To preface this, I didn’t grow up using chopsticks. I learned how to use them so that I could eat sushi and Korean BBQ. Also, I still don’t hold them properly. What I can say though, is they are the most versatile utensil out there.
With a pair of chopsticks, I can cook and eat a dish of just about anything. When I’m done cooking, a simple rinse and wipe of each stick results in clean chopsticks ready to eat the final product. Typically, one requires cooking tools (flipper, spoons, whatever) to prepare the dish, a fork to eat it, and perhaps a spoon too. Chopsticks seem to accomplish it all.
Imagine if instead of having a cutlery drawer, with an organizer, and 8 sets of 2 spoons, 2 forks, and a knife; you just had 8 pairs of chopsticks. As someone looking to reduce stuff in the junk drawer, this is a great way to eliminate about 40 pieces of silverware I seldom use.
If you’re fortunate enough to have not loaded up your kitchen yet, or haven’t purchased anything at all, get a good knife and a pair of chopsticks and see how you make out!
Okay, so as much I love being environmentally friendly and supporting local business, I also have to look out for myself once and a while. One of the ways I do this is via my grocery shopping. I generally shop at No Frills and Food Basics to meet my budgetary needs. No Frills is the spot when there is bonus PC points to be earned. Food Basics is closer and has a better selection of international food so I typically go there. Chinatown is of course my stop for produce.
It’s not all about the savings and points, however. I find my No Frills offers an excellent selection of asian cuisine, but lacks frozen whole foods (fish fillets, shrimp, more). No Frills, for whatever reason, carries carrots in 3 formats (individual, bagged chilled, bagged shelf..Why? Give me Canadian carrots I can bag myself). Food Basics has excellent food from the further edges of Europe, along with amazing bulkier sales. A lot of the domestic brands have much to be desired though, and I’m not a big fan of their house brands.
It’s worth while to investigate all of your local grocery stores, and see who offers what. I’m going to checkout the metro nearby my house next week as a potential butcher, should I have guests over and want to make something more unique. If you put in a little extra legwork and shop flyers, you’ll save a lot of money over your lifetime.
To me, saving money and preventing food waste is worth it.
I’ve talked before about the benefits of shopping at discount grocers, making things from scratch, and buying more raw ingredients. Today, I’m going to talk about the food items I need on hand at all times (and why). There will be some overlap, but this is much deeper dive into keeping a cheap, delicious, and healthy source of food available at your fingertips.
I grew up in a household that ate a lot of pasta, so that’s huge for me. Other than that though, my mother and father would cook up all source of hearty Canadian meals. During my travels around the world, and travels around the various restaurants of Toronto, I’ve added all sorts of cuisines to my recipe book; this list reflects that as well.
- Basmati Rice: Everyday, tasty rice
- Short Grain White Rice: Useful for asian cooking, sushi, and more
- Dried Penne: Great for red sauces, holds onto meat well
- Dried Spaghetti: Excellent for red and white sauces
- Unbleached Flour: Make pizza dough, bake stuff, whatever
- White Cane Sugar: Baking, pizza dough, coffee, etc
- Brown Sugar: Useful for baking and cooking, making sauces and richer dishes
- Black Beans: Beans and Rice (Gallo Pinto) was a favourite from costa rica. Soups and cold salads also benefit.
- Chickpeas: Great for cold salads, substitute for dried pasta, and more
- Iodized Table Salt: Add to boiling water to prevent spillover
- Sea Salt: Tastes better than standard salt, and comes in various sizes for unique flavours. Sprinkle by hand.
- Black Peppercorns: Buy a pepper mill that will last you forever. You can get varying grinds, and can use different peppercorns for different dishes.
- Bay Leaves: For making pork and chicken stock
- Chili Powder: I like spicy and it’s useful for making sauces for stir-fry and more
- Ketchup: French’s made from Leamington tomatoes in Canada.
- Yellow Mustard: Make this from dry mustard powder
- Mayonnaise: Make this from scratch, use apple cider vinegar for Japanese style mayo
- BBQ Sauce: Make your own from scratch to taste.
- Skipjack Tuna: Sustainable tuna, easy tuna with mayo meal
- Tomatoes: Salad, Sandwich topping, etc
- Lettuce: Salad is a super fast and healthy meal
- Onions: Cooking staple
- Garlic: Cooking staple. Also used to make aioli and garlic olive oil
- Potatoes: Versatile food, keeps very well, calorie dense, cheap
- Eggs: Simple breakfast, cooking staple
I love food. It holds a place near and dear to my heart. However, as it happens, food costs money. In the city it seems to cost even more money. As an active person I need more of it. Before you know it, you’re spending hundreds of dollars a month on it. However, I didn’t get started down this path to save money. I started looking at ways to make the dishes I love, from scratch. To my surprise, they were better (and cheaper)! If you change the way you cook, it will change the way you buy food (and what you pay!)
Although buying food is unavoidable, you can definitely tighten the belt on your bill and still enjoy what you want. As far as what you’re buying, here are some strategies:
- Buy base level items (flour, stocks, tomato paste, oil, rice, lemon juice, spices, soy sauce, hot sauce, etc). These items last forever, and whipping up simple sauces, breads, and side dishes produces way better food than $5 pre-made junk). Protip: Marinate chicken or pork in Sriracha and Soy Sauce; it’s delicious.
- Frozen vegetables are less expensive and last longer than their fresh counterparts.
- Don’t buy bottled water. Personally, I keep a number of flip-top bottles in my fridge so I can have cold tap water as soon as I walk through the door. This alone has saved me hundreds of dollars.
- Don’t give up the foods you love, find ways to make them better. If you like steak, skip the porterhouse. Choose a cheaper cut and spend more time preparing it. Flank steak with chimichurri is a great choice.
- Using dry goods and soaking them is better than buying canned. Save leftover pasta sauce jars to soak beans and chick peas in. If you buy a bunch of the same sauce, poke holes in one lid to strain. This is better for the environment and your wallet.
Those were just some examples of things you can do to change your habits for the better. I can’t list ‘everything’ you can do, but I can give you the strategy. Take the foods you like, and learn to make them better. Find out how to make amazing dressings, sauces, doughs, pastas, salads, and more. From scratch really is better. It will change the way you eat and look at food in the store.