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CreamyGoodness 09-23-2012 02:53 PM

Maximum Return on Investment- The Supermarket
When I was a bachelor I had a job that paid more than I knew what to do with. That ended... and so did the way I bought groceries. Instead of just "buying what I need" I started looking at price tags, contemplated using leftovers, and planning meals out a week ahead of time. Given the world economy, I doubt I'm alone.

So, I thought I would start a thread to share our tips and tricks at the supermarket. I certainly don't consider myself a guru and I'm not preaching or talking down to anyone. Some of these items won't apply to everyone (you might be allergic to gluten or vegan or you might have a gaggle of kids and the equations change), but hopefully everyone will learn something. I hope to get some ideas too. Oh, and if your locale has different prices or availability, I can only really claim to know my little corner of NYC, so your mileage may and will vary.

So, in no particular order, without further ado, are the following.

1) Butter- if instead of buying the 4 sticks of butter package, buying the 1 pound solid block will save $1 or more. Buying just 2 sticks at a time usually means you are paying an extra dollar on every pound of butter. And if it is the little lines on the packaging that makes you stick with the sticks (get it?), just remember, you are a brewer! You have a digital scale!

2) Clorox costs $4.99 a gallon. The store brand costs $0.99 a gallon. I can't imagine Clorox being a bleachier bleach (though I'm not a scientist and I could be wrong) so this is a definite UP YOURS Clorox.

3) Fresh herbs. You need a tablespoon of parsley, but you can only buy it by the bunch, so about 90% goes to waste. Instead of buying dry parsley, which has likely been on a shelf for a year and a half, just freeze the rest in a ziptop bag (store brand works just as well as ziplock) with a paper towel in it.

4) If day old or 2 day old Italian or French bread is on sale (if you are tight with the baker or bakery department you might be able to sweet talk them into giving it to you for free), take it home and make homemade breadcrumbs (these freeze nicely, and dont have the preservatives that the 4C stuff does. Oh yeah, and the storebought breadcrumbs are like $4. F that.) Also, if you have some extra eggs and milk and cheese in the house, you can make savory bread pudding with just about any leftover breakfast meat and/or cheese. Thats a meal right there (or a killer side dish). It might even get you laid. Story partially fabricated.

5) 100% Fruit Juices- not fruit cocktails... I just found out that something like 90% of store brand cranberry juice is made and bottled by Ocean Spray. Plus its like $2 cheaper. On a similar note, I will not buy Schwepps seltzer or tonic water because a 2-liter bottle of "Vintage" store brand is $0.99 as opposed to $2.99.

6) Celery. I cook with a lot of fresh celery, but I could never use it fast enough before it got limp and nasty. So I threw a lot away. Now, thanks to my hero Alton Brown, I get a big jar with about 2 inches of water in the bottom and stand the celery up in it roots side down in the fridge. It lasts a ridiculously long amount of time this way, and I only use 1 bunch when I used to use literally 5 or 6 over the same period of time. Also, dont forget, any stock or soup you might make isnt going to suffer if your celery (or carrots for that matter) are a little limp.

7) I used to buy loose onions by the pound every single day when I needed them. I always wound up throwing half a large onion away, or relegating it to the stock pot. Now for $0.99 I get a bag of smaller onions (I think it comes out to like 2 pounds). Being Italian, I cant live without onions, so this is a godsend.

9) Buy a gallon of whole milk as cheaply as you can manage. Get a big pot, add a little salt to taste, and boil for a while being sure to not scald or curdle. Remove from heat, cover, and add about a tablespoon of white vinegar. Stir and allow to sit covered for 30 minutes to an hour. Pour your new pot-cheese or farmer's-cheese through cheesecloth and a collander and squeeze tightly. You can even put this cheese in a mold and press to a desired shape. The milk-whey that came out can be boiled AGAIN and made into ricotta. I have found that this process impresses one's motherinlaw.

10) The whole chicken. This is the holy grail of thrifty meals, in my opinion. For often less than $5 I buy a whole chicken on a Friday afternoon. That night we'll have a roast chicken with the pan juices and root veggies in the pan making a thin gravy or sauce for the chicken and to put on top of the rice. I save any sauce we havent eaten and put in the fridge in its gravy boat. Now, after we are done, I take the leftover chicken (as well as the neck, heart, and gizzards) and put in a stock pot with some onion, garlic, fresh herbs, carrots and celery (as well as a little turmeric and pepper corns) and make chicken stock. After jarring and freezing the stock I pick over the carcass and get together all the little bits of boiled chicken and I put this in a bowl with Sazon Goya, celery, mayo and a little pepper and make chicken salad for lunch the next day.

Also the next day I return to the gravy, which has solidified and separated. I do reuse the "gravy" layer, but really what I am after is the pure white fat layer on the top, which I use instead of butter to sautee onions for some dishes.

Oh yeah, I save the chicken liver in a little milk until I gather enough of them together to make balsamic chicken liver crustini or until I get a hankering for chopped liver/pate.

So yeah, I think 10 items should get the ball rolling. If this thread is a success I will post more as I think of them. Happy cooking and eating, HBT. :mug:

Obliviousbrew 09-23-2012 03:05 PM

Great tips on #3 I do different, letīs say you like basil (as me you have an italian backgroud so you have to like basil) instead of buying the leaf I buy the plant, take what I need, and the little basil keeps growing and fresher this way, same thing can apply to every aromatic even if you live in an apartment!

Obliviousbrew 09-23-2012 03:07 PM

Also my wife makes soap at used olive oil that we buy very cheap at bulk and fresh in her hometown in Andalucia, fresher organic and good soap (you can use some of the aromatics that you have in your plant pots)

Yooper 09-23-2012 03:26 PM

Great tips! I don't do any grocery shopping, but Bob does and we're the ultimate bargain shoppers on everything.

Bob has a couple of tips:

1. We all know this, but never go to the store hungry, or after work to pick up a few things. If you go to buy bread and milk, you will walk out with chips, soda, olives, some cheese, and probably forget the milk.

2. Make a list, and unless there is a enormous sale on the exact brand of toothpaste you need and will not be able to live without it, stick to your list.

3. Cook on Sunday, during football halftimes and post-game analysis. (this is my tip- I rarely cook otherwise!). Plan your meals so that today you're making a meal that will have leftovers for Tuesday. For example, today we're having lamb roast with garlic and rosemary, potatoes, and veggies. The leftovers today will go into Tuesday's spicy stir fry. Soup made today will be eaten tomorrow. We're retired (mostly) but not having to plan/cook weeknight meals means big savings- both time and money. Make Chili on Sunday for Tuesday, and it'll be better then anyway. Freeze leftover meat from main dishes for tacos on Thursday. One of the reasons we spend so much at the store is because we need something NOW. Planning at least a few meals for the week will make a huge difference.

4. This goes back to #2, but only buy what you need. Americans throw away more foodstuffs than you can imagine. You don't need two kinds of salsa today. You really really don't.

5. In contrast to #4, each time you shop, buy a pantry item. It makes cooking so much easier, when you're pressed for time (and money) to have a well-stocked pantry. Chicken broth, canned tomatoes, etc, are commonly used and often go on sale. Buy a can of chicken broth when there is a sale, and hold onto it. If you eat other things, like Thai peanut sauce, curry paste, anchovy paste, black olives, etc, buy one item one sale each time you go to the store. It'll cost under $1, and then you'll have a well stocked pantry.

6. Think "outside the box". This week, we've eaten squid ($4.99 for two pounds at an Oriental place in Minneapolis- four meals worth!), pork roast, salmon "meat loaf" from canned salmon, roast chicken (last Sunday), stir-fried chicken with red curry sauce (from that leftover chicken on Tuesday!), etc. You don't have to eat the same things all the time, and it makes meals fun, interesting, and cheap!

Glynn 09-23-2012 03:45 PM

if you really want to max out your herb's grow your own and dry them your self. We grow basil, thyme, sage and rosemary every year and at the end of the season i cut em down and dry them. with the basil i make a big patch of pesto and freeze it. The best thing about it is my thyme, rosemary and sage come back every year. tip 10 is nice we do the same thing eat 1/2 the chicken pull off the meat and make stock out of the bones. then the next day i make white chicken chill

rexbanner 09-23-2012 03:53 PM

Plant vegetables. It costed me three dollars and five minutes of time to plant four Brussels sprouts. They produce sprouts all winter. As the planet heats up, fuel costs increase, and the population grows you can expect food to get more and more expensive. I expect more people will start their own gardens. It's so easy even a pretty lazy person can manage it.

Also, make your own compost from spent grain and coffee grounds. You can get free huge bags of grounds from Starbucks. Mix them in a 3:1 ratio.

mountainman13 09-23-2012 03:55 PM


Originally Posted by Yooper (Post 4437641)
You don't need two kinds of salsa today. You really really don't.

I never ever thought I would ever have a reason or chance to disagree with you. But wife and I are self professed salsa whores, though, so I may be biased. And on that note, plant a garden, there's my money saving tip.

joerose 09-23-2012 04:05 PM

As someone who does most of the shopping(and cooking, I am a chef) I couldn't more more then #10. Any animal you buy bigger and break down yourself is a huge money saver. Chicken, whole pork loin(chops) etc will save money in the long run.

Glynn 09-23-2012 04:13 PM

Other things we like to do is make our own bread or pizza dough. homemade pizza cost like 2 bucks

autobaun70 09-23-2012 05:38 PM

My favorite money saver for large meals is the 10lb bags of chicken leg quarters. 1 bag will fill up a webber kettle grill, and once you get the hang of controlling the temp all is well. I can feed 10 people Chicken, homemade coleslaw, baked beans, and desert for under 30 bucks. Once they eat it once, they request it for the next gathering.

I also tend to make a lot of basic spaghetti using a mix of Italian sausage and ground beef. I buy a 3 lb pack of ground beef, 1lb of sausage, and brown them together in a large pot. If I don't have time to make a full blown sauce right then, I split it up into 4 equal parts and freeze for later use.

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