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How to Cook Gourmet Food on an Everyday Budget

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 11 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Gourmet Food Gourmet Ingredients Budget

We don’t all have a fortune to spend on food, even if most of us have the kind of palates that could easily live on gourmet food, day in day out, but it may be easier than you think to eat like a gourmet without increasing your food expenditure. Some simple rules will help you get the best from your budget.

How To Budget To Eat Like A Gourmet

Plan your meals for a week – this allows you to ensure that you can use up leftovers properly eg if you have roast beef one night, you eat cottage pie the next. If you don’t waste food and throw it away, you end up with more budget to spend on rare and expensive ingredients that really make a difference to your cooking. You can also use this planning to make sure that you plan to cook a completely new meal every week; either one that you saw on TV or have garnered from a magazine or cookbook – making sure that you expand your cooking repertoire like this is the best way to become a gourmet cook.

Buy seasonal food – ingredients in season will always be cheaper than those that are out of season. Strawberries cost four times as much in January as the do in June! This also makes your meals better, because seasonal food is usually fresher, in better condition and more locally grown than unseasonable food. Even better, try to find local pick your own farms for fruit and vegetables, or fishing lakes where you can catch fresh produce – both gourmet ingredients and a day out!

Explore online gourmet or speciality food shops as well as those local to you - often you can place a bulk order for things that you use a lot of, and save money on postage that way. Good examples of this kind of shopping would be to buy tea and coffee from specialist suppliers when it is cheap and store it carefully at home. Spices, cake decorations, preserving ingredients, wine and exotic foods from overseas cuisines can often be found easily and much more cheaply this way. Also check out what your local ethnic stores provide – cuisines that use a lot of nuts etc often have big bulk bags of usually expensive ingredients like cashews and pistachios at very much less than supermarket prices.

What Is Gourmet Food?

What counts as a gourmet food is open to question. Basically a definition could be that gourmet foods are naturally occurring or created foods that have the finest taste, texture and odour of all foods in their category – while this means that many will also be wholesome, additive free and healthy, it isn’t necessarily the case – some foods that are classed as gourmet can be very unhealthy if eaten in quantity or too regularly.

Some examples of gourmet ingredients: are maple syrup and organic honey for sweetening, organic spices and herbs for flavouring, especially rare ones that are complex to harvest such as saffron, aged and flavoured vinegars, especially balsamic and infused ones, virgin cold-pressed olive oil and nut oils, as well as foods such as smoked salmon, foie gras, mushrooms (especially the rarest mushrooms, called truffles), Parma ham, regional mustards and conserves like quince jelly, rare cheeses and hand-made chocolates. These ingredients and foods have special qualities, they flavours will tend to be more pronounced and also more complex, they will tend to be fresher if they are fresh foods, or older and better aged if they are ‘vintage’ foods – because whether they are fresh or preserved, the smaller volume which is produced, the care with which it is produced and the extra effort taken to ensure it is delivered in good condition means that such foods are always perfect.

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