Shopping on a Shoestring

A few universal truths have emerged over the three years of producing Chef on a Shoestring. Among the most important talents required to successfully cook on a shoestring is strategic shopping. Three key tips:

1. Don't Over-Purchase
The supermarket is a tempting place where the enormous variety invites you to spend, spend, spend. Try to buy only as much as you need to make a recipe, unless you have something else in mind for the same ingredients over the next day or two.

2. Buy Seasonal Ingredients
This is one of the most effective ways to keep your budget down; when fruits and vegetables are grown locally and needn't be shipped in from elsewhere, their costs drop substantially. So, try to use ingredients at the peak of their season: tomatoes, corn and eggplant in the summer; apples, pears and root vegetables in the fall; and peas, asparagus and stone fruits in the spring and early summer. Not only are these ingredients at their least expensive in season but also their peak of flavor.

3. Be Resourceful
If you develop the skill of using all parts of an ingredient, you'll be able to get the maximum value out of each and every one. For example, finding uses for herb stems or potato scraps, or knowing how to butcher and use all parts of a chicken, can be the first steps to real economy in the kitchen.

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