Well, let’s make no bones about this. Inflation is indeed here. I predicted massive price hikes last January and told my kids to batten down the hatches because it was coming in all forms.
Now, even mainstream media is reporting on this nasty fiscal reality.
I realize I can’t fix inflation but there is a lot I can do to ride the wave. One of my best tactics? Cook and cook more at home, relying on basic items such as dried beans, frozen and canned vegetables, an array of dried herbs and spices and a freezer stocked with meats and seafood. With a well-stocked arsenal and a little creativity, I’m finding I can safeguard the budget to a certain degree and still enjoy a nice entrée at the end of the day.
That said, there are many kitchen items that make an inflation fighting home cook more efficient and successful. Here’s are my top five tools:
High Quality Chef’s Knife
Do NOT cut corners here, folks! A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one because it’s more likely to slip under pressure and cut you when you are trying to force that dull blade through something like a bagel or dense vegetable. I’ve had my 10-inch Dick’s Chef Knife since I purchased it at Peter Kump’s Cooking School in 1989 and I’ve used it every day since. Other great knife options? Wusthof Classic. When choosing a knife, go to the store and ask to hold it in your hand to see if it’s a good fit. Once you’ve found the knife, take care of it, and DON’T put it in the dishwasher!
Good Saucepans with Fitting Lids
Invest in a few good saucepans in varying sizes. You’ll use them for everything from steaming those frozen vegetables to cooking a box of pasta dragged out from the pantry after a long day of work. I have a few decent Farber ware pans, but admittedly I love my Le Creuset saucepans which I use daily. Yes, they are pricey and can be hard to source given the global supply chain issues, but if you can get your hands on one or two, do it. They last forever.
Le Creuset Dutch Ovens
Another versatile and indispensable piece of cookware? My Le Creuset Dutch ovens. These are the true workhorses in my house. Made in France, they come in a range of sizes and colors and work equally as well on the stovetop as they do in the oven. They are the perfect tool for stews, soups, braises, and even baking breads. An investment that will return delicious dividends for decades. There are less expensive Dutch ovens available, and they could work fine for your budget but I’m just partial to Le Creuset. They heat evenly and stand up to so much. In the end, quality and investments pay off. Plus they last for generations. Truly.
Instant Pots! Many folks shy away from these electric cookers because they find the electronic dashboard and options a bit intimidating to navigate. That said, it’s worth reading the instruction manual and giving it a shot. These versatile cookers are priceless because the pressure-cooking feature cooks foods in a fraction of the time and magically maintains pressure to handle the task with little input from the cook. I use mine, the original Duo for making bone broths, cooking economical dried beans, vegetable soups and tomato sauce. I use the pressure steam feature to cook items like potatoes, salmon and even artichokes and hard-boiled eggs. The yogurt feature is also amazing at cranking out deliciously decadent yogurt from a basic quart of milk! (The price of one quart of Chobani Greek Yogurt is now tipping $7 a quart out here in Seattle so it’s a valuable feature indeed. Do the math on that one!) So, to put it simply don’t overlook the power of this wonderful pot! If you need a little extra support or inspiration, check out the 1000 tested recipes on their website.
The Cuisinart Food Processor
Of all the items listed here, I have to say my Cuisinart Food Processors are perhaps my favorite inflation busting tool! I have three that sit on my counter and indeed they get used all the time. My mini chopper is the one that gets pulled forth nearly every day now that we are empty nesters and it’s the one that gets called into action for thrifty homemade vinaigrettes crafted from kitchen staples such as mustard, oil, vinegar, and herbs. The mini also cranks out a super cilantro chimichurri that dresses up a simple piece of Alaska cod pulled from the fish drawer in the freezer. My Cuisinart Pro Custom 11 Cup processor is the tool I use to make lemony chicken salad from leftover roast chicken or a creamy shawarma hummus. When the shredding and slicing blades are clicked into place on my Pro Custom, I process an endless array of cabbage, carrots and onions in a flash which lets me sidestep the pricey prepared veggies section in the product department. (Here in Seattle, we pay a 10% tax on prepared food items so that adds an extra layer of expense to an already pricey item!) This mid-size processor is also the one I use to make my No Rise Pizza Dough.
So, with food inflation here to stay, it’s time to gear up and act! What is your tool?
Next up? Fighting inflation one seed at a time…in my little urban kitchen garden!