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Rising Food Prices - what are you doing to stay within your food budget?

As the drought in so many states continues to linger on, the food prices are slowly increasing.

I have been considering learning as many methods as I can to squirrel food away at today's prices. Of course that is playing havoc with my budget these days, but in the long run, I am hoping it will pencil out.

Pickling, fermenting, drying & freezing are some subjects I am trying to learn & of course that means buying extra books, supplies & whatnot.

What are your plans, if any, to prepare for increasing prices & perhaps shortages of food? Folks with limited space will probably need to get creative in other ways.

Do you think this is going to be a new experience for Americans or do you think optimistically & see everything falling into place later on? Unfortunately, the food prices will probably stay high no matter which way things turn out.

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  1. Coupons! Lots and lots of coupons and price matching. It's not nearly as good here in Canada as it is in the States though. Still, every bit helps.
    What I've always done is use a lot of the tips my mother used (child of the depression you know)
    Buy real food only, not convenience food.
    Freeze bones until you have enough to make stock.
    Bake from scratch.
    Trim hard parings off cheese and freeze until you have enough to make a cheese sauce for mac and cheese. You can't tell it was dried out after it's melted.
    Ends of bread get made into breadcrumbs and croutons.
    Save your fat and boil to make lard.
    Save vegetable parings in freezer to add to bones when making stock. Onion skins in particular make a lovely coloured broth. I heard this week you can also make stock out of corn cobs after the corn is gone. I haven't tried it yet but I'm intrigued.
    collect recipes that work with small amounts of leftovers.
    Eat more vegetarian meals.
    Save a couple of Tbsp. Of the veggies you make for dinner in the freezer and by the end of the week you have enough for vegetable soup.
    Save leftover coffee or tea in a jar in the fridge and make iced coffee or iced tea.
    Eat what you should eat - a serving of meat is only supposed to be the size of your palm; a serving of pasta or rice is only 1/2 a cup.
    Freeze yogurt/fruit blends in a popsicle mold and make your own ice cream.
    Learn how to make high priced sauces etc. From scratch, like tzatziki or chutney or cranberry relish.
    I'll probably think of more later but that should start things off.

    1 Reply
    1. re: dianne0712

      I'm taking advantage of the dip in the price of pork, beef and chicken and stocking my freezer. I save bones, veg trimins', etc for stock and will probably eat more game this year. Not that that's a bad thing we enjoy game and foul. I bought a frozen goose last week it was under $10. Don't know if it was miss marked, but I'll look for another one tomorrow. Stock up when there are sales and really many of the above ideas will come into play this coming year.

    2. The first step for saving money when food shopping is, IMO, working from a list.
      We prepare a shopping list of the items we need, whether we think we need them immediately or plan to stock up for the future, and discuss it between ourselves.
      Then we look through the weekly ads (the newspaper is filled with 'em) to see which of the items on our list is "on sale" and which of the stores offers the best price for what we want. We don't make impulse purchases but, I must admit, we sometimes see something in the ads the we neglected to put on the list. We mark the list with the store and price for each item, then we go shopping at our favorite store; the store which most often has the better pricing. As we shop we pick up items on the list and compare the shelf price with the prices on the list. If it's cheaper at our favorite store, we buy it. If not, we wait.
      Our shopping route takes us through a loop so that, without spending extra money for gas, we pass by each of the stores on the list. We simply stop to pick up the lower priced items enroute home and, presto, we're all done with money saved.
      Most of our food storage, even for some dry goods, is simply freezing. Fresh fruits and vegetables aren't on our list of items to store so we don't need to can or pickle. We simply shop for the lowest priced fresh vegetables during our normal shopping tours and limit our choices in that category to what's on sale at the time. There's always something in the produce section that's a good deal.

      1. I don't do coupons, unless they are from my regular store, for items that I normally buy. I find that I can get a better deal on a store brand. I also use my store card, and buy those items that are on sale. The points add up and after so much we get a discount on gas.
        I shop at one store, I used to do the grocery ad thing, but found that it took a lot of time, and I can get better overall savings from our regular store (Smiths) by shopping their sales and using their coupons.
        A list is great, but sometimes, I just go in and look for the sales.
        We have a deep freezer, and I froze 30 lbs of tomatoes and about 15 lbs of roasted green chilies yesterday.
        At Thanksgiving, I stock up on turkeys that are on sale. If you go late Wednesday night, they give you the sale price without having to buy the set amount advertised (like $8 with $25 purchase). Those also go in the freezer. They are great on the grill, cut up, in the summer. i also stock up on pork loins/chops and petite sirloins that seem to be on sale every other week. They get taken out of the large container, bagged, and into the freezer.
        Our biggest problem is waste at home. I really need to cook less, and eat leftovers instead of saying I'm going to eat them and then throwing them away two weeks later.
        I make almost everything from scratch.
        Going in with cash is good, too. Prevents overspending on splurge items.

        3 Replies
        1. re: wyogal

          I think there's a great tip embedded here: buy a dedicated deep freezer. They are actually very energy efficient (especially since they are a lot more rarely opened) and allow you to make purchases that last a long time.

          1. re: nasv

            +1 on the freezer. I scored extra turkey around Thanksgiving, corned beef around St Patrick's day, leg of lamb around Easter, wings around Superbowl, ect. I eat more beef now by just buying reduced price meat than I ever did!

            Also learn to use those tough pieces of meat like tongue, ox tail, and flank steak. A pressure cooker can help where a slow cooker can't.

            As mention, cut meat up in to smaller portions. 1 steak for two people, stretch that sausage and make red beans and rice, things like that.

            Really, just plan ahead and you'll do alright.

            1. re: nasv

              We love our chest freezer. I can't believe how long we got by without it.

          2. Check out The Evalasting Meal by Tamar Adler - lots of great ideas on how to use everything and not waste food. Here is a thread that has not been active lately but still might be helpful: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/835444

            1. I caved... and joined Costco.

              3 Replies
              1. re: nasv

                Me too, finally, even though we are a very small household with quite specific dietary preferences and very finite storage space. To me, the tipping point was actually the thought of all the non-food savings - household supplies, prescriptions, appliances, photo processing etc.

                1. re: vil

                  car insurance. I save more money on my insurance, than my executive membership costs per year and we usually get that covered anyway in the year end rebate.

                2. I go shopping with a phrase imbeddedd in my memory, "is there anything here that really I need?" For example; last week corn on the cob was 6 for a dollar, I bought 12. This week they're 2 for a dollar, I didn't buy any. I stay away from prepared and canned foods as much as possible. I buy frozen veggies, mostly organic, as great savings. If things get too pricey, they're not in my cart. Example; at 2.99 per pound, I don't need tomatoes but at .99 per pound for vine ripened, I'm buying. Last week at a farmers market I purchased 4 cantelopes, 4 pounds of navel oranges, 20 limes, a large head of cabbage, 2.5 pounds of vine ripened tomatoes all for $7.50.

                  1. I'm aging myself, but I started to learn to cook in the 70's. There was rampant inflation then. I was a head cashier in the local supermarket and suddenly, people had grocery bills in the 3 digits, seemingly overnight. Customers went crazy and, lots of times I had to void their order and ring it up again because nobody spent that much on groceries. That being said, I learned to economize very quickly.
                    Make everything possible from scratch. Buy a freezer and stock up on meat sales. Get to the store at opening time. Often, meat is expiring that day and is sharply reduced and you can put it in the freezer that you bought. Put all veg and meat trimmings in a bag in the freezer for stock. Any leftover veg can be made into a veg pancake. This may sound gross, but I keep a large container in my freezer labeled garbage soup. All bits of meat and gravy or sauce too small to use again goes in there. When it's full, I add some water and fresh vegs such as carrots, celery, and onion, add some water, and it's always great soup. In my town, Publix is the only convenient supermarket and they are expensive, so I buy my staples such as potatoes, onions, flour, etc. at the warehouse club. There is a WalMart but their produce leaves alot to be desired IMO. Save all bones, etc. for stock.
                    The thing that has shocked me lately are prices for meat that was formerly considered cheap meat such as oxtails, short ribs, the bony things. I saw oxtails for $5.99 a pound. I'm waiting for the glut of beef that the news says we'll have and I'll be buying as much as I can.
                    This isn't a new experience and sometimes, when the weather cooperates again, things do stabilize. However, this has happened when the economy is still in the pits, at least it is here, so it's really hard for everyone.

                    1. EASY...eat less or NO red meat which mostly depends on the corn that is all burnt out...eat more beans, nuts, legumes and leafy vegetables...that's my take on it.

                      1. This last month, my husband and I have been experimenting with seeing how cheap we can buy our groceries. We've been able to cut back to $60 for a week, for both of us, with the assumption that we will buy lunch out once or twice, and go out to dinner once. Our plan of attack for this was:
                        * Cutting out the wine
                        * Shopping mostly at the Asian grocery store, except for the few dairy products we purchase (which we find cheaper at Trader Joe's)
                        * Buying a few extra Tupperware containers, so I don't have the excuse of "Oh, nothing's clean for me to put my lunch in, I guess I'll have to buy it at the cafeteria today."
                        * I'm already a vegetarian, but we cut out a lot of dairy products because we realized the cheese was really adding up
                        *Making mostly Indian (dals, veggie curries, rice dishes) and Asian food (tofu, soba noodles with fresh veggies)
                        * Being REALLY careful to not let produce rot, and finding ways to "repurpose" the leftover veggies

                        1. I spend $40-50 a week for the two of us.

                          I go to the 99 Cents Only store on the day they stock produce- they have tons of organic produce and its as fresh as it is at the grocery store but a heck of a lot cheaper. Its not unusual to find the large containers of Earthbound Farms spring mix, kale, etc.

                          I don't buy processed foods or convenience foods. I usually cook for 4 so that each of us have lunch the next day instead of having to plan extra meals or buy special ingredients.

                          I have a garden (and I plan on at least doubling the size for next season.) I freeze and dehydrate things to have over the winter. I keep meaning to learn to can but haven't yet.

                          Spices and condiments are purchased at the Indian and Asian markets. Lots of things from the Mexican market!

                          I make my own stocks and use them to cook veggies, sauces, rice, etc. I also make my own kefir and am looking forward to doing more experimenting with the world of fermented foods.

                          One of the local grocery chains has $5 Fridays where a handful of things are $5. When it's shrimp I buy a few pounds. Shells are saved for stock/ bisque.... which reminds me that I have lobster tails in the freezer from when they were a $5 Friday special last week! YUM!

                          1. It seems like a big issue is simply buying more than you plan to use (especially perishable food). Waste and throwing things out just drives me crazy.

                            1. Well. We're already very budget conscious as my dh is in school full time , working part time and we're supplementing with a small savings until May - when he's done. We have set a $70/week budget for the 2 of us... and our 7month old... and that's that. It was hard for us at first, but we're doing really awesome now.

                              Garden. Really helping our budget right now, dipping less into income/savings this summer.
                              We'll be able to can quite a bit of tomatoes, pasta sauce and salsa. We grow our own herbs - they're SO expensive in the markets. We do this year round.

                              I don't really buy convenience foods. I don't buy pre-made rice mixes, sides, spice mixes, marinades, pasta sauces, salad dressings, etc.

                              I buy meat in bulk and use the heck out of my FoodSaver. We only buy whole chickens or if pieces, only chicken thighs. I'll buy boneless/skinless chicken breasts only if they're on sale - then I stock up. We usually just consume pork and chicken. If it's beef it's typically a cheaper cut that can go in the crock pot or a budget friendly steak - skirt steak, sirloin, etc. Only when I find a good price. We've had to let go of the "But I waaaaannnnnt it"-s

                              Crockpot! Cheaper cuts of meat, dried beans, etc.

                              Leftovers. We eat them, always! Often we eat them for breakfast. Since we really started cracking down on our budget last year I've gotten really excited over leftovers and making them into something new. We tend to eat a lot of chicken salad for lunch the day after roasting a whole chicken, etc.

                              Ethnic stores. I go to Asian markets for Asian items. So much cheaper! Unfortunately since moving back to WI we don't have Mexican markets. I miss that about Chicago and Dallas.

                              We've gone to Sams Club (No Costco here, which I prefer) with my parents and shared stuff - super nice way to save money.

                              I ask the bakery to separate bun packages and they gladly will! I don't need 6 or 8 buns from the bakery most weeks. They gladly repackage 2 or 4. In fact, one local grocer has an entire table of 1/4 and 1/2 size baked goods portions. LOVE THAT.

                              Coupons. I specifically search online for coupons for items that we use, I don't just decide to try something because we have a coupon - ever. Seeing we don't buy typical convenience stuff, I don't tend to use them often... I typically search for coupons for canned tomatoes, dry pasta, yogurt and other dairy. I've been known to email companies and ask them if they have coupons. Recently, I contacted a Grass Point Farms - we love their dairy items - and they sent a $2.00 coupon!

                              1. Shop at Aldi, Costco, and Wal-Mart.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                                  I also supplement the "basics" by shopping at Aldi's. I recently came to learn through a neighbor that Target's grocery aisles and Walgreen's small refrig case can be goldmines too. Today Target Chobani yogurt small cup was 50 cents each and Walgreen's dozen large eggs for .99., while there I noticed the butter, milk and half&half was also .50 cheaper than Stop & Shop. Costco I have a shopping buddy on poultry, seafood and meats so we split the cost. Produce I buy all over Asian markets, circulars and farms. Cheese from cheesemongers looking to move inventory and Costco when they offer competitive prices. The only place I haven't bought food is Walmart because I'm not a fan of the company but the only way I save all around for me and my family is to:

                                  Use my freestanding freezer
                                  Shop everywhere week to week by bargain best
                                  Shop with a buddy to split costs
                                  Make friends with merchants looking to sell rather than throw away their ends
                                  Eat smaller portions :)

                                2. When I said I've been using coupons I didn't mean buying products that I wouldn't normally use and, be cause my "food" budget is really a household budget, if I can save on cleaning products I have more money for food. Because the price of electricity here is so high I would never buy a freezer because I'd lose any savings just by storing it. If it doesn't fit in my regular side-by-side I don't freeze it.
                                  Also, 1/2 price day old bread and buns can be revived in the oven by heating at 200 degrees for 15 minutes.
                                  There are very few brands I'm loyal to and I often buy store brands and even prefer the taste in a lot of cases, particularly President's Choice. The Compliments brand of coffee is also the bomb.
                                  I have also been known, when very broke, to make my own crackers from a wonderful recipe book that's crackers only.

                                  1. In the long term, with worldwide population growth and failed harvests due to climate change, the common view is that serious food shortages are in store beyond anything America has had to deal with since the Dust Bowl, with no end in sight. If so, then the upward price trend won't just continue, it will accelerate.

                                    Even if I could, I wouldn't buy food in bulk to save nickels and dimes as the prices rise. In effect that's playing the futures market, using real commodities rather than paper, and most of us are amateurs at that game. But I couldn't do it anyway. Like a large and increasing number of Americans, and even more abroad (Japan!), I live in an apartment with no space for a dedicated pantry or freezer beyond the one built into my modest fridge.

                                    The first and easiest thing to do is stop wasting food. Don't cook more than you can eat - better, don't cook more than you should eat. (That's hard.) Whatever is left over, save it and eat it later. And don't buy more perishables than you can cook before they spoil.

                                    Another is to put restaurants and take-out off limits. Cook your own as often as possible; that's not only good for the budget but as the eateries' business shrinks, they'll buy and waste less food too. The same goes for many prepared foods in the supermarkets; making your own bread is not only much cheaper than buying Pepperidge Farm, it can be healthier too.

                                    (That's easy to say in a forum about home cooking, but most Chowhounds are into dining out, if you count the relative number of forums and posts, and maybe some will wander in here.)

                                    Lots of suggestions here that are practical for people in my situation, a single New Yorker, and lots that aren't. City dwellers have different problems and opportunities from those who live in the suburbs or the countryside; families obviously have to plan and work on a larger scale than single people. One size does not fit all.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: John Francis

                                      ITA about wasting food. We're a family of 4 in a fairly urban setting with no room for extra freezer, large stockpiles, etc. I focus on preparing things from scratch when possible, lots of legumes, and on minimizing waste.

                                      I keep a list on the fridge listing things in the veggie bins that should be used. I've also starting listing leftovers so that others in the family, who are for some reason unable to keep good inventories in their heads, reach for last night's fried rice rather than making something new. When we're putting together dinner after work, very easy to glance at the list to remember that, oh yeah, there are green beans that need to be used up. This has really reduced food waste for us.

                                      1. re: tcamp

                                        Really good approach, tcamp! I started keeping lists of food in the freezer, raw and cooked, and it is helping to "shop" from the freezer intead of going to a store.I've been intentoring veggie bin too as that's where the most waste happens for me and now plan to do pantry after dicovering numerous quinoa packages at my daughter's - we've been eating a lot of quinoa lately:)

                                      2. re: John Francis

                                        One thing I forgot to mention: fresh produce is cheaper when bought in season. You can buy asparagus all year, but it costs less in the spring. At one time of year green bell peppers are more plentiful and cheaper; a little later, as they turn red in the fields, they get more expensive and the price of red bell peppers comes down. Apple cider is seasonable, even at Trader Joe's. And so on. In the U.S. you can buy pretty much any food you want at any time, but you pay for that option.

                                        1. re: John Francis



                                          It's gonna hit the fan so hard.

                                        2. I've done the usual - shop the circulars, take my gas money into account when I shop, buy in bulk where feasible (not much storage), etc.

                                          But one thing I've found that makes a big difference is to just not buy most cleaning products I used to keep on hand. It's ridiculous how much I spent on Windex, Lysol, countertop cleaner (ha, Caldrea no less, so spoiled, so pretentious!), etc when a big bottle of white vinegar costs .79 on sale, store brand/dollar store bleach is a couple of bucks, and with those two things, plus some plain old dish soap, you can clean and disinfect anything. Anything.

                                          I use a "foofy" environmentally friendly laundry detergent on Amazon (Method) because its cheaper to buy the refill packs there than the hour I'd have to drive to get it locally (plus, I've got free Prime shipping thanks to my parents sharing their account - everyone knows about that, right? You can share your membership with four family members, not even in the same house) and a tiny bit goes a longgggg way. Ditto for Ecover dishwasher tabs, environmentally friendly and really affordable, plus better than any other tab in my experience.

                                          Other than that, I'm making a lot more bread (my waistline attests) with cheap, store brand AP flour. And yk.. it's damned good bread. My motto when times get tough is to cook like my grandmother - more bread and gravies, less meat.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: shanagain

                                            I love Amazon prime! It is supposed to be shared between people in the same household though. I got excited and just checked. My sister and I both have Prime memberships.

                                            You should try making your own laundry detergent. It saves Soooo much money and works great. Plus, you do not get all though gross clingy fragrance chemicals.

                                            1. re: Becca Porter

                                              I am your northern neighbour, and I wish there is Amazon prime where I live. That would definitely and completely change my shopping habits!

                                            2. re: shanagain

                                              You can also get Amazon Prime for $39/year if you are a student at any college or university in the US. You only have to be enrolled in one class, and do not have to be in a degree program. I work for a university, a get one free class per semester. I take the class for professional development, send Amazon proof of enrollment to get a cheap Prime subscription, then use the free shipping to get a lot of non perishables delivered in bulk, for free.

                                            3. When I find a sale on what I get,stockup!Getting a deep freeze soon.Will be loaded with extra lean chicken,grass fed beef,fruit & vegetables.Will buy a backup generator too incase electric is out to long

                                              1. plan ahead. No impulse shopping. Know what you are going to eat and plan accodingly.

                                                Protein from eggs, cheese, beans, nuts, chicken, canned tuna ~~ no roasts, chops, steaks, etc on a regular basis (for special occasions only)

                                                No prepared foods, i. e. soups, salads, pre cooked bacon, pre-shedded barbeque (or other Hormel abominations)

                                                cut out snack foods, chips, cookies, ice cream, packaged baked goods

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: laliz

                                                  100% agree with Laliz: "No processed/snack foods. No impulse shopping."

                                                  Take a list to the store and only buy on the list.

                                                  If you are considering a 'processed food,' look at the price and calculate to yourself how much produce/fresh/whole food that will 'cost' out of your budget for next week.

                                                  1. re: GraceW

                                                    Also, whether it's practical to make it yourself. Tomato soup? Sure. Hot dogs? Not a chance.

                                                2. Hey everyone, thanks for taking the time to share your tips on staying within the "budget". I just got home from the store & did not see too much of an increase yet, but as someone mentioned here, some of the cheaper cuts of meat has really gone up.

                                                  The one thing I cannot seem to cut down on is buying "regular" chicken as opposed to the "all natural". The regular stuff just has so much of a medicine taste & gives me a really bad headache. So I can't cut down on cost there.

                                                  Here are my main cleaning products:

                                                  Clear Ammonia - great for cutting grease on any object, from stove tops, greasy kitchen cabinet doors, to cleaning windows. Also good to clean bathtub scum. Kept in a large spray bottle. If the smell is offensive, just spray quickly & walk away for a minute or two & the smell dissipates quite rapidly. The extra couple minutes also helps the ammonia to loosen grease & whatnot.

                                                  Vinegar - well, I am sure you know a lot of ways to use this product. I squirt a few squirts in the wash cycle along with the soap....just helps to cut down on using so much detergent. Still can't break away from Downy in the rinse cycle.

                                                  Bleach - yes, yes, I know all the bad stuff about it, but I have used it sparingly for many years & my septic system has never given me problems. I keep it in a used dish detergent squirt bottle since it corrodes the spray mechanism. I just put one little squirt in my dish washing water along with dish detergent. Also, if not using the bleach in the water, I add some ammonia, it gets rid of the cloudy effect that my well water is famous for.

                                                  These 3 products have replaced a lot of other stuff I used to buy & I have been able to cut way down on cleaning products.

                                                  I can't seem to make a tasty soup from the weekly leftover cooked veggies, just bland in color & taste even though I add a lot of different spices to it. Got to work on that problem.

                                                  Going to the Dollar Store for paper goods helps.

                                                  I intend to cut down on meats - will get the protein in other ways.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: cstout

                                                    I just read this morning that the price increases due to the drought are not really going to hit until next summer. Meat prices should actually drop this fall as ranchers cull the herd so they can order less feed when the corn/soy prices jump in the spring.

                                                    1. re: mpjmph

                                                      Actually they are sending cattle to slaughter now to cut costs of supplemented water and food supplies. After all, it's VERY time consuming to water a herd with Evian!

                                                  2. Speaking of not wasting food -- as many posters have mentioned -- can anyone suggest a sort of "one shop stop" web site for recipes that help someone if they have too much XXXXX or about-to-go-stale XXXXX ? I tried to search online, but am probably using the wrong search words. I'd love a site I could go to that would help me with questions like "I have a half-loaf of crusty bread that has gone stale, what can I do with it" (panzanella recipe, cabbage and chicken panade recipe, bruschetta recipes, etc)

                                                    8 Replies
                                                    1. re: anakalia

                                                      Not sure if that's a thread already, but might be a good one. But here's some sites that I found
                                                      I googled: what can I make with ingredients
                                                      I don't know much about the sites:

                                                      1. re: wyogal

                                                        Thank you for these sites. I was not aware of them.

                                                      2. re: anakalia

                                                        I also look in the index of a comprehensive cookbook (presently "How to Cook Everything"). Stale bread is easy. What would be hard to figure out?

                                                        1. re: John Francis

                                                          Thanks for the ideas, everyone, these sites looks great!...This might make a good separate thread, you're right. J
                                                          JohnFrancis, bread was just an example. I know you can search for individual ingredients in an index, but I was thinking more of a repository for finding recipes for things "no longer good" -- for example, what to do when your yogurt starts to get a little too sour (an Indian kadhi works nicely) or what to do when you have rice that has started to go dry, etc.

                                                          1. re: anakalia

                                                            Now I see what you mean. I see great tips on this site here and there, on what to do with foods that are no longer at their prime. It will be nice to collect all that into a separate thread.

                                                            For example, I am currently making a rice porridge, with leftover, dried up rice and fish that turned out to be not as fresh as expected. A marinade with ginger helps with offsetting the fishy smell. My cat happily eats up some of it too.

                                                            I also have some very sour kimchi in the fridge that is waiting to be turned into soup, once I have a chance to figure out how to do it.

                                                            1. re: vil

                                                              That would be a great thread to start!

                                                        2. re: anakalia

                                                          If you have a lot of cookbooks www.eatyourbooks.com site lets you enter them for a small fee and you can search your cookbooks for recipes using any ingredients. You can enter up to five books for free just to try it out. The site has magazines and blogs as well - all indexed and searchable.

                                                          1. re: anakalia

                                                            The recipes on allrecipes.com are hit or miss, but you can search by ingredient to include/exclude.

                                                          2. #1 Be aware of prices and which stores consistently sell your brands for less. My wife and kids love Thomas' English Muffins, but I'll be dammed if I'll pay $3.99 a 6pk (list price) when not on sale at most of the area supermarkets. Price Rite (a division of Shop-Rite) stocks the 12 pk at an everyday price of $2.49. Similarly, Tropicana 89oz Jug Pure premium OJ is $4.49 at Price-Rite everyday and $5.99-7.49 at the other area chains. Milk $2.99 gallon vs. 3.99.
                                                            Eggs always $1.29 dz extra large, Stop and Shop just lowered their every day price to $2.59 dz.

                                                            #2 shop the specials. Our circulars arrive every Thursday and we spread and compare the advts. No I don't run around for 2 items each at each store, buit as I pass most of the chains in the course of my week I do plan my stops.

                                                            #3 Know the sale cycles and stock up accordingly. We use Imperial Margarine and they everyday price varies from $1.29 to $1.79 lb in area stores. Every 5-6 weeks Stop and Shop sells it at $1 lb. I buy 10 at a time for the freezer, never buy it not on sale.

                                                            #4 Know that it pays top buy at non-supermarkets. Each month Walgreens runs 2lb jars of honey at $4.99. That same size of no name honey in the supermarket is $7.99 and up

                                                            Keurig K-Cups are much cheaper at Bed Bath and Beyond with 20% off coupons that on sale at the supermarkets.

                                                            #5 Think seasonal. My wife wanted a turkey breast this week and the cheapest they are in the supermarkets is $2.79 lb. I loaded the freezer this past winter when they were 99 cents/lb. But this week Shop-Rite had Hebrew National Franks at $1.77 pkg. We bought 40 pkgs which will go in the freezer and hold us until the sales next summer.

                                                            25 Replies
                                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                                              The devil is making me write this, but if you want to economize, Keurig K-Cups ain't gonna cut it by any stretch of the imagination! '-)

                                                              As for point #2, if you don't object to shopping at Walmart, all Walmart stores will match the sales price for like products at any other market in the area if you ask for the sale price at checkout. In fact, they post all of the local sales ads in the lobby. All of the savings of shopping at multiple stores AND it's hassle free and you save gas!

                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                As I am the only one in the house who drinks coffee and have one cup each day, K-Cups make sense. No waste, no pot washing, etc.

                                                                I ABSOLUTELY OBJECT to spending any money at Walmart for social and political reasons. Furthermore they do not have any of their supercenters with full food section within 50 miles of me.

                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                  As for coffee, I like the Melitta single cup coffee brewer - can purchase it on Amazon for about 3.99. Just buy some #2 Melitta filters & you are set to have one or more cups of coffee. Yeah, you have to boil the water yourself, but it becomes part of your morning routine & does not take any extra time.

                                                                  No bulky coffee pot sitting on counter. Great for guests or other members in the family that may prefer a different flavor or strength. Also, you can get those little "sample" bags of coffee for about $1.29 to try something different.

                                                                  1. re: bagelman01

                                                                    Yes, my sister-in-law does the same thing. She has the filter so she can use her own coffee and not have to buy the specialty stuff.
                                                                    I am by myself this week, and have half a pot of two day old coffee on the counter I'm about to throw away. Yes, probably could have saved it, but I hate reheated coffee.

                                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                                      Not an iced coffee fan? I'd throw away the 2 day old stuff too but I often put coffee left over in the morning into the fridge, then have in the early evening over ice.

                                                                      1. re: tcamp

                                                                        Nope, not an iced coffee fan. I like it hot.

                                                                        1. re: tcamp

                                                                          I do that, too- coffee's pricey, especially the premium kind.

                                                                        2. re: wyogal

                                                                          I assume they still make them. I used to have a wonderful little plastic "drip" coffee maker that fit over a cup, you put in a paper liner, added a tablespoon or so of freshly ground coffee, then added hot water and let it drip you a cupful of fresh coffee. But I stopped using it after a while becaue I couldn't find a gold filter for it and paper filters, for me, make coffee taste like it's being served in a paper cup at a ball game! Ihate that flavor. So I just started making my coffee in a small tea pot. Add greshly ground coffee and boiling water, stir, then give it a few minutes for the grounds to settle to the bottom. Or strain it if you can't wait. It's easy to brew more, but best of all, there's no stale coffee left over. Ever! '-)

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                            Yes, that little plastic "drip" coffee maker is exactly what I use. So sorry you found the filters to ruin the taste of your coffee. I don't know how long ago it was that you were using those filters, but I have read reviews on Amazon & seems other folks complained about your situation too & the company has since improved on the filters. I read that folks just kinda ran water over the filters before putting in the little brew container & that took care of the filter taste.

                                                                            Yes, brewing in a little teapot works too. I did that method, but I did not like the fine little grinds that ended up in my coffee cup. Had a real fine tea strainer that I would pour my coffee through & that solved the problem, but somewhere in a move I lost it. It was mentioned that some folks used one of those tea balls to put your ground coffee in. Lots of different ways to get just a single cup of coffee.

                                                                            Finding coffee that is good & reasonable price is another story.

                                                                            1. re: cstout

                                                                              Yes. I know those drip-funnels... one time I was house-sitting (that was the only 'maker' they had) and it tipped and spilled burning water all over me. Unless those funnels perfectly fit the mug/cup, it can be dangerous!

                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                              Yes, I have one. and I know how to make a single cup. I just sometimes make a pot, drink most of it. And some days I don't. Not sure where our camping single cup drip thing is, haven't been camping this year, and I'm sure it's tucked away somewhere special. ha!

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                There are small French Presses that make a single cup - Bodum makes this size and so are others. Then there are stove top espresso makers in different sizes. I have them all inluding the plastic funnel that Caroline is reffering to. And since I never remember to buy filters, I use paper towel cut in quarters - does not fit very well but gets the job done. I am have a cup made this way right now and it is good:)

                                                                            3. re: bagelman01

                                                                              French press is cheap and you can make one cup at a time. No waste.

                                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                                bagelman01 says:
                                                                                I ABSOLUTELY OBJECT to spending any money at Walmart for social and political reasons. Furthermore they do not have any of their supercenters with full food section within 50 miles of me.

                                                                                LOL! I assume from this that if a Supercenter was close by, you'd squelch your social and political objections?

                                                                                But you're not the first to make such a silly statement. I think it makes more sense to shop at Walmart AND tell them what you think they're doing wrong. They DO listen. Sometimes the response is slow, and sometimes the response is no, but they do listen. That's how they got so big.

                                                                                However, if you're one of those people who claims Walmart is putting Mom'n'Pops out of business, I say no, urbanization is putting Mom'n'Pops out of business. It has worked that way for several thousand years. As proof, I've never seen Walmart build ANY store in rural areas where Mom'n'Pops do well.

                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                    That's the beauty of the free market. You're free to spend your money however you see fit.

                                                                                    As for me, I love Wal-Mart. They save me tons of money each year and are very convenient at the same time. I hope they continue to succeed and get bigger and continue to move into other sectors and bring the price of those goods and services down too.

                                                                              2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                Keurig cups are SO expensive; I was given the machine as a gift after telling a friend that I couldn't understand why everyone was so crazy about them. Still don't, unfortunately. Luckily the day after it arrived, she sent a little aparatus separately, it's a reusable K cup that you can fill with your own coffee. But so far I'm mostly buying the stupid premade cups (albeit at BJs in the 80 ct package). Every single day I'm tempted to get my old Gevalia brewer (got for free of course) back out of the basement.....I love Eight O'Clock coffee, none of the boxed cups I see compare flavorwise, and with the BOGO you always get, the price has to be a third or even a quarter of K cups. I really have to get my scale out sometime. On top of all that, it's really hard to get those grounds out for composting!

                                                                                1. re: coll

                                                                                  We get our K-cups online on Amazon. It's quite a bit cheaper than purchasing at the grocery store, a pack of 50 of the plain donut shop coffee is $30.

                                                                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                    Donut Shop is 80 for $39.99 at BJs, but they have a organic, green, San Francisco version (can't remember the exact name) that is 80 for $29.99 which is what I bought last time.

                                                                                    1. re: coll

                                                                                      I wish we had a BJs here in Colorado! Those are good prices.

                                                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                        Believe it or not, Costco is opening soon just down the road from them. I'll have the best of both worlds.

                                                                                        1. re: coll

                                                                                          Lucky you... I live out near the airport (near 76 and 470) and there's NOTHING out this way. We just got the King Soopers a few months ago....before that I was having to go into Brighton to shop at their crappy small one, or overspend at Target.

                                                                                  2. re: coll

                                                                                    I don't understand why Americans are always fascinated with new appliances. Sometimes the new ones are an improvement; a lot of times I find that the new appliances are just new ways for the owners to make money WITHOUT better improvements. Old does not necessarily mean it's worse. Old many times = superior tried-and-true methods.

                                                                                    Just donate your keurig or gift it. I bet your friend found out how expensive it got and gave it away. Hubby & I still use the old Melitta cone filter coffeemaker!

                                                                                    1. re: tenjo

                                                                                      I won my Keurig in an online contest, I wouldn't spend $200 on a coffee maker normally. BF loves it, I don't drink coffee or hot chocolate or cider or tea anymore. It actually works out well for us because he can make one cup at a time...some mornings he has one cup, others he has 2 or 3. Before he'd make a pot but half would go to waste. I know other folks that like them because they and their partners prefer different kinds of coffee, or one drinks coffee and the other drinks tea.

                                                                                      1. re: tenjo

                                                                                        tenjo, if you are talking about the individual little plastic cones where you put a filter in & pour water over, I want to say that is the greatest, handiest & cheapest way to enjoy coffee. I plan to buy several for Christmas gifts. I am going to include the cone, filters & some of those small samples of coffees.

                                                                                        Also, doesn't take up precious counter space & is a breeze to clean. What more could you ask for??

                                                                                2. Great post and replies. Pickling,freezing, and drying is what we should all know. I am just beginning to learn. Living in California on the central coast I have realized how I should have always been growing my own vegtables.A million times better than the grocery store. Alot better than the farmers market. Bye bye lawn and welcome beautiful vegtables.

                                                                                  10 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: emglow101

                                                                                    Our Farmer's Markets around here think their stuff should sell for waaay more than super market prices. Well, that is well & good, but extremely bad for the budget.

                                                                                    Start small on replacing the lawn with a garden...I tried that once & got into a whole lot more work than I was able to handle by myself. Go slow on that project, trust me.

                                                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                                                      You can grow herbs and lettuce indoors to keep pest away. buy a flower box or trough from home depot or lowes. keep in a sunshiny place and water.

                                                                                      1. re: cstout

                                                                                        It's already a done deal. I have beautiful zucchini right now. The seeds were from Italy. Tomatoes and beans are coming in. Forget lawns and grow food.

                                                                                        1. re: emglow101

                                                                                          great concept!!! beats the hell out of maintaining darn GRASS lawn...here in SW Florida, we are so very behind on rain that it isn't funny...and all that fertilizer??? runs off and pollutes the rivers and oceans...(IF you have any rain) which we are deficient in for a few summers now...way to go, emglow!

                                                                                          1. re: Val

                                                                                            THIS +1,000,000
                                                                                            When and how will we get over the insanity of lawns? Over half the country being in severe drought hasn't changed anything for anyone around here.

                                                                                            Imagine if people put 1/2 as much energy, money and worry into a veg garden as they do their perfectly green, manicured yard.

                                                                                            Where I live, surrounded by lakes, the effects of all that toxic runoff are visible front and center every. single. day. Yet there's no absence of perfectly green lawns around those dying lakes.

                                                                                          2. re: emglow101

                                                                                            Read about this book on Amazon or get it from the library. Wonderful concepts about making food & gardening an essential part of your life. I highly recommend it.

                                                                                            Gaia's Garden - a Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway

                                                                                            There are 2 editions of this book, each one is different but both use the same concepts. I have both editions.

                                                                                            His goal in the book is to provide everyone, even those with no yard at all, with the tools for using our landscapes to reduce our ecological footprint & become more self-reliant, while enhancing habitat for increasingly threatened wildlife. He does just that & opens your eyes to gardening as you have never experienced it.

                                                                                            Place these books in your hands soon - money well spent.

                                                                                            1. re: cstout

                                                                                              The book that got me going this year (finally!) is Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham. It's a version of square foot/raised gardening that appealed to me more than any other method. He also goes into raising chickens, growing fruit trees and preserving/pickling, which are other things I aim for in my long term plans. I was afraid of total agricultural failure, but so far I am having to beg neighbors to take the excess harvest.

                                                                                              1. re: coll

                                                                                                Mini Farming Book, have moved that book in & out of my shopping cart several times. Maybe this is a good sign for me to go ahead & get it. Thanks.

                                                                                                1. re: cstout

                                                                                                  It is what finally made me get off my butt and get going! He makes it sound easy, and if it's not so easy he warns you and gives you an easier alternative. That's what I liked about it. No excuses!

                                                                                          3. re: cstout

                                                                                            Yep, as much as I enjoy strolling through farmer's markets, I have pretty much avoided them altogether this season. I do still order through my meat and produce CSA's, though. Less impulse buying.

                                                                                        2. I don't think anyone else has mentioned this (no guarantee), but a huge money saver for me is doing as much shopping as possible by any means that prevents impulse buying. For example, I shop once a month for things I use regularly. Sam's Club has a "Click 'n' Pull" service in which they gather everything on your shopping list and have it ready for pickup at a time you designate. If Sam's corporate had any idea how much they're losing because of lost impulse buying by me alone, this service would be history! I also have my housekeeper do most of the shopping so that I have no chance to impulsively put things in the shopping cart. If I didn't have a housekeeper (age reclassifies lots of luxuries into necessities!) I'd try to find a friend who is willing to do my shopping if I do hers. And then there is on-line shopping, especially if I can find things I NEED with free shipping. It's rather amazing how far you can stretch a food budget simply by removing temptation!

                                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            Temptation & impulse buying are such evil things. Since I have no one to do my shopping, I have learned one simple thing that everyone knows about but just don't practice often enough. Make sure you are NOT hungry when going to the store.

                                                                                            Also, leave kids & any others who will constantly be distracting you with requests for this, that & the other.

                                                                                            1. re: cstout

                                                                                              Yeah, I try to grocery shop after a meal, it really cuts down on the "Oh look- I haven't had xxxx in months! I need some!" several times during rounds of the store

                                                                                              1. re: cstout

                                                                                                I'm usually good about impulse purchases but I have to say that if I didn't go to the store hungry, I'd never go to the store!

                                                                                                1. re: JerryMe

                                                                                                  JerryMe, yes, there is something to be said about never going to the store if you weren't hungry. I have noticed if I am not hungry, I tend to spend a lot less, but I also don't feel like comparison shopping, looking for bargains or any other thing for that matter. Later on during the week, I am regretting that I did not pick up this, that or the other, so there are pros & cons about shopping on an empty stomach versus going there when you are full. Also, the same can be said about shopping frequently or shopping once a week or even once a month.

                                                                                                  Gosh, I thought I had it all figured out!!!!

                                                                                                  Really, it all comes down to having a menu for at least a few days, checking the fridge & pantry for what's on hand & then making a grocery list & sticking to it.

                                                                                              2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                Ingenious use of a wonderful feature at Sam's club! I wish I have one near where I live.

                                                                                                I try to do something similar when I order from a local produce delivery service. I include as much of the basic groceries I need that are available through them (milk, eggs, cheese, butter, flour, grains etc.) and then I am done for the week or so for groceries. No need to be open to temptation for impulse purchases.

                                                                                                And I totally agree with online shopping! Not as great for the environment with all that shipping and not without temptation, but at least you can sit back and compare prices and notes before making that purchase. It works very well with dry foodstuff, as well as many other non-food categories.

                                                                                              3. I appreciate that the OP poses the question specifically at Americans but increased food prices due to climatic conditions are not restricted to that country.

                                                                                                For those of us who live in smaller countries and are much dependent on imported food, we are subject to the world wide vagaries of "supply and demand". It is clear that food costs have been rising (above the expected rate of inflation) for some years and I suspect that is likely to continue. For those of us living in the west, we have become used to cheap food (and, specifically, food costs forming a decreasing proportion of our available household expenditure). It will do us no harm for it to cost a little more and, perhaps, we may start to turn the tide against the availability of everything all the time and return to soem mconcept of eating seasonally and locally.

                                                                                                As for the immediate future, eating good quality food is an important part of my life and I am not going to change that. Savings will be made elsewhere in the household budget but not from food. So, I guess my answer to the OP's thread title question is that we are not trying to stay within the food budget but increasing the budget so we can continue to eat as we wish.

                                                                                                10 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: Harters

                                                                                                  And this +100000
                                                                                                  Very well said.

                                                                                                  Eating is one of the most important thing we do for ourselves. I'd rather drive a cheap car (or a bicycle) and accept and pay for (real) food prices that will be what they're going to be. And I feel fortunate to have that choice.

                                                                                                  We don't think twice about $120 cell phone or TV bills and acquiring the newest $700 gadgets, but food has to as cheap as we can get it = busted.

                                                                                                  1. re: splatgirl

                                                                                                    Er, not everyone has that to cut out. Meaning while some could possibly cut out or trade down on the cell phone bill, cut out cable, or quit buying iPads... Not everyone has that to cut out. *incert me*

                                                                                                    While, I don't eat as cheaply as I could, the reality of high food prices and stagnant pay is a reality for me.

                                                                                                    1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                      I get that 100%. Having the ability to prioritize, financially, is a luxury. What I have a hard time wrapping my head around is the ingrained, persistent idea that grocery spending must amount to as little as possible even when we have the freedom to do otherwise.
                                                                                                      It's one of the earliest life lessons I can remember, actually.

                                                                                                      1. re: splatgirl

                                                                                                        have a hard time wrapping my head around is the ingrained, persistent idea that grocery spending must amount to as little as possible even when we have the freedom to do otherwise.


                                                                                                        Oh, I thought we were all learning from each other here, nothing more. Freedom to do depends on where you hail from, yes? And getting a good food value matters. According to all the media reports we're spending the most $$$ on food, so why not shop and order wisely. Food is still a luxury for many...I know we all recognize that. So, eating well all the time still takes discipline and carefully planning.

                                                                                                        1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                          We do spend a lot on food, but we spend a much lower percentage than in many other countries, and American's spend 1/2 of their budget eating out.

                                                                                                      2. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                        Count me in this category too. Some of us have already put good food at a high priority, and have cut down on all the other aspects of living that could be adjusted. We are still left with the pressure to cut down on the food budget, in the face of reality.

                                                                                                        1. re: Crockett67

                                                                                                          I love having choices !!!
                                                                                                          I choose better foods over the $120 cellphone or $700 gadget.

                                                                                                          A gadget is something that's designed to convince you that just by owning the gadget makes you a "smarter", "better", "more affluent", "more posh" type of person than you really are; all the while you are struggling to make payments.

                                                                                                          After all, I can replace a gadget with money. I CAN'T replace me (sick/dead) with money !!!

                                                                                                          1. re: tenjo

                                                                                                            great response and outlook
                                                                                                            And if in choosing "better foods" you like,will finish etc the reduction of $ lost to waste is another benefit to your choice.Instead of perhaps "over buying" gizmos,gadgets and devices you struggle to support financially.

                                                                                                        2. re: splatgirl

                                                                                                          There is plenty of good cheap food out there though. Legumes and rice comes to mind. Think about all you can do with that as a base- Cuban black bean soup, Chana masala, smokey red beans and rice, navy bean soup, chili, Boston baked beans, lentil soup, risotto, and so on. Then there all of the wonderful grains you can use to stretch things and add more nutrition like barley in veggie soup, quinoa in salads, millet in a hippie bowl, brown rice for a veggie fried rice with eggs, polenta and so on. Food doesn't have to cost a ton to feed yourself well.

                                                                                                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                            yep, rice & veggies &/or beans has sustained cultures all over this world, cultures that have longer longevity than most Americans too. Interesting to note that as soon as populat ions start including meats, their longevity numbers start to decline. It is now happening in China, sad to say.

                                                                                                      3. So many good ideas. I will just add:
                                                                                                        1) Freeze leftovers immediately. Don't let them molder in the refrigerator for a week first. Set them up in freezer as you will want them for another meal. That dinner will be so welcome!
                                                                                                        2) Every week check refrig for what is looking spent and ratty. Use vegetables in salad or stew. Use fruit in jello (but not fresh pineapple or kiwi or jello won't set). Use bread to make bread pudding or stuffing (doesn't have to be Thanksgiving). Drying-up cheese goes to quiche. Overage of milk becomes custard. If it's already sour, make pancakes. Use EVERYTHING.
                                                                                                        3) In Chicago milk is cheaper at chain drug stores than supermarket with a usual differential of 1.99 drugstore, 2.79 cheapest at market, 3.79 name brand at market.
                                                                                                        4) If you happen to eat at an Asian restaurant rescue the leftovers and bring them home even if there's just a little bit---add to chicken stock to make Chinese Soup.
                                                                                                        5) If potatoes are about to sprout, don't let them do it. Cook the whole lot, mash them, and freeze for future dinners.
                                                                                                        6) Will repeat what others have said about baking from scratch, avoiding convenience foods, and shopping the sales. Can't say these three often enough.
                                                                                                        7) Depression Memories (I was there): Big pot of navy beans with something smoked if you have it, potatoes added toward the last, beans and potatoes served with bean "gravy", chopped raw onion as a relish. Gravy made from pan meat drippings with flour and milk. Or, loose sausage fried then milk gravy made with it and served on bread AKA "Bread & gravy". Cornmeal mush cooked, chilled in bread pans, sliced and fried for breakfast.
                                                                                                        8) Watch for meat bargains relevant to holiday either before holiday with coupon eg
                                                                                                        "$10off any ham with coupon" or after the holiday when same ham is marked down as after Easter. Thus, buy bargain ham. Bake. Carve into many portions. Wrap. Freeze. Save skin and pan drippings for seasoning beans. Use bone to make bean soup. On a strict budget half a ham may seem like a big investment but you will get many-many meals from it eg ham & sweet potatoes, ham & scalloped potatoes, ham & eggs, ham & green beans, ham quiche, ham & biscuits, ham salad, ham sandwiches to take to work, etc.

                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: Querencia

                                                                                                          My great grandma was a depression era mother. I have fond memories of her navy bean soup she would make to feed a crowd. It was navy beans, seasoning, onion, carrot, celery, maybe ham if she had it, and some homemade chicken broth or extra water to make it soupy. She would serve it with corn bread or home made biscuits. $5.00 to feed a crowd and everyone loved it.

                                                                                                          1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                            and if you can throw in a handful of ANY greens, so much the better...whether it's the celery leaves or parsely or dandelion or arugula or kale...cabbage too, even better! Nice reminder, Sistah!

                                                                                                          2. re: Querencia

                                                                                                            What a great idea on the ham! I have a deep freeze downstairs and this would be a good way to start filling it. I love ham and biscuits for breakfast or lunch. So good.

                                                                                                          3. 2013 will see a surge in prices, and sadly, those prices that rise will remain high and your dollar will buy less. Consumers will need to reacquaint themselves with the value of a dollar and realize that when one is out shopping it's not how much you spend, but how much you KEEP. Always strive to keep money in your pocket. This can be done by a list of things. Do not buy on impulse ever. Buy only what you need, and always use a grocery list. Do not purchase produce that will rot quickly and you will only have to discard. Buy bulk items when you can. Use coupons like a pro. Buy sale items, or wait till they go on sale (sales all cycle). Send in mail-in-rebates when you can. Beer companies offer rebates all the time on FOOD purchases (in many states WITHOUT having to buy beer). If stores have a price match policy, familiarize yourself with that and take full advantage of it. Put all of these practices to work and you'll be well on your way to being an educated consumer.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: Cheese Boy

                                                                                                              You just reminded me. A friend of my Dad's, who is Chinese and wealthy, used to have this saying: "Every dollar you earn is NOT money. Every dollar you SAVE and KEEP, IS money."

                                                                                                              Thanks for reminding me. I had forgotten.

                                                                                                            2. Also.... avoid trying NEW products. You'll just get hooked.

                                                                                                              1. Growing up my family of 6 was lower middle class. With 4 kids my mom found some really interesting ways to keep the food budget intact.

                                                                                                                Please note some of these are cost and time saving measures. Use the ideas as you wish.

                                                                                                                Your favorite pickles from the store, when they are out, save the brine and buy a cucumber or 2 instead. add them to the brine, and wait a week.

                                                                                                                Always double up on items that you can freeze. Make a large pan of Lasgna, freeze have of it for a meal next week when you don't have time to cook.

                                                                                                                Compost for a small garden

                                                                                                                Think out your food menu so that you are using everything you buy. Left over carrots can be used as dippers or made into a soup, or used as aromatics. Really think about what you are buying.

                                                                                                                Think Snacks - some leftovers are great for snacks, with a dip, or a few few crackers. My left over wild caught salmon I made into a salmon salad with crackers.

                                                                                                                Make your own trail mix or blend.

                                                                                                                Think about foods that are awesome when you make them from leftovers. - Steak and eggs, omelets, home made pizzas, sandwiches, etc.

                                                                                                                Left over rice can be made into many things, from egg fried rice, to spanish rice.

                                                                                                                Keep up with what is in your fridge, freeze, and pantry areas. I bought labels, we aren't always great at using these but when we do it helps sooo much.

                                                                                                                Grow your own herbs and lettuce at home and just snip off of it. when you need it.

                                                                                                                Make home made from scratch cookies, include these as the dessert for a school lunch. They last longer than other desserts.

                                                                                                                Make a home made red sauce for use in spaghetti, pizza, sauce and other things. Freeze it. Unfreeze it add herbs spices, etc as needed.

                                                                                                                Use your slow cooker, great for chili, burrito mix, Italian beef and much mor

                                                                                                                Also my last tip right now and shhhh!

                                                                                                                Go to your local farmers market close to the end of the day. They usually have some deals, especially in this hot weather. Be prepared to not have a large selection but you can't beat the price.

                                                                                                                1. First thing I did was to start buying beef from my sister, who is a framer. I buy one side of beef at a time and me and a friend split it up. Most people gasp at the $600 bill, but that really works out to paying $2/lb for all cuts, steaks, roasts, burger, etc. It's about a 7 hour drive to pick it up, but since I am seeing family, I really don't consider gas as part of the cost. And all that beef will keep frozen for quite some time AND I become popular at cookouts because I can make the burgers.

                                                                                                                  I am one of those rare nuts that have seriously shunned processed foods. I will buy canned tomato products, but that's because I cook a lot of Italian and I live in an apartment so a garden is out. But, I cook with dried beans, rice, lentils, barley, none of those things come from a can. I will buy a whole chicken and carve it rather than pay more for pieces. I have started using my KitchenAid grinder more to make my own sausage, much better than store made and about 75% cheaper (and keep the trimmings from sausage making for pork stock).

                                                                                                                  Almost all of my produce I buy at a local Amish market. I've been going there for about two years now and I've only witnessed prices rising once or twice, but not by much and not on everything. I noticed one CHer was talking about spices, this market sells spices dirt cheap, I picked up a package of parsley today for $1.94 that would've easily cost $6 or more in a grocery store. They don't sell spices in fancy glass or plastic jars, the sell them in small plastics tubs, they are good, fresh, and cheap. They also sell rice, barley, and flour the same way.

                                                                                                                  1. Gosh everyone, these suggestions are great. Something for everyone here.

                                                                                                                    This has probably been mentioned elsewhere, but I just had to bring it up again. Make your own broth with leftover uncooked veggies...skins, peels, stems, root ends, seeds, slithers, the whole bit. Just toss them in a freezer bag & keep in freezer until ready to make broth. I use a about a pound of chicken wings & just throw all the week's veggies in a big pot with roughly chopped unpeeled garlic, black peppercorns & some sea salt. Simmer slowly & then strain through a big sieve. I put the broth in freezer baggies & lay flat in a lasagna pan & freeze, take out of pan & layer bags in the freezer - this way the bags will be easier to store & take up less room in the freezer. I use this broth instead of water when I cook something.

                                                                                                                    Oh yes, if you have a meat cleaver, hack up your chicken bones before cooking....gets more juices in the broth.Of course you can leave out the chicken if you want.

                                                                                                                    This is a very light broth that will go into just about anything.

                                                                                                                    Just get out a pot & toss all your goodies from the freezer bag at the end of the week. If you don't have any chicken, just use chicken bouillon, or a product called "Better Than Bouillon". Of course chicken meat & bones will make the broth taste much better though. Just get into the habit of tossing the snippets of veggies in the freezer instead of letting them languish in the fridge too long.

                                                                                                                    Rachel says, "garbage bowl, I say "veggie bag".

                                                                                                                    Also, you could dump your frozen bag of goodies into a crock pot along with the chicken pieces & let it do its thing. Will look gross with all those onion skins & peelings & whatever. I don't try to use the cooked chicken pieces for anything else, they too have served their purpose. Pick the meat out for your cat or dog & then nothing else is wasted. Chicken backs are wonderful too, but very hard to get a hold of in my area.

                                                                                                                    No need to compost or feel guilty about your unused veggies again. I put my veggies in the freezer bag as soon as I see that I will not be using that particular item for anything during the week, seems to preserve the vitamin content a little better than letting that poor veggie shrivel up into a gnarl. Make it a habit to toss those bits & pieces into the freezer bag instead of the garbage or compost. All those thing are gems of flavor & nutrition. Get a fairly large bag so you will have room to collect all these goodies. Just about anything will work in there except beets & avocado. Toss in the corn cobs too.

                                                                                                                    Use this broth in place of water when cooking. With or without the chicken, this broth has used up every last thing that is left from a veggie. You have captured every last essence of flavor & wasted so little & gained so much when making this one of your cooking rituals.

                                                                                                                    Just saying, I don't add any cooked veggies to the freezer bag...will do other things them. I just want fresh flavor in my broth.

                                                                                                                    1. I foresee shopping for even more items at Aldie's.

                                                                                                                      1. I don't anticipate there will be significant food shortages. I already can, dry and ferment just because I enjoy it and I grew up with a garden and canning. I've always baked from scratch. I'm not doing anything really different than I've always done.

                                                                                                                        1. I have seen where a lot of you folks shop & Asian or other ethnic stores for cheaper prices & this has been puzzling me - if these small business owners can sell cheaper, why in the world can't those "big" stores do the same?

                                                                                                                          Unfortunately, I do not have any small stores like that around. If I did, that would be my first stop. I admire those little stores for making a living & providing decent prices.

                                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                                          1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                            Here in NY, it has to do with unions. pretty much.

                                                                                                                            1. re: coll

                                                                                                                              In NY it is not just unions ( although that is a consideration)....you have high rents, taxes, utilities , garbage disposal fees and various municipal enforcement agencies that are a business nightmare....it is eaiser to go after a large chain than 20 or 30 individual small businesses...

                                                                                                                              1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                                                The small chains are usually located in dumpy shopping centers, rather than sparkling new free standing buildings, so there's another savings. Some of my neighbors say, oh I'd never shop there, it's so dirty. It's not; just less lighting and more crowded. It doesn't keep that many customers away though, from what I see. The one I frequent is actually a small chain of about 10 stores, throughout the NY Metro area. I do more shopping there than the other four big names in my immediate area, combined.

                                                                                                                              2. re: coll

                                                                                                                                Small stores are covered by unions? I am not sure that is correct.

                                                                                                                                1. re: missmarychristine

                                                                                                                                  No..... big chain stores are covered by unions, as is almost everything in Metro NY. Small stores are not and hence the cheaper prices. Don't know about the rest of the country.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                    +1.....because of the demogs of the nyc metro area ...small stores can still proliferate and succeed...

                                                                                                                              3. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                Short answer is that the "big stores" have no need to do so. The vast majority of us, in the west, are going to do our shopping there. They can introduce a little discount here, a BOGOF there, but it's the producers, not the retailers, who are taking the hit.

                                                                                                                              4. My budget is $75/week for two of us, and I cook at home 5-6 days a week, and I bring my lunch to work 4 days a week. BF works at home so he eats leftovers. I usually come in less than the $75, my best week so far has been $35. I shop once a week off a list, and I do not buy anything that is not on the list.

                                                                                                                                I just meal plan based on the ad at my local grocery store (King Soopers), and I do use coupons if it's something we normally use... and my store will double up to $1. We don't really have any other stores within 30 minutes of the house other than a very ghetto Safeway. Also recently I have started using a produce market (Sunflower) that is near my work, and just bring a cooler to cart the stuff home (I work an hour away from home). They have some pretty good prices compared to our local store... broccoli crowns for 88 cents a pound, asparagus for 1.99/lb, and they sell mushrooms in bulk bins. Since I only cook for two, buying a whole package usually ends up being too much and they end up going to waste, so I like just being able to buy a few handfuls. They also sometimes have good prices on meats as well.

                                                                                                                                Our local grocery store actually just opened, a month or so ago (before we were driving to another one furthur away) and when they did, they had "grand opening" sales with some really good prices.... like a pound of butter for $1.50, a carton of milk for $1, packs of bacon for $3... that sorta thing. I stocked up on staple items during that sale. Now, if they'd only put Lactaid milk on sale.... ugh, that's so expensive but BF can't drink regular milk.

                                                                                                                                We also do a trip to Costco every 4-6 weeks for stuff like toilet paper, paper towels, and I buy meat there usually. I've found their prices are the same as when the grocery store puts them on sale...and I like Costco's chicken packaging, the vacuum sealed packs of 2 breasts, or 5 thighs. I also buy pork chops and occasionally tri-tip there. We don't eat a lot of beef unless I get it on manager's special (the stuff that's about to go past the sell date) or if they put ground beef on a good sale at the regular store.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: juliejulez

                                                                                                                                  Juliej, the only thing I would add to your outstanding hard work is visit the websites of manufacturers. They offer printable coupons, free samples and e-deals often. Example: http://www.lactaid.com/?gclid=CIO9-Z6...

                                                                                                                                  I take full advantage of my brands and visit their own websites often.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                    Thank you!! I don't know why I didn't think of looking on their site for coupons.... I've done it for other products I like to buy haha. Thanks again!

                                                                                                                                2. I try not to take a cart or a basket if I just need a few things mid-week. The bigger the cart the bigger your purchase.

                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                                    Yikes! How 'bout those MEGA carts in the MEGA stores??? I have a hard time reaching in there to retrieve something from the bottom. I am exhausted after manuevering that humongous thing around. Forget it when going down an incline with it to your car. Our new store had to tear up the whole parking lot because there was too much of an incline & the little old & not so old people were losing control of their carts & there were major crashes into cars & people.

                                                                                                                                    Just think how much money the "redo" cost? One more reason the prices are high in the store, or I should say, one more "excuse" they are so high.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                      Actually.. maybe they will raise it in the coming year because they had to redo the parking-lot. I am torn about belonging to a 'club' store... as a household of one, I am not sure it is worth it to pay $48 just to save money on paper-towels and toilet-paper... but I purposefully don't get a cart to ensure I only buy what I came for. (One time I brought a reusable bag to the club store and everyone eyed me like they had never seen one of those thingy-ma-bobs).

                                                                                                                                      1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                                        I'm a household of one, and as a writer I pay $35.00 a year for my small business membership. When I first joined, it also meant I could shop during businesses-only morning hours, but I don't know if that's still in effect. Anyway, by using the Click'n'Pull service to illiminate impulse buying and doing my non-perishable shopping once a month, my annual membership pays for itself in the first month after renewal!

                                                                                                                                      1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                        Most markets won't give you boxes of scraps because even the people who say it is for animals usually eat some and markets have gotten sued in the past when those people grow ill.. therefore, I was surprised that their markets give them scraps.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                                          So was I, GraceW. Stores popular with dumpster divers have the same concerns.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: HillJ

                                                                                                                                            Not to mention in states where it is illegal (like mine, I believe)--these stores actually have cameras, and you can be fined if you dive. (Besides the nasty-factor, I am really not sure why people would risk getting fined... the fine would be more expensive than just buying the food-itself). .... Also, IMHO, we only have one body... personally, I would not be able to risk getting some illness, which probably would be expensive to treat, from dumpster-food.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                                            The box I buy is packaged by Wright Bacon brand. The box is not really "scraps" at all, just short pieces or other pieces too fat or skinny to be packaged in their regular packages of bacon they sell. There are other brands of bacon that sell boxes of bacon ends like that too. No, this is strictly for human consumption & purchased in the meat section of big box stores.

                                                                                                                                            I used to buy dog bones at the butcher shop but they stopped selling them because they knew the poor folks were taking them home to boil for soup. These were scraps & bones that fell to the floor & were indeed not to be used for humans. But hunger does a lot of things to people & that is so sad to know there are those that are so hungry that they will resort to risking their health to get food.

                                                                                                                                        2. I buy bacon ends in a 3 pound box & then divide the box into 4 one quart freezer bags & freeze. You can do so much with those little pieces in the box. One favorite is to fry up about 2 tablespoons of the bacon in my little cast iron skillet, add the pieces to my cornbread mix, drain most of the grease from the pan (be sure & save grease). Pan is screaming hot. Pour in cornbread mix & put in a 400 deg oven. Talk about crispy good!

                                                                                                                                          Anyway, point is, that 3 pound box of bacon ends is the best buy around. Compare it to a pound of the "pretty bacon" all lined up in nice rows. You pay dearly for the "look"! Go ahead & get that box of bacon for about the same price as a regular pound of bacon.

                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                          1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                            I have never seen this. Is it an American thing? You guys get great food deals. If only Canada had double coupons!

                                                                                                                                            1. re: dianne0712

                                                                                                                                              Gosh, I don't know if buying bacon ends is just an American thing or not. The company that sells the packages is called "Wright Bacon". I am sure they are here in the states. If you have a butcher shop nearby, go to them & ask for bacon ends & pieces. The "box" I am referring to is not a large box, perhaps it is about 2 pounds or so. Hope that makes you feel better. Sorry I mislead you there.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                                I've only seen this sold in wholesale boxes of 25 lbs, it's a great item if you don't need whole slices of bacon. Sometimes they are almost whole pieces, yet always half the price. They are great for chowders, casseroles and such.

                                                                                                                                          2. With just the two of us, probably not as much as many.

                                                                                                                                            Still, we now buy slightly larger portions at the butcher, and then do maybe two nights of leftovers, where we often did none, or only one.

                                                                                                                                            Nothing particular, and nothing really helpful, but it's the only thing that I can conjure up.


                                                                                                                                            1. could not live without chest freezers

                                                                                                                                              continue to use 100% of what comes home......if you spent less,to save on something that did't get finished and you lost,tossed 10%
                                                                                                                                              did you save?

                                                                                                                                              1. The price of our favorite fish that we eat once a week went way up and we halved the amount we used in the recipe so now though the price has doubled in the past 5 years we are paying the same amount we did then. Turned out we didn't need to be eating that much anyway. I'd never have thought half a fish would be enough but it is part of a particular meal so it is. It wouldn't be that hard for us to go vegetarian if food prices required it. I think it is a great idea that you are doing what you are doing to store and preserve.

                                                                                                                                                I am not an optimist but I do vote for those who are concerned about seeing to it that the poor are fed. (Ex. I did not vote for the current governor of my state and I may have that put on my tombstone, just a simple, "didn't vote for the governor of this state," since the last one literally killed the poor with some of his cutbacks and this one is another nutcase clone.) I have read that one reason for the problems with food prices is they have been put on the commodities market or something like that and so we might talk to our politicians about these issues.

                                                                                                                                                1. I know someone who's a serious couponer and it's incredible how much money she saves on food and household items. For a family of 4, she spends less than $200 on food and household items.

                                                                                                                                                  She has a lot of staple items, too that generally cost a fair amount of money. So much so that she has a pantry in her kitchen and has converted a room in her basement to a larger pantry.

                                                                                                                                                  I live in a condo and don't have room for a lot of things, plus I don't generally consume a lot of stuff she buys like sodas, packaged foods like waffles, bacon, you name it. I know that's weird, but these days I eat very little pre-made things.

                                                                                                                                                  For all the other things I normally get, I love going to Chinatown. Vegetables are quite inexpensive and I like to try different things. Seafood and meats are also a fraction of the regular stores.

                                                                                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                  1. re: nikkib99

                                                                                                                                                    The problem with coupons is that they don't usually apply to the good things you eat-fresh vegetables & meat/fish. The only thing I can save money on with coupons is toiletries & sundries, & face it, you can only use so much deodorant & toilet paper. I try to use completely everything I buy, large cuts of meat that get used over several meals, carcasses & bones for stock, but no matter how much I try, there's always some waste...

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: thistle5

                                                                                                                                                      Tell me about it, coupons are useless to me. They're only for toiletries and processed food, and I make about everything from scratch. I also buy large cuts of meat and pressure cook them for the week. I use everything, even the stock made from these large cuts of meat. Pork shoulder for pulled pork, round roast for beef during the week. If you have a pressure cooker, you can buy less expensive cuts of meat and make them taste wonderfully tender. I also buy large amounts of chicken and ground meat. Potatoes, onions and garlic are my best friends. Mashed potatoes are so cheap to make and a little goes a long way. Pasta as well. If you give up things like Starbucks, and eating out even one less day during the week, it really helps to save money.

                                                                                                                                                    2. re: nikkib99

                                                                                                                                                      The only coupons I found were for TP, paper towels, cleaners. Rarely do I get coupons for fresh food.

                                                                                                                                                      So I now shop at Mitsuwa Japanese supermarket, and they are running their coupon program. When you shop Mon-Fri, every $20 you spend gets you a stamp. If you shop only on Wed, $20 gets you 2 stamps. Each stamp card needs 20 stamps.

                                                                                                                                                      So if you shop on Wed, and buy $200 worth of food, you get the 20 stamps. You get <<< $40.00 >>> back in coupons -- you can use it to buy fresh foods/meats/seafood, anything in the grocery store. Coupons I can actually use !!!!!!!!!!!

                                                                                                                                                      Best deal as far as coupons go.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: tenjo

                                                                                                                                                        BTW Safeway will do coupons for things like produce, if you have a Safeway (or one of their affiliates like Dominick's or Vons). They're online and you load directly to your "savings card". They usually do 20% off. They also will do coupons for their meat department, and for their store brand stuff.

                                                                                                                                                    3. I increase the food budget and decrease cloths budget -- so now we are all naturalists :o

                                                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: cacruden

                                                                                                                                                        Decreasing clothes budget so you will have more money for food is an excellent idea & with so many resale shops out there, it is really no reason to spend top dollar on clothes.

                                                                                                                                                      2. I buy a huge fresh pork thigh and turn the whole thing into 1/4" thick pounded (with a full wine bottle) into pork cutlets. I wrap them individually in plastic wrap, (which I save and wash to reuse), then I freeze the cutlets. on a tray then I put them into zip lock bags. When we want pork cutlets I thaw some in a zip lock bag then bread. VERY cheap way of stocking up. If you don't pound AKA tenderize the cutlets they aren't that great. I simmer the big bone and reduce the stock and freeze in small zip locks. Tip: If you feel like turkey get some dried turkey instant powdered gravy. Make some and add some finely chopped fresh thyme or oregano. Pour the 'turkey gravy' over the cutlets just before serving. You'd swear you were eating turkey. Do the same with powdered chicken instant gravy. After all that's what a LOT of restaurants do. You MUST add the fresh herb/s to make the gravy look like it was made from scratch. LOL

                                                                                                                                                        1. I've done some dumb things trying to be 'frugal' like one time there was an incredible price on cauliflowers so I bought a whole case. I did end up throwing most of it away. That was many years ago. Last weekend at the farmers market I bought a fifty pound bag of Yukon gold potatoes, a twenty pound bag each of onions and carrots all for twenty bucks. I turned all the carrots and most of the onions into a huge pot of soup. I used up all my frozen turkey stock. I simmered the veg all day. Then I used a stick blender to break down the veg. Then into the bottom fridge rack over night, Then into zip lock bags and put in the freezer. I got twenty 'family servings' which I can use in all sorts of ways. I turned most of the potatoes and a few bunches of leeks into leek and potato soup sans the milk/light cream the same way. I add the dairy when I thaw out the soup. I give a lot of these soups away to our kids. So it's possible to make and freeze cheap veg soups. They go a long way and they are cheap and convenient later.

                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Puffin3

                                                                                                                                                            If you keep freezer bags and freeze all the leftover single servings like chili, veggie soup, tomato soup, lasagna, meatloaf, etc... After a while, you will have quite a collection of meals. It's fun to have nights where everyone picks what they want out of the freezer. Everyone gets to be picky and happy. And, dinner is basically free.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sisterfunkhaus

                                                                                                                                                              I love this idea, thanks for sharing.

                                                                                                                                                              ETA: My college kids should love it too, it's a super easy way to send back their favorites, ready for the microwave.

                                                                                                                                                          2. Lots of great ideas here.
                                                                                                                                                            I'd like to add that by substituting what you have and do a bit of experimenting, you can create some delicious meals.While camping, I wanted chili. Only I didn't have any kidney beans or hamburg. I did have some sausage and baked beans. I improvised, cooked an onion , last of the green pepper,and 2 sausage links (crumbled).Then added in a slightly over ripe tomato, some spices and the baked beans..I was quite pleased with the "camp chili" which I now call it.

                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                            1. re: kathryn_dayle

                                                                                                                                                              so instead of chicken..... meow meow meow....and instead of beef.... woof woof woof :o

                                                                                                                                                            2. More pasta/vegetarian dinners.
                                                                                                                                                              Growing/freezing more vegetables and herbs in my garden during the summer.
                                                                                                                                                              Buying what's on sale.
                                                                                                                                                              Making homemade stocks from leftover carcasses/bones rather than buying pre-made.

                                                                                                                                                              1. I have learned to supplement my regular dishes with Asian dishes with ingredients purchased from Asian markets, and I also don't cook with meat often. Being an ex-vegetarian helps that.

                                                                                                                                                                Cheap Asian dishes that we love include:
                                                                                                                                                                -Veggie fried rice with tofu
                                                                                                                                                                -Vegetable laksa
                                                                                                                                                                -Vegetable pan fried noodles
                                                                                                                                                                -Ramen noodle soup supplemented with dried mushrooms, bok choy, carrots, onions, and tofu
                                                                                                                                                                -Veggie curry with cauliflower, potato, onion, and chickpeas with a coconut milk sauce served over rice

                                                                                                                                                                All of these make enough for leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

                                                                                                                                                                I have also learned to make inexpensive dishes that make 2-3 meals worth like:

                                                                                                                                                                -A big pot of veggie soup with lots of barley
                                                                                                                                                                -Chili made with dried black or pinto beans (I use a 1 lb. bag of beans with 1 lb ground beef) -served over rice or baked with macaroni and shredded cheese in a casserole
                                                                                                                                                                -Stuffed cabbage with plenty of rice in the stuffing
                                                                                                                                                                -A giant pan of risotto (I get a bag of store brand arborio for very little and add a seasonal veggie, parm, maybe some bacon,and brown butter)
                                                                                                                                                                -I will often buy a rotisserie chicken and make a few meals and stock from it which usually includes a big dinner spinach salad with one of the breasts shredded in it, the legs for DH lunch the next day, the rest of the meat shredded into chicken noodle casserole or chicken and dumplings, and stock made from the carcass.

                                                                                                                                                                I will also occasionally make frugal meals like:
                                                                                                                                                                - A French style potato omelette
                                                                                                                                                                -Grilled cheese and home made tomato soup. I tend to buy store brand canned tomatoes, so that ends up being really cheap.
                                                                                                                                                                -Sauteed mushrooms, garlic, and spinach tossed with pasta, leftover white wine, a bit of cream, butter, and parm. I usually spend five dollars for the pasta, mushrooms and spinach and end up having the rest at home already.
                                                                                                                                                                - I have a pricey meatball dish I make and serve with a tomato and basil pesto sauce, I take the leftover sauce and toss it with spaghetti, red pepper flakes, and parm. That ends up costing me the price of the pasta and the tiny bit of parm I use.
                                                                                                                                                                -Haluski is a great cheap dish, it is essentially egg noddles, butter, and sauteed cabbage--very comforting.
                                                                                                                                                                -If you want really cheap save your leftover sauces and gravies and serve them over mashed potatoes, millet (so good with mushroom and onion gravy) rice, pasta, or quinoa. It ends up costing a couple of bucks at most and tend to be comforting.

                                                                                                                                                                I think the themes that run through all of my food is that it's all mostly home made and in season, and nothing gets wasted. I also stretch things with beans and starches.

                                                                                                                                                                1. Sad to say, I have compromised on local, organic, and natural produce and some meat. My eggs are still local and cage free, my beef is still local and grass-fed. Trips to our local version of Whole Foods and our localvore store are less frequent. I also shop for staples like Italian pasta and Cafe Bustelo at Big Lots. I am baking my own dog biscuits, lol, with ingredients from there. I have found interesting spices, blends, oils, vinegars, and such at HomeGoods.

                                                                                                                                                                  But I am dying for a good Delmonico! And I am utilizing everything I have saved up in my pantry. Plus eating beans once a week.

                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: drloripalooza

                                                                                                                                                                    As of Jan 1, my unemployment runs out, and my plan is to only buy dairy and produce after that. I have two freezers crammed full of meat and assorted leftovers, an overflowing pantry and an entire wall of the garage with dry goods. I knew this day would come, I guess!!! It will be fun to create meals based mainly on what I already have, and use up all that pasta, canned tomatoes and dry/canned beans that I have been hoarding. I had a year to prepare and prepared I am. Lately I don't think much beyond a year ahead anyway, so I am content.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. I am cutting down on proteins in whatever dish I am cooking. For instance, if the dish calls for a pound of hamburger or other protein, I cut that down to a half pound. I still get the filling flavor of a protein, but have another half pound for another meal.

                                                                                                                                                                    Also, look at the most expensive ingredient in a recipe & see if you can substitute or cut down on the amount called for.

                                                                                                                                                                    For dessert, rethink jello recipes. Buy a nice fruit & "extend" it by adding a little quantity of the fruit to the jello. Don't think of it as doing without, just be as creative as you can.

                                                                                                                                                                    I tend to not want to make a huge dish of something & then freezing it. This method restricts me to having to eat that one meal over & over again until it is gone. If I take those same ingredients & make several different little meals from the ingredients, I get way more variety. Just something for you to think about. This is also a good idea for those who are limited on freezer space.

                                                                                                                                                                    Rethink you ways of cooking & planning meals. Have a potato? Rummage through the fridge to see what you could add with the potato....look at what is in the pantry to see all the possibilities that you could come up with. Don't think in terms of a recipe....just wing it. Keep doing this & pretty soon you will be developing an inner instinct of what to cook on your own. You will be proud that you can make do & feed yourself quite well.

                                                                                                                                                                    Am so glad we are still looking for ways to make ends meet. Keep sharing your methods - we all need a helping hand.

                                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                                                      My comment may not be appreciated but there IS protein in plants...not just beans & legumes...broccoli & kale and other greens have protein, just gently pointing this out, so you COULD entirely omit hamburger if you wanted to and save even more $$: http://www.diseaseproof.com/archives/...

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Val

                                                                                                                                                                        This is very interesting comparison table, Val, but the weights are not at all comparable and this is why the data is distorted;

                                                                                                                                                                        Broccoli - 10.6 oz

                                                                                                                                                                        Steak - 0.84 oz

                                                                                                                                                                        Romaine - 19 oz

                                                                                                                                                                        Kale - 9.2 oz

                                                                                                                                                                        So, if you recalculate using quantities of each that an average purson will consume is a meal (say, 6oz of each), the numbers will look very different and provide meaningful comparison.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: herby

                                                                                                                                                                          At least where I shop, I have been annoyed that the price of kale has risen in the past 3 years... it used to be $1.99 for a large bag and now it is above $3..

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                                                                            hmmm...Walmart (just saying) I think today was $1.09 for a bunch of conventional kale...I don't like shopping there so much but it is #1: close within walking distance #2: has cat litter prices that I can afford plus I had a $1 Tidy Cat coupon today #3: their Vitamin D3 supps are tremendous. Where do you live Grace? I am growing my own kale right now! I'm in FL but if you are in the north-land...surely you can grow your own this spring/summer! (oy, if I can, YOU surely can!)
                                                                                                                                                                            *Also, consider the recent FREEZE in California...it might be affecting kale prices in your area!*

                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                                                                                              Growing my own kale last summer saved me so much money. I don't think I bought any from the store once they took off. They can be grown almost anywhere in containers and are very self sufficient.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: adventuresinbaking

                                                                                                                                                                                What state do you live in? I always thought of kale as being a winter vegetable.

                                                                                                                                                                                How long does it take to come up? Would like to try growing some since it is quite expensive in the store.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: cstout

                                                                                                                                                                                  In central Ohio last year, I direct planted Lacto-Kale and collards last week of March, was doing light harvests before Memorial day and heavy all the way to October. Still harvested until mid November last year. But to note, they were raised beds not in our clay soil and I did feed them every few months with miracle grow.

                                                                                                                                                                                  I started my seeds later this year, but it was colder than last year.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Cleaning out my wallet and going through receipts this morning gave me another thought- see how you can make your stores rewards program work for you.

                                                                                                                                                                        I've been buying a lot at Fresh and Easy lately. This program works well for me because we don't eat much packaged food and they include lots of fresh foods in their promotions.

                                                                                                                                                                        Because I'm part of their "Friends" program I get an email every week with a $10 off $50 coupon. There area also specials each week you can "load" on your card. Then, they send "Made for me" coupons via email that are coupons on things I've bought there (including meat and produce items- example: $1.50 of sliced salami, 60 cents off butter, $1.00 off chicken thighs, etc.) you can use the coupons for each item that you buy- if you buy 10 of an item you scan the coupon 10 times and it takes the amount off of each. In addition, their "Points" system counts the dollars BEFORE the coupons come off and buy one get one free items are all counted towards the coupon requirement of a $50 purchase and then the discount is deducted.

                                                                                                                                                                        They also run all sorts of promotions on some items being 25 points or 50 points or 5X points, etc. If I use a "Made for me" coupon I get 3X points on the entire purchase before coupons, the week before Thanksgiving was 5X points if I cashed in some of my "rewards" points and used them on that purchase so I got both 3x points and 5x points plus the specials plus the coupons and I didn't buy anything I wouldn't have purchased anyhow. The subtotal was $54 and I paid $27 and change as well as getting enough points for $5 off my next trip. The week before Thanksgiving I paid $36 on a bill of $63 and got a free turkey (up to 20 pound limit,) because I spent over $30. If you're in the western US and have a store nearby you might wanna give their program a whirl.

                                                                                                                                                                        A guy I know who shops at a major chain supermarket always buys a store gift card when he gets there and uses that for his purchase because he gets rewards points for buying one and that translates into higher "rewards checks" for him at the end of the quarter.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Invest in a vacuum sealer! That lets you buy bulk meats at the cheaper price and repackage them in smaller quantities, and lets you save things much longer. You can save a LOT of money, even on fairly cheap things.

                                                                                                                                                                          For example, I bought a pound of yeast at Costco for about $4. I put the opened package into a resealable vacuum bag. I just measure out what I need and then reseal and re-vacuum the bag. A 3-pack of yeast is $1.50, so after using the equivalent of 8 packets, the yeast became basically free. The exp. date was a year from when I bought it, but it is still good (I always proof my yeast) a year past that date. It's not even in the freezer, just on my shelf.

                                                                                                                                                                          So, in that two years, baking 2 loaves of bread a week, I have saved (believe it or not) over $100 just on yeast! That almost pays for the vacuum machine!

                                                                                                                                                                          But I use it for so much more! I will buy a whole pork loin and cut chops. I tend to freeze them 3 in a pack (for one family meal). I buy the loins when they are $1.29 cents a pound. Boneless loin chops are usually $5 a lb on sale, at my store, so every dinner I make saves at least $3.00. At once a week, the savings are $150 for a year!

                                                                                                                                                                          The thing to keep in mind is that small savings REALLY add up. Buy as much as you can when it's on super 1/2 price sale, and store it. I probably have 50 cans of tuna on my shelf from the last time it was on sale for 50 cents a can. Each can I use is a savings of about 75 cents. If you do that faithfully, you WILL save money, and still be able to eat very well! Good luck!

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Instead of compromising on quality, I've cut back elsewhere. Most of the time, I walk to the store instead of driving (bonus, I get some exercise in). I see cable as a luxury, not a necessity, and I don't need the fastest internet at home when I have fast internet at work. I love to go out to eat, but I only go to places where the food is actually better than what I can cook at home. That eliminates many restaurants. I also bring lunch to work everyday.

                                                                                                                                                                            The biggest way I've saved is to eliminate food waste. That means buying only enough for a few days and cooking what I have before I go back to the store. If I'm sick of potato and leek soup, well, tough luck.

                                                                                                                                                                            Eating seasonally helps quite a bit. No need to buy expensive asparagus right now, when Brussels sprouts are cheap. For meat, basic butchery skills make things cheaper: if you know how to break down a whole chicken, you can get all the pieces (and bones and giblets) for the price of just two boneless, skinless breasts alone.

                                                                                                                                                                            I use every single scrap of food, when possible. Bones get turned into stock, and I use vegetable scraps for vegetable broth. The chicken liver isn't trash, it's breakfast. Bacon grease gets saved, so I don't need to buy as much butter. The grocery store will give me pork fat back for free, which I render into my own lard.

                                                                                                                                                                            I think Americans are going to have to learn a few things about their food supply. First, prices have been kept unreasonably low by corn subsidies, leading to mono-cultures that can't withstand environmental change. Second, we've been stopped making food a priority, expecting to get a lot of (poor quality) food for barely any money, which isn't sustainable. Third, we have forgotten that food grows in certain seasons: we expect fresh tomatoes in the dead of winter, even if they're completely tasteless. And fourth, we've eschewed variety, largely eating the same foods over and over (mostly corn and soy products, and I'm including meat from corn-fed animals) and bypassing the great variety of produce available at all times of the year. Finally, Americans cook less and less, even as cooking shows grow in popularity. We need to learn that these practices aren't sustainable, and soon.

                                                                                                                                                                            (I'm speaking in generalities here, and I think I'm mostly preaching to the choir here on Chowhound. I certainly mean no disrespect, especially to people on this board, these are just some things that I've noticed).

                                                                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: caseyjo

                                                                                                                                                                              nicely written and very well said
                                                                                                                                                                              your points about the lopsided foolishness,$6,000.00 range and you use it how much ????TO ACTUALLY COOK ON

                                                                                                                                                                            2. Never go shopping when hungry...

                                                                                                                                                                              1. I had to abandon my beloved asparagus. I am hoping that the doubling in price over the past month is due to the fact that it's winter but didn't notice this trend in previous years so fear that in the spring the price will drop as much as it usually does.