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May 2, 2013 08:40 AM

Cooking/Kitchen/Grocery Buying Tips

I am a nut when it comes to finding ways to save money (without affecting quality), save time, and make things more efficient. I read a lot of tips over the years (some work and some don't) but thought it might be nice for us all to share our tips with the other foodies on this site (tips can range from grocery shopping, food preparation, household tips, and travel tips).
I have a lot and hope you do too.

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  1. I look for items I want to go on clearance, by checking sources regularly, and at opportune times. For example, will put cookware on clearance right after Christmas. They won't necessarily mark it as a clearance sale, but you can tell by the big markdown that you will not likely see it in the next catalog. That's how I scored my de Buyer roasting pan.

    1. I won't get into groceries because I think that topic has been well covered in other recent threads.

      But in terms of cookware, I like to buy stuff at HomeGoods, especially from the clearance section. I don't need a matching "set" of pots and pans, so shopping there works out well for me... I just buy the pieces I need, often for very discounted prices. Most of my pots and pans are from there. My big 12" non-stick skillet is from Ikea, from their 365 line. I paid $25 for it and I love it. It's very substantial and cooks very evenly.

      Also, I love the kitchenware stuff from West Elm, especially the things from their "market" collection, which also is free shipping. ( Periodically, they will send me a $25 off gift card because I have a credit card with them. So, I hold onto that until there's a sale. I'm sure they do that to encourage me to buy more expensive items, like furniture (which I've bought plenty of from them in the past), but I just try to stick to small items so I can get for next to nothing. In this past year I've "purchased" a lovely set of linen napkins, a bamboo spatula with a fun red handle that I use almost daily, a beautiful white ceramic 8x8 baking dish, an enamelware loaf pan, and enamelware salt and pepper shakers. I think I've spent under $20 for all of those items once I use the gift cards.

      At Target, I shop the clearance section frequently. I don't always find something, but I've bought stuff in the past like a tray with a fun design on it for $2. They put their clearance items on end caps, so you often just have to swing around the outside perimeter of the store to find them. They also do tuck them in with the regular stuff but will put a red clearance tag sticking out.

      4 Replies
      1. re: juliejulez

        I travel a lot and every great restaurant around the world where I've asked to go into the kitchen and get recipes and see how they make things - ALWAYS had the cheapest cookware you could possibly imagine. None of them had this $400 for a single pot stuff. I love homegoods as well.

        1. re: acssss

          With as much and as hard as restaurants use their pots and pans, I'm not surprised their equipment is a lot less expensive than what we buy for our own homes. A friend I used to cook with said go to a restaurant supply store for fry pans. I've picked up several from IKEA and HomeGoods (Calphalon at the latter!).

          1. re: LindaWhit

            I occasionally go to a local restaurant supply store for hard to find items. They're not necessarily less expensive though. I was looking for a digital scale and the only one they had was about $250+!!! It can be calibrated for approval by the Bureau of Weights and Measures or some such. I got a HUGE stockpot for my induction cooktop and it wasn't cheap either...but at the time no one else had anything like that.

            I was looking for an additional really small saucepan that was induction capable and finally found just what I was looking for at Ikea at a great price.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              try for everything from utensils to vinegar, olive oil, kalamata olives (bulk, but extremely cheap) I buy olive oil from their store for $13 for 3 liters. Of course, you have to take into consideration the shipping as well but, still, in the end it comes out to be $18 for 3 liters - where our store sells 3 liters of olive oil for over $25

        2. A couple of food shopping tips come to mind. I like ground chicken breast for a lot of things but in my area it is $5.99lb which seems outrageous. I buy boneless skinless breasts when they go on sale and use my KA grinder attachment to make my own. I also do it with ground beef. I do quite a bit at one time and freeze in 1lb packages.

          The freezer is your friend. I stock up on sale meats and fresh fruits and freeze in appropriate packaging. The fruit is great for smoothies. I also put certain meats in marinade and then stick in the freezer. Saves time and tenderizes tougher cuts.

          I buy a whole pork tenderloin and trim myself. I can cut the pork chops as thin or thick as I want and it minimizes any waste.

          I love coffee and have a Keurig but the pods got too expensive. I bought the small basket that allows you to use any ground coffee and have saved a fortune. Also, we always take coffee from home in to go cups. Saves us a stop at Starbucks and saves a lot over time. It's also more convenient.

          I waste nothing. Leftovers for lunch or repurposed into another meal and mostly from scratch cooking with little or no prepared foods. I have a large family and 2 boys that eat a lot so I have to be frugal. We love good quality food so it helps to cook most meals at home. I make lunches for my school age daughter and everyone else to take to work. It saves a fortune.

          Lastly as far as cookware etc, I swear by Homegoods. I have found Wusthof knives, Le Creuset and all kinds of other goodies. It is a treasure hunt but you do have to stop in frequently to see what they have. The inventory changes all the time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: baseballfan

            I stock up as well. I go to the grocery store not based on what "we want for dinner" but on "what is on sale" and then I make something from that. I always get questions from other buyers because I buy meat, flour, sugar, tomato paste, pasta, etc by the dozens when it goes on sale. I also found that each grocery store has certain items that they sell for cheaper than other stores and other items that are more expensive (which in the end balances out).. so I go from one store to the next - and buy the items that they have for cheaper prices. Luckily I have a whole foods, TJ, and our local supermarket all within a mile away. For instance, Whole foods has parchment paper cheaper than anyone else. TJ - bananas, pasta, chopped beef, frozen green beans, frozen cod...

          2. I have a few great tips:
            One - if you have a hotel booking that you have to cancel - but the deal was that if you cancel to close to the date of arrival you have to pay a penalty - then... don't cancel, but call the hotel and re-book for another night (a week or two later), which doesn't involve a penalty - and then call them the next day to cancel.
            Two - NEVER wash your chicken before cooking - because all the bacteria will splash all over the kitchen and all the bacteria will die during cooking anyway.
            Three - if you have a stick foundation and/or lipstick - that in each you have a little amount left, stick a Q-tip in each and get it all out, then using a small plastic dish and put in microwave to soften it out and bulk it together - and while it is still gooey, stick all of it back into one lipstick/foundation - and let cool - you'll have a new lipstick

            1. Treasures abound at some yard sales and Goodwill stores.

              1 Reply
              1. re: calliope_nh

                Yeah to that! Some estate/garage sales are like going antiquing - the things people throw away...