Yes, I am a dedicated foodie, cook, and baker. I save money for a brand new cake pan, search websites for a killer deal on spatulas, and am willing to eat instant noodles for a week to try out a new restaurant on the weekend. But, I know many folks are not like me. They enjoying cooking, trying new dishes, and want to do it within their budget.
This is a common questions I get asked on a regular basis: How do you cook and bake wonderful meals and treats without going broke? First off, save all of that fancy-schmacy stuff (like black truffles, saffron, beef tenderloin) for special occasions or high-end restaurants.
Here are my 5 basic tips for cooking and baking dishes...on a budget!
TIP ONE: Buy in BULK!
This is one of my greatest finds: the bulk food section in your local grocery store. Buying in bulks help you reduce the cost per pound. For example, on a recent grocery store tip, I saw a one pound of bagged brown rice cost $1.79. I headed to the bulk food area, and brown rice was on sale for $0.99 per pound. Not only does it save you money, you will only buy what you need, now!
I also buy in bulk when needing a special baking ingredient: a speciality flour, oats, nuts, or sea salt. All are found, and much cheaper, in the bulk section. Then, I can get the correct amount I personally need without letting any extra go to waste.
TIP TWO: Plan AHEAD!
Set aside a set time and afternoon for food shopping. Write a list of what you need and stear clear of any crazy bargins the store is promoting. It is much cheaper to shop once a week versus five days a week! Planning ahead helps when planning meals during the week. Write down what you meals you are cooking at the beginning of the week. This is help reduce daily stress and last minute stops to the grocery store.
TIP THREE: Shop at warehouses!
Think: Costco, Sam's Club, and cash and carry-type stores. Larger stores will have higher volume creating a lower price for you. Also, remember my tip #1: buying in bulk saves money!
TIP FOUR: Buy all-purpose foods!
What is an all-purpose food? Food that can be used in many dishes and preperations. My favorite are: onions, garlic, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, green onions, beans, qunioa, rice, tofu, eggs, and chicken. With these items I can create: Mexi-scramble for breakfast, bell pepper-onion quinoa, garlic tofu/chicken, and veggie rice and beans. Not only are these foods multi-use, they are naturally filling since they contain fiber and lots of natural vitamins and minerals.
When I am baking, I always have these items on hand: all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, unsalted butter (I like to buy 'em in bulk and store them in the freezer when needed), and eggs. Any special nuts, chocolate, dairy, or dried fruit I buy when needed. Another good trick? I like baking a batch of cookies and storing them in the freezer. Thus, throughout the week, I can snag a homemade cookie when I am craving one!
TIP FIVE: Use all-purpose cookware and bakeware!
Just like your food, your bakeware and cookware should serve more than one purpose. With my round, sqaure, and rectangle-shaped cake pans, I use them to roast potatoes, chicken breats, and veggies. Remember to throughly clean 'em after each use! When you are cooking, I like 2-3 large skillets for sauting, stir frying, and browning proteins.
More helpful advice:
-Keep your dry baking ingredients store in an air-tight container, located in a dark drawer/pantry to lock in freshness.
-Store your nuts in the freezer, in an air-tight package.
-Store butter in your freezer. Thaw in the microwave and/or room-temp when you need it!
-I like to buy frozen fruit and use it when needed.
-When it comes to seasoning, I like using: sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and cayenne for my cooking. Spices do add up quickly, thus only buy what you constantly use on a daily basis and truly enjoy the flavor of!
-Other great all-purpose ingredients I love: soy sauce, olive oil, seasame oil, rice wine vinegar, and balsamic vinegar.
Overall the best I advice I can give: is to plan! Plan your grocery store stops, meals for the week, and the spices/seasonings you will use.