Guiltless Gourmet: Save Money, Savor Flavor

Erin Coopey By Erin Coopey 08.22.09
Guiltless Gourmet: Save Money, Savor Flavor
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Looking for ways to stretch your food budget without compromising quality?  Here are a few simple suggestions for you to try.


"The average price of homemade vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil is about $.35 an ounce. "

Buy Whole Chickens

There is a saying in the restaurant industry that you can make a $100 on one chicken.  You won’t get that kind of return at home but you will be amazed what you can get from one chicken.  If you buy chicken whole not only will you save money but you can stretch one chicken into three meals for four people. 


You will need to cut the chicken up yourself.  First, remove the breasts by trimming carefully along the ribs.  You can use these to make a stir-fry or cube them and skewer with fresh vegetables for kabobs.  Next, remove the thighs and legs. Bone them and use the dark meat for a delicious simmered Thai or Indian Curry.  If you like chicken wings as a snack you can freeze them until you have enough for an appetizer later.  Finally, use the carcass to make stock for soup or risotto. 


You’ve just gotten three meals and a snack from one chicken!




Make Your Own Salad Dressing

Making your own salad dressing is a simple way to give your family fresh, preservative-free flavor while saving money.  The average price of homemade vinaigrette made from extra virgin olive oil is about $.35 an ounce. 


Simply mix 1 part vinegar to 3 parts olive oil, add a little chopped shallot, fresh minced herbs like basil or parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.  If you want a dressing that doesn’t separate as quickly, mix in a little Dijon mustard. 


Your homemade vinaigrette will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator.  On day 5 use it to marinate chicken breasts for tasty kabobs.



Plant an Herb Garden

I love fresh herbs but I cringe each time I purchase a tiny package of fresh basil leaves for $2.50 to $2.99.  Still, when tomatoes are in season I just can’t resist.  I probably purchase fresh basil a minimum of 6 times over the summer.  I also use a lot of cilantro and fresh parsley.  When you add up the cost of a few fresh herbs, you will quickly see the benefit of growing your own. 


You don’t need a garden to benefit from growing fresh herbs; all you need is a sunny window sill.  Stop by your local nursery or hardware store and pick up a rectangular planter, some organic potting soil and a few seeds or seedlings and you’ll have fresh herbs in no time.  Don’t be afraid to snip off what you need, the more you snip the more they grow.


Imagine sitting down to dinner of chicken kabobs marinated in homemade salad dressing using herbs you’ve grown yourself.


Do you have creative ways to save money while serving your family high-quality foods? Join the Foodie's discussion on economical recipes!




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  • momagarry By momagarry

    I do all of this and it does save money.

  • MyBloggyMind By MyBloggyMind

    I want to start gardening. Especially, to save money. The tomatoes and spinach are our biggest expenses. Not only is making your own salad dressing more cost effective, but it is sooooo much healthier. Great article.

  • pjkrotz By pjkrotz

    Good tips!

  • groovitha By groovitha

    We buy chicken from a friend who farms them. Every year he slaughters and cleans quite a few to sell. We buy 5 or 6 and keep them in the freezer. Not only are they much meatier than the ones I find at the store, but I know where they are from and I save money that way too!

  • cleanliving By cleanliving

    Wow, I am doing all three of the above tips already - did not know I was a Guiltless Gourmet!

  • jonibean By jonibean

    Great article- Fortunately for me, I do have a rotisserie - Ronco is the best one I've tried. Get many meals out of one oven stuffer that I get on sale. Thanks erincoop for the stock comments.

  • ChefErin By ChefErin

    Great comments! Don't be afraid to try making your own stock . Once you've tried making it from the leftover chicken bones (roasted or not) you'll want to do it again and again. The flavor is so much richer than canned broth and contains virtually no sodium. Simply place the bones and scraps in a good-sized sauce pan,cover with cold water, add a handful of diced onion, 1/2 a handful of diced carrot, 1/2 a handful of diced celery, a bay leaf, 3 peppercorns, a pinch of thyme and a parsley stem. Simmer 4 to 6 hours and strain. Use within 7 days or freeze for later.

  • mselayne By mselayne

    Samiam , I agree with you ; one main meat for more then one meal is so the way to go!!! Who goes wrong with chicken salad (smile). And of course Nanny , I use the remaining bones for stock ..there's nothing finer!

  • gardengirl10 By gardengirl10

    Michelle, before you go out and buy a rotisserie that you probably don't have room for try McCormick Rotisserie Chicken Seasoning. It is so good I tell everyone once you have tried it you will always have it in your house.

  • MrsMichelle By MrsMichelle

    Ahhh -- I love the idea of using the old marinade for chicken marinade. Brilliant! I learned how to make that vinaigrette (with the dijon) as a kid at French camp, and I still love it! My other favorite -- because I'm just not the hugest fan of cutting up chickens -- is to buy the rotisserie chicken at my local produce market ($3.99 on sale or $4.99 regularly) and using that -- for hot sandwiches with the fresh, hot meat, for chicken salad with day one leftovers, and for chicken noodle soup (made with stock I make from the leftover carcass) for he last of the chicken. Yum! Then again, I suppose at some point I need to get over my chicken issues and buy my own rotisserie to make them... I'm sure it's cheaper to do it with my own whole chicken!

  • marylynn76 By marylynn76

    Great tips! I have seen whole chickens for next to nothing compared to buying cut up chicken. I already make my own salad dressings and find that they have more flavor than the ones that I could buy at the store, I love the idea of growning my own herbs.

  • lovestoread By lovestoread

    love the ideas, my family too likes rotisserie chicken & you can get them pretty cheap if you shop late (usally half price) in the deli department (while there look for other discounted items too you will be suprised what goes on sale stores try to move things close to the date on their packages but thing is this is not the use by date but the sale by date so take it home repackage into freezer type containers & you have high end products for less than generic prices

  • countrycouponclipper By countrycouponclipper

    I love fresh herbs and it taste better and its cheaper you can cook more gourmet and still be on budget. I love the salad dressing recipe.

  • Nanny2335 By Nanny2335

    Fresh herbs are easy to grow, and great for sharing with your fiends! I always buy whole chickens and cut them up my self. Not only do I sav money, I also freeze the carcuses and use them to make stock.

  • mardeb By mardeb

    Whole baked chicken is one of my family's favorites. We've been trying to cut calories and fat so yesterday I removed the skin before baking the chicken; just a spritz of Pam, a sprinkling of spices and roasting in a covered pan made a moist, lower-fat version of this favorite.

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