Hard up for cash, but you still want to eat like a king? Need to impress your date, but financial aid hasn't come in yet? No need to fear - the word "gourmet" refers to taste, not cost. Here are a few tips on saving money while still eating real food.
Maximize meat surface area.
Instead of eating large chunks of meat, get it ground or slice it thin. More surface area equals faster cooking, better flavor, more mouthfuls and bigger-looking portions. You'll eat less meat, but it'll feel like more.
Stop eating beef.
Beef is one of the most expensive meats and the least healthy in terms of consumption and production. Stick with chicken and pork, which are leaner, cheaper and less taxing on the environment.
There's a good chance someone will call you "pretentious," but take a few extra minutes to focus on food presentation. If it looks like something from the Food Network, it will satisfy your eyes, which - believe it or not - can actually help satisfy your belly. You'll care more, eat slower, eat less and save money.
Eat seasonal produce.
This keeps variety in your diet, as you rotate what you eat throughout the year.
Buy in bulk.
Chicken breasts on sale this week? Buy 10. Most meats and vegetables are easy to freeze, and, in many cases, taste just as good coming out of the freezer as they do going in.
Carb it up.
Carbs are the easiest and cheapest source of energy. If your diet allows for it, plate every meal with a big serving of rice, pasta, noodles or bread, then watch the savings add up. Yes, ramen counts as a carb. No, it doesn't count as a meal.
Learn to cook.
Want to save the most money? Make your own food. The more you get your head in your food, the better off you'll be. Devote yourself to cooking for a month, and I guarantee you'll be spending less and eating better than you were 30 days prior.
Here's an easy recipe to get you started.
Stuffed Peppers for Two
2 green bell peppers
5oz long pasta
8-10oz can tomato/pasta sauce
½ cup mozzarella cheese
¼ lb pan sausage
3 cloves garlic
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 diced tomato
1 cup chopped spinach
½ cup of white wine or beer
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup cooked rice
salt/pepper to taste
Fry the sausage in a pan at medium heat until brown. Put the sausage in a mixing bowl without draining your pan. Use the grease to fry the garlic and onion until it begins to sweat. Then, add half the tomato and all the spinach, and fry until the spinach is just wilted. Add the wine, and cook for two minutes longer. Add to the mixing bowl, and mix the remaining stuffing ingredients until evenly distributed.
Cut the bell peppers in half, top to bottom, and remove the stems and white parts on the inside. Lightly pack the stuffing into them, and set in an oiled 9-inch baking pan. Pour the tomato sauce over them and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top of each pepper and bake 15 more minutes. Serve over pasta.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Cost: $6 ($10 if you want to polish off the rest of that wine)