Monday, January 31, 2011

Getting the Best Deal

Buying food without spending a premium is a skill that comes with practice.  To start build a menu that uses basics instead of ready prepared or boxed mixes.  The difference in cost between a box of au gratin potatoes and au gratin potatoes from scratch is  enough to  pay for two meals.

Secondly list the ingredients that you use most frequently.  Track the high and the low prices on these items.   I have one friend that carries a list of maybe 50 items that she regularly buys with the best prices she can find on a regular basis (non-sale).  Then when she is in the grocery store she can double check  the current price and compare between stores to help her make a good choice when buying.  Sometimes sales are not really sales.  For instance, 4/$5.00 may be higher than regular price at a different store.  If it is a good sale, buy double what you normally use.  Slowly the shelves fill up.  The same strategy can be employed with coupons.  Know what is a good deal and what is not.

On items that go on sale seasonally, buy lite through the rest of the year and save for stock up when that item comes on sale.  Flour is such an item.  The best time to look for loss leaders is between November 15- December 25.  Potatoes are a loss leader around the first of October, the end of January, and again the last of May/first of June.  Frozen Salmon and fish are on sale through Lent.  In most cases the Loss Leader sales are better than road side stands, restaurant supply, or regular grocery store prices.   Although all of these venues may be the bast route to take in any given area.  (In WI maybe the wholesale outlets are the best place to buy produce in bulk and split it up.)

Price out the price per unit (ounce or for Toilet paper it is the square) to make sure that you are comparing apples and apples.  Frozen vegetables are packaged in 12 ounces and 16 ounces.  Don't be fooled by a lower price for a lesser amount.  Here is also where one can determine if buying in bulk is effective or not.  Sometimes it is more expensive.

Don't worry if you don't always get the best deal if the bulk of the menu is built on the basics the cost per meal will most often be lower than eating out or buying boxes.  A regular price potato is $.30 per pound ( $.50-or higher for large bakers).  I counted the potatoes in a 10 pound sack and found the  average to be 10 cents per potato on the most expensive end.  Serving a meal where the main portion of the meal only cost 10 cents per person is still a very good deal.  Spice that potato with some onions, chili flavoring or butter and to give a delicious simple meal.  Rice is the same - an inexpensive way to build a delicious meal out of a long term shelf stable grain.

Be creative and know the sources, say a prayer and you'll find the price that is right for you.  I loved reading the story of a mother who always said a prayer before going into a store.  Inevitably when she entered she would hear over the speakers that a particular item would be on special for just the next hour.  She thanked God for leading her to that store at that time.  Those items were ones that she needed but had even forgotten to put them on the list to shop for them.  


  1. Thanks so much for answering my question in another post. I appreciate your wisdom and experience. Have you learned when loss leaders are available through time or is there a way to learn this skill? I would find this an invaluable resource. I guess I have been too haphazard in my buying, because I have never noticed, or perhaps paid enough attention to the changes in prices over the course of a year. If you have any other tips on learning this specific skill, I'd love to hear from you.

  2. My daughter is astute enough to recognize when there will be a basket of "closeout" bananas. She can tell by how many are on display, and how yellow, spotted they are if they will be replace in the next day or two with new green bananas hence yielding a "for sale" grocery cart of the too ripe bunch.

    I almost never by bananas at the premium price of 65 cents/pound. I stock up on sales and the children eat all they want for 2 days then I freeze the remainder whole in their skins. When pulled from the freezer and microwaved for 30 seconds, the bananas are great in cake, bread, cookies, or pancakes.

    Be observant. Also know the stores in your area. A new "Trader Joes" just opened here. They carry bananas at $.19/pound regular price - they are green but at that price one can buy and wait.

  3. My son believes in praying over his meal. He stated that prayer always makes the meal taste better :)

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