Herbs and Spices are the secret to making cooking really cool and interesting even when you can’t afford to buy high quality meat and vegetables.
You know what, I would *love* to be able to buy organic, happy, free-to-roam-and-shit-in-the-woods meat, and those lovely organic high quality vegetables. I really would. But I cannot afford it. This is, lifetime wise, a temporary problem that will get rectified in a few years when I have finished my repayment plans, but until then – off to the supermarket it is for me and I buy a lot of the ‘economy’ fresh meat and vegetables to make do with for now.
It doesn’t taste bad, it just tastes bland. All of it. Including the canned stuff, the packet stuff and the boxed stuff. It’s not bad, it’s just flavourless. So the secret to eating interesting food on a budget is getting to know your herb and spices, and here are a few tips for picking them up without breaking your own bank balance.
I know some of you may have ethical objections to me buying mass produced meat and vegetables. However, do me the courtesy of allowing me to choose my own ethics instead of lecturing me. If you wish to buy the better quality stuff, by all means do. I bet your food tastes better than mine. But mine will be cheaper and actually fit into my budget. You pays your money and takes your choice. This is mine until I can afford better.
So, these are my top tips for starting your collection of herbs and spices and using them…
1) Add one small pot/jar of herbs/pices to your weekly shop. If you find a spare dollar or pound, pick up an extra one. If you pick up a different one each time you do some food shopping, you will have an interesting selection in no time.
2) Once your jars are empty, keep them and wash them out and restock them. Dried herbs and spices in packets are cheaper than the jars. Look around for local ethical shop or market stores which sell them loose in paper bags – these are awesome value and usually have a wider selection than superstores. Keep a spare roll of labels and pen in your drawer for relabelling the old jars.
3) Start simple. Pick up some mixed herbs, garlic granules and some paprika. If you like your food with more kick, replace paprika with hot chilli poweder or cayenne pepper. Keep some salt and ground black pepper handy too, they’re useful for seasoning. None of these things are expensive if you pick them up weekly.
4) I will give some advice on what herbs go with which meats and fish and vegetables and sauces, but if you are impatient to know more, there are hundreds of books on amazon that will not break your budget which can tell you more. I’ve no doubt there are websites too, but I’ve not really bothered looking around online so much. Computers are risky to have in the kitchen, books are a little more resilient to spills and stuff.
5) Stock cubes are also awesome for adding flavour. And I also use a lot of gravy granules and white sauce granules to thicken up savoury sauces. My husband and I like strong flavoured and thick sauces, so you might want to take that into account with my recipes.
6) Dried herbs are cheaper than fresh, and will add a good amount of flavour to your food. A lot of recipe books recommend fresh herbs, which are indeed awesome. However, save them for special occasions, if you are buying them from stores. Fresh herbs are expensive when sold in packets. However, if you want to start growing your own, they make an awesome supplement to cooking. Dried herbs work best starting at the beginning of the cooking process, to give them time to release their flavour. Fresh herbs should be added at the end, so that the flavour doesn’t drain out.*[Got something to say? Submit to Project Shandy]*