I’m super proud that Tatjana and Aaron both use their Personal Chef Approach memberships, but they are on a tight budget, so they’re always asking if they really need everything on the grocery list. I suspect there are a few of you out there who are in the same situation?

Aaron and Tatjana

Aaron and Tatjana

I’m all about layers of flavor, and the complexity that creates, so my recipes do tend to run long in ingredients. My apologies, I sometimes forget that I have a highly comprehensive pantry due to cooking professionally for so many years. Here are my tips for cutting a few corners while maintaining the integrity of your meals, and building a comprehensive pantry over time.

1). Use dried herbs vs. fresh herbs – Unless you are growing your own herbs, you’ll get much more “bang for your buck” out of dried herbs, because they last longer and go further. Look at it as an investment in your pantry – you will use them over and over again in the future. Even if you can’t use up the entire bottle by the “use by” date -they may loose a little of their potency, but you can still use the herbs. Tip: As a general rule of thumb, you should use 1 teaspoon dried for every tablespoon of fresh herbs your recipe calls for, but do taste and adjust as you see fit.

Dry vs. fresh herbs can help you save

Dry vs. fresh herbs can help you save

2). Omissions are okay – It can still be expensive to buy every herb or condiment when you’re just starting out, no one is going to chastise you if you don’t. Just budget for what you can get now, and make a mental note to purchase more later. Leaving one or two ingredients out of a recipe (as long as it’s not the main ingredients – i.e. you will need chicken and paprika to make Chicken Paprika) might make it slightly less complex, but the recipe will usually still work.

3). Substitutions – This will come more easily with practice, but learn to use what you already have on hand. Think about flavors and consistencies that are similar. For example, marjoram is very similar in flavor to oregano; or if you don’t happen to have any cornstarch on hand to thicken a sauce, try making a paste of water and flour instead. Sure, you may have the odd flop, but that’s also how great new recipes may evolve as well. Tip: Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Tatjana Rhodes - stocking a pantry on a budget

Tatjana Rhodes – stocking a pantry on a budget

4). Our Cyber Living Room – If you’re not sure, ask! One of the most important benefits of being a member is your access to the forum, because you’re never really alone in the kitchen. You have direct access to the chef (me) who wrote the recipes, and an entire community for support.

5). Make your own – Okay, so we all want to keep it simple and save as much time as possible, but a lot of ingredients can be made with what you have on hand already. For example, when I decide to make buttermilk pancakes, I usually don’t have any buttermilk on hand. Did you know you can add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar (an ingredient I keep on hand all the time to clean with) to 1 cup of milk, stir, and wait 30 minutes to make your own buttermilk? Tip: Advice like this again, is where the forum will come in handy for solutions.

Watch the video above to learn more about how the Personal Chef Approach works, and enjoy one of my favorite spice rubs below on steak, chicken, seafood, or tofu. Rub generously on any protein of choice (a great way to satisfy varying diets in one household with one recipe – just rub and grill all the different proteins at once).

Roasted Garlic & Chili Rub on Griilled Chicken

Roasted Garlic & Chili Rub

This versatile rub is an outstanding on any kind of beef, chicken, pork or shrimp. I sometimes find garlic already roasted at the store, which does save time, but it is very simple to do – just check out my note below. Any extra can be saved and used up to 5 days covered and refrigerated, but in my household it goes quickly. 

What building a pantry on a budget tips can you add to these?

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