Bloggers learn the secret to eating gourmet on a budget

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Indy Lifestyle Online

A savvy blogger who eats like gourmand on a pauper's budget will be sharing some of her trade secrets at an international bloggers conference this weekend.

Before the US economy began to tank and her work as a senior TV producer dried up, Amy McCoy would scarcely bat an eye at buying premium specialty cheeses and prime rib roast for a weeknight dinner.

McCoy, who worked on major shows like the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and the BBC series Planet Earth, was nonplussed about paying $24.95 for a pound of cheese or $5.99 for a bag of dried pasta from Italy.

But when the recession hit in 2008 and work became scarce, McCoy, now 40, was forced to rein in the spending - a major lifestyle change for a foodie gourmet whose sophisticated palate was used to premium quality ingredients.

So the Massachusetts woman parlayed her new challenge into a blog The Poor Girl Gourmet , where she began to write wallet-friendly recipes and frugal gourmet tips which she'll be sharing at the International Food Blogger Conference on Sunday in New Orleans.

Despite the fact that the cost of food has risen about four percent overall in the US this year, food bloggers and consumers alike can meet their nutritional needs and food cravings by adopting a few savvy budget-friendly tips, McCoy said in an interview with Relaxnews this week.

For instance, trade brand-name products for in-store brands which are cheaper and have improved in quality and range, McCoy suggests.

Buying local ingredients in season, using recipes that call for a minimum number of ingredients and eating less red meat were some of the tricks she used to reduce her weekly grocery bill from $200 to $40 for two people.

Americans also waste 40 percent of their food, McCoy added, an 'absurd' amount that's akin to flushing money down the food-clogged drain. By saving their veggie scraps and meat bones, McCoy and her husband make their own stock and brown bag their leftovers for lunch the next day.

But while austerity measures require more discipline, little luxuries should be permitted to stay on track, she said.

"Allow yourself little splurges. It's like dieting, it's a lifestyle change. You can't do this without pampering yourself here and there or you'll end up resenting it."

For foodie voyeurs who are always on the lookout for the next great blog, McCoy says Twitter is a good resource. Some of her favorites include Sassy Radish, Under the High Chair and Orangette.

McCoy also has a cookbook inspired by her blog, The Poor Girl Gourmet:  Eat in Style on a Bare-bones Budget.

She will be speaking Sunday at the International Food Blogger Conference in a session called "Eating on a Budget." The conference runs August 26 to 28. Other sessions include food styling and photography, and writing about food and culture.

Here's a recap of some of McCoy's budget-friendly eating tips:

- Eat less red meat.

- Eat in-season and local ingredients.

- Try not to waste food and recycle scraps into stocks and soups.

- Modify recipes to reduce the number of ingredients. Stay away from recipes that call for specialty, one-time use ingredients.

- Buy in-store brands

- Buy in bulk

- Do some online price comparison and put the price next to the grocery item to stay on budget.

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