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!