Cheap Foodie Thrills

In this time of economic austerity, splurges (over-the-top vacations, frequent meals out, all-you-can-eat organic produce, seasonal wardrobe refreshers) are off of the table for most of us.

Fortunately, we can still indulge in gourmet food. After all, a few $6 chocolate bars, $5 fig preserve jars, and swoon-worthy cheeses won’t break the bank. Here are some ways to treat and nourish yourself in this stressful period:

  1. Dalmatia Fig Spread: Not just any jam, this dark, seed-studded spread has an intense flavor reminiscent of brandy and dried fruit. Try it alongside a cheese plate, on toast, swirled into yogurt, dolloped atop vanilla ice cream…(about $5/jar)
  2. TCHO Chocolates: I recently tried the company’s new SeriousMilk bars: “Classic” and “Cacao,” and was completely blown away. Milk chocolate perfection: a rich and creamy texture, with serious cocoa flavor and a slight tang. For all of you milk chocolate skeptics, head over to the TCHO Web site (www.tcho.com), and order a bar. You won’t be sorry. (About $11/2 58-gram-each bars)
  3. Groats: With a name like “groats,” you’re probably far from tempted. But this unrefined form of oats becomes perfectly tender after an overnight stint in the slow cooker (rather than overcooked, as with steel cut oats). Purchase the steel cut variety of groats, add some flavorings, and wake up in the morning to a comforting, aromatic bowl of goodness. (Just a few dollars, buy in bulk at health food stores or Whole Foods Markets)
  4. Pecorino Cheese: Made with sheep’s milk, Pecorino is arguably as delicious as Parmigiano-Reggiano, but much lower in cost. Try this snowy white, salty cheese with a rich, meaty taste grated over pastas and stirred into meatballs. (around $5/half pound)
  5. Seasonal Produce: If you buy produce in season (one example: persimmons right now), you’ll glean the best product for the least amount of dough. Lately, I’ve been buying less organic–but more seasonal–produce, and doing so has made a large dent in my grocery bills.
  6. Lindemans Fruit Lambic: For those who don’t like beer, try this fizzy, fruity, sweet-but-not-saccharine product. The raspberry flavor is the perfect accompaniment to chocolate, such as TCHO SeriousMilk. (around $9/large bottle)

Do you have any other budget food and drink favorites? Let me know – I’d love to hear about them!

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