Definition Of Our Motto
The motto of Kitchen $centse is “Making wonderful scents, while saving cents, by using sense” but what does it really mean, and more importantly, why is it meaningful?
The first “scents” aren’t just the welcoming smells of a home preparing for holidays and events or the tantalizing odor of a backyard grill. Those are important but mainly it’s the subtle aroma of the everyday meals which invite people to eat. This doesn’t mean that one has to be a chef, quite the opposite. I have a friend who never liked cooking or being in the kitchen, yet she can prepare lovely meals and does so nightly for her family. She has no secret. She just learned the basic rules and sticks to simple recipes with few ingredients.
The rules are really quite simple. It’s important to learn the terminology of cooking methods, boil, simmer, steam, bake, roast, sauté, fry, deep fry and which utensils to use for each task. We also need balanced meals. Each should contain a carbohydrate, protein and fiber, so it’s important to understand the basics of nutrition and which foods fit into those three categories.
All these things can be learned from books. However, when selecting the foods to combine in a meal, the preparation, seasonings and presentation, the rules are flexible and personal. Individual taste and ethnic background can factor in, as can instinct. A very spicy food needs a mild one to compliment it. Two strong flavors on a plate can be unpleasant, and two very acidic foods can be unsettling. We don’t need books to tell us this.
Texture and color are natural enticements too. For example, a poached white fish fillet, mashed potatoes, and cauliflower may fulfill all the nutritional requirements, but it isn’t very appetizing. Garnish the fish with a little paprika and parsley, bake the potato in skin, and substitute broccoli for the cauliflower and the plate is essentially the same but far more appealing. Realizing these things is instinctive.
Cooking is like riding a bicycle. Once you master the balancing you never forget it and you can decide if you only need to go from point A to point B or you want to learn to do pop-a-wheelies.
The point is you don’t have to be a chef. If you understand the basics, rely on your instincts and are willing to learn from experience, you will be able to produce wonderful meals with appetizing scents, if you want to do so. This will always be true, no matter your financial boundaries, and in fact, may give you freedom to adjust them.
The mention of financial boundaries brings up the second part of the motto: “While saving “cents” or, actually, dollars. For years food prices have risen 2.5% to 4% annually and are forecast to continue at this rate for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t seem much per year, but over time it makes an impact. Whether you want to reduce your financial boundaries, respect them, or just monitor expenditure, understanding ways to cope with the situation, makes sense, pardon the pun. Even if there are no financial limitations, no one likes to throw money in the trash and that’s what having to toss out expired or spoiled food is. So how does one go about this saving?
First one takes stock of supplies and makes plans to use any excesses or items near expiration. Second one calculates the correct proportions of foods the family requires. Then one learns to plan meals in advance, consulting market flyers and apps for information. Next one compiles a master shopping list for the planned meals listing all the ingredients in necessary amounts. Finally comes the difficult part. One must stick to the shopping list, avoiding the urges to over or impulse buy. It’s amazing how much these few steps can cut food costs.
Limiting food shopping to one trip per week, and concentrating on one market per trip provides additional savings in both time and gas not to mention aggravation. Another tip to easing the job of providing meals is to schedule time to draw up the list and shop. At first it may seem inconvenient, but with practice it becomes routine, and a quick task.
These are the steps I describe in my book How to Control Food Bills. I give detailed instructions on understanding them and implanting them into your routine, including incentives and tips to ease the way. Of course there is also advice on how to shop in general, to choose different markets and how to find substitutions. Those who have to establish new financial limits are advised on how to apply the suggestions to a greater degree.
Which brings us to the third part of the motto:”…by using sense.” and that’s the heart of the matter, to rely on common sense. As long as we need to eat, we might as well enjoy it, make it appeal to our senses, literally. That is my friend’s philosophy. She hates cooking, but as long as she has to provide meals for herself and her family, she’s determined to make, if not the act of preparing the meal, the end product as enjoyable as possible.
Proper treatment of food trumps cost any day. A juicy, perfectly grilled hot dog is more appetizing than a slice of fillet mignon over-cooked to shoe leather. The most expensive fresh produce, over boiled, can’t compare to steamed frozen done correctly. Take the time in the beginning to understand the fundamentals of cooking, learn a few basic rules about combining ingredients and a little about seasonings and you will always be able to prepare a nice meal. The aroma of well prepared food will always entice eager eaters, more than the price tag.
Using common sense is a major factor in the ability to save cents. It’s a real asset in maintaining objectivity. Being able to stop oneself, and take a good look at a product, especially an expensive one, before buying is a way to avoid disaster, and the fastest way to curb impulse buying as well as over buying. Usually that moment of pause allows the sane voice inside our head to be heard. .
The supermarket concept of one-stop-shopping is a sensible one. It saves the time it takes to visit several stores, and, ideally, allows the discounted prices from bulk buying to be passed on to the customers.. If one is to combine several purchases in one trip, one should have a list including quantities. Now let’s carry using sense another step. Let’s combine several days marketing into one trip, to save time and gas. This introduces the idea of planning menus in advance.
Having meals planned in advance and knowing the ingredients are on hand is so relaxing. There’s no worry about what to serve, no quick stops on the way home, no S.O.S. calls to family members to pick up something. That’s a considerable saving of both time and money in itself, not to mention the satisfaction of knowing that weekly expense is behind you.
The meals don’t have to be set in stone either. Sides can be mixed, nights changed to fit mood or schedule. The important thing is to plan several meals, I like a week, and provision them in one trip to the market. Pick a flyer with offerings that appeal to you that week, consult your apps. Start with the entrée, say a roast, add a leftover meal and perhaps a casserole and three days are filled or buy a Valu-Pac of meat and plan a few meals. Then add some sides. You’ll find drawing-up a menu isn’t difficult and the time it takes to do it, really shortens marketing time. What’s more, concentrating on a list eliminates over buying, and gives direction which discourages browsing and impulse buying.
A major way to control food expenses is consistent price awareness. It’s only reasonable to be aware of the cost of the regular items on the weekly list, cereal, bread, milk etc. but it helps to notice other products in a department for example cheese or yogurt in dairy. Also keep track of products you use regularly but don’t buy weekly, like cooking oil. Keeping up with prices is an asset in menu planning decisions and list compiling and helps you spot trends to be prepared. Using the flyer from your chosen store in this process is a further help in avoiding register shock and overstepping your planned expenditure.
Another sensible way to approach controlling food expenses is to brush up on your math, especially division. There’s a whole new set of fractions out there: 4/5, 3/4, 3/7, 3/8,4/9, 3/10, 5/4, 6/5, 3/2 to mention just a few($1.25, $1.34, $2.34, $2.67, $2.25, $3.34, $0.80, $0.84, $0.67)
It’s truly time-consuming and often confusing to calculate in the store and much wiser to do it while planning at home.
Of course exercising sense in making choices is of prime importance and here you need to be guided by individual preferences and requirements as well as knowledge of the product. For example, my chosen flyer this week has round roast and round cubes at the same price $4.98lb. The buying rule of thumb is to allow 1 lb. raw meat with bone, or shell, per portion and 1/2 lb. boneless, or out of shell. When serving the meat in a dish with other ingredients 1/3 lb. even 1/4 lb.is acceptable.
Suppose, you feel like a ragout but know the roasts aren’t presented under 2.5 or more pounds,($12.45) and you’re only cooking for 2 people. The choices are: a) buy the roast, trim off what you need for 2 meals of ragout and freeze the rest b) buy the amount of cubes for the ragout dinners ($3.28) and fill in the weekdays with other options, like the pork butt at $1.48 lb.($8.88 for 3 meals-2 servings each) The total for the two meats would be less than the one round roast and you’ve provided for 10 meals rather than the 7+ the round roast alone would cover.
Such a situation, be it with meat, produce, dairy or some other product often arises in food marketing. The only solution is to rely on your good sense to make the right decision. Weigh your options, objectively view the problem as it relates specifically to your position. Then use your best judgment, but make it before you go to the store. Don’t leave the register in shock, or arrive home in a cloud of guilt or regret.
One final way to avoid register shock, and control your food bills is to practice “Stop, Look and Listen”. Before going to check-out, stop in a quiet aisle and review the contents in your cart. Look at them and see if you have added any impulses or overbought. Check your list to be sure. Listen to the voice of common sense in your head if you have any doubts. If you do, leave the items at the check-out or courtesy counter. Do not go back into the store to put them back. It can be too tempting.
Happy food shopping. Here’s to easily managing your expenses! Hope this helps!