My wife and I love to eat. We also love to save money. Sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile these competing desires. I’ve written before about learning to eat more meals at home and how to find healthy food on an unhealthy budget. Recently, Bankrate posted an article called 10 Frugal Cooking Tips that Sizzle.
Cooking can get expensive if you buy too many kitchen gadgets, make poor grocery choices or panic shop for each night’s supper. We spoke with chefs, caterers and cookbook authors for their insights on eating well without spending a lot. We share their onion pearls of wisdom with you.
The article balances cost-conscious shopping with lasting quality. Here’s the list with my comments:
- Buy produce in season. If you want tomatoes in December, you’re going to have to pay. But if you buy them in August, you can get them cheap. (Better yet, grow your own!) If you’re not sure what’s in season, check out this Food Network produce guide.
- Purchase dry spices and herbs whole. Buying a big bottle of your favorite herb might sound like a good idea, but it’s not good quality to begin with, and will only get worse with time. In fact, you’ll likely have to throw most of it out when you haven’t used it after a year. Buy as fresh as you can and in small amounts.
- Get dry milk for use in recipes. I’ve never tried this one. We used powdered milk for everything when I was growing up, and I have an aversion to it. But apparently it can be a good choice for kitchen work.
- Buy real cheese. Real cheese beats the processed stuff for taste and quality every time. Buy what’s on sale, and buy in bulk. The article suggests planning a meal around whichever cheese you can get a deal on. I find most cheeses keep well if stored properly.
- Seek tough cuts of meat. If you can do without meat, you’ll save money and have a healthier diet. But if, like me, you crave beef, then learn to use the tough cuts. The art of slow-cooking is a fun one to master.
- Buy straight from local farmers. Seek out produce stands and farmers markets in your area. Prices aren’t always better than in the store, but they’re rarely higher. And the quality cannot be beat. (So, at worst you’re paying the same but getting much better food.) I find that farmers markets also offer a variety of foods that supermarkets never carry.
- Shop Latin markets and Korean grocers. This is a great tip. Portland has some great Asian markets, and they offer great deals on spices, produce, and exotic ingredients. You don’t need to make weekly trips to ethnic markets (unless you have one close), but a visit now and then will help you spice up your meals for cheap!
- Don’t bother with all-inclusive sets. Sets of pots and pans are rarely a bargain. Neither are knife sets. You get a lot of stuff you don’t need, and you sacrifice quality. Buy only what you need, and pay for reasonable quality. (One of my favorite recent purchases is a professional-quality chef’s knife — my wife laughs at how eager I am to dice onions now.)
- Opt for versatility. Don’t buy specialized implements. Kitchen gadgets are tempting, but if you’re trying to save money, they’re a poor choice. That garlic press will sit unused most of the time, but a good knife can be used for mincing and for hundreds of other kitchen tasks. Buy items that can be used for many purposes.
- Slow means cheaper. Have you cooked a pot roast lately? Do you know how cheap they are to make? Do you know how good they taste? A slow-cooker can help you make all sorts of cheap meals.
Don’t forget that there are other ways to save in the kitchen, too. Learning to use coupons effectively can help cut costs. It’s also a good idea to stock up on staples when they’re on sale. Learning to cook your own meals can be a delicious and fun way to save money.
[Bankrate: 10 Frugal Cooking Tips That Sizzle]