This chapter of Home Cooking The Costco Way provides a variety of smart tips to help stretch your food
dollar, from making meals in bulk in advance to smart storage ideas. I especially like the clever tidbits provided
by Costco members. I’ll start things off with my Top 15 money-saving tips. Remember, eating together at home
is a beautiful way of sharing. And it makes sense in terms of the budget, too.—Sandra Lee
Sandra’s Top 15 money-saving tips
Costco member Sandra Lee is editor-in-chief
of Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade magazine,
the host of two highly rated Food Network
television shows (the multi-Emmy-nominated
Semi-Homemade Cooking and Sandra’s
Money Saving Meals), and a New York Times
bestselling author. For more about Sandra, see
her Web site, www.SandraLee.com.
Don’t go with your gut.
Plan, make a list and stick to it.
Plan your meals out for the week and make a list that you stick to.
This prevents impulse purchases.
Measure ingredients accurately.
Be careful when measuring ingredients. For example, Pumpkin
Pie Spice is one of my pantry items because it brings so much flavor to
a dish. One teaspoon of an average brand costs about 71 cents. If you
make that a heaping teaspoon, you are at a dollar.
Buy staples in bulk.
Buying items in bulk, such as a 5-pound bag of onions, will save
you money. Buying a whole chicken and cutting it yourself will save
more than 50 percent. You can also save money with family packs of
chicken and 3-pound bags of ground meat.
Think about sensible substitutes.
Can you substitute a less expensive ingredient? For example, for my
Slow Cooker Cheesecake I used ricotta, costing me $1.67, compared to
cream cheese at $3.75. I save $2.08, or 55 percent.
Eat your veggies.
Feel-good meals with healthy bases, such as black bean burgers,
cost about 67 cents per person to make.
Stock your pantry well.
Keeping a few key items on hand, such as seasonings, baking mix,
condiments and lean protein, will ensure that a tasty meal is just a
mixing spoon away.
Invest in a slow cooker.
Slow cookers use just 100 watts of electricity, which means that if
you use it once a week for eight hours at a time, it’ll only cost you about
20 cents a month in electricity!
Be clever with cookware.
Some products do double-duty as cooking and serving pieces, and
more. For example, a three-in-one cake server can serve as a cake stand,
chip and dip platter, and punch bowl.
If it’s out of season, go frozen.
The frozen section is where you can get an item that is out of season
at a reasonable price. In season, four ears of corn will run you $1; out of
season, one ear will cost you $1. You can get a bag of corn, frozen at the
peak of freshness, for around $1.99, equaling about four ears.
Do the prep work yourself.
One medium onion that you chop yourself will cost you 28 cents;
the same amount of frozen prechopped onion will cost you double that,
56 cents. At the salad bar, it would cost $4.99 per pound. I now chop my
own garlic, a bulb at a time. I pay 75 cents for the bulb; pre-chopped, it
would be about $1.99.
Inexpensive condiments such as mustard, hot sauce or soy sauce
can make a meal sing.
Still have meat on a main dish such as ham? It only takes 2 cups
of ham to star in a Ham and Potato Casserole, Ham and Rice Casserole
or Ham and Spinach Bake.
Bottle it up.
A teaspoon of lemon juice from the bottle costs 15 cents versus
fresh lemons at 25 cents—that’s a 40 percent savings.
Waste not, want not.
Freeze food in individual or meal-size portions.
Eat, drink light, and be merry.
A cup of milk costs 24 cents, compared to 96 cents for a cup of
light cream. And heavy cream costs $1.52 per cup.