Rob’s Supermarket Secrets

Today I present you with the first guest post!  From my friend Rob who has a flair for delicious and economical homemade food from scratch:

Hi, I’m Rob, a friend of Yay Goodies, and today I’m here to share some shopping secrets I’ve learned along the way. I’m no money maven, but years of grocery shopping and city living have trained me to stretch my dollars at the supermarket as far as they can go. I thought I’d take this time to share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Today I’d like to focus on what I consider to be the most important aspect of thrifty grocery shopping.

Lesson 1: Pay for the Product, not the Packaging

This seems intuitive, right? How long have you heard not to get suckered in by brand names? Yet, chances are good that the incessant advertising bombarding your brain has managed to work to some degree. So let’s take this time to see if we can’t deprogram a bit, shall we. The first thing you need to do is realize that sometimes brands matter and sometimes brands don’t.

Sometimes brands matter. If you buy Charmin toilet paper, your butt is in for some royal
treatment. If you buy the Scott brand, your fingers are skating on thin ice. You might still decide to buy the more economical roll (I do), but you’ll immediately feel the difference. Brand tends to matter whenever the manufacture of the product is important. So paper products, like toilet paper and paper towels, plastic products like garbage bags and cling wrap, aluminum foil, all tend to have a direct correlation between price of product and the quality of its manufacture.

Brands are less important when it comes to food. The rule of thumb is that the simpler the
composition of the food, the less the brand matters. Let’s take something with a complex formula where subtle changes can have a profound result on the flavor. Soda, pasta sauce, and bbq sauce, all fall under this heading. Here buying your favorite brand is perfectly justifiable. Sure, you could save 50 cents on a 2 liter buying store brand soda, but you’ll know the difference the second you sip it. Premade pastry definitely falls in this category. If you aren’t going to save the money by making it yourself, save your taste buds by buying a reliable brand.

Conversely anything with a relatively simple composition will show little difference between
brands. Mayonnaise is a perfect example of this phenomena. Mayo, an exquisite emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and vinegar, is so basic in its composition that unless you’re buying gourmet (a waste, just make your own), you should look for the cheapest brand possible. Things that have no recipe are even better examples. Canned or frozen vegetables, cooking oils (minus olive oil), and most raw ingredients (flour, chocolate chips, rice, etc.) also fall under this rule.

When buying meat, there is almost no difference between brands. The price of meat should be determined by the cut and not the brand. Bacon is a perfect example. There’s a big difference between center cut bacon and regular bacon, but there isn’t a big difference between the pigs used by Oscar Mayer and the rest of the world. This rule goes double for the chickens at Purdue. If you’re worried about inferior quality, remember that you should be inspecting each piece of meat that you purchase for signs of spoilage. There is nothing magical about a brand’s packaging that protects the meat inside.

So, the next time you’re at the supermarket, take a moment to ask yourself, what are you really paying for? So much of our decision making is done by rote that you may be surprised to find just how many shopping choices you were making automatically. We’ve just started scratching the surface of ways to save at the supermarket, but with the application of a little time and thought, you’ll see the saving start to pile up.

———

It’s Lesson One because he has other material for future installments.  Bring it on Rob!

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One thought on “Rob’s Supermarket Secrets

  1. Pingback: Rob’s Lesson 3: Dairy Dupes | Yay, Goodies.

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