The key to cheap gourmet recipes and shopping is to identify what you buy on a regular basis, then buy that when it is on sale. If you have read the about us page on this site you know that I advocate buying what is on sale. What happens is that food is most on sale when it is at its prime. When broccoli is cheapest is also when it is at the height of flavor. Each locality has a “broccoli season”.
This is a little confusing because much of the produce is imported from another part of the country or even from some other country. But the principle is still the same. Broccoli is best when it is cheapest. When I say broccoli, I am using that as an example of any produce.
I believe that this is a strong part of what in nutrition circles is called the “French Paradox”. There has been a great deal of speculation about why the French have a heart attack rate that is much lower than Americans have, in spite of the fact that their fat intake is higher. The speculation has been that they drink red wine with resveratrol or other particulars of their diet. Some of those speculations may have some truth. But I believe that the biggest factor is that the French shop for produce more frequently and with greater attention to produce in their diets.
They also eat more aged cheeses. Fresh produce + aged cheeses + resveratrol = better health. That is the formula for the “French Paradox”.
The French eat far fewer processed foods. They cook from scratch. They buy fresh. They drink a lot of wine. They believe in eating as a sacred social event.
Although they believe in eating very lean meat, they eat a lot of fat from other sources like butter and oil. But they have much lower heart disease.
Shopping for meat is a little different. Meat has a seasonality, but it is much different from produce. Meat is generally cheapest in the fall and most expensive in the spring. However there are two additional factors that effect meat. One is the “loss leader” concept. Grocery stores sometimes put meat on sale below their own cost. The thinking is that they will try to attract customers into their store for a particular kind of meat and then sell them the accompanying foods at a profit.
If you want to make cheap gourmet recipes for yourself, your family and guests, take advantage of this tactic. Know what the prices are for the cuts that you use and buy when they are on sale. More about this on blog posts.
The second is holiday shopping. Stores put on sale foods that are typical for a holiday to attract their customers to buy from that store. The holidays that this most typically happens are Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day. There are minor holidays like Valentines Day and others that also attract some attention.
Being prepared for these events is key. For instance, you can buy turkeys for $5 each around Thanksgiving and Christmas and freeze them. This is going to be the cheapest meat you will ever buy. You have to be prepared because these bargains typically don’t happen the week of the holiday. They happen one or two weeks before.
So what I do is make a mental list of the kinds of things that I buy and I look for those things on sale. For instance, I buy pork roast at my local market when it is on sale for $.99/lb. The type I buy is called “Boston Butt”. It actually has nothing to do with “butt”, it is the front shoulder. This is typically available at my market in approximately 36 lb. cryovac packs. That is a lot of meat for a single guy with no one else to feed.
What I do is to cut some of it up into “chops” and freeze some of them, cut some of it up into roasts of a convenient size and freeze most of them that way.
Then I use the chops for typical meals, or I cut them up for stir fry. The roasts I use to cook like a typical roast (cooking it from frozen) and sometimes I just put the roast in a crock pot and make pulled pork from it.
So each of these “treatments” yields dozens of ways of making cheap gourmet recipes with little effort. That is how you get to be a cheap and lazy gourmet cook.
This is just an example. The same can be said of each cut of meat. For example, I buy more bone in white meat, than skinless boneless white meat and I know the rick bottom prices of each. I don’t buy ribs because they seem to me to be overpriced and not my favorites. I buy a lot of hamburger and sometimes I buy the premium cuts of beef (t-bone, ribeye, new york cut) but I don’t buy sirloin, round steak and so on.
You decide your favorites and then keep track of the prices and buy when they are on sale. If lamb is one of your favorites know that it is cheapest around easter and generally in the fall around October 15th. Buy it when it is on sale and find your favorite “cheap gourmet recipes”.
The savings from this style of buying is huge. A friend of mine was on food stamps and was having trouble making ends meet. I showed her how to do this and she then could eat the cheap and lazy gourmet way.