Five Ways To Enjoy Gourmet Cooking On A Hot-dog Budget

NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- If your love for decadent foods is exceeded only by your dislike of the plump price tags that come with cooking gourmet, don't despair. Here are five ways to maximize your money without sacrificing your good taste:

Familiarize yourself with your farmer's market.
Buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers whenever possible. Keep in mind, produce is usually cheapest and tastiest when it's in season.

Choose your meat products carefully.
They are often the costliest component of a meal. It pays to buy in bulk and freeze meats whenever possible. If you're on a very tight budget, consider replacing top-shelf products, such as rib eye, with cheaper cuts like flank steak. With careful handling, they can be just as tasty.

The difference between good and great can be as simple as adding herbs.
Bundles of fresh herbs are now widely available at grocery stores and supermarkets, but if you use them often the price can add up. Growing them yourself can be easy and cost-effective.

Don't discount the discount stores.
These days they often carry luxury food items. Many oenophiles and organic food aficionados stock up at Trader Joe's, and Costco has been known to offer deals on everything from Dom Perignon to parmesano reggiano and sashimi grade mahi-mahi.

You've got the food, now you need the tools.
Inexperienced cooks often blow their budgets on a name-brand chef's knife or sautC) pan. Stretch your dollars by buying basic kitchen items at a restaurant supply store.

By Marshall Loeb