Budget, Effort, Time, Ingredients: How Do You Pick New Recipes to Try? by Melissa Vickers
I was reminded by a recent comment on a recipe I’d posted that taste and convenience are only part of what goes into deciding whether to try a new recipe. The Facebook poster, a mother of 6, pointed out that the chicken casserole recipe has an expensive cost-per-person price to pay, and that eating out might be cheaper. This raises a few relevant points:
- Taste is only one part of a recipe. Yes, we want foods that tickle our taste buds, but not necessarily if the ingredients are cost-prohibitive.
- Convenience can be expensive. You are paying for somebody else to do the work you are happily avoiding.
- Convenience and time go hand in hand – and often at the expense of the overall cost.
But there are other considerations, and they change from day to day. Whether they change enough to make an otherwise pricy recipe option affordable is a very individualized decision.
- Are you on a strict food budget? Whether by choice or necessity, some people are very good at establishing food budgets –and sticking to them. Often these are the folks who can teach the rest of us some tricks to eat mighty fine cooking and not overspend in the process.
- Are you on a strict time budget? Some people hardly have time to eat, let alone cook anything at home. Job and family responsibilities may pre-determine how much time you have to devote to cooking.
- Are you on a strict effort budget? We rarely think about budgeting our energy like we might our time or money, but it is a key factor. The new mom with other kids to care for, or the person with a condition that saps energy, is less likely to have the gumption left over for anything less than convenience.
Personally, I am not good at sticking to budgets of any kind. Thankfully, we don’t live extravagantly, so we live pretty much within our means. I do enjoy cooking and trying new recipes, and I’m fine with taking some shortcuts. Using ready-to-eat rotisserie chicken meat is one thing I will buy and use occasionally in recipes. I like the fact that someone else has cooked it and seasoned it in a way I really am not good at, and someone else dealt with getting the meat off the bones and disposing the carcass. I don’t cook big turkeys at Thanksgiving either – a turkey breast in the pressure cooker or slow cooker means less fuss, less waste and less mess to deal with.
Sometimes, I’m happy to let someone else do all the cooking at a restaurant. That, I suppose, is the epitome of convenience, but even that involves either getting in the car and going somewhere or paying extra for delivery. There’s just the two of us, so I don’t have to factor in the time and energy involved in rounding everybody up and into the car and hoping dinner goes smoothly.
If I’m cooking for company, I’m more likely to splurge a little. But even that isn’t necessary. My mom’s favorite company dinner was her tuna casserole. It was inexpensive to make, but made with love and care, and she made sure that dinner guests felt special.
There’s no right or wrong decisions on these kinds of things, and what factors are critical today may be different tomorrow. And that’s fine. Happy cooking!
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