Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bargain Bites: The Open Inning

Why save money with your meals?

During a time when people need to budget the most, too often we cut back on our dietary needs. We skip meals to work more and replace expensive costs with cheap snacks, we cook quick pre-made lunches and dinners to save time, and we send kids off with bagged deals to try cut back on lunch money and sneak that an extra minute of sleep. This is not the only solution, nor is it the best savings plan. I know all too well the struggle of working 80 hours a week to make rent and pay off bills, only hoping that the grocery list will not top off the budget—and we all have seen prices raise over the months, making food shopping as tedious as the rest. We go to superstores hungry and leave broke, only to realize half of the things needed we forgotten and snacks and unhealthy, pricey choices were made instead. This blogspot has been formatted to help save money at meal time without losing the gourmet tastes we all too often crave!

The Story, Reasoning, and Advice:

While many college students sweat away the days typing, studying, going (or skipping) class, they often forget meal time. Sure, cafeteria eating can be great (for those naïve freshmen), but sooner or later students wonder if they will ever have enough money to cook a wholesome meal without going broke! Well, having lived on campus for 4 years, then deciding to venture to a new school many miles away, all the while tackling the obvious (that is loan payments, credit debt, and in addition spending cash on good food and drinks) I found myself cooking without calling the family to trade my soul for money. Instead of fried, greasy, mysterious everything from the local drive-through, I started creating recipes that, one week at a time, I prepared with a budget no more than $40-60 a week with plenty to share with roommates, family, and friends!

Not only are these recipes and meal ideas great for students, but also families and single parents who, like many fellow Americans, have trouble saving money while everything seems to cost more and more. In a time of pressed economics and job losses are on the rise, so many people, myself included, have lost their ability to eat good, hearty meals due to cuts in labor and pay.

I simply wanted to share my passion with those who like to eat but can't afford to do so elaborately (or so they think). I started this blog, this cookbook, this path beacuse it is what I am good at - what I love to do. Please, share your opinions, receipes, tips, tricks, or experiences with posted recipes so everyone can get the best possible for their bucks! Follow along, share the link, or just sit back and these tips and recipes for yourself! I just want to start sharing my passion with others, and so please indulge yourself and have fun in the kitchen without breaking the bank!!

So here we struggle with the worldly stock changes while many people, including families and students, suffer. It does not have to be said that a cheap pizza and a large order of fries should feed the family. It is not true that there is no hope for many delicious and budget friendly meals. Indulgence and happiness go together, but they do not require millions of dollars and large spend-thrift budgets. Hence, I have focused on preparing this recipe book for not just those that have limited budgets, but those who seek success. Not just success financially, as saving money is a major factor for this book, but also a success during meal time and family time. Friends and students can share these recipes without paying for the expenses of other recipe books and famous “celebrity” sponsored cookbooks. Instead, this book is a mission to save money and promote kitchen experience and creativity

How’s it possible to cook so much without the cash? First off, many of these recipes are available for those who enjoy cooking; who enjoy making recipes fit their budget and picky eating habits! And because budgets guide the way we act, more so or less, I created this book to open the doors to great, affordable, and impressively delicious food.

With that in mind, there are a few lessons to cover first. Know that it is important to stock the kitchen with various spices and cookware that too can be purchased on a budget. Sure, by substituting fresh herbs and fancy garnishes with dried spices and a bit of creative imagination, any meal can be converted without losing flavor. And yes, even after the days of debt, these recipes can be used when fresher, more expensive ingredients can be purchased!

The trick? Check out local superstores and dollar marts —with a list of things needed in mind not a stomach for things wanted—to scope out dried spice collections and dishware. Many a time it is easy to eye up spices that cost between 50 cents to a dollar. So, in stocking the kitchen with as many of these as possible, a step that will create meal time heavenly and enjoyable, not to say healthy and appealing, students and families can once again enjoy the heart of soulfood cooking and comfort food feasting without sacrificing their budgets!

Forget the canned meals and feasts of chips, starches, and mysterious meat products. Those are packed with too many preservatives and chemicals even science majors and rocket scientists are stumped! Instead, take an hour from your busy schedule and relax in the kitchen. Picture yourself sitting down to a delicious oven baked herb encrusted chicken with a side of mashed potatoes and skillet corn, enough for at least 2-3 people, all for a grand total of $10! Hello, it would cost that if not more for a quick fix at a terribly unhealthy drive thru. Why waste your cholesterol, health, and change on something less appealing when you have the means to make a home-style restaurant quality meal? You got me stumped!

Simple pantry suggestions include a variety of dried spices (again just buy ‘em all), along with the basics-- potatoes, onions, salt, pepper, mustard, flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, corn meal… basically items that can last a while without rotting or spoiling quickly. For the meats and fresh ingredients, check those same superstores and discount food marts for ground meats, whole chickens (the ones labeled “great for frying” definitely are worth it as they cost less than $5, are great for leftovers, and feed several friends!), and skim through the discounted meats whose “sell by date” is nearing in the next 4 days. Basically, ignore mom and dad saying it’s unsafe to buy fresh foods on sale, because the freezer is wonderful, and eating good is important! Heck, you could get lucky and score some T-bone or Rib-Eye steaks at half the cost, cook a mean protein packed meal, and boast to all your friends about your dinner while they cram fries and Ramen Noodles into their faces. It is never too late to start spoiling yourself, and practicing in the kitchen can give your eating habits and cooking skills a boost! And we all know that cooking a great meal is a great way to impress even the most difficult of friends! (Serious side advice about those discount shelves, just for the record-- do not go buying expired meats and dairy; listen to the folks on that one! Unless stomach cramps are on your top ten list of “Cool things to do before I go to sleep” please use your head before stocking the cooler with spoiled goods!)

One last note about these recipes: While many budgets differ, and some people splurge more so than others, each recipe is adjustable. There are meal tips, ideas, alteration advice, and even top shelf ideas to enhance a recipe that may be used to impress someone close to you. There are no boundaries in the kitchen. Know that. Every spice can be changed, herbs can be used dried or if budget allows, fresh, and meats can be of higher grades and cuts depending on how the cook wants it and the shopper can afford it. Even I change my recipes on a daily basis. These are guidelines to help people learn to budget their meals to help reduce their food costs. I only want to help increase the joy of cooking and the challenge of sticking to a certain budget.

In short, this Blog/cookbook is not just designed for people who want to cook and can’t afford to. It’s a guide to cooking great for a lifetime. Start now and don’t lose your wallet contents over the matter! Eat good, study hard, and finish up school! If you aren’t a student, then eat up, work hard, pay your bills, and do so with a full, healthy stomach! Work towards saving for someday when you can spend more and worry less. Then you can afford to cook pricier recipes that require a few more dollars and those great exotic spices! Of course, don’t forget to save a little, and you can do so just by learning for these recipes. And hey, nothing beats tricking people into thinking you spent a ton of dough on a feast for friends when really you hardly spent what you would in half a tank of gas (or as we know how gas prices change so frequently the safe bet is a few gallons of gas)! With that, I say………..

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