Melissa dArabian is a home economist for a new era. Actually, shes more CFO than home ec.
Thats because the Food Network host is as adept at balancing ledger sheets as she is at getting dinner on the table. Its a handy skill that comes with being a trained financial strategist, and turned out to be an unlikely backbone for her culinary career. Her basic message to thrifty home cooks? Stretch your food dollars by treating your kitchen in terms of profit and loss.
As the manager of a household youre actually running a fairly complicated business, she says. There are simple lessons we can take from the business world and apply to our own homes.
In the business world, procurement is about obtaining goods. In the home kitchen, that means groceries. To really make the most of your dollars, think like a retailer. Each week, she says, grocery stores offer certain meats as loss leaders, products discounted by as much as 50 percent just to get customers through the door.
The way to know loss leaders is to grab the flyer at beginning and see whats on the front cover, she says. If youre smart, you dont just buy one, you buy two or three.
Successful businesses project what their upcoming costs and revenues will be. A rapid review of a months worth of grocery receipts will give the home cook a rough idea of whats being spent, dArabian says.
Once you have that number, figure out how much youd like to save per month say $100 then do some quick menu planning. Open the cupboard, the freezer, the fridge, glance around and see what needs to be used up, she says. Then buy only what you need to fill out the meals already lurking in your pantry. Just being aware, she says, will automatically reduce your spending.
Seriously? You have to promote dinner to your kids?
You dont have to, but youll be a lot more successful if you do, dArabian says. In the dArabian household, a different child presents the meal each night, explaining each dish in detail whats in it, where it comes from, how its made. The simple act of presenting the food takes the mystery out of it for picky eaters, she says.
Check your refrigerator once a week to see what needs to be used up, then apply some creative recipes. Wilting carrots? Try her any veggie soup. Lots of vegetables on the edge? Try dArabians crisper drawer pasta. The most expensive ingredient is the one you throw away, she says.
TOMATO SALAD-TOPPED GRILLED PIZZA
Start to finish: 45 minutes; servings: 4
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for dough
1-pound bag prepared pizza dough
1 large very ripe tomato, cored and chopped (or 1 1/4 cups halved cherry tomatoes)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced and quartered
2 cups arugula or other baby greens
Rub a bit of olive oil onto a cutting board, then place the pizza dough on it, turning to coat it lightly on all sides with the oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
After the dough has rested, heat one side of a grill to medium-high and the other side to medium-low.
In a medium bowl, combine the tomato, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt, basil and the 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss well, then set aside.
Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a circle about 14 inches across. Use the cutting board to carry the dough out to the grill. Place the dough on the hot side of the grill and grill until the bottom is browned and has grill marks, about 1 to 2 minutes. Use a spatula to flip the dough and move it to the cooler side of the grill.
Top the pizza with the mozzarella, then cover the grill and cook until the cheese is melted, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Use the spatula to transfer the pizza back to the cutting board. Cut the pizza into slices, then top evenly with the arugula. Using a slotted spoon, top the pizza with the tomatoes.
Nutrition per serving: 390 calories; 160 calories from fat (41 percent of total calories); 18 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 25 mg cholesterol; 51 g carbohydrate; 13 g protein; 2 g fiber; 520 mg sodium.
Recipe from Melissa dArabians Ten Dollar Dinners, Clarkson Potter, 2012