Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tips and Tricks from one Cook to another...

There are many ways to cut costs on food, whether you are a single person or a large family. All it takes is a little bit of time, and a small amount of planning. Until I really started examining my family’s spending habits I didn’t understand how I could be spending so much money at the grocery store. Once I decided to utilize the resources around me, sales, coupons, and local vendors, I found out that saving money on food is not as hard as I thought it was.

You don’t have to be a Coupon Queen or have vast supplies of food. I am a cook that has quite an array of stock piled ingredients, mostly whole foods like beans, pasta, rice, frozen veggies, canned veggies, sugar, flour, and proteins because I find that if I have those staples on hand along with fresh ingredients such as milk, eggs, veggies and fruit all the time, I can easily make a meal. What each Cook does is personal to their lifestyle, but below are some of the tricks I have learned.
Buy ingredients on sale and buy multiples. Keep doing this and you will always have the staples you need on hand.

Shop, then plan meals based on what you have. This helps me avoid unnecessary purchases and keeps me on budget. However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for special meals once in a while.

Use ordinary ingredients in new ways. My Alfredo Chicken Stew, Pineapple Meatballs and Turkey Meatball Ciabatta Sandwiches all use staple ingredients in different ways.

Be willing to make substitutions. Use rice in place of pasta, ground turkey in place of beef, and peas instead of carrots. Just because you are out of an ingredient doesn’t mean you can’t add something in its place.

Be excited and open to trying new recipes. My absolute favorite roll recipe, French Bread Rolls, came as a result of running out of eggs. I had planned on making a cinnamon roll recipe, but couldn’t since I had no eggs for the dough. Instead of tossing everything I just searched for something new and I am so glad I did!

Buy local or grow your own. Most areas have farmer’s markets and stores that offer local products. Utilizing these places helps your pocket book and also your local economy. Growing veggies doesn’t require a lot of work and at the end of the summer you have a lot of fresh food that only cost pennies.

Learn to make restaurant favorites. There are websites out there dedicated solely to dissecting major chain restaurant recipes, do a search for that favorite pasta dish or chocolate cake you might be surprised to find you can make it yourself.  Even easier, smaller restaurants will sometimes give you the recipe….it never hurts to ask!

• Most importantly, make food that sounds good to you. Don’t buy ingredients you won’t use or don’t like.
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