If I spend a bit of extra money from my limited grocery budget, these 3 are the first things I will work on:
Switch table (common) salt to natural salt (sea salt, rock salt).
If you are using regular table salt for seasoning, try to switch it to grey sea salt.
- Table (common) salt is heavily processed while sea salt (especially grey) contains more minerals
- Available in the 'fine' texture which is easier to use than rock salt
- The last and the biggest reason - Sea salt tastes better! (my favorite is the one we carry, the one in blue and white stripe package)
If you use good salt, food tastes better.
After I discovered my favorite salt and started using it, my cooking became simple because just a simple salt and pepper makes a perfect soup and stir fry.
2. Oil / Margarine
Reduce, if not be able to stop using, margarine.
When I came to Canada 20 years ago, the thing that shocked me was the amount of margarine used in an ordinary Canadian family.
Having a husband who 'has to have' margarine (ideally butter but can't afford), it's been my great challenge how to deal with this issue.
Through my experience, the easiest start may be:
- Use real butter instead of margarine when you really want the real butter flavour
- Replace some portion of butter on the recipe with coconut, olive or sunflower oil (not the 'vegetable' oil) when bake cookies and cakes
Another things I would suggest are:
- Frying - do you really need to use margarine/butter? Can't you use olive oil?
- Toast - try coconut oil instead. My favorite combo is coconut oil (deodorant/non-coconut-flavor) & miso.
- Half & half - try to replace half amount of margarine/butter with coconut oil (or other healthier alternative). You don't want to lose the buttery flavour but make it healthier.
It's hard to replace all margarine with something else.
The first step is to introduce small amount of more expensive but valuable alternatives.
Worth to pay for the quality.
If you use cocoa for hot chocolate, baking, etc, choose the high quality product.
Cocoa is not so cheap to begin with, and some are more expensive. But often there is the reason why.
Although they are all labeled 'Cocoa (powder)', the contents are not the same.
- Check/compare the nutrition values - better quality powder tends to have higher % of dietary fiber and iron
- Colour and flavour - better quality powder has darker colour and silkier texture.
In my experience, Camino (certified organic, fair trade - we carry) and Van Houten are the top 2 quality brands.
They are more expensive but from the same amount of powder, you get much better taste and flavour plus better health value.
What are you spending a bit of extra for?
Let us know your great trick, so we can share with others!