Indulge Your Gourmet Palette on a Tight Budget

In a perfect world we’d all be able to afford to buy everything organic, free-range, grass-fed: in short, the best quality of every kind of food and drink on the market.

But if you’re like me, some weeks you have to choose between that gorgeous hunk of meat from the farmer’s market or the tasty $30 bottle of wine. Fortunately, I’ve found a kind of workaround for indulging my gourmet palette on a budget.

Splurging on quality condiments.

While buying, say, a $40 bottle of olive oil (first cold extraction) may feel like a waste of money, think about the many occasions you’ll have to drizzle some in a bowl with a touch of balsamic and dip pieces of bread in it. Or how about that really pricey mustard, the kind that looks like caviar with its yellow beads? It’ll spruce up those otherwise bland turkey sandwiches you tote to work for lunch.

Here’s the thing: good condiments are expensive. But, generally speaking, they’re a great bang for your buck since a little tends to go a long way, their shelf lives are generally lengthy, and they can turn something mundane into something decadent. The key is to choose ones that will enhance your typical meals and that really feel like indulgences to you.

Maybe you love chocolate. Go for the good stuff, and you’ve got a week’s worth of a delicious topping for inexpensive seasonal fruits.

Good jam or compote is another of my favorite splurges. Besides livening up a piece of toast in the morning, it also doubles as a great dollop over a bowl of ice cream.

Recently, I went for a locally-made bourbon caramel sauce. Pricey, yes. But it’s been incorporated into homemade bread pudding (one of the cheapest desserts to make), and served atop ice cream and pancakes.

If you like to make cocktails at home but don’t want to buy top-shelf liquor, get some brandied cherries or some flavored bitters, and you’ll impress your friends with these sophisticated add-ons.

Another thing I like to spend a little extra on: a great vinaigrette. I buy an orange champagne one and it not only serves as a salad dressing but is a great addition to a dipping sauce with olive oil.

Ditto a quality parmesan cheese that you can grate over pasta or roasted veggies.

Armed with all of these delectable condiments, I can always eat like a queen, even if dinner is just a Wednesday night bowl of spaghetti.

What are some of your favorite condiments, and how do you use them?

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