I read food blogs, my favorite is called The Kitchn (no typo, that’s how it’s spelled). Food blogs are great inspiration for the home cook, but every so often you find a recipe that calls for goji berries at $28 a lb. and a little part of you dies inside.
So what to do? Rather than being turned off and deciding fancy food blogs are for the rich and famous, I suggest a different route; hack the recipe!
By cutting corners and a employing a little creativity even the fanciest recipe can be made accessible, because who are we kidding, eating a $30 meal on a week night while watching Netflix just isn’t going to happen.
Note: Modifying recipes is not advisable for all types of cooking. I would say a good rule of thumb is if you can spot each individual ingredient in the finished meal, feel free to modify and play around with the recipe (ie salads, stir fry, entrée and side dish type meals).
To demonstrate, I will show you how I turned “The Ultimate Bliss Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing” into a salad I can actually afford. Here is a link to the original mindbodygreen recipe: Ultimate Bliss Salad (The original is amazing, but so is the low-cost hack! So weigh your options 😉 )
The idea here is to keep the basic feel of the recipe but cut out all non-essentials or swap the expensive ingredients for something more affordable.
Step One: Analyze the Recipe
Ultimate Bliss Original Recipe Calls for…
- Lacinato Kale
- Red Onion
- Cooked Quinoa
- Cooked Lentils
- Dried Cranberries
- Goji Berries
- Hemp Seeds
- Olive Oil
- White Miso Paste
- Chopped Scallions
- Sesame Oil
As you can see, the original salad has a long list of ingredients! However, from this list I can see that the salad is basically made up of the greens, grains and legumes, some interest items (ie nuts, seeds, etc), and a dressing. From there, I will categorize and define the essentials…
Step Two: Categorize and Define the Essentials
Now that I know the basic formula for the recipe, I can categorize the ingredients.
Greens: Arugula, Spinach, Kale
Grains and Legumes: Quinoa and Lentils
Interest: Beets, Carrots, Red Onion, Cranberries, Goji Berries, Hemp Seeds, Walnuts
Dressing: Olive Oil, White Miso Paste, Honey, Chopped Scallions, Ginger, Lemon, Sesame Oil
From here, I can see that I will need some greens (not all three!), perhaps I can choose one grain over the other, drop some of the “interest” ingredients that I feel are too costly or unnecessary, and determine what ingredients from the dressing I can drop while still maintaining the essential miso-gingery-ness.
Step Three: Analyzing Ingredients and Choosing What to Buy
Right off the bat, I know that I will use what I already have at home, this includes: Kale, Carrots, Quinoa, Olive Oil, Honey, Lemon.
Now it’s time to shop!
Green: I have kale at home, so I only need one more green and I choose spinach. I love arugula, but three greens in one salad is a little excessive and today I choose the cheaper option to pair with the kale, spinach!
Grains and Legumes: I already have quinoa at home and because I have decided to choose one heartiness item over the other, lentils are out. Sorry lentils.
Interest: Already have carrots at home. Keeping a dried fruit because I feel the sweetness is essential to the salad. I choose currants over cranberries (because I like them more). Dropping the red onions from the recipe because I find them over powering and not essential to the recipe. Keeping hemp seeds and walnuts, but only getting what I need and no more! Definitely dropping goji berries, they are just WAY too expensive. I did choose to keep beets, while I feel they are a bit too expensive, I also feel they are essential.
Dressing: I have most of the ingredients at home, but I do need ginger and white miso which are essential to the salad. I am dropping scallions and sesame oil.
Tip: Buy bulk! For a recipe like this, you only need a very small amount of certain ingredients. A quarter cup of hemp seeds from the bulk bin will cost significantly less than a large prepackaged bag of them!
So, in the end here is what I cut out: Arugula, Red Onions, Lentils, Goji Berries, Scallions, Sesame Oil.
Total savings of about $10! It’s the little successes that count!