Does quality matter in your ingredient choices? Honestly I say it depends on what you are going to do with it. I know that’s a horrible answer, so let me walk you through my thought process.
What is the ingredient you are looking at? Are we talking about meats and seafoods, flours, seasonings, dairy and so on as that matters to me. I very rarely go cheap quality on meats and seafoods. I’ve just had really disappointing experiences with cheap meat and seafood, so I’ve stopped buying it. All purpose flour I buy in bulk at Costco, and am less picky about it. Seasonings it varies based on what it is. Table Salt is salt in my opinion, and I always buy it with iodine! Yes you can argue the point, but a dollar for a container on something that I don’t use a ton of makes more sense to me. Dairy is another one that it depends on what I am doing with it. High quality is necessary in some places and lower quality in other places. Let me walk you through a couple examples!
Butter is such a variable quality thing for me and part of that it price driven. Higher quality = Higher price, go figure. But I don’t need higher quality butter in chocolate chip cookies and most baked dishes. I love high quality butter on seared scallops, sautéed veggies, and butter spreads! Places where you actually taste the butters creaminess and rich flavor. Right now I have Costco butter and Darigold Farmer’s Reserve butter in my fridge, and use them both during the week. Milk I’ve started buying the organic variety as it has a longer shelf life and between Love and I a half gallon will last a couple weeks. When we have Miss GoGo I get an extra half gallon to make sure we don’t run out.
All purpose flour I could care a less about. I buy it in bulk from Costco and put it in a large sealed tub to keep it fresh. I do so much baking and cooking that this just makes way more sense to me then spending lots of money on something more expensive.
Spices, like I said above it’s hit and miss. Salt and pepper corns I tend to go a little cheaper and even Costco for them. We use grinders for the most part so there is a layer of protection to the flavor built in to them. Now, the thing like vanilla beans, red pepper flakes, and such I go middle of the road. I don’t pay for the super spendy ones, but I also don’t get the cheapest as their flavor is already so weak.
Meat and Seafood I never get cheap on; discount section is not getting cheap in my book! Depending on what I am doing, I will buy the high end cuts of meat, steak tartare needs high end cuts! I also tend to grab roasts and grind them up in my food grinder, when I need ground meats. I do this because 1) it’s cheaper then most ground meats and 2) I get to control what’s in it.
Honestly though, the quality of the ingredients does have an impact on your final dish. However, you need to be happy with what you’ve spent on the ingredients and the final outcome of the dish. I can live with cheap meats and dairy when I need to. But when I can afford them, I will buy them. But, I’m not going to stress my life out about it as that just isn’t worth it! Making the budgets meet is way more important then the quality of the ingredients in my book. Enjoy!