This past weekend we traveled to a nearby city so our sons could compete in an Awana tournament. Afterwards, we hit up a few of my favorite grocery stores to stock up on a few condiments and staples for our pantry. One of these places was Trader Joe's. When we lived in California, we lived within walking distance of one that was within walking distance of the beach. Now, we only get there every 5-6 months.
Because of the long lapse between visits, I've learned how to live without Trader Joe's <sniff> but one of the things I do like to buy there is their Pecorino Romano cheese. It's kind of like Parmesan, but made of sheep's milk with a different flavor. A good-sized wedge of it will be around $6, or $9/lb. Even though it is way more expensive than our normal cheeses, I have found it worthwhile to purchase, and here is why:
Real, concentrated flavor goes a long way.
In many recipes, you may use 8 oz of cheddar, while many recipes only calls for 1 oz of parmesan. The total cost of the cheddar at the price of $2.50/lb would be $1.25, while the total cost of parmesan would be only $.56.
The same goes for feta cheese, though I'm hoping to learn how to make my own soon using this recipe.
There are other flavor-boosting foods that I like to get every now and then for the same reason. Some of them are not that expensive, while others might look more expensive at the first glance. But like the cheese, a little can go a long way and keep you from feeling deprived. I'd much rather spend a couple of dollars on Kalamata olives than break down and eat out. It's kind of like preventative food care - a little attention to detail now can save you big money later.
If you keep these things on hand and use them prudently, you can really amplify the flavors of everyday dishes:
Fresh herbs (easy to grow as well) such as parsley or cilantro
Salty hard cheeses
Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
Are there any foods that you splurge on, and if so, why?