Rachael's Budget Grocery Shopping Tips
Before your next trip to the grocery store, get Rachael's best shopping tips so you know where to find the bargains when you walk down those aisles!
• Compare unit prices for best deals: "The only way to tell the true price of anything you're buying from peanut butter to olive oil to spices, is to look at the unit price. The price per unit of measure - price per ounce for instance - that gives you the true, best bargain on the shelf. There are many products where it's a lot of packaging, or a package is indented on the bottom so it may look bigger than the other one for the same of money, but it's not."
• Look for bargains on top and bottom shelves: "Slotting fees are paid by your large brands. They have a lot of power because they pay fees to be in the center of your line of vision ... Your best bargains, always in the grocery store, are to going to be to look very high and to look very low, that's where you're going to find the brands that can't afford to spend the money for the slotting fees, but they're also giving you probably a much better price to keep competitive in their own way."
Bread: "The stale bread in most stores is at least 50 percent off if not more, and you can get a lot of great uses out of it. And, head's up, stale bread is halfway to toast! It toasts up perfectly fine and it's a delicious crouton in the waiting. Take your favorite Italian dressing recipe, toss the little cubes of stale bread in it, throw it in the oven on a baking sheet and make your own croutons."
Cheese: "Whenever you buy a Grana Padano or a beautiful piece of Parmigiano Regianno be extra smart about it and make sure you buy a piece with a big chunk of rind. This is one of the most used ingredients in my home, it never goes to waste. It flavors a pot of soup."
Spices: "Most grocery stores have a private labeled brand of spices," Rachael explains, "They're usually cheaper priced, just like a generic drug, then a mainstream grocery store brand and it's the same stuff."
Canned Beans: "This is another case where you can just go to the unit price and find the best price. A canned bean for me is a canned bean, it doesn't matter who canned it, it's going to come out about the same."
Stock in a Box: "No matter what brand of stock in a box you buy, it's a great weeknight go-to on the nights you don't have time to make a big old pot of poached chicken and produce your own chicken stock," she says. "When you make soup - I need two quarts of liquid for instance for my soup today - I'm going to use 1 box of stock and 4 cups of water. You can cut it because everything you're putting in the soup - escarole, onions garlic, the broccoli rabe - that's going to help flavor the soup and mask the water-to-stock ratio." Click here for the recipe for Rachael's Beans and Greens Soup with Sausage Meatballs.
Milk & Eggs: "People ask me a lot, 'What do you buy organic and what do you not?' I do choose to buy organic milk because I'm concerned about the hormones that might have been given to the animal, and I always choose a small production farm cage-free, organic egg."
Pancetta: "[It's] a very frequent ingredient in Italian cooking. Pancetta is sold at the deli counter and I usually buy a slab, about a 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound. I buy a couple of slabs and I keep them in the freezer, that's because I like to dice up the pancetta and have bigger chunks, but if the line is really long at the deli I blow it off and I go to the packaged meats case and there's also some sliced pancetta in the little package."
Produce: "In every department in the grocery store there are what's called loss leaders, things that the grocery store puts out in every single section to draw their customers in, so there will always be something that they're willing to sell at cost, or for very little markup, so look for what ever the bargains are and work that into your families diet for the week."
Garlic: "You're going to want to shop for garlic that's nice and tight and firm and has no give whatsoever when you crush it in your hand. And, they pile the new garlic on top of the old and then they spin it around so really sift through, you'll see a mix of old garlic that's got spots and scars and if it feels a little weak, that means that the cloves are drying out. And I also look for hardneck garlic whenever they have it - and that is precisely what it sounds like - garlic that has a long neck sticking out of it - tends to be sweeter and milder in flavor. Also, if you are a person who thinks you don't like garlic, or the flavor of garlic is a little strong for you, buy a lot of garlic, cut the entire end off and roast a big batch of garlic. Roasted garlic is very sweet and buttery and has a very soft, mild consistency to it as opposed to that stronger, gutsier flavor of using fresh garlic."
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