Chef Dez.

Chef Dez.

Chef Dez: Expand culinary knowledge within budget

Easy way to grow by 12 items.

Everyone seems like they’re searching for ways to tighten their purse strings, especially at this time of the year when the Christmas credit card bills are rolling in.

There are ways, however, to expand your knowledge in the culinary world without affecting your grocery budget. Let’s face it, we all need to eat food to stay alive, and adding some variety to our home meals is a way to make eating in more exciting.

How many times has the normal trip to the grocery store resulted in bringing home the same old products that you always buy, for your never changing home menu?

Here’s what I challenge you to do: every week, two weeks, or month, I want you to buy just one product you would never normally buy. This could be a produce item, a spice, an herb, or something down the imported food aisle.

Take your blinders off, step outside your habitual boundaries, and be receptive to all the wonderful products we have available at our fingertips. No matter where you live, shopping today has a greater abundance of selection than ever before.

The other great resource we have access to, whether it’s at home, work or the local libraries, is the Internet. This will allow you to answer questions about the certain product that you have purchased that you may know nothing about. What do I do with it? How do I prepare it? How is it normally served? How is it best stored?

You and your family are going to be eating food anyway, and chances are you will continue to do so the rest of your life. What harm will it be then to spend, for example, two or three dollars per month on one product you normally wouldn’t purchase?

Continue this for a year, while researching and educating yourself on each product and you will have expanded your culinary knowledge by 12 items. This will add variety to your home menu forever and at the same time build your culinary knowledge.

Many cities also have gourmet food stores. Make it a habit to talk to these people, tap into their expertise, and make your monthly one-product purchase there instead of, or alternating with, your regular grocery store.

If you have even more room in your monthly budget, take a cooking class once per month instead of dining out. I know my restaurant friends will dislike me saying so, but the return on your investment in a cooking class is far greater than just a full stomach from one dining out visit.

Chef Dez is a chef, writer and host. Visit him at

chefdez.com.