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Gonzo Gourmands, Frugal Foodies & Crazy Culinarians

Dishing Out What Food Lovers Really Crave

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Gonzo Gourmands, Frugal Foodies & Crazy Culinarians - Dishing Out What Food Lovers Really Crave

3 Simple Tips Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars Each Year!

If you are buying fast food for lunch and/or dinner, buying your whole chickens already cut up, or if you always depend on the grocery shelf placement marketing to tell you what the best deals are  – – then you can save hundreds of dollars by following these 3 tips.

#1. Plan your meals by what is on sale at the grocery store.  If you plan your meals, then you are less likely to impulse buy at the grocery store or spend it on high calorie, unhealthy fast food.  Spending $10 at the grocery store on some type of meat/poultry, vegetables, and starch can provide 4 healthy meals instead of 2 small fast food combos.  By spending that same $10 on what was currently on sale at 2 grocery stores:  a whole roasted chicken on sale for $5, 2 bags of frozen vegetables at $.88 each, and 1 baguette $1.59.  I was left with $1.65 for a litre of generic soda, bottled water, or cookies for dessert.  So, without really cooking (other than microwaving the frozen veggies), you have 4 quarter chicken meals with sides and drink.  You can actually add more sides, increase the portion size, or stretch that $10 into even more meals if you are willing to do some very simple cooking!  Which leads me to my 2nd rule.

#2. Buy whole chickens on sale.  I love it when whole chickens go on sale for $.59 or $.69 cents per pound.  I always buy the limit, put some in the freezer, and go back another day and get more before the sale is over.  On a trip to the grocery store with my parents, I’ve actually gone in a separate check-out line from them so we could each buy up the limit of chickens.  We know the markets really don’t care, but we think its great fun making a big show of pretending we don’t know each other and acting surprised when we meet at the car! 

You can actually buy 2 raw whole chickens for the same price as that whole roasted chicken on sale mentioned in Tip #1 above.  If you don’t know how, or don’t want to spend the time roasting a whole chicken, then here is the world’s easiest way to cook a whole chicken.  This technique was most memorably introduced by the late Jeff Smith, known in the 1980’s as the “Frugal Gourmet” and de-frocked Methodist minister.  It’s great for people with a short attention span or if you’re heavily multi-tasking at home.  If you can boil water, you can cook a whole chicken.

Chinese Boiled Whole Chicken
Put cleaned (take stuff inside of chicken out) and rinsed, uncut whole chicken in stock pot, and fill pot with cold water until chicken is covered completely.  Take chicken out of stock pot.  Cover pot with lid, put on burner, and bring to vigorous boil.  Once boiling, put chicken back in pot.  When the chicken causes the water temp to drop low enough to stop the water from boiling, take the chicken out.  Once the pot comes to a vigorous boil again, put the chicken back in, cover pot and turn off heat.  Leave covered pot on burner with chicken in water.  After 1 hour, your chicken will be ready to use for sandwiches, enchiladas, Drunken Chicken, lasagna, pot pie, etc.

By buying chickens  whole on sale and cutting them up yourself, you can save $2 – $4 per pound, or, an average of $3 per pound.  So let’s take the average of $3 per pound savings times one 2.5 lb. chicken eaten once a month. That comes out to a savings of $7.50 per month. ($3 x 2.5lbs. = $7.50)   In a year, that’s $7.50/month x 12 months = $90 savings per year!  But really, who eats chicken only once per month?!?  Most families eat chicken at least 3 – 4 times per month.  So that figure then turns into a savings of  $270 – $390 per year!


Here is a video of Chef Martin Yan showing how he can cut up a whole chicken in 18 seconds!

#3. Always compare prices – – use that cell phone!  Most people are aware that supermarkets have a very small profit margin on many items, so they are very deliberate in their product placement.  Items or brands that are more profitable, are at eye level and within easy reach.  Those items that are less profitable are on the top and lower shelves, where they are harder to reach.  It’s just a matter of simple math to figure out the best value in canned or packaged items by taking the price and dividing it by units of measurement.  Ounces for most items, and milliliters for the rest.  In most cases these days, supermarkets have done the math for you.  However, that is not always the case, and I’ll tell you why.

I was looking at three different sized cans of the same beans of the same very well-advertised brand on the shelf of one of the top three largest grocery chains in Southern California.  The largest can was highlighted with a “on SALE” shelf sign and as expected, the per ounce cost of the largest can was definitely cheaper than the smallest can.  However, the middle sized can only had the total price of the can showing on the shelf label.  By taking a moment with my cell phone to divide the cost of the can by its ounces, I found out that the middle sized can was actually cheaper than the larger can on sale!  So always compare the cost per ounce to determine the best deal, don’t depend on the markets to steer you to the best deal, and remember that bigger is not always better!

Also, don’t fool yourself into thinking that Costco is always cheaper.  Costco is usually cheaper for most household items.  Keep an eye on the luxury food items in bulk though.  For instance, I once saw a 3 wheel pack of brie that looked like a good price.  However, there were no per ounce or per pound shelf labels to allow comparison.  By using my cell phone to quickly divide the total cost by the total ounces and multiplying the resulting number by sixteen, I figured the cost per pound.  Their per pound cost for brie was definitely higher than what I had paid for a single wheel at Trader Joe’s.

Bottom line to saving money is to be aware of the per ounce or pound price points where “on sale” items become good deals.  That calculator on your phone could help you save you money than any coupon you clip!

Restaurant.com has saved me and my friends LOTS of money!

I always try to avoid paying the regular discount price at restaurant.com; and, I wait until they offer a “code word” so the price drops to $2 or $3 for a $25 certificate. Always check for the lowest minimum purchase of $35 and other fine print. The closer you are to $35 without going under, the better the return on your dollar.  The current promo code is “Hot.”   http://www.restaurant.com/

Bargains for the week of June 2 – June 8

I see that Albertsons currently has a BOGO, or “Buy One Get One FREE” sale. When you see a good deal, always take the time to figure out the cost per pound.  Albertsons three different price tiers for their meats: Select, Choice and Choice Angus (Stockman & Dakota).  Like Vons, Albertons “brands” their Choice Angus beef to distinguish it from their cheaper Select grade of beef. Albertsons BOGO Boneless Chuck Steaks sounded like a good deal until I called the meat dept. & found you had to buy the “MaxPak” quantity of Stockman & Dakota at $6.49/lb.  so that is just under $3.25/lb. and $1.38/lb. more than Food for Less.

Boneless Beef Chuck Steaks – Food for Less $1.87/lb. And the next best price is Von’s Rancher’s Reserve $2.27/lb.

Red Cherries – Frazier Farms $.99/lb. This is not a good deal, this is an awesome bargain! The regular price at other grocery stores has been $1.99/lb. – $2.50/lb.

Yellow Peaches -Food for Less $.77/lb. This is another awesome bargain because the regular price has been hovering around $2.49/lb.

Raspberries, Blackberries, Bluberries – Sprouts $.99/6 oz. basket

Here is a recipe for Bulgogi Beef marinade that you can use with the beef. This is enough for 1 lb. of beef or one of last week’s bargain chickens from Stater Bro. Marinate the thinly sliced beef, or the chicken cut into serving pieces, at least 2 hours or overnight in the frig. Bring meat in marinade to room temperature before grilling.

Bulgogi Beef Marinade
Mix thoroughly until dissolved:
•3 Tbsp chopped garlic (about 2 cloves)
•3 Tbsp soy sauce
•2 Tbsp sugar
•1 Tbsp honey
•2 Tbsp fresh squeezed juice from an Asian pear
•1 Tbsp Japanese rice wine (mirin)*
•1 Tbsp sesame oil
•3 green onions, finely chopped (including white part)
•1 tsp pepper

Here is a reprint of my Super Easy Fruit Cobbler recipe for those the peaches and berries:

Super Easy Fruit Cobbler
1 stick melted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
4 C. 1 inch pieces of fruit or berries
Mix all the above together and pour over fruit or berries. Then sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over batter. Pour 1/2 cup water over sugar and batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Note: For really watery fruit like strawberries, pour only 1/4 water over sugar and batter.

Can you throw a dinner party for 20 people for $20? I can!!!

The main focus of this blog is something I’m passionate about – – upscale entertaining on a beer budget.  I will still keep up on my side column links to bargain events around San Diego county, but more of my focus will be on entertaining at home. 

Currently, I’m unemployed.  However, even when I was gainfully employed and could afford to spend more, I loved the challenge of entertaining on a bargain budget.  I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, I buy stuff on sale when I invite people over.”  I’m not talking “on sale,” I’m talking “bargain.”  For example, at certain times grocery chains will have Foster Farms whole chickens “on sale” for $.99/lb.  I like to wait for the price to go down to  $.69/lb.  Now that, is a “bargain.”  When that happens, I like to buy the limit (and maybe go back the next day), cook one, and put the rest in the freezer.

Did you know you can save yourself a lot of money by buying a whole chicken instead of buying one already cut up?  I looked at the online prices for Vons & Albertsons on May 11th, and you can save $2.45 – $6.00 per chicken.  (Depending on which store you choose and using a 3.5 lb. – 5 lb. chicken.)  If you bought a chicken twice a month, that would be over a $120 each year saved by cutting up a chicken yourself!

So, what did I feed 20 people for $20?  I served approximately 18 lbs. of corned beef plus some cabbage and potatoes.  The corned beef was $.99/lb., cabbage was $.15/lb. and $.99 for a 10 lb. bag of potatoes.  I play Texas Hold’em No Limit poker tournaments with a set of smart players who love to eat, and nobody went home hungry!  Every time we had a break to color up chips, we had a few players going back for seconds until there was nothing left.

Each week I will be sharing my takes on current “bargains” at the local markets.  I will be posting withing the next 24 hrs. my bargains for the coming week.  Here is a sample of what I wrote last week for my Frugal Gourmet Foodies http://www.meetup.com/The-Frugal-Gourmet-Foodies/
Bargains for the week of May 6 – May 11th
Good to see stores competing to have the best price for several same items this week:

Alaskan King Crab – in the 16-20 or 16-22 count size, but Ralph $6.99/lb. is the cheapest.

CornSprouts $.19/ear beats Frazier Farms 5/$1

Bone-in Ribeye Steak – Albertsons, Vons $3.97/lb.

Blackberries – Stater Bro/Sprouts $.99/5.6 oz basket

Avocados – Frazier Farms 5 medium/$1

Roma tomatoes – Frazier Farms $.77/lb

Sliced Mushrooms – Frazier Farms $.77/8 oz. pkg.

Russet PotatoesStater Bro. $.99/5 lb. bag only Fri 5/7 – Sun 5/9 (Note: Frazier Farms is actually cheaper per pound if you don’t mind buying 10 lb. at $1.50.

Beware of the lobster tails at Albertsons for only $3.99! They are only 3 oz. each, which comes to $21.28/lb.!!! And you may say, but this is only the tail so I don’t have to pay for the weight of the shell on the claws & body. But I say, I can get over 3.5 lbs. of whole Maine lobster for that same $21.28!