Dollar stores are so fascinating, and not just because of photos like this one. Where do they get their merchandise? How can they afford to sell stuff so cheaply? Is any of the food edible?

In a time when food prices are spiraling upward, lots of folks may be asking themselves that last question, searching for a cheaper way to feed their families than the local Whole Paycheck. Author Christiane Jory set out to find the answer and produced the perfect cookbook for our recessionary times, The 99 Cent Only Stores Cookbook.

According to a piece on NPR’s Day to Day, Jory had been shopping at dollar stores for awhile before she ventured into buying food there. “I was broke, and I like my wine, and then I saw this woman buying wine and I was like, ‘No way!’ And she had fancy shoes on and I looked at her and she said, ‘It’s really good.’ So that’s when I bought a sauvignon blanc. And I had wine for the summer, thank God. And that’s when I started thinking maybe there’s food here too,” she says.

Her recipes rely heavily on packaged foods, natch (although some dollar stores have recently begun selling fresh produce). She developed them with a little cribbing from her mom’s vintage recipe books focusing on canned foods.

If you can face semi-homemade recipes, Jory’s chicken pot pie (with canned chicken) and green-chile-spiked scalloped potatoes (with boxed scalloped potatoes) give you an option for dramatically cutting your grocery bills. Still, her recipe on the NPR site for apple pie using prepared crusts and canned apples comes in with a $3.99 price tag. Who can’t produce an actual pie crust with fresh apple filling for that price?

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