Emmy-winning TV host Frankie Celenza has cooked at the White House alongside former first lady Michelle Obama and for celebrities like champion tennis player Novak Djokovic. Now he teaches the masses how to make tasty, no-fuss, cheap meals, often for around $2 a serving.
Celenza is the host of "Struggle Meals," a Tastemade show that streams on Facebook Watch, YouTube, and Amazon. In each episode, he demonstrates how to resist store bought options by making your own mouth-watering meals without breaking the bank. Celenza brings an abundance of food knowledge to dishes like gnocchi in a bacon cream sauce for $1.96 per serving.
Grow spoke to Celenza about the best ways to save money on food and how his career got started.
Q: How did you get your start as a cook and TV presenter?
A: At the very beginning of college, I started a pasta-and-burger dinner club in which kids would pay me — slightly less than the school's meal plan — for food that was superior. ... When the seventh friend of a friend told me, "You should film this," I thought, "Whoa, seven people I don't know have told me I should film this."
Q: What's an expensive kitchen tool that's worth the investment?
A: A blender or food processor. The ability to make smoothies, sauces, pestos, and soups, and the fact that a good one lasts for decades, is worth the sticker shock.
Q: What are your best money-saving kitchen tips?
A: Planning on using everything you buy. The U.N. says Americans throw 40% of all groceries in the garbage. With the average American spending $2,400 a year on food, that's [about an extra] $1,000 in your pocket.
There's a serious monetary incentive for you not to waste food. It's way bigger than canceling a Netflix subscription. Save leftovers, turn them into an egg frittata the next day, and buy less.
Q: What's your best grocery store tip?
A: I absolutely love hitting up the salad bar for semi-pre-made ingredients. If I'm making Romesco sauce, sometimes the salad bar has roasted peppers, this saves me a step and 40-plus minutes ... and [I] only use exactly what you need (since they sell by weight).
Q: If you could inspire people to start cooking instead of dining out, what would you say?
A: Meals are three opportunities to enjoy, savor, and relish the amazing world we live in. ... Be that creative person, save money, master a skill for life (cooking), and ultimately, I guarantee you'll enjoy the good life more.
And here's Celenza's favorite fast mac & cheese recipe, which comes in at less than $1 per serving.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
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