In my last blog post I touched on the subject of not being able to afford to eat high quality foods is a reason a lot of us may choose to downgrade our shopping choices. I gave a sort of woo woo weirdo way of looking at money differently and talked about asking ourselves different questions. Let’s face it, I got a little Tony Robbins or Eckhart Tolle crazy. But, it is fun to play with different ideas.
Today, I want to get right into just a few tips on how I save money at the store but keep the same quality of real food I like to feed my girls. I learned most of these tips for cutting costs in the kitchen by working for very “frugal” chefs and by hanging around with real farmers.
Also, I will have a free video at the end to show you exactly what to do so be sure to click on that.
Tip #1 – Buy less popular cuts of meat
We know a pork tenderloin is really easy to cook. Just season, brown in a pan, few minutes in the oven and done. But for 1/3 of the cost I can buy some boneless country pork ribs, braise them, and make several meals with the finished product. The cooking time is longer but it is mostly unattended so actual cooking time is the same. You can use this same technique with other meats too. Chicken thighs instead of breasts, beef brisket instead of beef filet, lamb shoulder instead of rack or chops, and on and on. Just check the price per pound and be amazed how much difference there is in the different cuts.
Tip #2 – Portion control
When I worked in restaurants we always cut 8 oz portions of fish per customer. This was the standard. An 8 oz piece of good salmon at the fish market will run you about $12.00. So, $36 plus dollars for my girls and I to have dinner. No way! Instead of buying cheaper farm-raised salmon I just use some portion control. I get 8-10 oz for all of us. Then, I add more vegetables, pasta, and such so we still have plenty to eat. The high cost protein does not have to be the biggest thing on the plate anymore.
Tip #3 – Use everything
This is a tip I learned from hanging out with real farmers. They make there living on getting the most out of the food they produce. From using almost every inch of a pig or lamb to finding creative uses for celery leaves, beet greens, potato skins, carrot tops, apple cores, and pretty much anything. Re-think what you may have put in the trash or compost and see if there is a way to use it some how. A quick google or youtube search will get you ideas on pretty much anything. My tip – cook down some apple cores with honey, touch of water and cinnamon. Strain and enjoy a tasty syrup for pancakes or ice cream. Get creative with your trash!
Tip #4 – Sell it twice (or three times)
Everything you cook think about how the leftovers can be used for another meal. Leftover cooked pasta can be frozen and used in another dish. Leftover salmon can be tossed with mayo and rolled in a crepe for a quick school lunch. I could write a whole book on using leftovers. (And I am.) I also, think ahead and purchase something I know can be 2-3 future meals.
A whole chicken is a perfect example of this.
Using tip #1, a whole chicken will be half the price of boneless skinless chicken breasts. Using tip #2, we don’t need to eat the whole chicken at one meal. It can be many meals. Using tip #3, the wings can be an appetizer, the carcass can be soup, the fat can be rendered and used instead of expensive olive oil, the liver can be pureed and added to tomato sauce, and the meat, of course, can be used a thousand ways.
That leaves tip #4. Whether you roast a chicken whole or butcher a whole chicken and use all the parts it can become many meals. Shred the thigh meat and make tacos, add to a stir-fry, make a sandwich, add to salads, and so much more. I could go on and on. (And I will in my book.)
I really hope this helps. If you hang around farmers and chefs enough you will glean all sorts of tips on how to get the best value out of everything that comes into the kitchen. I have dried tomato skins as garnishes, made a powder out of celery leaves, and all sorts of crazy fun stuff by working for some of the cheapest chefs in the business….
So, try it for a couple weeks. Instead of compromising and buying less quality meats and produce. Just buy less of the good stuff, use new cooking techniques, and don’t waste anything. It is fun if you get into it.
Here is a quick video on how to de-bone a whole chicken. Butchering a whole chicken just takes a little practice and then you will be breaking them down with your eyes closed like some of the best prep cooks in the business.