Money, money, money! It doesn’t grow on trees. When you don’t have it, you just don’t have it. But you can cook gourmet on a budget. Let me help you.
Tips and tricks for gourmet on a budget:
- Buy different cuts of meats and fish. I customized a menu for a follower who had to entertain a rotating group of friends but is on a very tight budget. I gave her a menu for 6 people based on oxtails and great wines for $100. This menu is $100 per person at a restaurant! Oxtails cost 1/4 the price of filet mignon, but they are amazingly flavorful. You can do the same thing with fish. While tuna is $28 per pound, mussels are $4.99 per pound. Think about using chicken livers – they are super cheap and considered as one of the most tasty ingredients in cooking. So, explore cuts of meat and fish that aren’t as ‘popular’ and you’ll be able to make a gourmet meal without blowing your budget.
- Explore using replacement ingredients in a recipe. No one loves parmesan cheese more than me! But at $25 per pound, you can substitute parmesan for other hard cheeses, like manchego or romano, which cost around $10 per pound. It depends on the recipe, but you don’t always have to use exactly the ingredient that is listed.
- Use expensive ingredients sparingly. Evaluate your recipe and consider using less of the more expensive ingredients. For example, if the recipe calls for porcini mushrooms, perhaps you can use another mushroom and place a smaller amount of porcini on the top of the dish when serving. That way, you still have the porcini flavor, but don’t use as much and therefore, spend less.
- Sales. All grocery stores have weekly sales. In my opinion, Whole Foods has some of the best sales, even though they are widely considered an expensive store. When you see something on sale, buy extra and save it for when you need it. For example, Whole Foods often has organic, free range chicken on sale for 50-60% off. Buy one on sale and freeze it for when you need it.
- Buy extra to get discounts. Especially for wine, you can get anywhere from 10-30% off when you buy six bottles instead of one. This is an incentive to save that has no down sides!
- Make your own. I’ve never met an Italian grandmother who buys bread crumbs. They use day old bread, thrown into the food processor and there you have bread crumbs. The list goes on – stock; pasta; crackers; desserts; bread; pizza; etc. You can make these staples for cents versus dollars. All you need is a little time and effort to save a lot of money.
- Don’t shop hungry. It’s true that you will buy more items that are not on your list if you go to the grocery store hungry. Eat at home before you go and don’t get swayed!
- Don’t buy impulse items. It’s hard to stick to your list, but make a commitment that if it’s not an item on sale, don’t buy anything that’s not on your list. It will help keep your grocery bill down.
- Properly estimate amounts needed. Please, don’t ever waste food. Ensure that you properly plan the amounts needed when entertaining. For example, if your recipe is for 8 people, but you only have 4 guests, cut the amounts in half and don’t buy anymore than you need.
- Create a menu that’s different. Rather than serving expensive steaks, invite your friends to a grown up version of kids comfort foods. Or have a pizza party. Make eggs for dinner. If you can get creative with your menu, you can save a lot of money and it will be unique and fun, too.