A homemade, all-purpose marinade is an inexpensive way to add flavor to poultry, meat, fish and vegetables.
Olive oil and lemon juice-based versions are excellent choices. Both ingredients are affordable and pair well with a variety of herbs, as well as with aromatics such as onion, garlic and shallot.
In most marinades, there's no need to use your best (and pricier) olive oil. Too many other flavors will compete with it in a marinade, so it's a waste to use anything but the cheaper stuff.
You also can also take advantage of convenient squeeze bottles of lemon juice found in the freezer case. It's from concentrate, but is almost as good as fresh. They cost about $2 but have about as much juice as seven large lemons.
A small amount of Dijon mustard whisked into the mixture adds another layer of flavor and also helps emulsify the marinade so it won't separate right away.
This recipe for Grilled Lemon and Sage Chicken calls for fresh sage and minced garlic, but almost any herb will do. Thyme, rosemary and parsley are particularly good with lemon.
Buying fresh herbs at the market can be expensive. Keeping some pots of your favorite herbs growing in your kitchen window or in an outdoor garden is a convenient way to have an abundant supply at a lower cost.
And don't let leftover herbs wilt in the refrigerator. Wrapped tightly in plastic they can be frozen for several months.
This recipe uses cut-up assorted chicken parts with the bone in. It is one of the most economical ways to buy chicken, usually costing about $1.50 a pound.
Removing the skin from the chicken before marinating greatly enhances the amount of flavor that is absorbed and will make the dish quite a bit healthier.
Since the chicken can marinate for up to 10 hours, this recipe is easily prepared well in advance.
The dish can serve a family of four with enough for leftovers at a cost of just over $1.50 per serving.
Fresh corn on the cob and a tomato salad make delicious, seasonal accompaniments.