20 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Groceries Without Spending An Extra Cent

Americans throw away a quarter of our food uneaten, which translates into serious wasted cash over time. The Guardian compiled an excellent list of ways to shop smarter so you end up buying what you need, and eating what you buy.

  1. Make A List! Shopping lists top every saving strategy we offer, and for good reason. Lists make for routinized, disciplined shopping.
  2. Don’t Fear An Empty Fridge: Food grows mold, not interest. An empty fridge is a strong sign that your buying matches your consumption.
  3. Approach Deals Skeptically: Just because an item screams “Two for One!” doesn’t mean that you need two. Make sure the item is something that you’ll use, and something that won’t expire quickly.
  4. Avoid Supermarkets For Perishables: Buy your vegetables, meats, and fish at local establishments. You’ll spend less per visit, while honing your comparison shopping skills. In our neighborhood, the Korean vegetable stand is usually 30% cheaper than the supermarket around the corner.
  5. Buy Non-Perishables In Bulk: If you can store them, buy your pasta and rice in bulk. Just don’t try to buy more than one bag at a time.
  6. Buy Quality Products: Somewhat counterintuitive for those who focus exclusively on the bottom line, but if you pay more for a high-quality ingredient, you’re less likely to let it go to waste.
  7. Grow Your Own Herbs And Salad: Herbs and salad expire quickly in the fridge. If you have the space, grow your own and save.
  8. Buy Whole Vegetables: Bagged lettuce? Washed carrots? Like any vegetable, they start to decompose as soon as they’re processed.
  9. Be Storage Savvy: Keep your food fresh with proper storage. If you’re a fresh fruit lover, invest in an ethylene gas guardian to stave off spoilage.
  10. Plan Your Meals: Planning is a key part of list building, and one of the best ways to prevent abandoned foodstuffs from clogging up your fridge.
  11. Cook! Don’t just follow recipes. Real cooks now how to whip that extra bit of coconut milk or leftover celery into a tasty meal.
  12. Cook In Bulk: Since you’re already at the stove, double the recipe and save the leftovers.
  13. Use Your Freezer: Freezers are more efficient when they’re full, so fill ‘em up.
  14. Learn To Love Leftovers: Mmm, leftovers! But seriously, don’t throw away perfectly good food.
  15. Watch Your Portions: The less you eat, the less you spend. If you have trouble eyeballing portions, consider buying a scale.
  16. Learn From Your Parents: Your pappy’s pappy would smack you silly for your wasteful ways. Says Sheila Tremaine, 81, “We never threw anything away, because if you didn’t use everything up you had nothing to eat. People just seem to have lost that skill.”
  17. Rediscover Packed Lunches: Dust off that old He-Man lunch box and take your meals to work. Why waste $5.95 on a lunch special when you can eat from your own fridge?
  18. Equip Yourself: “Make your own bread. It’s quick, easy and so much better tasting than shop-bought. It’s also much cheaper. Make your own ice cream, it’s a doddle. Invest in a mincing machine as an attachment to a food processor, and turn the leftover roast lamb into a base for shepherd’s pie. While you’re at it, invest in a sausage stuffer and ask your butcher for some sausage skins when you buy the pork.”
  19. Don’t Trust Use-By Dates: If it isn’t soft cheese, pate, seafood or processed meat, then it will last for a while. “Chicken, raw meats and fish will all look and smell unpleasant long before they’re actively unsafe (as long as you cook it thoroughly, chicken, for example, is good for at least a week past its sell-by date). Apples last for months; potatoes are fine as long as you chop the green shoots off before cooking; tins and jars will last decades if not centuries; hard cheese is indestructible; and dry foods will last for years too.”
  20. Become A Freegan: If all else fails, ditch your wasteful ways and become one with your urban landscape.

Waste not … [The Guardian]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. MissPeacock says:

    Those are really good. I would also add the popular rule “Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re hungry.” I’ve done that and bought lots of things I didn’t eat. I am currently working on #17 to save money; I’ve made a vow to eat at work at least 3 times a week.

  2. – Grow Your Own Herbs And Salad: Herbs and salad expire quickly in the fridge. If you have the space, grow your own and save.
    — Buy Whole Vegetables: Bagged lettuce? Washed carrots? Like any vegetable, they start to decompose as soon as they’re processed.

    Herbs ARE dead easy to grow, on a windowsill or a balcony or roof even, in pots. (I knew a woman in an urban high-rise who got the building to let her put 6 pots on the roof and she grew enough basil to feed a small army with her excellent homemade pesto.) If you’ve got a yard, look at a spiral herb garden (dry- and sun-loving herbs at the top, wetter and shadier herbs at the bottom) or “square-foot” gardening, where a 4×4 raised bed garden can keep an herbivore in salad all summer or 2 omnivores salad-ed. And call your county extension — [www.csrees.usda.gov] — for all the best horticultural aid.

    A friend of mine who’s a chef shared this alternative to convenience packages of veggies — if you won’t eat enough of it to buy it whole, buy it from the salad bar. He lives alone and’ll get a handful of cauliflower florets from the salad bar instead of a whole head. Typically cheaper than prepackaged but not as much as whole veggies. I do it for things I don’t need much of for a particular recipe and won’t use up. (Price, of course, will vary.)

    – Plan Your Meals: Planning is a key part of list building, and one of the best ways to prevent abandoned foodstuffs from clogging up your fridge.
    — Cook! Don’t just follow recipes. Real cooks now how to whip that extra bit of coconut milk or leftover celery into a tasty meal.

    I recommend “How to Cook Without a Book” for people who, like me, didn’t grow up cooking. Gave me the confidence to whip things up. Also “How to Cook Everything” and “On Food and Cooking” helped me expand my knowledge.

    Two easiest things to do with leftovers, IMHO, are frittata (1-3 leftover veggies and some leftover meat + 2 eggs per person and some cheese and herbs) and chicken soup, which you can throw just about anything in.

    We save all our chicken bones (even from hotwings!) and the gnarly ends of celery, carrots, and onions in the freezer and when the freezer container gets full, we make chicken stock. Very nice, very cheap!

  3. TheLemon says:

    Timeless frugality tips. Saving money becomes a way of life when you start to implement some (or all) of these ideas.

    A more current update – those “Green Bags” really work! I bought a pack after reading some enthusiastic reviews, and I have to agree. Fruits & veggies DO stay fresh longer, which saves a lot of money around here.

  4. @Eyebrows McGee: “Typically cheaper than prepackaged but not as much as whole veggies.”

    *not as CHEAP as whole veggies.

  5. umbriago says:

    And don’t buy anything from a vending machine! It amazes me (where I work, anyway) how people gleefully toss away $1.50 for a soda or 90 cents for 1.5 ounces of chips (that’s $9.60/lb., geez, at that price, why not have steak?).
    It also makes me want to own some vending machine routes.

  6. Desk_hack says:

    I’ve seen a few of these lists on here and I keep forgetting to add one of my favorite tips:

    Specifically for chicken, go to the grocery store on Tuesday nights. Since ads are updated on Wednesdays, they want to get rid of what they have in stock that’s set to expire soon, so the pack of skinless, boneless chicken breasts that were $3.99+/lb earlier in the week are often marked down to $1.99/lb. I’ve saved tons of money doing this. (I’ve had great luck at my local Vons in Los Angeles.)

    Of course, you have to make sure to either use them or freeze them right away, but like it’s mentioned in this list, cook ahead and package up what you haven’t eaten. You could even take a few for lunches at work during the week.

  7. DimitroffVodka says:

    I would recommend also buying fruits in season than freezing them for later. Aldi’s is super cheap on stuff like strawberries so I just buy as many packages they will let me buy than freeze them when I get home.

  8. TechnoDestructo says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid supermarkets? The only place I’ve lived where that was an easy thing to do was Korea. And even then it wasn’t all that easy…because you’d always see a bunch of elderly farmers selling the SAME DAMN VEGETABLES at separate stands right next to one another, and no matter which one you buy from the ones you don’t buy from give you dirty looks. But damned if it wasn’t about half as much as the supermarkets.

    Also, people with fingernails falling off (from digging in the dirt with no gloves…I’ve gotten close enough to that myself to know it probably isn’t leprosy or anything like that), and 4 teeth.

  9. TechnoDestructo says:

    Oh, and re: leftovers: For a lot of things that kind of aren’t the same the 2nd time around, add a little bit of water before reheating. (Especially pasta)

  10. Canino says:

    Are herbs really necessary at all? I don’t think I’ve ever bought or used an herb in my life.

  11. Where’s the Guardian’s #2, “Shop daily for perishables”?

    It’s good advice, as long as you have a fruit/vegetable shop that doesn’t require extra gas to get there. Methinks Carey’s list needs 21 items.

  12. timmus says:

    “Buy Quality Products”

    Heh… try getting that past 95% of consumers. This is High Fructose Corn Syrup Nation. You can’t even get real grenadine anymore.

  13. Cyclokitty says:

    I never grocery shop when I am hungry — what a wonderful way to veer off the grocery list and dive into a ready made (overpriced, over-mayoed) sandwich, or a bag of pastries.

    @Eyebrows McGee: Great idea! My apartment doesn’t have a balcony or even direct sunshine, but I’ve noticed on my bike rides that there are allotment gardens and they were overgrown with lots of veggies and herbs. It’s too late to apply for one now, but I’m going to check with the city and find out for next year.

    In Toronto, Chinatown and Kensington Markets are the best places to go for inexpensive meat, fish, dry goods, and fruits and veggies. Luckily the two areas are right next to each other so after picking up baby bok choy and a nice fresh whole fish for pocket change in one of the Chinatown markets, I head over to Kensington for bulk rice, and fresh peaches for dessert!

    @Desk_hack: I regularly buy t bone steaks for $4.00 off at a nearby grocery store. What kills me is the steak tastes better because it’s now aged!

    The best thing about eating inexpensively is trying different ethnic foods. Chinese, Vietnamese, South Indian, North Indian, Portuguese, Italian, Greek… it’s incredible how one person’s “take out” or “restaurant” is someone else’s usual home cooked fare. I’m always on the look out for cook books (at the library) for ethnic home cooking. Armed with the ingredients, I’m dangerous in the grocery store.

  14. JackHandey says:

    I recommend checking out the Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook by Carole Ryamond. It has TONS of cheap, quick, and easy recipes and gives a lot of great cooking advice for beginners. This book has more than paid back its purchase price for me. I have a lot of cookbooks, but I return to this one more than the rest. I wish I had this book when I started college.

    Note: You don’t have to be a vegetarian to use this book. You can always add meat to these recipes if you want. Also I am not affiliated with the author, publisher, etc. Check your library – it may have a copy.

  15. With regards to being starage savvy, get two thermometers, one for the freezer andh one for the refrigerator. Keep your settings adjusted correctly and your stuff will last a very ling time. I sometimes throw stuff away solely because I’m not comfortable eating two month-old leftovers.

    @timmus: Buy high-quality HFCS, not the cheap stuff.

  16. @Cyclokitty: “dive into a ready made (overpriced, over-mayoed) sandwich”

    Sometimes my reward for shopping with a list, coupons, and a weekly menu is to buy myself a deli salad and a People magazine so I can eat a lazy lunch and read a trashy mag when I get home. :D

  17. danep says:

    “Don’t Fear An Empty Fridge…”

    Actually you should always try to keep your fridge full, though not necessarily with food. If you find it is chronically underfilled, used gallon jugs of water to take up the extra space. You’ll save a good deal of electricity (since the thermal energy is being stored in water instead of air – air which flows out every time the door is opened)

  18. @TechnoDestructo:

    What an ironic sentiment. Supermarkets were viewed as middle-class saviors when first established, because their supply chains allowed for lower average costs compared to specialized outlets.

  19. One more thing I just thought: cook for a friend. Increasing the number of portions is an easy way to reduce the cost per portion, especially if you’re often cooking for one or two.

    Of course, this works best if it’s reciprocal. It’s especially well-suited to college students (just stop inviting the freeloaders once you knew who they are).

  20. madanthony says:

    While you obviously don’t want to have so much in your fridge that it spoils before you use it, I think it’s a good idea to keep some extra food around, and that it saves money – because there have been plenty of times where I’ve looked in my fridge/freezer, not seen anything I wanted to eat, and ended up driving to Taco Bell or Chic-fil-a for dinner instead.

    Keeping food around that you actually want to eat is a good way to avoid spending money eating out.

  21. coren says:

    Some of these are good.

    Becoming a freegan doesn’t have a thing to do with *my* groceries though.

    And two for one, regardless, is a good deal if you already intended to get one to begin with (unless they jack up the price to compensate)

  22. WeAre138 says:

    Great tips! I got another to throw in. If you’re like me and you’re hooked on expensive-steakhouse quality meat, invest in a smoker.

    I picked up a MasterBuilt electric smoker about a month ago for just under $180. You can smoke a $12 tri-tip steak, that will last you all week long and not get old if you get creative and mix it up (sandwich/wraps/burritos/by itself as a chunk of steak/salads). Although steak is my personal fave, smoking salmon, chicken, and pork is also delicious, goes a long way when and very healthy.

  23. spanky says:

    One caveat for number 18 up there: Think twice about baking your own bread when it’s hot out. If you have central cooling, you may not even realize how much heat is escaping from your oven.

    Personally, I try to limit extensive baking to days when it’s 70F or lower.

  24. bohemian says:

    Bread you make yourself will generally go dry before it would go moldy. Grocery store bread seems to go moldy fast. Since that makes people buy more bread I am guessing it is partially planned and partially cheap additives.

    Take a cut tomato, fold up a clean plain white paper towel, put it on the cut end of the tomato and place in a zip lock bag or small plastic container. It makes the tomato last twice as long.

    Wrap cheese in plastic wrap tightly and then in a zip lock bag or plastic container. Doing this we have ceased having cheese go moldy before it gets used up.

    If we have fruit getting close to not being good anymore I freeze it and use it in smoothies or baked fruit dishes.

  25. ConsumptionJunkie says:

    I draw the line at becoming a freegan. There are a lot of crazies out there who poison food for fun.

  26. mythago says:

    “Shop daily” is fine if a) you have lots of time on your hands and b) you’re somebody who never buys on impulse.

    Some of these are very good, but some are not well thought out at all. “Make yourself” – the ingredients for home-made ice cream are way more than a pint of Haagen-Dasz on sale, and making your own sausage to save money? Not really, but I guess they wanted a nice round number of tips.

    Cooking is probably the very best way to save money, especially if you are good at cooking with what’s available rather than just cooking from recipes, double so if you cook large batches and freeze it.

  27. TechnoDestructo says:

    @ADismalScience:

    Whatever, it ain’t that way now. If you’ve got a farmer’s market or specialized produce market that isn’t a “cash in on the organic craze” place, you can pretty much count on it being cheaper.

    Mandarins, 10 cents per pound in…was it Watsonville or Gilroy, 2004. TEN CENTS A POUND.

  28. TechnoDestructo says:

    @bohemian:

    Or just cut the mold off.

  29. @TechnoDestructo: I assume (hope) you’re referring to the cheese, not the bread.

  30. poetry1mind says:

    I think tips one and two are great! We shop at Wholefoods and everytime we go in (i tell you no lie) we have good intentions. We go in buying all healthy stuff like apples, vegetable bags and etc. 8 out of 10, the fruit ends up going bad and of course the salad bags almost always expire.
    Another problem is that our fridge never gets emptied. I now realized that we were just buying food for nothing. We would have about 5-7 bottles of salad dressing for what?!!!
    This weekend, I wrote out a list and for this past week, I didn’t buy anything until everything was out of the fridge.
    With the way our economy is going and for the fact that there are many people starving, there is no time for wasted food.

  31. Ikky says:

    Again!!!!! Wal-Mart, and a ton of other places PRICE matches. Haul in your ads and have at it. I’m a cashier at Wal-Mart. We do this! (IF IN DOUBT, ASK!)

    When something is on sale, make sure the scanned price is correct. Not all of them are entered into the computer. When we are busy, we don’t look at prices.

    Don’t expect your cashier to see the cents off coupon on a produce. Take the thing off and hand it to her!!!!!!

    OK. I’m not good, but I work 20 or less. express lanes. PEOPLE, FRIGGIN COUNT!!!!! I’m cool with 25 or even 30, but, like today, 2 CARTS? NO!!!)

    LOOK AT THE PRICES! The scanners often double scan things. WATCH AS YOU CHECK OUT! (Watch. I’ll get my sorry tush fired if ya’all find my errors AFTER YOU PAY! And, you have to go to customer service to get your refund!))

    Coupons work. Use them. Get the Sunday paper. Check web sites.

    My friends, BIG LOTS, COSTCO, SAM’S, ALDI’S, WITH A LIST. Please, plan ahead.

  32. superlayne says:

    Rosemary grows like a weed, seriously. It’s great on potatos, meatballs, pizza, and with absolutely no attention from me, except to snip off a sprig here and there, it is about the size of a shrubbery now.

  33. whinypurist says:

    A painless introduction to using fresh herbs:

    a dozen spearmint leaves
    a generous 1/4 c sugar
    1/2 lime
    water and/or rum

    a big glass jar
    a wooden spoon

    -use the spoon to crush the spearmint into the sugar
    -once it is nice and aromatic, add the limes and keep crushing until the sugar has started to dissolve
    -add water and/or rum (2 shots) to taste, plenty of ice, and a straw is nice

  34. whinypurist says:

    Oh edit – make that lime slices

  35. GeoffinAround says:

    If you like milk but don’t drink it too often (i.e., some goes bad before you finish it) buy it in CARTONS, not plastic jugs. Next time you’re at a grocer, just compare the expiration dates. I bought a half-gallon of Archer Farms organic last week that expires in August.

  36. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @whinypurist: Bleah. Whoever thought of adulterating the grand old julep with limes and bastardizing it with rum? For the love of all that’s holy, skip the limes and use bourbon.

  37. Ikky says:

    Check prices !!!!!!!!!!!

  38. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @superlayne: I did, however, try a julep-like drink with fresh rosemary. I prepared a rosemary extract by bruising the rosemary beforehand with a mortar and pestle, then packing it in a glass flask and covering it with Everclear, then setting it out in the summer sun for a few days (bringing it in at night). Used a wheatgrass squeezer to get out every drop of juice.

    I used a spoonful of the extract of rosemary in place of the mint in the julep recipe. Blew my hair back and made me smile.

  39. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Hmmm… while I’m at it, let me leave a comment that’s actually ON TOPIC… heretical, but on topic…

    Folks, if you can’t cook, learn to cook. If you can’t learn, don’t waste your money on raw ingredients you can’t use.

  40. hmk says:

    @bohemian: Bread you make yourself will generally go dry before it would go moldy. Grocery store bread seems to go moldy fast.

    That is so not true in my experience. My homemade bread gets moldy after a couple of days, but the store-bought stuff is so full of preservatives I’ve seen our bread last months. I hardly ever eat bread so if the fiance is fine with preservatives, it’s just less bread-making for me.

  41. Landru says:

    @spanky: Keep bread in the refrigerator, and it won’t go moldy nearly as fast.

  42. kittenfoo says:

    I can’t stand wasting food. The buying in bulk concept doesn’t work well for me, however. I remember a couple of decades ago, when I was newly married for the first time, we were so proud of ourselves for buying a case of macaroni and cheese at Sam’s Club. By the time we finally worked our way through it, I didn’t want to look at macaroni ever again. One thing I would recommend buying in a large size would be real vanilla extract for baking. In fact, I have asked for just that when family or friends ask what I want for Christmas.

  43. ceriphim says:

    Don’t Fear an Empty Fridge? Yeah that’s great for those out there who *can* shop every day. Useless to those of us whose schedules differ by day. I’d say having some food in my fridge is gonna end up being the cheaper option coming home at the end of a 12-hour workday.

  44. @GeoffinAround: That’s not because of the carton, that’s because of the processing. If you want your milk to last forever*, buy UHT (ultra-high temperature) processed milk. If you do buy UHT milk, keep in mind Carey’s #19 in mind. The US expiration dates are months shorter than the ones I saw in Belgium. I think they’re making it up.

    Personally, I’ve never been a fan of UHT (but I don’t know if I could tell the difference in a blind taste test).

    *Forever is defined as six to nine months, unopened.

  45. BarkingLeopard says:

    @JackHandey:

    +1 to the Student’s Vegetarian Cookbook. The Vegan cookbook by Carole Raymond is also very good. Those who eat meat should find it pretty obvious where to sub it in. I live in a college dorm without a meal plan and only use a kitchen once a week, and these cookbooks have really helped- make 2x batches of a couple recipes, have ingredients on hand for a few sandwiches, and I’m good for the week.

    Also, try experimenting and seeing what happens. I like to mix a few cans of veggies, toss it on a plate or pita and cover with shredded cheese, then nuke it. Not the fanciest meal, but fairly healthy and you can get a couple of veggie-heavy entrees for under $1/per.

  46. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    4. # Avoid Supermarkets For Perishables
    Depends where you live. In my town Walmart and Albertsons have better, fresher, and cheaper veggies & meat than smaller local stores.

    7. # Grow Your Own Herbs And Salad
    I can’t grow enough. It’s seasonal and just a supplement.

    18. # Equip Yourself: “Make your own bread.”
    Is it cheaper after you factor in time, equipment, ingredients and gas/electricity? What’s the break even point?

    • harrier666 says:

      Exactly. A lot of money saving tips vary based on your hourly rate. If I can be sitting at my computer making money, it is often FAR cheaper for me to have someone else do the work such as making the bread. It’s cheaper for me to hire someone to clean my house while I work than for me to do it myself. I pay them less per hour than I make, and as they are pros, it takes them less time that it would me, increasing the benefit to cost ratio. I have a deepfreeze and buy in bulk when it makes sense, but that’s about it.

      So, going to the grocery store where I can get it all in one place saves me time, which, as they say, is money. Coupon clipping can take a good amount of time. Add my allergy to the ink and that my hands swell up when I touch the crap, forget it. I watched a show where the family was obsessed with coupons and sweepstakes. They saved/made about $5/hr for how much time they spent looking online for them, scouring bins, etc. That’s below minimum wage.

      And listening to parents? Oh no.. no no. That takes WAY to long.

  47. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @kittenfoo: Mexican vanilla FTW. I have a quart in my kitchen, half full, that I’ve had for six years. It’s like the Watkins double strength vanilla, natural vanilla fortified with vanillin. That’s some good stuff, and the quart cost about four dollars at the Fiesta grocery store.

    @BarkingLeopard: +2 to the Student Vegetarian Cookbook. I have a copy and I went and dug it out. I often cook “fancy” (tonight, Thai red curry with fresh basil, a whole head of cauliflower, vegetarian “chicken,” and more spices than I can pronounce), but my fiancé can hardly cook and he loves that cookbook because it makes him able to.

    @IfThenElvis: We wasted a lot of store bread because it got sour and moldy before we could finish it. It was too expensive to keep in the house. We got a sale breadmaker and we make it whenever we want it (not often, we are a rice and noodle household) and now we eat every scrap we make (usually just for toast). The breadmaker paid for itself in less than a year. Flour is cheap, water is cheap, and yeast isn’t expensive if you buy it in the large baker’s package and keep it in the freezer.

  48. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Just a thought. I just fed the cats. It’s tempting to buy cheap cat food, but the vet bills will teach you otherwise.

    Dogs can do pretty well on a gruel made from bland, plain leftovers, even vegetarian ones. Google for recipes.

    Cats, however, have some odd needs and food sensitivities. They can’t go veg and they can’t eat our leftovers (onions and garlic will poison kitties) and they need nutrients we don’t normally think about. But I cured one of mine’s digestive problems for three years just by switching food to something better. A good natural cat food, like the ones put out by Nutro, will pay for itself in healthy cat. Mine eat the excellent “Evolve” for cats, which I get by mail order, and even counting shipping it is price competitive.

  49. synergy says:

    Sorry to break it to you, but there’s a lot of places in this country where the grocery store is the only place to get perishables. People will always say “go here for the local farmer’s market weeee!” To that I say, there’s only one in my major city and they’re only around a couple of hours in the middle of weekdays when most people work and the only time they’re open on a Saturday is at a different location which is a 16 mile roundtrip from my apt. :-p Yeah, thanks.

  50. dragonfire1481 says:

    I don’t follow all of these but I am big on the smaller portions and taking my lunch to work. I have saved myself sooooo much money by taking lunches.

  51. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @synergy: Do you have an ethnic grocery around? A salvage grocery? I’ve seen both in country communities so small and rural they don’t have their own City Hall. Sometimes they surprise you; you can often score really good stuff that the local yokels have no idea how to use.

  52. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    hard cheese: dampen a paper towel with vinegar, wrap it around the cheese, put it in a zip top plastic bag. staves off mold for months if you refresh the vinegar when it starts to dry out. you’ll never taste it

    i keep my bread in the freezer since i toast it before eating. i’ve never noticed a problem unless i try to thaw it and eat it without toasting. then it has the texture of cardboard. in the humidity here it molds in the fridge too fast. if bread goes dry you can
    a] wrap it in a damp papertowel and microwave it for a few seconds. how long depends on the size of the piece
    b] use it for garlic bread
    c] throw it in the food processor or blender [or a bag and use a rolling pin] and make breadcrumbs for casseroles or breading your chicken

    here in the southeast [nc] i have a beast outside my front door that my friends and family all refer to as ‘the rosemary kraken’ it’s a 4′ wide shrubbery of rosemary. when i trim it to keep it off the sidewalk i can’t even give it all away. my sister has one too, as well as a yard full of basil and cilantro that have gone feral. she put some seeds down in regular potting soil in a raised bed about 2’x4′ a few years ago and now she doesn’t even bother drying the extra, just lets it grow like weeds. my mother once had to dry 3 pounds of oregano that got loose in the sandy soil of her pool enclosure in florida. find out what grows best in your climate and learn how to cook with it. a packet of seeds us usually less than a dollar and those particular plants either [rosemary] grow as perennials, or reseed themselves with no care at all around here.

    a $3 cherry tomato plant provided me with more cherry tomatoes than i could eat one summer with nothing but water and sunshine.

    if you can get an OLDER copy of the joy of cooking, please read the ‘know your ingredients’ section. it’s a long chapter but i learned to substitute what i had on hand instead of buying new stuff i wouldn’t otherwise use in dozens of recipes. [the newest version of this book has a severely truncated section on ingredients]

    i always keep a bag of barley on hand. save all my veggie and cooked meat scraps [doesn't matter what kind, all the ugly bits] and even meat juice/drippings from the pan and store them in the freezer. freezer burn doesn’t even matter. when the container or baggie is full i dump them, the bag of barley, some water and boullion cubes [enough water for the barley plus some, it's a matter of taste] into the crock pot on low for a few hours. sometimes i add some leftover rice, a bag of frozen peas/corn/mixed whatever veg you like toward the end of cooking. if you have tomato paste or whatever else you might think is tasty, go ahead and add it. i lived on ‘leftovers stew’ for years working for minimum wage.

    an evenly cut tomato/onion/apple half will store neatly on a small salad plate with the cut end down for days without getting slimy.

    when i worked at a donut shop i got to take home stale donuts for free. i kept them in the freezer and microwaved them right before eating for about ten seconds. like fresh out of the oven!

  53. katyggls says:

    “Just because an item screams “Two for One!” doesn’t mean that you need two.”

    Um, maybe I’m crazy but isn’t two for one the same as buy one get one free? It would be crazy/stupid to pass on something that you’re getting for free. If you were going to buy one of something anyways, for god’s sake take the free one, don’t let the store keep it. If you really won’t use it, give it away or donate it.

    Oh and that photo? If all men drank milk that way they’d get laid way more often. Hubba hubba…

  54. punkrawka says:

    “Keep an empty fridge” runs counter to energy-saving tips that the Consumerist has published recently. Also, every single thing in an empty fridge will spoil quickly if you lose power, whereas a full fridge will keep itself cool much longer. If nothing else, you should load up the fridge with beverages, one of the non-perishables that you can stock up on. But “keep an empty fridge” as a rule is not a good one.

  55. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @katyggls: Many stores still require you to buy two to get the special. Walgreens has a similar thing where you can get, say, two for five dollars, but just one is regular price of $2.99.

  56. Angryrider says:

    Wait… If Americans on average throw away 25% of their food… Dear god… Think of how many people actually throw away like at least 50%…

  57. Squot says:

    @katyggls: Yeah, but a lot of stores jack up the prices on the “One”, so something that’s 2.00 each is suddenly 3.75 each and Two for One!

    Some places even make that One be 4.25.

  58. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    One nice thing about using local markets, especially farmer’s markets, is that the produce is better (so you waste less) and it keeps longer. Greens from the grocery store are long since dissolved into goo while my farmer’s market greens are crisp and going strong. Five minutes of prep with a salad spinner and a big bowl and you’re all set for quick salads for the week.

  59. @IfThenElvis: “Is it cheaper after you factor in time, equipment, ingredients and gas/electricity? What’s the break even point? “

    Probably, yes. I’ve seen breakdowns including electricity, etc. Timing is up to you. But ingredients = much cheaper than store-bought bread and natural gas for oven = less than gas to drive to supermarket (though never do I really make a bread-only run!).

    If you have a stand mixer, it’s super-easy. It takes about five minutes to get everything mixed up (and with the stand mixer, you can get the kitchen clean while it kneads all on its own!). Then it rises, you punch (so therapeutic) and shape, it rises, and you bake. Total time invested is less than 15 minutes — however, you do have to have time when you’re hanging around the house for a couple three hours to give it attention now and then. If you’re never home, then no, it’s a stupid way to get bread. But if you hang around the house on Saturday, it’s very easy.

    (Also, I usually bake baguettes — I’m scared to try loaf pans — and they only take 18 minutes and my oven heats up really fast.)

    We store homemade bread in a covered cake platter. Works basically like a breadbox and delays spoilage.

    @Angryrider: “If Americans on average throw away 25% of their food”

    It’s not actually specific to the U.S. … between 15% and 25% of food taken home for consumption spoils just about everywhere in the world. Between 1/3 and 1/2 is lost from the fields (to critters, pests, weather, etc.), and another large percentage spoils in the distribution system (processing plants, supermarkets, etc.). Only something like 40 to 50% of food available for harvest makes it to being eaten, and that’s in countries with good distribution systems.

  60. katyggls says:

    @speedwell:

    I took “two for one” in the OP to mean buy one get one free, not “only get a sale price if you buy more than one item”. I don’t think that’s what the term “two for one” means. Maybe it’s just badly described in the post. Besides, your example doesn’t seem like such a ripoff to me. I think there are very few cases where having two of something is a rampant waste of resources. Obviously, if your buying ten of something just because there’s a sale when you wouldn’t have bought it in the first place, then yeah, you’re an idiot. But if something I’m going to buy anyways is cheaper because I buy two of them, in most cases that’s a good deal.

    @Squot:

    Again I’d like to know where you all are shopping. I shop at Food Lion and Walmart and have never seen them jack up the prices on a buy one get one free deal. I don’t believe most reputable grocery stores are that shady.

  61. dewsipper says:

    I save a lot each month by making my spoiled-rotten-puppy’s treats. I buy hamburger on sale when it hits $1.99/lb, and save all my stale (not moldy) bread in the freezer. Mix it all together with some garlic and bake mini-meatballs – about 3lbs per baking sheet, usually two or three rounds (25 mins @ 325). I keep them in the freezer in a big bag and just pop one or two out when she’s been a good girl (which, according to her, is quite often). It sure beats $3.99/lb for the Beggin strips or other treats!

  62. Mistrez_Mish says:

    I love tip #4. The veggies and fruit at my local grocery store are pretty expensive. I spent $1.83 on red leaf lettuce, a carrot, and 2 cucumbers at the Korean deli right down the street. The same things cost around $4 at the grocery store.

  63. Kvinna says:

    What the heck is a doddle, and what is it doing in my homemade ice cream?

  64. RRich says:

    Bread freezes easily and defrosts quickly, so that’s one strategy.

    And if you cook and have a varied repertoire, when you shop, you can mentally put menus and recipes together rather easily, based on what’s available and on special.

    And sharing is nice, too. I bought a whole sockeye salmon the other day, had them cut it into fillets and steaks, shared some with my dear old mom, and got several meals out of the rest. Cook it all before it goes bad, and make salad or salmon cakes out of the leftovers.

    But if you don’t cook, you won’t save. Period. The end. Drive carefully!

  65. billy says:

    @Canino: Um, herbs make things taste good.

  66. floraposte says:

    According to researchers (Cook’s Illustrated and Harold McGee), bread actually stales faster in the refrigerator than at room temperature. Freezing it, however, works pretty well, especially if you’re going to be toasting or warming it anyway. Bread that has hardened up a bit can be softened up by steaming it (cover it with a damp paper towel and microwave it).

    If you buy bulk stuff like flour, rice, and beans, they will last better if kept in airtight and lightproof containers rather than simply the thin paper or plastic bags of original packaging; keeping them cool–lower than room temp–will help as well. Flour and nuts especially can taste pretty nasty when they go off, so check the old stuff before putting it in something.

  67. “Buy Whole Vegetables: Bagged lettuce? Washed carrots? Like any vegetable, they start to decompose as soon as they’re processed.”

    I buy the prepared “spring mix” stuff as instead of just, say, Romaine, you get a cornucopia of different lettuces and other greens, much more phytochemically awesome than just lettuce.

    Unfortunately despite what the “sell by” date says, lately the shit starts rotting a day after I open it. I bought a big bucket of it on Saturday with a “sell by” of July 19 and soon as I opened it got a whiff of stink and had to pick out the gross bits. I’ve returned plenty of it and it looks like this one will have to go back too, if I can find the receipt. problem appears to be too much moisture in it, because sometimes it’s pretty dry and lasts a long time, but if it’s all wet then it rots quickly. I even pointed this minor fact out to Earthbound Farms on their so-called feedback page but never heard back.

    but overall I hate vegetables and this stuff is about the only way I get my greens, and I hate washing and chopping shit, so I guess I’ll keep buying it.

  68. Randy says:

    Another cost saving tip is a surplus bread store. I’m lucky in that there’s one just 2 blocks away, which makes for a nice little stroll now and then. You can buy day old bread products and freeze them until you’re ready to use them. It’s a great way to save money. I can typically get 3 loaves of bread there for the cost of one brand-name loaf. Never mind the savings on rolls and other stuff. ;)

  69. KatieKate93 says:

    I actually save money without a list . . . I’m much more ambitious when planning meals than I should be. I just come up with a rough plan of what I want to eat for the next few days and wing it.

    This goes hand in hand with the point about learning to cook. If you can turn a box of pasta and the contents of your spice rack into a great meal, you’ve got it, and it’s not nearly as hard to get there as it sounds.

  70. metrorachel says:

    @geeniusatwrok: Have you tried throwing the bagged lettuces into a salad spinner to get the moisture off of them? I’ve found that lettuce keeps longer in the spinner than in a bag or other container- there’s enough moisture inside to keep the lettuce from getting all dessicated, but not so much that it promotes spoiling.

  71. cockeyed says:

    I like most of these ideas, but I don’t trust the meat thing. If it smells bad and is past the expiration, it’s going out. I’ve gotten food poisoning way too many times to take the risk.