Trimming Food Costs

Save money at the grocery store with these tips for smart shopping and a great recipe.


Saving money while shopping takes extra effort, but the results are rewarding. Try these 21 shopping tips and watch your pocket change grow, then check out our low-cost wintertime stew.

Meat, poultry, fish

1. Stock your shelves with budget-wise canned fish, such as tuna. Compare prices; canned seafood prices vary with brand and variety.

2. Swiss and round steak are usually less expensive than other beef steaks. These meat cuts work best for braising and stir-frying but don't work well for broiling or grilling.

3. The leaner the ground meat the more it costs. When buying higher fat meat (70% or 80% lean), drain off excess fat after cooking to make it more healthful. Or, extend lean meat with low-fat, low-cost fillers such as bread crumbs or oatmeal.

4. For chicken, whole fryers are a wise choice. Precut whole fryers cost about 20 cents more per pound. Other cheap cuts include drumsticks and hindquarters. Boneless, skinless poultry cuts have the highest price tags per pound.

5. Check prices on deli meats and the prepackaged brands. Figure the cost per ounce and go with the least expensive option.

Fruits and vegetables

6. Precut produce, such as salads in a bag, and prepared melons are more costly than the whole vegetables or fruits.

7. Purchase basic produce such as onions, potatoes, and apples in the largest quantity you can use. Larger packages are generally less expensive.

8. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables offer greater year-round availability than fresh produce, more consistent prices, and convenience.

Dairy products

9. Common cheese varieties, such as mozzarella, Swiss, American, and cheddar, usually have better prices than specialty cheeses such as Brie, Havarti, and feta.

10. Unless shredded cheese is on sale, it is usually more expensive than block cheese.

Bakery items

11. Stock up on frozen bread dough; it's considerably less expensive than purchased bread. Better still, bake bread and cookies from scratch.

12. Purchase day-old bakery items and freeze or use immediately.

Pasta, rice, legumes

13. Canned beans cost about three times more than dry beans.

14. Protein-packed lentils are great for a meatless meal.

15. Instead of the seasoned mixes, buy plain long-grain rice and use your own seasonings.

16. Dried pasta is a less expensive choice than frozen or fresh. The fancier the shapes and colors, the more expensive.

Condiments

17. Buy plain white or cider vinegar and add your own flavorings and herbs.

18. Make your own salad dressings. After all, how long does it take to shake vinegar, oil, and seasonings together?

Pantry foods

19. The simple canned condensed soups such as chicken noodle, cream of mushroom, and tomato cost less than the heartier or heat-and-serve kinds. Make them hearty with leftover meats, legumes, and vegetables.

20. Plain hot oatmeal costs just pennies per serving, much less than the hot cereal mixes and cold cereals. Add your own fruits.

21. Clip and use money-off coupons.

Savory seasonings make the stew taste rich, but stretching inexpensive meat with bread crumbs keeps the cost low.

  • 2 medium potatoes (unpeeled), cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion, cut into wedges
  • 2 Tbsp. instant beef bouillon granules
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried thyme or oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary or basil, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 recipe Seasoned Meatballs (recipe below)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1. In a Dutch oven bring 4-1/2 cups water to boiling. Add potatoes, carrots, onion, bouillon granules, bay leaf, thyme or oregano, rosemary or basil, and pepper. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, prepare Seasoned Meatballs. Add sweet potatoes and parsnips to hot broth mixture. Add uncooked meatballs, a few at a time, to the hot broth mixture. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 15 minutes more or till vegetables are tender and meatballs are fully cooked. Stir in frozen peas.

3. Stir together 1/2 cup cold water and the flour. Stir flour mixture into hot broth mixture. Cook and stir till thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Ladle into soup bowls and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Seasoned Meatballs: In a medium mixing bowl combine 1 beaten egg, 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon minced dried onion, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 pound lean ground beef; mix well. Shape into 30 1-inch balls.

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