With inflation causing grocery prices to reach new highs, I've turned into a proud budget shopper. For most food items I purchase regularly, my shopping strategy hasn't had to change all that much. Opting for generic brands and swapping in lower-cost alternatives (like chicken thighs for chicken breasts) has kept my bank account mostly happy, but TBH, I'll admit that there are still some "fancier" products that I'll always find room for in my budget. They taste so good, IMO, that I find they're almost always worth the splurge.
Recently, u/Ashamed_Maybe7725 asked redditors who cook to share "fancy ingredients" they've tried that are completely worth the hype, and after reading the responses, I've gotta say I strongly agree. These are some of the most worthwhile ones — and I even added several of my own that I'm strangely passionate about, too.
1. "Real aged balsamic vinegar. Not even necessarily the overly-pricey stuff. The best brands run around $20-30 for an 8-ounce bottle. And trust me: It'll blow all the glazes and un-aged versions out of the water."
2. "Free-range eggs. The first time I fried one up for breakfast, I was honestly astonished at how much more flavor they packed when compared to conventional eggs."
3. "High-quality olive oil. I got some from a farm in California, and it was amazing. So fresh, fragrant, and flavorful."
4. "I love buying slightly higher-end butter, since it tastes so much better. Kerrygold is always a solid choice!"
5. "Good maple syrup. As a New Englander, I won't eat pancakes when I visit Southern relatives. I truly don't care how good you make pancakes — if you're not putting maple syrup on them, why are we bothering?"
6. "Kewpie mayo. This Japanese-style mayonnaise is becoming super popular at many American restaurants, and keeping a bottle in your fridge is an easy way to add tons of flavor to any dish where you'd normally use conventional mayo — from sandwiches to chicken salads to rice bowls."
7. "Parmigiano Reggiano cheese instead of 'Parmesan.'"
8. "Wild mushrooms like morels, chanterelles, and maitakes taste so much better than the conventional ones, even if they can be a bit hard to find."
9. "Investing in good quality peppercorns for freshly cracked pepper. The amount of extra flavor is astounding."
10. "Luxardo cherries for cocktails. It seems wild to spend $20 on a jar that small of anything, let alone something that I go through in a month or so, but now, it's just a non-negotiable part of my budget."
11. "Black garlic. Thank you Bob's Burgers for that tasty treat."
12. "Duck fat. I recently discovered that it's not much more expensive than high-quality butter or olive oil, so now, I use it for lots of stuff — like eggs, poultry, and really delicious and crispy potatoes."
13. "High-quality, oil-packed tuna. I don't even love canned tuna, but the slightly pricier brands are indescribably more delicious than the classic ones I grew up with...and kinda hated."
14. "Fancy flaky salt, like Maldon. It comes at a ridiculous price, but it actually makes a huge difference for anything that you'd normally sprinkle with salt before serving, like salads or roasted veggies."
15. "Watching the Salt Fat Acid Heat documentary made me want to try real soy sauce."
16. "If your grocery store or an Italian market near you sells fresh pasta, it's worth every penny. If you can't find the fresh stuff, check the freezer aisle, too. It's a little more expensive than buying a box of dried pasta, but it's also a really simple way to turn an otherwise ordinary meal into something totally memorable."
17. "'Fancy' cheese. Honestly, I'm always skeptical when someone makes a cheese board that has any kind of ridiculously expensive cheese. Like, there's no way this is worth $50 a pound or whatever...and every time, I eat my words (and it, of course)."
18. "Local honey, especially from different pollinating sources. You can truly taste the difference between honey from bees that pollinate clover, for instance, in contrast to the ones that pollinate apple trees."
19. "Whole nutmeg for baking. I bought about three or four whole nutmeg seeds a few years ago, and I use them fairly regularly for eggnog and baked goods. I can't believe how long I used pre-ground nutmeg."
20. "Splurge on Gruyère cheese for the best mac 'n' cheese ever."
21. "Vanilla bean paste. It's so much better than using vanilla extract."
What higher-end or "fancy" products do you always splurge on for your own kitchen? Tell us your faves in the comments below.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.