If you want to cook gourmet but are on a budget and don't want to be eating rice and beans every day, I have a few tips for you.
I have taken Dave Ramseys Financial Peace University and learned a lot from the class but there was one thing that didn't sit well with me. The rice and beans statement. If you have taken the class then you very well know that Dave suggests living on rice and Beans while you pay off your debt. Well, maybe he didn't mean it literally, but I think a lot of people may think that you have to go that route to stay on track. There are ways you can eat well, even eat gourmet if you are trying to save money.
Shop at Asian stores
I love Asian stores! There's no real way to find out about these place because they don't really advertise. Most of the time, you just have to keep your eyes open and know your city. You can probably google "asian grocery" and your zip code to see where they are in your area. I usually just swing by one if I see one while I'm driving and have time to check it out.
What can you get from Asian stores? Lots of stuff, but mainly check out the great prices on produce. I consistently get great prices on lemons, lime, cabbage, tomatoes, avocados, melons and leafy greens. Other than that, proceed with caution. You wont be able to tell what 80% of the other stuff in the store is much less know how to use it.
Shop at your local grocery store when they have good sales
Harris Teeter, Safeway, Giant etc. ocassionally have that one item on sale that is just too good a deal to pass up. One local store had whole chickens on sale for .68/lb. I bought 8 chickens that day since the limit was 4 per person. Not only did I have enough chicken for the month and beyond but I was able to make a meal for a friend who was recouperating from surgery.
Be careful with coupons
I used to do the coupon thing but it got a little too crazy for me so I stopped. I wound up buying things that I wouldnt normally buy just because it was free or really cheap. Then somebody strarted eating uo all my good deals with reckless abandon just beacause thay wer there. If you do use coupons and stock up on multiples of one item, make sure your family has self control. It;s not a good deal if you intend on something to last a couple of weeks and its gone in a couple of days.
Find a Bakery outlet
You can find bread that normally costs 4-5 a loaf for 1.25 a loaf. And its not expired! If you get lucky, you may find english muffins, pita bread, 7 grain bread, assorted bagels and donuts and pastries at a fraction of the cost.
Bake your own bread|Cook Gourmet Bread
There are a few websites out there that do the math for you when it comes to making vs buying stuff. I personally don't make bread from scratch because I'm trying to save money. I do it because I like it. It's become my new favorite hobby. Here is the book that got me started baking my own bread. If you are doing cost comparisons, most people add in the cost of their time. If you make six figures a year, it doesn't make sense to bake from scratch sole for money saving purposes. Other people compare it to buying a $7 artisan loaf. Well I'm not gonna buy $7 bread anyway so that comparison doesn't work for me. Its not realistic. Bottom line is even if my store had sandwich bread on sale for 50 cents a loaf, I still wouldn't buy it. Once you've made your own bread, its hard to go back. PS I draw the line at making tortillas--too labor intensive for me.
Make your own mixes from Scratch
Do you like to eat pancakes, cornbread and hot chocolate? These are normally things that I buy in mix form or in a box. You can actually make these things from scratch and you may already have some of the itams in your pantry. Here is the book I reccomend for making your own mixes. If you don't need all the pictures, here is a great website I found for making different mixes at home. Even if you aren't on a budget making your own mixes helps eliminate some preservatives from your diet.
Have a friend take you to costco or another warehouse club
If you don't want to spend 50 or 100 on a yearly membership to your warehouse club, you can ask to tag along with a friend. Bring your cash so you can reimburse your friend any items you purchase. You can also get a one day pass at most of the major warehouse clubs for 5. If you go and realize they don't carry the stuff you need and use on a regular basis, then you wont be out too much money.
Eat a little less meat
According to the government were only supposed to be eating 2oz of meat per day anyway. I know I don't do that, but it may be a good idea to put less of a focus on the amount of meat you eat, especially when you are trying to save. Don't try to do this overnight, just gradually reduce your meat portion little by little and maybe participate in meatless Mondays.
Calculate the cost per pound on everything
If shrimp is on sale for $5 when its usually $10 is that a good deal? Not if you are trying to save money. The barrier I set for myself at this point is not to pay more than $2 per pound for anything. That may sound restrictive, but even with that as my limit, I'm still able to buy exotic vegetables, fresh fruit and veggies as well as fish.
Grow fresh herbs if you can
This is the biggest ripoff in the grocery store! Some places want $3 for a tiny pack of herbs, and sometimes I buy it but the whole time I know I can spend that amount one time and fresh herbs forever if I grow them myself. Unfortunately I don't have a green thumb but I do plan on trying to grow herbs again soon.
Learn to cook at home
This is the one thing that can save you the most money and calories. If you really can't cook get a childrens cook book and go through that. Learn to cook by recipes but also learn technique.