4 secrets for eating gourmet on a shoestring budget

January 31, 2015

Enjoying gourmet cuisine while money is tight is about creatively using farmer's market ingredients, store brands and frozen foods to make your meals the best they can be. Here are four secrets for eating well on a dime.

4 secrets for eating gourmet on a shoestring budget

Foodie blogs may be filled with gorgeous photos of such pricey foods as caviar, Kobe beef and lobster, but that doesn't mean you have to scrimp to enjoy a similarly sumptuous meal. Here are four secrets to eating well that won't drain your wallet.

1. Buy local at farmer's markets

Farmer's markets are foodie havens. They're also where chefs shop. When shopping at farmer's markets, take some time to get to know the vendors. Ask them questions such as:

  • What's freshest right now?
  • Which of your products or produce are you most excited about right now and why?
  • How do you prepare these ingredients?
  • When are the best times to buy this ingredient?
  • What are you harvesting or making next?

By asking questions, you'll receive little lessons about the ingredients you put on your plate and what and how to buy.

  • Visiting farmer's markets can also help you to discover new ingredients such as salmon jerky, bison, new varieties of kale and new ways to use them.

In many cases, you'll save money by buying local.

2. Frozen foods offer deep savings

Frozen foods are a great option if you can't get an ingredient fresh.

  • Because these foods are flash frozen at the peak of their freshness, they pack more flavour than out-of-season produce that has been shipped over a longer distance.

You can usually substitute frozen foods for fresh foods in recipes, but keep in mind that frozen foods will have more moisture and less crunch, so adjust meals accordingly.

3. Check out different brands

When shopping at a grocery store, look below and above eye level.

  • The food items stored on the top and bottom shelves may be less expensive because they are usually lesser-known brands.

Be sure to check out store brands, too. In some cases, they are made at the exact same facilities as more popular brands but cost less to purchase.

4. Visit ethnic grocery stores

These types of stores not only sell exotic ingredients and unusual brands that can transform your next meal, but they often offer these items at lower prices than many mainstream grocery stores.

  • Approach these stores the way you would a farmer's market and strike up a conversation with retailers to learn more about the products being sold. Chances are you'll be in for a pleasant surprise with the discoveries you make.

Be open-minded about your purchases

A fresh attitude and open mind, not necessarily a huge budget, is what you need if you're a foodie on a budget.

  • You can create amazing meals without spending a fortune. Simply looking beyond the costly items on your favourite cooking shows can help.

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