I highly recommend "Save With Jamie" Jamie Oliver's latest cookbook, for doing what it says on the cover - showing how to "Shop Smart, Cook Clever, Waste Less". This is a perfect recipe book for young, busy people on a budget who may not have actually been taught to cook or shop, as the older generations were, but who are used to a variety of international tastes and spicy foods and want to cook them at home for themselves without high food bills.
Sadly, the book itself is very expensive, 26 pounds sterling according to the cover, but I paid quite a lot less in equivalent dollars at a national book chain. Perhaps you could borrow it from the library and read it through copying out useful recipes and ideas from the chapter introductions or hints boxed at the bottom of pages. The book encourages the habit of using comparatively small amounts of leftover cooked meat, cheaper cuts, fish and vegetables in different ways.
Jamie starts with a big Veg section and recipes encouraging us to eat less meat and have two veg meals a week. This is followed by what he calls a "Mothership Sunday Roast" recipes and sections for Chicken, Beef, Pork, Lamb and Fish.
It is packed out with really useful hints some of which our grandparents would have taken for granted - for example, always keep the dripping from a roast in the fridge, a tiny bit of the fat is perfectly flavoured for starting off the browning of ingredients in a stew, soup or sauce, whilst the rich juice at the bottom is the perfect base stock. Jamie admits it is a saturated fat, but you are only using a tiny amount at a time and as a useful nutrition guide there is a colourful clear table at the back showing the amounts of calories, fat, saturates, carbs and sugar in each dish. There are clear "jointing a chicken" photos and he notes that the cost of a whole chicken is little more than the cost of two chicken breasts alone. Put odd leftover bits of cheese chopped or grated in a container in the freezer and they are ready to throw on top of pasta or use up in a sauce; put odd pieces of raw vegetable chopped in a vinegar pickle mix to add to sandwiches or cold lunch.
This book has been criticised for the fact that Jamie uses some 'exotic' or expensive ingredients such as many herbs and spices, a range of oils and vinegars, anchovies, olives, passata etc etc. Don't be put off by the lists of what he has in his kitchen, it does not mean you have to stock every single thing as well, but as an author and a chef he has to provide a fairly comprehensive list. The recipes here are straightforward, appetising and satisfying, the instructions are clear and the illustrations encouraging.
Most importantly Jamie teaches through all his courses and books that you must not be afraid to improvise. Substitute what you have in your store for some of these special ingredients, except with baking . You will not end up with exactly Jamie's original flavour balance but taste as you go along and with practise you will invent special flavour combinations of your own and over time your store cupboard will build up a wider range of herbs, spices and sauces, most of which have a pretty good shelf life.
As an aside, vegetable oil can be used instead of the finest extra virgin olive oil, passata is only a sieved puree of skinned tomatoes so a drained tin of tomatoes sieved or liquidised will do just as well and olives and anchovies are acquired tastes anyway! Use whatever veg is around in the fridge for mixes you have in a salad or stew or filling, it does not have to follow the original recipe spot on. Most recipes won't suffer if you leave some flavouring ingredients out, or use different ones you have already. As long as the basic meat and carbohydrate bulk such as rice, pasta, potato is there, you can use extra seasoning, a tablespoon of chutney, a pinch of sugar, a dash of brown sauce, different herbs etc. Cook and have fun experimenting as well as saving.