When you think about cooking on a budget, what comes to mind?
Perhaps it’s macaroni and cheese, or ramen?
It’s probably not high-end gourmet style meals, is it?
But just because you’re living on a budget doesn’t mean you need to eat like a college student. You can still have healthy, gourmet meals on as little as $100 per week. It just takes a little research, skill, and creativity. Here’s how I create fantastic gourmet meals on a budget.
Skill is a Substitute for Cost
Instead of buying expensive ingredients for your high-end meals, find recipes that use standard, low-cost staples but require skill to prepare. For example, poached salmon is an excellent, high-end meal, but salmon is an expensive cut of meat.
Instead of preparing salmon, choose a recipe that requires skill but uses inexpensive cuts of meat. A good alternative is butterflied chicken, which involves cutting out the backbone of the chicken and laying the carcass flat to allow it to roast more evenly. All you need for this recipe is a standard whole chicken, which is much less expensive per pound than a slab of salmon and will likely yield leftovers.
Believe me – your friends will be impressed by your cooking skills if you can manage to butterfly a chicken.
Grow Your Own Herbs
While you can minimize costs by choosing inexpensive recipes to cook, there is one category of ingredients that are essential in every recipe and are always expensive: herbs.
Buying fresh herbs at the grocery store is inefficient and costly, but going without them all together will leave your meals bland. When you buy fresh herbs, you often have to buy far more than is required for the recipe, which leaves you with leftover herbs. The upfront cost for a few herbs is very high, and if you need more than one type, you could end up spending 10% of your weekly grocery budget on one part of a single meal!
There are a few ways to avoid buying fresh herbs at the grocery store. First, you can buy dried herbs. Dried herbs last longer and you can purchase them in larger quantities. The downside is that dried herbs don’t pack the same punch as fresh herbs and won’t make your meal taste as good.
Alternatively – and this is what I do – you could grow your herbs. Growing your herbs is inexpensive and allows you to have fresh herbage on hand at all times. To cook a gourmet meal just pluck off the correct amount of herbage from your plant.
Herbs are easy to grow in apartments and on balconies, so even if you don’t have any outdoor space, you can still take part in this small gardening project.
Shop the Sales
As with any money-saving habit, shopping the sales is important. You can easily save 20-30% on your gourmet meals by keeping an eye out for ingredients on sale and buying them in advance. On top of choosing inexpensive recipes and growing your ingredients, this is the last piece of the puzzle to keeping your grocery spending under $100 per week.