There's nothing quite like an indulgent meal at a cool restaurant, or heck, even a midweek splurge from Seamless. We can't deny that food seems to taste better when it costs more, and as much as we wish we could eat out every night, we've found that preparing cheap yet tasty meals is way better for our wallet in the long run. Since over-spending on food is one of the most common money mistakes people make, we've rounded up the best tips to make your cooking taste like it came from a five star restaurant without breaking the bank.
You don't need to have the training of a sous chef to become a quality at-home cook, and you don't need to burn your paycheck at Williams-Sonoma either. With a properly stocked pantry and all the right cooking tricks up your sleeve, you'll start to rely less and less on your go-to delivery spot. No one is born a top chef — you've got to experiment and work your way up to creating dinnertime masterpieces.
So the next time you find yourself filing a Seamless order or about to splurge on takeout from that hip new restaurant down the street, pause for a second to reconsider. With these super affordable cooking hacks, you'll be able to save money and still make a meal at home that tastes like something Gordon Ramsay would approve of himself.
1. START COLLECTING SPICES
Instead of relying on good ol' salt and pepper, switch up your flavors by collecting some spices. A dash of cumin adds the perfect touch to a savory dish, and turmeric is essential for taking your curry to the next level. Trust me — a well-stocked spice rack is one investment you won't regret.
2. SWAP OUT WATER FOR BROTH
Ever wonder how restaurants make their pasta taste so good? Bring on the broth! Cooking your noodles in a combination of broth and water (or just broth) adds a super deep, savory flavor.
3. USE FRESH HERBS
As long as you've got a windowsill, sunlight, and water, you can grow your own fresh herbs year round. Mixing in flavors like fresh basil or rosemary takes your meals to the next level. You'll never want to use pre-dried herbs again.
4. USE SALT IN MODERATION
Even if you're watching your salt intake, a little bit of this kitchen staple does wonders, whether you're roasting some vegetables or boiling your pasta water. Try flavored salts to switch things up.
5. SQUEEZE IN SOME LEMON
A touch of lemon instantly refreshes an otherwise boring meal and helps to bring out other flavors, no matter what kind of dish you're making.
6. DON'T SHY AWAY FROM QUALITY DAIRY
If you're hoping to get a rich, creamy dish, use full-fat milk instead of skim, and butter instead of margarine. It may not be the most healthy option, but it makes a world of difference in taste. Sometimes, you just have to indulge.
7. ADD GARLIC FIRST
Whether you're making the perfect red sauce or you're sautéing vegetables, add fresh minced garlic to the dish as soon as possible so the flavor has enough time to properly develop.
8. TRY SOME SWEETNESS
When you sauté, roast, or bake vegetables and meat, break out the brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup to sweeten things up. Sugar adds another layer to traditionally savory dishes.
9. PREHEAT STORE-BOUGHT BREAD AND PASTRIES
Even if your store-bought bread and baked goods aren't freshly made, you can still give them that cozy, just-popped-out-of-the-oven feel by warming them up for approximately 10 minutes.
10. WARM THINGS THE RIGHT WAY
Stay away from the microwave if you want your leftovers to taste fresh. Reheat baked dishes like casseroles in the oven for optimal meltiness without sogginess, and throw stovetop-cooked meals in a pan to bring them back to optimal temperature.