Who doesn't love to eat exotic, delicious food at five-star dining establishments? Or yearn for the masterpieces created by top TV chefs? Have you ever marveled at friends who say they have nothing in the refrigerator and then whip up a five course meal? Unfortunately, most of us don't have the extra cash to buy the high-end ingredients used in cooking shows or the money needed to hire a personal chef - but there is hope. Being a budget gourmet doesn't mean sacrificing taste or style. It's about finding ways to create works of art in the kitchen without breaking the bank. Here are six tips that can be used to transform you into a budget gourmet.

1. Clip Those Coupons
My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. Every Sunday, they would check the newspaper and take out all the weekly sales flyers. My grandparents noted what was on sale at each store, and then spent the rest of the week going from grocer to grocer purchasing these sale items.

Most of us do not have the time or inclination to hop from grocer to grocer for one or two cheaply priced items. That said, recognizing a bargain when you see one is very advantageous for a budget gourmet. While you may not want to drive 10 miles to save a few cents on flour, traveling to purchase a ½ priced porterhouse steak might be worth your time. Buying expensive items on sale, even if you need to freeze them for a later date, will cut the cost of a gourmet meal tremendously. Similarly, clipping coupons can have a big impact on your food bill over time. Some stores now offer a savings pass, usually in the form of a key ring tag, that will automatically apply savings to any sale items you purchase.

2. Grow It Yourself
Growing your own produce at home can lead to great savings. During the growing season, a small garden plot or balcony garden can yield enough produce to pay for itself many times over. Best of all, the savings don't need to end when the harvest is complete. You can use the produce year-round by either freezing or canning unused vegetables and fruits.

Having an herb garden can also reduce the cost of a meal while adding wonderful flavors and aromas to your cooking. Planning your garden according to a cost-benefit analysis will make sure you get the most bang for your buck. If you're limited for space, you should grow something relatively costly rather than something cheap - garlic instead of potatoes.

3. Make Substitutions
Many gourmet meals require exotic ingredients that, while very chic, can be replaced by well-known ingredients without sacrificing flavor. These substitutes are cheaper and easier to acquire.

4. Shop At The Right Markets
Your choice of market can have a big impact on your bill. Farmer's markets are a great way to use local - and often organically grown - ingredients at a fraction of the price that a supermarket will charge. Many towns have their own farmer's market that sells fresh produce and meats at reasonable prices. There are also many ethnic markets that sell the same items as larger grocers, but at much lower prices.

Some areas even have terminal markets - wholesale markets where food arrives for distribution to restaurants and supermarkets. Small grocers go to these markets to purchase food and then re-sell it in their stores for a mark-up. Many of these terminal markets allow the public to purchase items as well, although there may be a minimum purchase size. Make sure to shop around, as not all markets are a bargain!

5. For Every Season, A Fruit And Veggie
Every fruit and vegetable has a particular growing season. These fruits and vegetables are obviously most abundant during their season when specialty equipment like a greenhouse isn't needed to grow them. The ample supply reduces the cost of buying these seasonal fruits and vegetables - thank the law of supply and demand. Whenever possible, choose recipes that utilize seasonal ingredients to lower costs.

6. Use Your Knives
Many of us spend the extra money to get thin-cut, boneless, skinless chicken breast instead of spending the extra time doing it ourselves. Buying the whole chicken and cutting it into parts will save you about three-quarters of the price per pound - a true budgeter's dream. This applies to many types of meat, although buying an entire side of beef may not work for people with limited freezer room. Every time meat is sliced, its price goes up. So you may as well do the cutting yourself and save the extra dollars.

Love The Food You Make Without Hating The Price Tag
Being a budget gourmet is not an oxymoron. It can be accomplished quite easily by utilizing the six tips discussed above. If you are willing to put in a little leg work, be creative with recipes, and go the extra mile, then you can have five-star dining at budget prices. Bon Appetit! (For more about eating well on a budget, check out 22 Ways To Fight Rising Food Prices.)

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    How To Save Money When Moving

    Moving doesn't have to be as expensive as you think. Here are some great ways to save money on moving costs.
  2. Stock Analysis

    How Expensive Is Whole Foods, Really?

    Learn about Whole Foods Market, Inc., and discover how Whole Foods pricing actually compares to that of other grocery store operations.
  3. Stock Analysis

    4 Quick Service Restaurants for Your Portfolio

    Learn about the four quick service restaurants with attractive investment theses and growth prospects that can be valuable additions to your portfolio.
  4. Stock Analysis

    What Makes the 'Share a Coke' Campaign So Successful?

    Understand how Coca-Cola implemented the successful "Share a Coke" campaign. Learn about the top three reasons why the campaign was successful.
  5. Professionals

    Tips for Retaining Your Client's Heirs

    It's a good idea to start working with your clients' children early on to forge relationships and hopefully continue to manage that wealth.
  6. Professionals

    How to Protect Retirement and Help Adult Kids

    Parents can both protect their retirement money and help their adult kids. Here's how.
  7. Budgeting

    The Hard Way We Pay For Convenience

    Convenience is a luxury. However, any cost-conscious individual should be aware of these ridiculous ways we pay for convenience and how to avoid them.
  8. Stock Analysis

    The 6 Best Dividend Stocks in the Consumer Staples Sector

    Learn about the top six companies that make an attractive investment for investors looking for stocks for dividend income investing.
  9. Mutual Funds & ETFs

    Top 3 Consumer Cyclical Mutual Funds

    Obtain information on, and analysis of, some of the best performing mutual funds that offer exposure to the consumer cyclicals sector.
  10. Professionals

    Why Women Are Underprepared for a Spouse’s Death

    Women are typically less prepared for the death of a spouse than men. An advisor can help mitigate some of the financial burdens widows may end up facing.
  1. Who do hedge funds lend money to?

    Many traditional lenders and banks are failing to provide loans. In their absence, hedge funds have begun to fill the gap. ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Is Japan an emerging market economy?

    Japan is not an emerging market economy. Emerging market economies are characterized by low per capita incomes, poor infrastructure ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Are Social Security payments included in the US GDP calculation?

    Social Security payments are not included in the U.S. definition of the gross domestic product (GDP). Transfer Payments For ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What does marginal utility tell us about consumer choice?

    In microeconomics, utility represents a way to relate the amount of goods consumed to the amount of happiness or satisfaction ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are some common ways product differentiation is achieved?

    There are many ways to achieve product differentiation, some more common than others. Horizontal Differentiation Horizontal ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!