4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs

Gourmet chefs who love cooking elevated cuisine at home should consider these money-saving credit cards that offer great food-related rewards.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Cooking at home is a way to hone your skills and try new dishes without having to shell out big bucks at a fancy restaurant. When making gourmet cuisine from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of ways to save money on quality ingredients. Cooking every day can end up being expensive, especially if you’re making food that’s organic or exotic.

All of your grocery shopping and driving expenses can add up, so if you’re someone who loves to cook elevated food at home, you’ll want a credit card that rewards you for your spending. Read on for our picks for the best credit cards for at-home gourmet chefs. (If you plan to apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at the supermarket on up to $6,000 of purchases per year. Any purchases over your $6,000 limit will still earn you 1% cash back. Additionally, there are 3% cash back rewards on gas.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a year, and then variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and the APR can be relatively low, depending on your creditworthiness.
For Gourmet Chefs: This card is perfect for someone who spends ample time grocery shopping and cooking to their heart’s desire. The gas rewards are great if you’re someone who loves to scour faraway, specialty markets for the most authentic tahini paste.
Drawbacks: If you prefer to shop for ingredients online instead of spending at supermarkets and gas stations, this card won’t hold as much value for you.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: You’ll get 3% back on all supermarket purchases, 5% back on gas purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.
Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%. 9.74% to 19.99% on purchases.
Why We Picked It: The intro APR (for balance transfers) period is long and the rewards are extremely good, plus there’s no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: With all the points you earn, you can redeem rewards like dining gift cards and trips to food destinations, so this card is perfect for any foodie looking to spend on food in order to receive amazing food-related rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases per quarter for rotating spending categories, unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening. Also earn a $25 bonus after adding an authorized user and making your first purchase within the same three month period.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Then, variable 15.99% to 24.74%.
Why We Picked It: There’s no annual fee and the rotating reward categories are beneficial for those who like to spread out their rewards.
For Gourmet Chefs: The rewards categories vary from gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants so this card is perfect for a chef who likes to explore and try new foods. You’ll get 1% back on cookware and cookbooks, too.
Drawbacks: The APR is relatively high, and you don’t get to pick your own rewards categories. They’re selected each quarter by Chase.

4. Golden 1 Platinum Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant spending, plus 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 7.79% to 13.79%.
Why We Picked It: There are solid rewards and low rates, and no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: Considering all the groceries you’ll be buying, you might as well save money while you expand your culinary repertoire at home. Plus, California is a large state — if you find yourself driving great lengths for food then this card is for you.
Drawbacks: You have to live in California to apply for this credit card, and there’s also no introductory APR period.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Chase Freedom card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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How a Rice Cooker Can Cut Your Food Budget

A rice cooker can make almost everything you want in the kitchen.

A rice cooker may seem fairly limited as far as kitchen tools go. It can accomplish one simple task very well, and that’s it.

But it’s time to expand your horizons. With a little creativity, it’s possible to use a rice cooker instead of your other kitchen tools to make all your meals and save on your food budget.

How a Rice Cooker Works

A rice cooker is made up of an electric heat source, a pot and a thermostat. In normal use, you fill the pot with rice and water and heat it.

Once the water boils off, the temperature inside the pot can rise above the boiling point. Once the thermostat detects this, the rice cooker turns off or, with newer models, goes to a “warm” setting. If your rice to water ratio was correct, you’re left with perfectly cooked rice after flipping just one switch.

Many home cooks have realized that, with some tinkering, you can cook many things in a rice cooker — not just rice. The most famous proponent of the rice cooker is probably the late film critic Roger Ebert, who took a detour from cinema to write his guide to rice cookers in 2009, called “The Pot and How to Use It.”

We spoke to Neal Bertrand, a resident of southern Louisiana who published his own rice cooker cookbook, called “Rice Cooker Meals: Fast Home Cooking for Busy People.” Bertrand, through his own experimentation and the input of cooks from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, assembled 60 recipes that can be made using a rice cooker.

‘A Portable Kitchen’

A rice cooker can make much more than rice, from pasta to seafood and even beef. And using this one tool to cook can really help you save both time and money. For example, making pasta is a matter of putting it in a bowl with water and a little olive oil, followed by all the other ingredients.

Most of the recipes just require waiting until the rice cooker switches from “cook” to “warm,” but for gumbo and other dishes with lots of liquid, Brennan recommends using a kitchen timer as well. In addition, some of the meat dishes require browning in a skillet, though he said the rice cooker can also be used to brown meat in a pinch.

For someone extremely budget-conscious, a rice cooker can potentially replace many normally-used kitchen tools, including a stove.

“I call it a portable kitchen,” Bertrand said. “All you need is a rice cooker, your ingredients and a source of electricity.”

Bertrand said readers of the cookbook had told him they were able to eat during power outages in Louisiana by plugging their rice cookers into generators.

Buying a Rice Cooker

A decent rice cooker should cost $40 or less, according to The Sweethome, a home goods review website. Using the right credit card could go along way in making that expense more affordable and in rewarding any future ingredient purchases. (Here are a few credit cards that reward you for grocery spending. But before applying, make sure to check your credit. Many rewards credit cards require good to excellent credit scores to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

To get any potential rice cooker chefs started, we’ve provided Bertrand’s recipe for Black-Eyed Pea & Sausage Jambalaya. Bertrand said it is a favorite from his cookbook. Enjoy!

1 lb. smoked link beef or pork sausage, sliced and browned. (Browning optional)
1 (15.5-oz.) can black-eyed peas with jalapenos
1 (10.5-oz.) can beef broth
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) uncooked white rice
1/2 stick butter, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Brown the sausage in skillet and drain excess grease. Add all ingredients to rice cooker, stir, cover and press down COOK switch. Once the meal is cooked, and the COOK switch pops up to WARM mode, let it stand covered 10 minutes before serving.

Image: tisskananat

The post How a Rice Cooker Can Cut Your Food Budget appeared first on Credit.com.

How a Rice Cooker Can Cut Your Food Budget

A rice cooker can make almost everything you want in the kitchen.

A rice cooker may seem fairly limited as far as kitchen tools go. It can accomplish one simple task very well, and that’s it.

But it’s time to expand your horizons. With a little creativity, it’s possible to use a rice cooker instead of your other kitchen tools to make all your meals and save on your food budget.

How a Rice Cooker Works

A rice cooker is made up of an electric heat source, a pot and a thermostat. In normal use, you fill the pot with rice and water and heat it.

Once the water boils off, the temperature inside the pot can rise above the boiling point. Once the thermostat detects this, the rice cooker turns off or, with newer models, goes to a “warm” setting. If your rice to water ratio was correct, you’re left with perfectly cooked rice after flipping just one switch.

Many home cooks have realized that, with some tinkering, you can cook many things in a rice cooker — not just rice. The most famous proponent of the rice cooker is probably the late film critic Roger Ebert, who took a detour from cinema to write his guide to rice cookers in 2009, called “The Pot and How to Use It.”

We spoke to Neal Bertrand, a resident of southern Louisiana who published his own rice cooker cookbook, called “Rice Cooker Meals: Fast Home Cooking for Busy People.” Bertrand, through his own experimentation and the input of cooks from the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, assembled 60 recipes that can be made using a rice cooker.

‘A Portable Kitchen’

A rice cooker can make much more than rice, from pasta to seafood and even beef. And using this one tool to cook can really help you save both time and money. For example, making pasta is a matter of putting it in a bowl with water and a little olive oil, followed by all the other ingredients.

Most of the recipes just require waiting until the rice cooker switches from “cook” to “warm,” but for gumbo and other dishes with lots of liquid, Brennan recommends using a kitchen timer as well. In addition, some of the meat dishes require browning in a skillet, though he said the rice cooker can also be used to brown meat in a pinch.

For someone extremely budget-conscious, a rice cooker can potentially replace many normally-used kitchen tools, including a stove.

“I call it a portable kitchen,” Bertrand said. “All you need is a rice cooker, your ingredients and a source of electricity.”

Bertrand said readers of the cookbook had told him they were able to eat during power outages in Louisiana by plugging their rice cookers into generators.

Buying a Rice Cooker

A decent rice cooker should cost $40 or less, according to The Sweethome, a home goods review website. Using the right credit card could go along way in making that expense more affordable and in rewarding any future ingredient purchases. (Here are a few credit cards that reward you for grocery spending. But before applying, make sure to check your credit. Many rewards credit cards require good to excellent credit scores to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

To get any potential rice cooker chefs started, we’ve provided Bertrand’s recipe for Black-Eyed Pea & Sausage Jambalaya. Bertrand said it is a favorite from his cookbook. Enjoy!

1 lb. smoked link beef or pork sausage, sliced and browned. (Browning optional)
1 (15.5-oz.) can black-eyed peas with jalapenos
1 (10.5-oz.) can beef broth
1 1/4 cups (10 oz.) uncooked white rice
1/2 stick butter, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 small bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped green onions

Brown the sausage in skillet and drain excess grease. Add all ingredients to rice cooker, stir, cover and press down COOK switch. Once the meal is cooked, and the COOK switch pops up to WARM mode, let it stand covered 10 minutes before serving.

Image: tisskananat

The post How a Rice Cooker Can Cut Your Food Budget appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Throw a Killer Fourth of July Cookout on a Budget

Like parades and fireworks, Independence Day cookouts are a holiday tradition. But hosting one can get costly if you don't watch your budget.

Like parades and fireworks, Independence Day cookouts are a holiday tradition. But hosting one can get pricy if you don’t watch your budget. Here are some tips for hosting a fabulous cookout this Fourth of July without going broke, courtesy of Sarah Spigelman Richter, a food reporter based in Manhattan.

1. Think Quality Over Quantity

You may think you’re getting a deal on that discount meat, but chances are the pricier goods are a better value, said Richter. Though you’ll have fewer burgers to go around, you’ll feel better about eating meat that was raised ethically and sustainably — it’s better for your health, the environment and animal welfare. Of course, “sustainably sourced everything does cost more,” Richter said, so don’t feel pressured to serve up a steak. “Go for any sort of poultry that’s interesting to you,” she said, or choose sausages, fish or ground meat. The latter is often cheaper and more delicious.

2. Serve Veggies 

“You don’t want to forget people who don’t eat meat at your cookout,” said Richter, who advised hitting the farmer’s market to stock up. “My general rule of thumb is, whatever looks best that day, get it,” she said. Veggies usually taste good either right off the grill or when they’ve cooled down, so they’re a perfect snack for after the pool. Try loading kebabs with veggies and a small amount of meat, or serve up meatless grilled mains like beans and tofu. “Things that can fall through the grates like asparagus can always be put in a foil pouch placed directly on the grill,” Richter said.

3. Grill Fruit 

The surprising, smoky flavor of grilled fruit is like “dinner theater,” said Richter, who explained that grilling brings out the natural sugars in fruit, which makes them sweeter, like caramelized onions. Remember to brush whatever you’re grilling with a little olive oil and keep a close eye on your fruit so it doesn’t go up in flames (indirect heat is best). Richter advised grilling stone fruit like peaches, plums, nectarines, pluots and apricots. Leave the skins on, then peel afterward and serve with a dollop of cool whipped cream. “It’s a really easy dessert,” she said.

4. Ask Friends to BYOB

We won’t dissuade you from stocking up on basics like water and soda, but it never hurts to ask your friends to pitch in. If they have particular tastes — yes way, rosé — encourage them to round out the offerings. As Richter jokingly put it, “Get your friends to bring exactly what they like so you don’t wind up with three bottles of white zinfandel that nobody drinks and eventually turns into vinegar in your pantry.”

5. Use Rewards Credit Cards 

If you’re going to go shopping, you may as well get a little kickback for it, which is what rewards credit cards are all about. You can earn points toward perks like gift cards, account credit and discounts at your favorite stores. Just remember to check your credit before you apply, as many issuers require decent credit in order to qualify. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

6. Keep Side Dishes Simple 

“Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to make a risotto in the kitchen while everyone’s outside enjoying themselves,” said Richter. “Grab a bag of chips and some coleslaw and enjoy the day.”

Image: M_a_y_a

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6 Depression-Era Money Lessons My Grandparents Taught Me

Here are the values I hold close to my heart, all these years later.

My grandparents were only children in the Great Depression, and they learned a lot from their own parents during that difficult time. When they first were married, they had no money at all. They were very, very poor. But they were happy.

These two amazing people taught me many lessons in life — how to be a good person, how to sew and so much more. I remember watching my grandfather auction off cattle and pigs. Thinking back, it really amazes me how much they taught me without sitting me down. I suppose they led by example.

Of all the lessons they taught me, some stand out more than others, of course. Here are the values I hold close to my heart, all these years later.

1. Don’t Waste Food

I remember going to my grandma’s house and opening the refrigerator, or what my cousins and I often called “the ongoing science experiment.” Inside, you would find containers with a tiny scoop of potatoes or a completely dried out stalk of corn. When we tried to throw them out, she would get upset and tell us we could still eat it (which we never let her do, by the way). Still, it served as a lesson. Don’t throw things out immediately, save it or have it for dinner the next night.

When it comes to food, make sure you only purchase what you will eat. That way you’ll waste much less.

2. Know Your Wants Vs. Needs

The needs in your life include food, clothing, shelter and utilities like water and power. Your wants are different. You want a cell phone, but you don’t need it.

When we learn to identify our wants and needs, we become wiser about how we spend money. We hold onto it and get what we need. We also allow ourselves the occasional want — but not until our needs have been met. Learning to identify your wants vs. your needs is a crucial step in financial planning.

3. Pay With Cash

Unfortunately, I forgot this lesson when I was younger. Because of using credit unwisely, I got overwhelmed with debt and turned to bankruptcy for a way out. I then got married, and my husband and I built up more debt and had to dig ourselves out of the hole.

During the time we were paying it off, we switched back to using cash for everything. As a result, we gained better control of our money, because it really made us think about how we spent. We didn’t just rush out and get things because we could.

Looking back, I recall my grandparents always using cash, too. In fact, they did not even own a credit card. It was not that they couldn’t get one, they just decided not to. They said if they could not pay for something with cash, then they did not need it. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

And though they were not rich, when they retired, they lived comfortably. They had been wise enough with their spending that they were able to enjoy their retirement. In fact, my grandmother supported herself for many years until she got too ill and had to enter a nursing home.

4. Find Joy in Simple Things

When you ask people what makes them happy, some say it is their house, their car or even their gadgets. For others, it could be the expensive handbag or new watch they purchased.

When you asked my grandparents this question, their answers were always the same: things that were free. Playing games with the kids. Campouts in the backyard. Having joy doesn’t mean that you own a big house. It means you find happiness in the people and things around you. Find your own joy and don’t rely on things to give it to you.

5. Cook at Home

My grandma was an amazing cook. She owned a small cafe in the same building where my grandpa was an auctioneer.

Every Saturday, the cafe would be filled with farmers from all around the area coming in for one of her amazing caramel rolls or cinnamon rolls. When an auction ended, they’d stop in for a good home-cooked meal followed by a slice of Grandma’s award-winning pie.

Then, after a long day of cooking for others, Grandma went home and did it again. There was always a home-cooked meal on the table for her family. She planned her meals and any shopping trips wisely so she always had what she needed to cook for her kids.

My grandparents did not eat out very often. There was a garden where they grew their own vegetables, and the chickens they raised provided eggs and meat.

While I don’t have a garden or a small farm, I still cook most of our meals at home. I find it not only tastes better but is healthier. The best perk of all is sitting around the dinner table with my kids and having incredible conversations. I can often picture my own grandparents doing the same thing. Sharing a meal really matters.

6. Save for a Rainy Day

Nowadays, I don’t call my savings a rainy-day fund but an emergency fund. But the idea is the same. My grandparents always saved a bit of every dollar they made “just in case.” This was money they never touched until they had to. For them, and even our family, having money set aside provides peace of mind. (You can see more smart habits of savers here.)

Though my grandparents are both gone, the values they taught me live on. I am now taking the time to teach these to my own children. I hope that they, too, pass them along to their own kids someday. The 1930s may be in the past, but the lessons learned during that time can still resonate and work today.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

 

Image: SolStock

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8 Ways My Slow Cooker Saves Me Money

slow-cooker-saves-money

When I was first married 20 years ago, I received two slow cookers as wedding gifts. I had only used a slow cooker a couple of times, so I didn’t know if I would use them. Little did I know just how much I would come to love them. Not only did they save me time, I discovered that they saved me plenty of money as well. Here’s how.

1. Planning Meals

Using a slow cooker makes me plan ahead. I can’t come home and just throw something into the slow cooker, and have it ready within an hour; I have to plan ahead! By doing this, I spend less at the grocery store, and I end up using up all of the items I buy each week, too.

2. Not Eating Out

You know how it goes: You have a busy day, and then come home only to realize you have no clue what to make for dinner. So, you swing through the drive-thru, and pretty soon you’ve spent a lot of extra money each month. On days like this, I like to use Crockpot Freezer Meals, where I do all of my prepping for a week of meals at once. That way, I come home to a healthy home-cooked meal, even when I don’t have the time.

3. Not Buying Convenience Foods

When I neglect my slow cooker, I usually end up stopping by the store on a daily basis. I come home with things like frozen burritos, frozen pizzas and other pre-packaged foods that end up costing me more. When I use my slow cooker, however, I eat healthier home-cooked meals that taste better than pre-packaged convenience foods.

4. Cooking in Bulk

If you have a large slow cooker that holds 6 to 7 quarts, you can make big batches of food to serve your family for more than one meal. If you prefer not to eat leftovers, freeze them for another meal later in the month. My favorite thing to cook in bulk is Slow Cooker Chili. It makes a huge pot that feeds our family of nine. We usually eat it as chili for the first meal, then chili dogs or served over baked potatoes for the second.

5. Eating More Beans

Eating beans on a regular basis saves money. You can use them in place of meat or stretch out your meat dollars by replacing a portion of the meat with beans. (This works best with ground beef.) Of course, just eating a big pot of beans works well, too. When I was growing up, we would eat pinto beans to stretch the grocery dollars. As an adult, I discovered my favorite pinto beans recipe was one where I slow cook the beans in spices and top them with cheese and sour cream.

6. Saving Time

When I use slow cooker recipes, I spend a lot less time in the kitchen. And since I like to do my cooking preparation a week at a time, I can prepare 6 to 7 dinners in an hour or two, eliminating the need to cook each evening. If you think of your time as an hourly wage, you could free up a few hours each week to spend on making money elsewhere. You could use that extra time to work on your home business or other money-making venture. If you don’t have another way to make money, consider using extra time to find a side income.

7. Saving on Electricity

Using your oven during the summer heats your house. Your air conditioner has to stay on longer to cool it back down, which costs more money. By using your slow cooker instead, you are saving money on cooling costs.

8. Saving Scraps

If you have leftovers of any vegetables or meats, place them in a baggie in your freezer. Eventually your bag will be full, and you can turn it into vegetable soup that you can make in the slow cooker. It’s like having a free meal!

[Editor’s Note: You can use this free tool to track your financial goals, like building good credit scores, each month on Credit.com.]

Image: tirc83

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