Interview with one of Canada's top food bloggers - Kevin from Closet Cooking

Interview with one of Canada’s top food bloggers – Kevin from Closet Cooking

We have the pleasure of interviewing one of the top food bloggers in Canada (in my opinion), Kevin Lynch. He runs the website, http://www.closetcooking.com. He is very unique in the fact that he “never really paid all that much attention to food”.

It all changed a few years ago when he realized that his meals were boring and that he had been eating the same few dishes over and over again for a long time. He had had enough and it was time for change! He found that he really enjoyed cooking and now cooking has become his passion and obsession in his quest to never eat a boring meal again!

It is remarkable seeing the great meals he creates on his blog. He publishes a printable recipe with easy directions and great photos. Kevin should write a cookbook! What I find amazing is on his blog he creates recipes from so many different cuisines.

Here is a photo of Kevin in Santorini Greece.

He takes such great photos on his blog of his creations. Here are some examples: How about a Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake).

or his,  Caramelized Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Here is the interview with Kevin:

1. How many people do you shop for in your household?
Just me.

2. Do you have a regular budget for groceries?
Not really. Because I am buying a lot of food for my blog, Closet Cooking, I tend to spend more on groceries.

3. Do you shop name brand items (Unico, Kraft) or no-name store brands?
I am split on this one.  For some things, the brand names are just better but for a lot of staples like canned beans the no names are just as good and usually a lot cheaper.

4. Which store do you spend the most of your grocery budget?
In order: Farmers Market, Food Basics, Metro

5. Do you use coupons on a regular basis?
No.  Since a lot of my cooking is for my blog I tend to shop based on what I need for Closet Cooking and not what is on sale.  I do try to stock up on staples whenever they are on sale or when I get a coupon for them.

6. Do you shop with a grocery list?
Yes.  I write up a meal plan every week, pull together all of the recipes from it and write out a complete list of groceries.

7. Do you shop at farmers markets on a regular basis?
Yes.  I walk down to the Saint Lawrence Market here in Toronto every Saturday morning.  The farmers market is in general more expensive, but a lot of the time the produce is better than you can find in grocery stores and you can also find some things that you simply cannot get in regular grocery stores.  For a lot of vegetables the quality of the farmers market is about the same as the grocery store but the difference between fresh locally grown strawberries or cherries and the imported ones at the grocery store is like night and day and it is certainly worth the extra money.

8. Do you make home preserves or freeze fruits/vegetables?
Yes.  I do not have much freezer space but I like to freeze as much as I can when it is fresh and in season.  Right now I have some blueberries, tomatillos, roasted red peppers and some cranberries in my freezer.  I also enjoy making jams/preserves and I almost always have some jars of strawberry jam and mango chutney on hand.

9. Any tip to reduce your grocery bill?
I am bad at this but I do like to try to save money by not wasting anything.  This means that I try to plan my meals in such a way that I finish anything that is leftover from one dish in another dish.  For example, if one recipe calls for 2 leeks and leeks come in bundles of three, I try to plan to use that third leek in another dish later on in the week.  I like to make my own stocks and broths so I save the bones and if I do not finish off those fresh herbs or those last two stalks of celery or that last leek, I freeze them and use them to make some chicken stock later on.

10. Any grocery shopping advice (at the store, checkout, planning)?
I like to write out my grocery list ahead of time and I tend to order the items on the list based on the location in the grocery store that I will be buying the items at.

11. Are there any products that you splurge on (regardless if it was on sale)?
I tend to spend a bit of money at the cheesemonger getting good quality cheeses.  I almost always have some good Greek feta on hand along with some parmigiano reggiano.

12. As someone that cooks at home often, what would you recommend as a simple grocery swap (i.e. instead  of sour cream using plain yogurt)?
I do like swapping plain yogurt for sour cream!

13. What is in your fridge at the moment?

Starting on the bottom right I have a bunch of homemade kimchi, arugula and beside that some leftovers and water.   Behind all of that is a huge collection of sauces, pastes etc.  On the middle shelf there is some lettuce, celery, an eggplant, green onions, etc.  On the top we have some leftover bolognese sauce, feta, some parmigiano reggiano, some preserved meyer lemons, pickled green tomatoes, plum chutney, leftover mushroom and leek wild rice salad, pomegranate, sour cream, yogurt and olives.

Grocery Alerts take:

Kevin showed us even when cooking great food that it can add up. He has a very organized fridge. I like how he uses leftovers efficiently with as little waste as possible. I think it is so important when stretching your budget to always save items like the bones to make broth – reduces your purchase of additional broth.

He showed planning is important to prevent waste. He stretches leeks to be used over multiple meals. Another thing we do is save the stalks from broccoli to use when making a slow-cooker type stew.

For some of the more ethnic ingredients that he uses, I noticed that he visits the Saint Lawrence Market. He commented that it is more expensive which is contrary to what many people think of farmers markets and getting deals. However, because he is cooking for 1 person and where the quality is important, I think it makes sense.

I like the fact that he spends money on quality cheeses! My family loves cheese but high-quality cheese is more expensive but the taste is important for certain recipes.

Kevin has showed us examples of balance. He spends more money in some areas than others. I agree with him that food is important and it is worth cooking new items. That is one reason why we love to run Grocery Alerts – we learn something new each week.

You can follow him on Twitter @ClosetCooking and his Facebook page is http://facebook.com/ClosetCooking. Thanks again to Kevin for sharing his grocery shopping habits and secrets.

Steven Zussino

Steven Zussino is the co-founder of Grocery Alerts Canada. He loves to help Canadians save money on groceries. He also runs the blog, CanadianTravelHacking.com.

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