By: Renata Joanne
Just because you're on a budget doesn't mean that you have to stick with fast food and microwaved meals. Not only is it unhealthy, but it's also not sustainable in the long run. Fortunately, it's possible to make your food taste more expensive with a few tricks. In fact, you can even concoct gourmet-style dishes even on a shoestring budget. Here are some tips on how to prepare gourmet meals without hurting your wallet:
Use fresh ingredients
Many seem to be under the impression that fresh food is expensive. It certainly can be, that's for sure, but eating fresh and healthy is cheaper than you think. It all boils down to shopping smart and planning your meals carefully. When you've decided on what to cook, you can head to local farmer's markets for fresh produce and buy expensive ingredients like cheese and prosciutto in small quantities at delis. Fresh products usually spoil faster, so you can avoid wasting precious ingredients by buying only what you need. After all, gourmet food usually comes in tiny portions anyway, so you can purchase small amounts of ingredients and sprucing up your meals without making much of a dent in your checking account.
Maximize your existing kitchen equipment
Fancy food doesn't require fancy equipment. And while you may be used to your existing kitchen tools, they still have more potential than you probably give them credit for. Even the humble rice cooker can make gourmet-style meals when used correctly. This is because today's small rice cookers don't just fit snugly on your kitchen counter, but can also be used to create a variety of ingredients – not just rice! With today's cookers being packed with state-of-the-art tech, you can use it to make all sorts of gourmet-style meals, like risotto, fall-off-the-bone ribs, jambalaya, and so much more.
Improve your presentation skills
You know how food can seem extra palatable just because they look good? There's a reason why chefs spend time perfecting the presentation of the dishes they cook. Part of the gourmet food experience is elevated presentation. If you want your dish to seems as though it came from a Michelin-starred restaurant, spend a few moments arranging the food on the plate or do things like adding a sprig of parsley as a garnish to make it extra special. You can use inexpensive but elegant dinnerware, too. But whatever you do, be sure that the finished product strikes a balance between color, texture, and flavors. A balance of color in a meal not only looks good but ensures that there's a balance of nutrients, too.
Get creative with seasoning
Another inexpensive way of adding a dash of individuality and style to your meals is to get creative with herbs and spices. They deliver a delightful array of fragrances and flavors, further elevating your dishes. But in doing so, it's important to strike a balance so as not to overwhelm your palate. If you don't know how to do that just yet, you can always rely on ready-made seasoning powder to top off your food, as they offer the perfect mix of spices. This can be a more cost-efficient option, rather than buying each spice individually. They can be added to a variety of dishes, too, so you can experiment with different flavor combinations.
Expand your cooking skillset
Perhaps the most essential part of making gourmet meals is your cooking skills. Regardless of your budget, you won't go with far as the dishes you cook if you're not confident in the kitchen. Make it a point to grow your culinary skills — learn how to wield a knife, sauté like a pro, make pasta from scratch, and more. When you're skilled in cooking, you'll be able to make the most out of ingredients and get extra creative with your entrees.
Article authored by Renata Joanne
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