Sunday, March 6, 2011

Local thinking

Local thinking is how I describe finding creative strategies for your particular circumstances. I can give you recipes all day for things that are money-saving for me, but if ground turkey is $3 a pound rather than $1.29 a pound where you live, those ideas aren't going to be as helpful for you. What you can get from the ideas are a philosophy to help you adapt to your local circumstances. Ground meat is ground meat, and hamburger and ground turkey and ground pork can frequently be interchanged. In a dish with a lot of seasonings, one ground meat is pretty much the same as another.

So, you found a really fantastic sounding recipe, but it calls for ground sirloin, portabella mushrooms, some obscure goat cheese that's $15 a pound, and fresh tarragon and rosemary. You calculate the cost per serving and decide it would be cheaper to go out for steak. Well, wait. Take a critical look at the recipe. Does it really NEED ground sirloin? Will a cheaper form of ground beef, or even ground turkey, work? Portabellas are lovely, but ordinary white mushrooms might substitute. Find out what the cheapest close match to the cheese is (we've found that cheddar, mozarella, and monterey jack can be substituted for most things). And while not AS good, often dried herbs can be substituted. With substitutes, this dish might be made for less than half the original cost and be ALMOST as good. If the gourmet quality food is more important to you, then simply look at another area of your life to cut back in.

Learn what will substitute well for other ingredients, and be willing to experiment. Just because a recipe calls for Pink Lady apples doesn't mean that's the only thing you can use. However, in general, you can only make limited changes, if any, to the proportions of ingredients in a baking recipe, and any changes in the type of flour, for instance, has to be carefully considered. Wheat flours, white or whole wheat, have qualities that make it good for baking bread that many other flours don't share. Honey and sugar can be substituted for each other sometimes, but it requires adjustments to the liquids in a recipe.

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