Monday, August 31, 2009

Guiltess Gourmet - Save Money, Savor Flavor

Originally posted on August 22, 2009

Looking for ways to stretch your food budget without compromising quality? Here are a few simple suggestions for you to try.

Buy whole chickens
There is a saying in the restaurant industry that you can make a $100 on one chicken. You won’t get that kind of return at home but you will be amazed what you can get from one chicken. If you buy chicken whole not only will you save money but you can stretch one chicken into three meals for four people.

You will need to cut the chicken up yourself. First, remove the breasts by trimming carefully along the ribs. You can use these to make a stir-fry or cube them and skewer with fresh vegetables for kabobs. Next, remove the thighs and legs. Bone them and use the dark meat for a delicious simmered Thai or Indian Curry. If you like chicken wings as a snack you can freeze them until you have enough for an appetizer later. Finally, use the carcass to make stock for soup or risotto.

You’ve just gotten three meals and a snack from one chicken!

Make your own salad dressing
Making your own salad dressing is a simple way to give your family fresh, preservative-free flavor while saving money. The average price of homemade vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil is about $.35 an ounce.

Simply mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, add a little chopped shallot, fresh minced herbs like basil or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. If you want a dressing that doesn’t separate as quickly, mix in a little Dijon mustard.

Your homemade vinaigrette will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. On day 5 use it to marinate chicken breasts for tasty kabobs.

Plant an herb garden
I love fresh herbs but I cringe each time I purchase a tiny package of fresh basil leaves for $2.50 to $2.99. Still, when tomatoes are in season I just can’t resist. I probably purchase fresh basil a minimum of 6 times over the summer. I also use a lot of cilantro and fresh parsley. When you add up the cost of a few fresh herbs, you will quickly see the benefit of growing your own.

You don’t need a garden to benefit from growing fresh herbs; all you need is a sunny window sill. Stop by your local nursery or hardware store and pick up a rectangular planter, some organic potting soil and a few seeds or seedlings and you’ll have fresh herbs in no time. Don’t be afraid to snip off what you need, the more you snip the more they grow.

Imagine sitting down to dinner of chicken kabobs marinated in homemade salad dressing using herbs you’ve grown yourself.

Do you have creative ways to save money while serving your family high-quality foods?