Fantastic homemade food doesn't have to be costly. These tips will help you cook like a pro without breaking your bank account.
Often, the best advice for cooking at home comes from those who do it for a living. Pippa Calland, a 2008 winner on the Food Network chef competition show “Chopped,” runs Mid St8 Taco at the West Shore Farmers Market in Lemoyne, Pennsylvania.
She shared with MONEY associate editor Susie Poppick some of her favorite ideas for saving a few bucks—while still turning out a delicious home-cooked meal.
1. Learn “forgiving” techniques. Pot roasts and other braises give you room for error, and you can use less expensive meat cuts. Bone-in chuck roast is $7 a pound, vs. boneless rib eye at $13.
2. Keep a sharp knife. Good knives reduce waste when you trim fat. The best tool is a simple sharpening stone (about $40); keep the blade at a 20-degree angle.
3. Plan ahead. A few days before you plan on cooking, write out a list of ingredients so when you go to the store you buy only the amount of each item you will actually need. Cooking from home saves you money only if you use your purchases completely. (And everyone knows how easy it is to get carried away at the grocery store.)
4. Work with whole spices. Ground spices are quicker to go bad. It’s easy to toast and grind spices yourself—you’ll need a cheap coffee grinder. Using coarse salt instead of salt from a shaker allows you to season more accurately.
5. Pre-heat pans. Always let that cast-iron skillet heat up before you put fat in the pan. You’ll be able to use less butter or oil to create a nonstick surface, and the food you cook will absorb less of it.
6. Skip store dressings. They cost $3 to $5 a bottle, and who knows what’s in them? Easy recipe: one tablespoon of olive oil, juice from half a lemon, salt, and pepper. Toss with cherry tomatoes and arugula.
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