By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
A portion of every dollar you earn is spent on food, so do yourself a favor and make that food taste better. Whether you dine out or prepare meals at home, eating is one of those necessities that is pleasant enough but can drain your wallet if you don't proceed cautiously.
To help you eat well and cheaply, we've found several creative ways to make food taste better and look better.
Pass the salt, please. Shake it up with salt and pepper! Salt may no longer be worth its weight in gold, but the flavor it adds to food can't be ignored. If you're entertaining, specialty salts can spark a conversation and add a bit of color while enhancing the taste. Try a "smoked" salt, salt infused with flavors such as lemon and espresso, or volcanic salts that come in a variety of colors. Infused salts often carry slightly higher price tags, but a little goes a long way. You can find jars of colorful specialty sea salt in the $10-15 price range.
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Oy! Caliente. Adding some extra heat to a dish is another inexpensive way to make food taste better. Jalapeno or habanero peppers cost pennies if fresh and a few dollars for the canned or jarred varieties, but the spicy heat they add stretches far and wide. If you're cooking in the Italian style, sprinkle in some dried red pepper flakes. For Asian meals, sriracha chili sauce is a preferred choice. For American cuisine, the recent hot sauce craze gives you plenty of options to choose among.
Spicy foods are stimulants, as well. They raise your body temperature, increase circulation, and possibly increase your metabolism. Best of all, spicy foods release endorphins and raise serotonin levels, which relieves stress and leaves you feeling tip-top -- after your mouth stops burning, that is.
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Dress it up. Think about some of your favorite dishes -- there's a good chance that the flavor comes from the sauce. Tantalize your taste-buds with a red pepper! No matter the type of cuisine, the difference between a good and bad pesto, tahini, teriyaki, mole, or masala makes all the difference between a good and bad meal. Preparing a mouth-watering sauce isn't necessarily difficult, either. Check out or AllRecipes for a basic sauce or browse and find inspiration to try something new that makes food taste better. After you find a sauce that appeals, buy the ingredients in bulk to save money and prepare enough to last several weeks. Some oil-based sauces and dressings don't spoil if stored in the fridge; others should be frozen. Add some of your signature sauce to appropriate dishes.
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Make it pretty. Eating involves more than just your taste buds and a beautifully plated dish set on the table adds to the experience. In other words, what you see and smell can actually make food taste better. Present a variety of colors by including a green salad, purple potatoes, beets, carrots, or any other vibrant vegetable as a side dish. Fresh herbs can be used to add flavor, color, and smell. You can even garnish foods with edible flowers, such as squash blossoms, nasturtiums, lavender, or day lilies.
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