Tuesday, March 15, 2011
If you’re tired of subsisting on a diet of instant mac and cheese or mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, and any other potato dish you can think up, perhaps it’s time to expand your diet and get a bit gourmet. There’s only one problem; you’re on a tight budget. If all you can afford is pasta and potatoes, it may be difficult to come up with a menu that could be viewed as haute cuisine. But with a little research and a modicum of effort, you can change up your diet and improve the picture on your plate. Here are just a few ways to make your meals gourmet without depleting your bank account in the process.
The inclusion of meat. You don’t necessarily have to use meat to make a meal gourmet, but if you’re keen to keep animal products in your diet, there are ways to get this expensive item for less. For one thing, knowing the cost (and possible usage) of different cuts can help to reduce your expenditures. If you want to cook a steak, it doesn’t have to be filet mignon or New York strip steak (both pretty pricey). By purchasing a blade steak, which is the tender portion of the chuck, you’ll have to cut out the string of cartilage in the center, but you’ll get a delicious steak for about half the price of its more expensive counterparts. You can also find out what day deliveries are made to the market so that you can take advantage of discounts on previous supply the day before deliveries.
Fruits and veggies. One hallmark of gourmet meals is the fact that they often include fresh ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, fresh produce is often more expensive than frozen or canned. Luckily, the latter two options tend to contain just as many nutrients as the fresh variety, so you can easily sub them in at less cost. Although canned produce is often packed with preservatives you might want to avoid, frozen fruits and veggies are just as good as fresh and they’ll provide the color and nutrition that can make any meal appear gourmet.
Portion size. The nice thing about making a gourmet meal as opposed to regular cooking is that the portion sizes are generally smaller. It’s not about how much you can eat, but rather the quality of the food on the plate. So if you’re feeding others and you want to impress, at least you won’t have to provide a plateful for everyone.
Getting saucy. One item that adds a lot of value to your meal is the sauce. And with all the information available on the internet, you don’t have to join a culinary school to learn to make fantastic dressings for your favorite dishes and chicken recipes. Plus, you can start with a basic tomato or white sauce and spice it up with your own additives in order to make it something special.
Making the simple into gourmet. Believe it or not, even macaroni and cheese can be made gourmet with a little extra effort. Instead of sprinkling shredded cheese on your pasta, make a white sauce (all you need is butter, milk, and flour for a basic white), then add the cheese until melted for a creamy, dreamy sauce. Bake your casserole and when you serve it up, sprinkle on a bit of paprika and add a parsley garnish. With a few extra touches, any meal can be made gourmet with little additional cost!
Kyle Simpson writes for MomsWhoThink where you can find amazing recipes, informative parenting articles, diet and nutrition advice, and much more.