saving money

Throughout the pages of my new book Cooking Light Dinnertime Survival Guide are tricks that help me save time, money, and sanity. I call them “Crazy Tricks That Actually Work”. I’m sharing a few of these on my blog.

The Smartest Place to Buy Herbs & Spices

I’m a pretty frugal shopper, and shelling out $6 for a tiny jar of dried herbs is painful. So I head to the ethnic foods aisle. Did you know that the herbs and spices there are generally a lot less expensive than those found elsewhere in the supermarket?

(Yes, I know some cooks have very discriminating tastes and prefer to buy theirs at specialty shops. I’d rather save time and money wherever I can.)

Example 1: Smoked Paprika

Cheapest smoked paprika in the spice aisle (.9 ounces): $5.99

Smoked paprika in the ethnic foods aisle (2 ounces): $1.79

Example 2: Ground Ginger

Cheapest ground ginger in the spice aisle (.8 ounces): $4.99

Ground ginger in the ethnic foods aisle (1.5 ounces): $1.79

What are your best money-saving tricks at the grocery store?

Dinnertime Survival Guide

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Lessons Learned From The Pantry Challenge

by Sally on November 20, 2012

Much to my family’s relief, the Autumn Pantry Challenge is over. Though we struggled through last year’s challenge (I got crabby and actually gained weight), it was a lot easier this time around. I chalk that up to a more realistic weekly budget ($50) and an especially large stockpile of food to start.

I went about $5 over budget this last week. But I also got resourceful. We had leftover homemade hummus but no pita, so I made my own (recipe here):

I also used up a can of black beans for these brownies that everyone loved (recipe here):

I spent about $150 on groceries for the three week challenge–that’s a savings of $200-250 compared to my usual spending.

Top takeaways from the Autumn Pantry Challenge:

  • Keeping an inventory made all the difference. I wrote down everything I had in the freezer and pantry, divided it into categories like “meats” and “grains”, then crossed off items as I used them. When I planned out the next week’s meals, all I had to do was glance at my lists to figure out what I had on hand.
  • Meal planning. Meal planning. Meal planning. Mapping out each entire week in detail–and knowing I had all the ingredients I needed–made life easier and lessened my stress level immensely.
  • Sticking to my grocery list was painful but empowering. I shopped only for basics–that meant milk, veggies, and fruit, plus any additional ingredients I needed for dinners that week. When I spotted a great deal, I couldn’t stock up like I normally would. But spending so much less each week felt terrific.

If you did your own Pantry Challenge this month, how did it go and what did you learn?

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Aldi Haul: My Best Finds This Week

October 14, 2012

I’ve already waxed poetic about Aldi (read: Ode to Aldi). So I won’t go on and on about how much I love the discount grocery chain. But I couldn’t help but share these especially good deals (and a few new finds) from this week’s shopping trip: 16-ounce bag of frozen fruit for morning smoothies Aldi […]

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Ode to Aldi

September 5, 2012

I’m pretty frugal. I coupon. I’ve even been known to hoard groceries when I come across a really good deal. So naturally, I love Aldi. I love their no-frills approach. They don’t need fancy lighting and free samples. They’re not going to give your kid a balloon at checkout. They’re not even going to bag […]

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Meal Planning Tricks

March 15, 2010

The dinner hour is my least favorite part of the day. Not dinner itself–it’s actually the 45 minutes before dinner, when my husband’s not home yet, the kids are alternately begging for snacks or racing their dumptrucks around the kitchen island, and I’m scrambling to pull the meal together (and often, fighting the urge to […]

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Coupon Queen

December 17, 2009

I come from a long line of frugal. My mom sewed my clothes and Halloween costumes growing up. My dad’s been known to show up at flea markets with a flashlight. And it took me years to figure out that when my grandpa said he found something at the “emporium”, he was actually referring to […]

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