At first it may seem like the words budget and gourmet are an oxymoron. The good news is that cooking gourmet while watching your budget isn’t impossible. You don’t have to resort to eating hot dogs and boxed macaroni and cheese. You can have delicious gourmet meals without breaking the bank. You just need to know where to find the best deals and use a little creativity.

Finding the best deals
Of course, rules for grocery shopping on a budget also applies to buying gourmet foods. Keep a lookout for sales, discounts and coupons. In addition, find a good farmer’s market and buy in season, which is not only less expensive but tastes better. Try shopping at an ethnic grocery store or stores like Trader Joe’s, which often offer lower prices – especially on produce- than the big grocery store chains.

Since herbs are an important part of gourmet cooking, try growing your own. You’ll have an unlimited supply all summer long and some herbs dry well – like basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary – so leaves can be harvested for the winter months.

Get creative
Find creative ways to use what you’ve got instead of buying specialty ingredients. For example, if a recipe calls for buttermilk, try using regular milk with a touch of vinegar. You’ll save big and it’s worth the time researching for good substitutes.
Cook with less expensive cuts of meat. Obviously, chicken and some cuts of beefs will be cheaper than swordfish or filet mignon. Instead of buying filleted chicken breasts, utilize the whole bird, which is less expensive and adds flavor when you cook it. Stores usually have a day to mark down prices to move products before new shipments come in; be there on those days and you can find nice cuts of meat and fish up to half the cost.

Invest in a bread maker. It will not only cost less than the cheapest bread available on grocery shelves, but it will taste better.

Take a simple meal and make it look gourmet by a few simple changes. For example, when cooking pasta use noodles like farfalle or penne instead of typical spaghetti. Instead of salads made with iceberg lettuce, use spinach and/or baby greens, add a cut up fuji apple, some chopped nuts, and feta cheese and viola! You have a gourmet salad. Even a Betty Crocker mix can become a gourmet dessert if you ditch the store bought frosting and drizzle a mixture of powdered sugar and milk on top, then add a few fresh berries.

One more idea: try getting a group of friends together once a month. Tell them to bring budget friendly gourmet dishes along with a copy of the recipe for those who want one. You’ll be exposed to all kinds of new ideas.

For more great gourmet food ideas, check out Gourmet Food where you don’t have to be rich to enjoy a gourmet meal.

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