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It’s not easy being cheesy!

Hello Friends!  This is my last post of the ‘S’ series and today’s theme is sales!  Y’all already know that buying things on sale saves you money, but I’ve got a few tricks to share.

Believe it or not, grocery stores will try to cheat you out of your money!   They’ll put lipstick on a pig and try to sell it to you as a supermodel; some examples are having different prices on the same item in different departments (bulk aisle versus regular aisle), jacking up the prices for a slightly different packaging or making a big hull-a-baloo about advertising a sale that’s not really a good value.  So inform yourself and don’t be duped.  The best way to do this is to make sure you are looking at and comparing the price per weight when you go grocery shopping.  Thanks to modern technology, I look like I’m quite the popular little texter when I’m shopping as opposed to the reality of me analyzing the price per ounce of store brand versus main brand peanut butters.

The only way to not get tricked is to know what good prices for main items are.  For me, this has come with almost a decade of experience.  I was always involved with grocery shopping with my family as a teenager and then for myself when I moved out.  I want to share my baseline prices for pantry staples are and what my ‘stock up’ prices are.  Yours may be way different from mine depending on the cost of living where you live and how much money is in your grocery budget.

  • Milk- I don’t buy if it’s over $3 a gallon, and I’ll stock up if it’s $2.50 a gallon or under.  Milk freezes great!
  • Cheese – I use the same rule as for milk, I don’t buy if it’s over $3 per pound, and I’ll buy more if it’s $2.50 or less.  This is for basic cheeses like Jack or Cheddar, obviously fancy cheeses are (worth) more.
  • Butter – $2 per pound, sales can go as low as $1 per pound, in which case I buy so much it would make Paula Deen blush!
  • Chicken – $1 per pound, stock up if you see it for less, but make sure it passes the smell test.  With any meats, if it smells off, don’t waste your money on it.  If it just looks a little less than perky but smells alright, make it into a soup.
  • All Purpose Flour – $.50 per pound, with baking items always double check, many stores are sneaky here!
  • Sugar – $.75 per pound
  • Potatoes – $.50 per pound is my maximum
  • Onions and Carrots – I’ll pay up to $1 per pound if I’m desperate, but $.50 per pound or less is a normal deal for these veggie staples.
  • Pasta – $1 per pound, double check, pasta manufacturers are making smaller boxes these days and fancier pastas, like lasagna, are often boxed in smaller weights.
  • Rice – $.50 to $1 per pound based on the type of rice.  Basic long grain will be less and brown rice or sticky rice will be more.  Often ethnic markets will have good prices on more exciting types of grains.
  • Beans – The majority of times dry beans are cheaper because they cook up into much more than their dry weight, look for prices of $1 per pound or less.  Canned beans cost more but require way less time to cook, look for cans priced less than $.75.

This is just a basic list, but pay attention to the variation in prices for items that you buy often.

My key to saving money at the grocery store is combining the ‘loss leader’ sales with a healthy spoonful of self control.  Most weeks, all types of grocery stores, from the discount stores to the big box stores, will have a screaming deal on one or two items; this sale is called the ‘loss leader’ because the store isn’t making much money off of it, but it’s designed to get you in the door and hopefully buy the rest of the things on your list in their store.  If you use these promotions to stock up on items that you use frequently, and resist the urge to pick up a handful of candy bars and a bunch of other things that aren’t on sale, you will save a bundle!  Fantastic, you’re beating the grocery stores at their own game, but hold on to your undies, it can get even better.

Now, this section is for people who have the time to go into extreme-grocery-ninja-saving mode.  My secret ninja-warrior weapon is coupons; they’re not just for old ladies any more!  Coupons take a considerable amount of time to collect and organize, but the payout is great and strangely addictive.  You can find coupons everywhere: in the Sunday papers, if you enroll in the coupon and discount programs at your favorite grocery store, and they’re available to print on the producers’ web sites.  Now, here’s the black belt trick.  Keep your coupons all nice and organized, then wait like a crouching tiger and pounce when you have a coupon that matches up with the loss leader sale.  I’ve been known to get things for free using this sort of coupon-karate!  Just be careful, once you start you may not be able to stop.

This last week my best deals were getting a ten pound bag of potatoes for $.99 at my local discount grocery store with a store coupon and 12 oz rolls of chorizo for $.99 at a larger grocery store with my membership card.  I came up with these jazzed up chorizo filled twice baked potatoes as an ode to Monday Night Football and delicious bar food, but without the need for a deep fryer.

The filling for these potato skins can be very versatile.  If you don’t have chorizo, seasoning up some ground beef or pork with a taco mix or which ever chile powder you like would be delicious.  If you don’t have a lot of meat on hand, you can stretch this out easily with some beans.  If you use smaller potatoes this could be a great game day appetizer too!

I intended to make a large batch of these so that my fireman might have some for lunch the next day, but they were such a hit that they were all devoured on the spot.  It was over four pounds of food!  So I can safely say that this dish is He-Man approved.  As a side note, when asking my fireman what he thought I should name them for the blog he came up with “Testicle Tickling Tuber Skins” which was a close runner up to his second suggestion that was a little more appropriate for the title.  Boys!

My new favorite boy! Kuma! We’re puppy sitting…

South of the Border Potato Skins

Serves 3 – cost approx $.96 per serving

Ingredients

  • 6 medium or large russet potatoes, about 3 lb ($.30)
  • 12 oz pork chorizo ($.99)
  • 1 medium onion, small dice ($.19)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt
  • 6 oz cheese, sliced or grated, divided use – whatever mild cheese you have, I had monterey jack and cheddar ($1.03)
  • 1/4 cup parsley ($.10)
  • 1/2 cup milk ($.08)

Preheat your oven 375F.  Scrub the potatoes and pierce each potato several times with a fork.  Bake until tender, approx 30-60 minutes depending on the size of your potatoes.  While the potatoes are roasting, heat a skillet over medium low heat and add the chorizo, onion and garlic.  Cook the sausage slowly, stirring occasionally and the onion and garlic will cook in the delicious, red, sausage fat, approximately 15-20 minutes.

When the potatoes are cooked, let cool until you can handle them (which may be quite quickly if you have a good oven mitt or ove-glove!) and cut in half.  Scoop out the middles of the potatoes, leaving a 1/4 inch border next to the skin.  I used a melon baller and it was very quick and easy.  Lay the potato skins on a sheet tray and put the potato pulp in a bowl.  Mix half of the cheese, milk, parsley and the chorizo mixture in with the potato pulp.  Now fill the potato skins with the mix and top with the remaining cheese.

Return the potatoes to the oven and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Then you’re ready to dig in as soon as it’s cool enough to eat.  Enjoy!

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