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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, chefscatalog.com 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. (http://www.westelm.com/shop/market-ge...) 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 www.webstaurantstore.com 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...

              2. My Latino market sells several different kinds of beans and white rice in bulk. Great savings. Also things like cilantro, peppers, jicama are always less and sometimes FAR less than a 'regular' grocery.

                1. I find my favorite Sonoma Syrups Co. vanillas at Tuesday Morning and at TJ Maxx. I have bought olive wood utensils, All Clad, Villaware, linens, spices and French presses at those stores, along with chocolates and other food items.
                  Tuesday Morning is great for knives and flatware, too.

                  1. Hit up Good Will & The Salvation Army super thrifts. You'd be surprised what treasures can be had for a song there.

                    Thrift shops in general and consignment shops absolutely have some incredible bargains on cookware & kitchen gadgets.

                    Online always check the sales, end of the line and overstocks. Also, Etsy.com sellers that focus on vintage and cookware have sales all the time.

                    1. I started couponing in December and have saved between $600-800 a month. By saving money on the things that I can, I've made more money available for better groceries (free range, organic, grass fed, better cheese, more and better wine...) and still spend less than I did before. The spreadsheet I track it all in shows my savings average 80%.

                      There are some things I just flat out never have to pay for any more or pay very little for (toothpaste, good razors and shaving cream, soap, shampoo, dish soap, cleaning products, etc.) And no, its not like that stupid TV show in real life but my best shopping trip at Target was $142 of stuff for just over $12 including tax (including food items.)

                      1. Sharing tips is a good idea, but I think you are going after something too general. Sometime a very open-ended topic is difficult to approach.

                        In term of saving money, there are a few other recent posts, so you may want to read upon them when you have a chance.

                        In term of grocery, my advice is to always buy you need the most, try not to buy candy/snack. Vegetables are usually cheaper than fruits - something to keep in mind. Eat more starch based food will also save you money. Again, thsi topic has been thoroughly covered by other recent posts.

                        In term of cookware purchase, try to buy kitchen knives and cookware one by one instead of buying a set. This usually save money and also get your a better set at the end as well.

                        1. Another good tip is never cover dishes you put in the microwave with plastic wrap - it actually melts some of the plastic into your food. I've seen people on the food network (suppose to be professionals) do this - and it's very dangerous.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: acssss

                            Unhealthy from what I've read as well.

                          2. For the grocery, "shop the edges". This is where the meat, dairy, produce and bakery items usally are located. It's when you start going up and down the aisles that the bill really starts going up.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mike0989

                              I was walking in Whole Foods this week and came upon the meat depts Mgr specials. 6 pack of huge premade meatballs for $3.88 a pack and 1.5 lb pkgs of ground veal, pork, beef and turkey at about the same price per pkg. Back wall to the left of the butcher. No signage just a sticker on the plastic.

                              Another WF's stumble upon, this week the Vermont butter rang up over a $1.00 more than the shelf price and I wound up getting it for free=store policy. Watch the register ring up your purchases!

                              1. re: mike0989

                                I agree.
                                Instead, I get an email of the items on sale from our local supermarket - and I make a list and go in just for those - and then make dinner based on what was on sale - once they had chicken cutlets for $1.49/lb - so I bought 15 and stocked them in my freezer... I know about every chicken recipe there is to know from that experience

                              2. Another saving tip is make your own jam... you just add sugar (and you can add less if you like it less sweet - and no preservatives, food coloring, etc - not to mention much much cheaper). After a while, you'll see how easy it is you'll come up with great inventions - I make onion jam, tomato jam (VERY good) in addition to the regular blueberry jam, strawberry jam, etc...

                                1. Did another one today. I'm a member of Cost Plus World Market's "Explorer" program... it's free to sign up online. They sent me a $10 gift certificate to use, because my birthday is this month. They also had a 25% off for members on their website that I could print. While I was on their site I noticed that Mezzetta products were on sale to members. I split up my purchases so I could use both coupons today. I ended up getting a pizza stone with rack and cutter (used the 25% off for that), 4 ramekins, a large jar of roasted red peppers, and a chimichurri sandwich spread (used the $10 off for those items) Total for all was $24. The pizza stone ended up being around $20 and all the other items only cost me $4.

                                  Also, my regular grocery store (King Soopers) which is owned by Kroger, sent me about 12 coupons for things I buy frequently, including a coupon for a free dozen eggs. All I had to do was call them and "register" my card with the program. And, the coupons are loaded to my card so I don't have to remember to print them, they'll just automatically deduct at the register once I buy the items. They also frequently do digital coupons for their organic line of products. Safeway does a similar program, I just don't shop there that much as there isn't one near my house.

                                  1. Probably my best tip is to buy good stuff and keep it forever, and not to throw stuff out that's perfectly good.

                                    My kitchen cabinets and counters are from the 70s, my dishwasher from the 80s. I replaced the brown sink (that had to be done!), and bought a refrigerator (told the POs they could take theirs). Still using their stove.

                                    For cookware and dinnerware, I buy good things & expect them to last forever.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: foiegras

                                      When we moved into our current home, we realized that the washing machine and dryer from the previous owners were very old - we had a contractor in for something else and without knowing that we wanted to buy new ones, commented that we should never get rid of those until they break down, because they just don't make them the way they used to. Five years later, we still have them and they are working great.

                                      1. re: acssss

                                        Agreed, same with my dishwasher from I think 1982. I've seen the same model in a few houses in current shelter magazines--apparently it was a good one. It's almond, and I wouldn't call it gorgeous, but it's fine. Nothing however can be variegated brown in my world, that gots to go.

                                        I also waste nothing in terms of food. I do have leftovers, and I do eat them. I cook for my dogs (having carefully researched their diet, not just randomly feeding them), and they eat leftovers such as the rest of the celery bunch, etc. I chop & toss into a big freezer bag for their next batch of veggies & fruits. Things they cannot eat such as onion, I chop & freeze the leftovers. Inedible items like grape stems go into the yard cart to be made into mulch.

                                    2. Regarding coupons or purchasing online... here are a few cool internet sites:

                                      Coupons:
                                      http://www.offers.com/coupon-codes/

                                      ...and this one gives you codes for free shipping
                                      http://www.freeshipping.org/

                                      1. Another tip about saving...
                                        If you go to www.usa.gov you may find out that the government owes you money... actually, it isn't always the government. Some people are owed money from Insurance companies, Healthcare, etc., and just can't find you, so they forward the money to the government. All you need to do is put in your name and social, and the State (so you can make a separate request from every State you ever lived in).

                                        1. The biggest waste of food is...waste. Food you buy and then throw away. I plan a menu, buy only what I need for each meal, plan on *not* having leftovers. Not just load up on perishables figuring I *might* use them. Keep a list of perishables on the fridge. Label almost everything with a purchase date, ruthlessly use or purge old stuff.