’t eat.

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