Smart cooking and shopping
Cooking is an important part of the day. Not only does it provide a meal for you and your loved ones, but also it’s a time to get creative and time to enjoy your passion for food. Of course, as a chef it’s something that I relish and enjoy. Finding the freshest ingredients and making something for others to enjoy, it’s the joie de vivre!
But unless you have an unlimited budget and unlimited time, cooking should not be done without a plan.
Why is planning a menu so important?
If people plan and organize their menus ahead of time – they will save time and money at the grocery store by picking up exactly what they need and not buying things randomly. Randomly purchased items often get thrown out which is just an enormous waste.
By planning meals and shopping smartly, people will buy only what they need for the menu they have planned. Well-planned shopping outings also prevent people from buying things the store wants you to buy – i.e. items that are on sale or that have good aisle placement. It can be the difference between spending $30 at the grocery store or $130.
Also, when you plan your menu for the week, try to leverage one meal to make others. For example, make grilled chicken on Monday, but cook a few extra pieces. Use the leftover chicken to make a pasta dish the following night. Or, double your recipe and make enough to freeze for later. The idea is simple. Plan ahead, and your savings will multiply!
What is smart shopping?
First and foremost – people should never shop while they are hungry. This is a mistake from a cost standpoint and a nutrition standpoint. Everything looks good when someone is hungry, and people focus less on cost when they are hungry.
Smart shopping is planning ahead of time and knowing exactly what you want before you go. Smart shopping is also knowing where to shop. There can be two stores a block away from each other with huge price discrepancies on the same items. If you always go to the same store, do not forget to occasionally check other stores to do comparison-shopping. Of course, you would certainly do this for an electronics or big-ticket purchase. What’s the difference in groceries? I assure you, that if you cook often, then your annual grocery budget is large. In the long run, food is a huge expense and savings can really mount up by comparison shopping.
What about spices and seasonings?
Fresh herbs are an important factor when it comes to flavors – no question. Adding a sage or rosemary sprig to a chicken cutlet or a thyme sprig while sautéing a fish filet will make a huge difference in the flavor and will not add much expense to the meal.
With most fresh herbs, you can buy in any amount you need. So be sure to purchase only what is needed for the recipe at hand.
Spices and spice rubs are fantastic on meats and poultry. Whether you put it on a steak right before it goes on the grill or let it marinate on pork or whole chicken for several hours, spice rubs are vital for creating the best flavor, which is another segment in and of itself.
What other tips can you share on how to cook and shop smartly? I’d love to hear your ideas.