4 Foods (and 1 Drink) That Will Make You Feel Rich Even On A Shoestring Budget
Eating well makes you feel like a king, even if you're on a pauper's salary.
Like most people, my husband and I have had our financial ups and downs.
There have been times when we didn't know if we'd be able to stay afloat.
We lost our jobs within one month of each other at one point, and just when we recovered from that, I had emergency open-heart surgery. It required me to shut my business for three months at a time when my husband was (again) laid off.
These days, it seems good jobs are harder and harder to find, and once you get one, there's no guarantee you'll be able to keep it.
So it's important to take pleasure in the little things.
Even during our hardest times, we managed to stay strong by learning to make more from less, and one way we did this was with food.
My time as a personal chef taught me it's possible to make delicious rich, satisfying meals with everyday ingredients.
So no matter how much or little money we had, we always ate well, which created a sense of abundance and comfort.
This the food (and one drink) that always makes me feel rich no matter what my bank balance says:
Naan bread pizza with an olive oil base
A little olive oil on Naan bread becomes a rich, satisfying base for any toppings.
The oil acts as a protective layer for any juices that might occur during cooking, so this "pizza" crust won't get soggy.
This hybrid of a pizza and bruschetta can support just about any flavor.
It can stretch expensive ingredients or elevate everyday ones.
By skipping the obvious red sauce base, you leave yourself open for a more sophisticated experience.
If you have children in the house, you can make them their red sauce pizza and then easily make yourself something for a more adult palette at the same time.
You can buy packages of Naan bread at Costco for next to nothing (or the grocery store).
They're better than traditional ready-made pizza crust because they're softer and chewier.
They heat up nicely and don't disintegrate with the natural liquid released from food when it cooks. I find Naan better than Pita for this application; they're thicker, sweeter, and have a more delicate texture.
You could make it yourself, but I'm not that ambitious.
A thin coat of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt is all you need to get started, then you can layer just about anything else on top of that.
I like to use my old standbys mushroom, zucchini, and peppers, but you can add just about anything.
Make it Mediterranean with tomato and bocconcini and some fresh basil when it comes out of the oven or mushrooms, and sausage is also good.
It's a great way to stretch meat as you don't need much.
You can buy an expensive piece of steak or some nice prosciutto and then just use thin slices for flavor.
Regular mozzarella or cheddar work well.
If you want to get something more expensive and flavourful like sharp cheddar, blue cheese, or something smoky, you just need a small amount.
Then all you do is bake at 350–450F for about 10–14 minutes, depending on how you like your crust.
A little black pepper and some more salt to taste when it comes out of the oven make it restaurant quality for a fraction of the cost.
The Naans are delicious and satisfying no matter how you top them, and they're cheap.
So you can save money on the base of the meal and splurge on toppings if you have a little extra in your budget.
Even if you stick to the items in your fridge, they'll still taste rich and delicious when prepared like this.
You can even make a simple balsamic reduction if you want to get fancy.
Gourmet pizza or bruschetta is always expensive to eat out, but this hybrid doesn't have to be.
Picky platter (fancy name: charcuterie)
Why does a plate heaping with meat and cheese always look so good?
It just hits such a primal nerve.
Whenever I see a charcuterie tray or cheese platter on a menu, I instantly crave its salty richness.
But when you order that in a restaurant, it's so expensive.
By visiting my local deli counter, I can have the same experience right at home for a fraction of the cost.
If we have some wiggle room in our budget, I might go all out and buy higher-end cheeses and meats, but sometimes I just want to make a fast dinner that we can all pick at.
In that case, I shop in my fridge.
You can use any cheese. It doesn't have to be fancy, and just about any cured meat will do.
It doesn't have to be the most expensive salami in the deli case. It can be as simple as pepperoni sticks. You can go even more basic and use sliced sandwich meat for the same effect.
Add a nice french stick and a few cut-up apples and carrots for freshness, and you have an easy meal that makes you feels like a decadent picnic.
To add more flavor and a hint of sophistication, serve a french stick with a dish of oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
There are so many ways you can modify this.
You can indulge in one expensive element, a nice cheese or a higher-end cured meat.
You can add olives or pickles, red pepper jelly, or honey.
You can add nuts, crackers, dips, and other bread.
You'll be amazed at the things you already have in your fridge and pantry to draw from.
Chicken thighs are highly underrated. Everyone seems to love the breast, and it's the most expensive part of the chicken, but in my opinion, it's not the best.
I buy chicken thighs because they're cheap, and they cook up great no matter how you do them.
They're moist and more flavorful than the breast, and if you buy them boneless and skinless, they're just as easy to work with.
I marinate them in butter and franks hot sauce and then grill them on the bbq with marinated vegetables.
You can eat them hot off the grill with the starch of your choice.
You can put them in a gourmet sandwich.
You can use them with warm grilled vegetables as the topping for a hot salad.
You can eat them cold the next day on a salad or use the leftovers as the toppings for a Naan pizza if you want to stretch your leftovers.
Chicken thighs are also great for the novice cook as they're almost impossible to ruin.
They can survive being overcooked.
They work in just about any recipe, can take on any marinade or flavor you can think of, and they turn out great every time.
With chicken thighs, you can take a recipe that calls for an expensive cut of meat and adapt it for your budget, creating the flavor experience without the cost.
When I make these at home, I feel like I'm at an expensive steak house.
They're an excellent, cheap side dish to a good piece of beef or a stand-alone meal topped with anything you can think of.
All you do is bake the potato, take out the middle, mash it with butter and sour cream (or whatever you like), put it back in, top it, and bake it again.
They are rich, delicious, and easy to make.
Because potatoes are cheap, you can dress up a twice-baked potato to suit any budget and still feel like you're getting a treat.
If money is tight, just add a little cheese and bacon. It's a great way to stretch one or two bacon pieces and a slight sprinkling of cheese to feed the whole family.
Or just whip the middle with little butter and sour cream for a rich, decadent side dish.
You can take the idea as far as you want.
You can top it with steak and blue cheese or sausage and beans, you can do just about anything with the base, and it's delicious every time.
Potatoes are rich and filling, to begin with, so they turn anything they touch into a gourmet feast.
Loose tea: Yorkshire or Yorkshire Gold
This one is the drink that makes me feel like royalty.
It might seem strange that a cup of tea is on this list, but it's no joke.
I've tried different flavored and plain loose teas from my local grocery store and bulk barn.
But I was never too impressed with it until my husband got a package of PG tips loose tea sent over from England.
That was a revelation.
Loose tea done right is a luxurious, smooth, dark dream.
Somehow it has twice the flavor of bagged tea but with none of the bitterness.
If you make it the proper English way: one spoonful for each person plus one for the pot, it turns out perfect every time.
After running out of PG Tips and not wanting to order it online (too expensive), I stumbled upon Yorkshire loose tea, and that was a game-changer. I found it in our local grocery store - it was there the whole time!
It's the most popular tea in England for a reason.
It's smooth, rich, and satisfying, and all you need is a teapot and a strainer.
I don't recommend a tea ball. You don't want to confine the leaves inside the pot. You want them to be able to swim free to fully release their goodness.
Just a little dollar store strainer to hold over your cup when you pour it will do.
There are two Yorkshire teas - Yorkshire and Yorkshire Gold.
One is the regular blend, and for a few cents more, there's a special blend. This one is made in small batches and is a little more exclusive. We like to mix the two (I don't know if that's bad form, but it's lovely.)
Drinking good tea is such an affordable luxury, and the thought that I can have the same thing in my cup that the Queen has in hers gives me a little boost and makes me feel special.
Indulging in something of such high quality elevates your mood and sets your senses soaring.
Even if it is just tea.
You could use this as the base of an English-style afternoon tea.
It doesn't take a lot of money to make a few finger sandwiches.
They don't even have to be the traditional tea sandwiches. Some pastries and cookies on a beautiful plate will do if you want to have the experience without the cost.
You could go to your local thrift store and buy some fancy cups, a tiered serving plate, a vintage teapot, creamer, and a sugar bowl for a few dollars.
When you go out to a hotel for an English Tea, they charge an arm and a leg, but with a few thrift store items, a dollar store mini strainer, and some Yorkshire Tea, you can make a special event in your own home.
So there are a few ways I try to make eating and drinking a little more special.
Eating well is one of the best ways to keep morale up when things get tough, and sitting down to a delicious, satisfying meal at the end of the day doesn't have to break the bank.
By trying a few of these ideas, you'll eat like a king and feel like the richest person in the world.