One of the most important parts in cooking well is having the right ingredients. I don't believe that I need all the gourmet, brand name spices, salts, and garlic-in-a-jar, but I do believe that its worth it to splurge for the better vegetables, the better cut of meat, and the fresher seafood.
I am a member of a vegetable co-op type movement which delivers fresh, locally grown produce to me once every other week. This is a new culinary/grocery trend that has spread (probably from California) over the last few years across the country. Every other Thursday, I get a delivery of fresh veggies and fruit from Black Hog Farm, and I menu plan around the delivery. Ordering veggies like this forces me to become more creative with my meals and to incorporate more greenery into the scheme. Sometimes you get some pretty interesting things, like kohlrabi, or a whole stalk of brussels sprouts (who knew they grow on a stalk?) and sometimes it's a little more predictable.
My bi-weekly delivery this week included Florida corn, green peppers, new potatoes, carrots, summer squash, tomatoes, lettuce, blackberries, and blueberries. All for $23. I know that if I went to the grocery store, I'd probably walk away with a lot less for a lot more money. Interestingly, I find that the veggies I get from the local producers last in my fridge a lot longer than the veggies I buy at the store--perhaps it's because I don't know how long the veggies in the store sat on the delivery truck before they got to where I bought them.
This service has definitely pushed my boundaries. I cook things I have never cooked before and consequently, have invested some time in researching recipes. Most of the time, the vegetables are at their peak stage of ripeness or just coming into the right stage for eating, and I don't worry about how many other people passed it over before it came to me. And most importantly, the vegetables taste better. Yum!