How to Be a Great Cook on a Very Low Budget


If you watch too many cooking shows, and you'll begin to think that you need expensive gadgets and fancy, rare ingredients to be a great cook. But if you love to make food and shop wisely, you can make gourmet meals on a tight budget.

Steps

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    Save money [1] for a few quality cooking tools by learning to Shop Carefully with a Tight Budget [2].
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    Learn new cooking techniques, complimentary flavors, etc. by studying the free cooking shows on public television. Your local station probably shows them on Saturdays or Sundays.
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    Assess your current kitchen tools, and create a list of essential tools to buy when you have enough money. Prioritize based on need. You will want to get knives, cookware, a cutting board, and a few important gadgets.
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    Set the amount of money that you can afford to spend on a meal in order to meet your purchasing goals.
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    Make a game of combining your on-sale ingredients to stay at or below budget using your new-found knowledge of complimentary flavors.
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    Track the grocery ads. Know when sale items are normally featured. Some people keep a price book detailing sale items.
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    Learn to calculate cost per ounce. Sometimes buying in bulk is not the cheap purchase. Learn to do the math by dividing the amount into the actual cost of the item. For example: Store brand tomatoes are 16 ounces for 60 cents versus the name brand that is 15 ounces for 60 cents. The store brand is cheaper as the size for the store brand can of tomatoes is larger.
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    Purchase store brand products. Most are of equal quality as their name brand counterparts. If in doubt, buy a can or two of the store brand products and try them out. If the products pass inspection purchase them in quantity when they are on sale.
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    Buy seasonal produce. Seasonal produce is usually cheaper and of higher quality. Also, this provides built in variety in the diet.
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    Check the bottom or top shelves. Most grocery stores place the inexpensive, and usually less processed foods, on the shelves that are out of sight. The middle shelves will usually contain the pricier goodies.
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    Practice your new cooking techniques when preparing your budget friendly meals.
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    Write down recipes when you discover a good one so that you can make it again.
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    Strategically practice cooking in areas where you have weak skills in order to improve.
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    Purchase necessary cooking tools when your budget allows it to make cooking easier and expand your capabilities.
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    Learn to use leftovers creatively. Sometimes planned overs taste better than their original meal.
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    Plan vegetarian meals. Eat a meatless meal a couple times a week.

Tips

  • Essential Cooking Techniques: Chopping, slicing, dicing, sautee, boil, fry, blacken, and broil.
  • Purchase a small set of knives, if you can find the right set. You can save money, without purchasing a bunch of knives that you don't really need (like a cheese knife).
  • Purchase the best cookware you can afford. Buy cookware by the piece as sets waste money. Most come with pans you will never use.
  • Essential knives: Chef (8 or 10 inch), Paring, and a serrated blade (like a bread knife).
  • High quality knives are quite expensive, but if you maintain them you will never buy another set for the rest of your life and they work great. It's worth the money if you can afford the investment.
  • Essential Cookware: Skillet (10 or 12 inch), Saucepan (2 qt), Stock Pot (4 qt).
  • Essential Gadgets: Cutting board, colander, spatula, large spoon, whisk, measuring cups, measuring spoons, plates, bowls, grater.
  • Essential Cookbooks: The Joy of Cooking, Betty Crocker, Better Homes and Gardens, The Way to Cook, Living on a Dime (or Not Just Beans by the same author), Frugal Family Kitchen Book, More-With-Less cookbook, Miserly Meals: Healthy, Tasty Recipes Under 75¢ per Serving, 15-Minute Cooking or Feed Your Family for $12 a Day or Eat Healthy for $50 a Week.
  • Learn to make your own food mixes. The classic cookbook is Make-A-Mix but there are other cookbooks available using the same idea.
  • Learn freezer cooking. There are several cookbooks available including Frozen Assets and Once-A-Month Cooking.
  • Consider taking a job in a restaurant, as a cook or even a waiter. You will earn extra money, get exposed to flavor combinations, learn cooking techniques, and befriend people who love to cook that can share their knowledge with you. Some restaurants will let employees take home leftovers which may help save money on the food budget.

Warnings

  • It's essential to follow good sanitary practices while cooking. You'll never be a great cook if you repeatedly give yourself or others food poisoning.
  • Trying to gain new skills will require a lot of practice. You will likely fail a lot in the beginning. Stick with it! Make it easy to remember your successes by writing down your good recipes. Learn from your failures, and keep practicing until you get it right.

Sources and Citations

  1. http://www.wikihow.com/Save-Money
  2. http://www.wikihow.com/Shop-Carefully-With-a-Tight-Budget

Article Info

Categories: Meal Planning