Let’s start with full disclosure: I am not by nature a frugal shopper, nor a shopper on a budget. In fact, I’ve been known to make salespeople gawk at me when my bill gets tallied (like when I drive an hour to the closest Whole Foods with a cooler in the back of my truck to stock up for months at a time). I am fortunate in that I don’t have to worry about my grocery bill. However, I know that lots of people do, including my mother-in-law, who would be a frugal shopper even if she were a millionaire. She uses tea bags at least twice, and always wraps rolls and butter in paper napkins and stuffs them in her purse when we go out. Her famous line is, “Our people’s poor food is your gourmet!” She was born in America, but will always consider herself Italian first and foremost. Here is what I learned from her:
1. Make meats, poultry, and fish a side dish, not the main dish. After 19 years of eating amazing meals in LeRoy, NY, at Rita and Louie Cinquino’s house, I can say the only time meat is the main dish is when there is a turkey or a ham and a major holiday—and even then there are so many side dishes, it’s hard to eat too much meat. Meats, poultry, and fish are used to flavor soups, sauces, and pastas, and not the main focus. Besides being cost-effective, this method is also much better for your health and is one of the key components of the famed “Mediterranean diet”—which includes the Italian cuisine, of course.
2. Use everything. Never throw a bone or carcass into the trash unless you’ve already made soup out of it! Eat the skins of all your fruits and vegetables. Whatever you have left, feed it to the pets (that’s my tip—my-mother-in-law never let a pet in her house!), and if there’s anything else left, make compost.
3. Make it from scratch. Most of what people waste money on is alleged “convenience,” a.k.a. processed, overly salted, overly marketed food with excess packaging. Most things we buy in processed form are fairly easy to make from scratch with a good, simple recipe. Spend your money on quality ingredients, and you won’t need fancy sauces and artificial flavoring to make it taste good.
Next: 7 More Ways to Shop on a Budget