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10 frugal cooking tips that sizzle
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5. Seek tough cuts of beef.
Going meatless will save money, but if you must do beef, go with cheaper, tougher cuts such as the flank steak, London broil or chuck roast, and slowcook them. Braise or sear meat first to lock in flavor.

Alternatively, you can marinate tough cuts in citrus juice or light soy sauce for an hour or so to help break down the meat before cooking, says Vivaldo.

6. Buy straight from local farmers.
For the best tasting and cheapest produce, try your local farmer's market. Each state should have a Web site from which you can search for farmer's markets, says Webber. The USDA also lets you search for certified farmer's markets, or CFMs, on its Web site.

7. Shop Latin markets and Korean grocers.
For ethnic dishes, hit local ethnic food stores for deals on exotic spices, juices and other foods.

Essential kitchen tools
Unless you host a cooking show or really need a wok and waffle iron, most kitchen gadgets and cool cookware go beyond necessity. Get the most versatile pieces and save your money for other expenses.

8. Don't bother with all-inclusive sets.
Contrary to what you might believe, all-inclusive sets don't give you the best price. With cookware sets costing more than $100 and knife sets selling for hundreds of dollars, buying in bulk quickly becomes less than economical.

You're not necessarily buying quality when you purchase a set. According to Vivaldo, particular brands don't necessarily make the best of each type of pan or pot. Stick to buying key cookware, such as stock pots for boiling pasta and nonstick skillets for sauteing vegetables and frying eggs. Pick up new cookware as needed.

Look for thick pans to help sear meat, and make sure everything is oven-safe, says Turano. That way, you can move pans from the stovetop to the oven without a meltdown.

Visit restaurant supply stores for good deals on pans and pots.

Those on a budget can skimp on knives by buying a chef's knife. "It's your all-purpose knife in the kitchen," says Vivaldo. A good 8-inch to 12-inch knife will cost around $30 to $50. Those with a little more money should pick up a paring knife and a serrated knife.

"You can do anything with those three knives," says Turano.

Just remember: Sharp knives save on cutting time and help prevent slippage. Routine use bends the edge of the knife, which a steel can realign. Actual sharpening, however, should be done by a professional, says Turano. Knife shops, butcher shops and cutlery stores should be able to sharpen knives for a few dollars.

Avoid knives that claim to never need sharpening. "There's no such thing," says Vivaldo.

9. Opt for versatility.
Vivaldo also recommends purchasing a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. "It's a workhorse," she says of its versatility for cooking and storing casseroles, sweets and side dishes, among other functions.

Next: "Make sure you have enough food in your pantry to make a meal."
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