I would like to start this installment with some of my spending parameters. These are general guidelines to which I adhere probably about 90-95% of the time. There are times when I make exceptions, such as when I am cooking a special dinner, but they are simply that—exceptions. I never spend more than
$2/lb. for meat.
$1/lb. for produce.
$1/lb. for pasta, rice, or beans.
$2/box for cereal (normal sized boxes—about 9 oz. box of Cheerios—check unit cost for larger boxes).
How can I spend so little? I stay away from traditional grocery stores (e.g. Raley’s, Lucky, Safeway—Von’s for you southern California people) except when there is a great sale. I do most of my shopping at WinCo Foods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with WinCo, shame on you!! Yes, it’s a box store, you have to bag your own groceries, it has a concrete floor, and there is no Starbuck’s inside. But you can’t beat the prices, and they carry all the major national brands.
Speaking of which, I stay away from national brands for most items. Olives are olives regardless of the name on the can. There are some products that I do prefer the major brand, but I have at least tried the others first (peanut butter is one such product). Many store brands have a money-back guarantee so you don’t have to be afraid to try them. I have returned items that I did not think were of good quality for a full refund. There are many things that we actually prefer the off brand.
I always buy milk, eggs, bread, and bananas at Costco (or Sam’s Club if I’m with my mom when she goes). It costs $45/year to be a member, but the savings on the milk alone are well worth it. Not to mention how much we’re saving on diapering two babies (soon to be three) with Costco’s diapers. Oh, and the gas savings!!
I have a lot more shopping rules, but I will save those for future posts and move on to some recipes.
Since I don’t spend more than $1/lb. for rice, I never buy rice mixes—just plain, dry rice. I actually only pay about $. 47/lb. for white rice and $.53/lb. for brown rice at WinCo.
My dad is Japanese so I grew up eating a lot of white rice. Of the white rice varieties, I prefer medium-grain, then long-grain. Short-grain white rice has less starch so it does not make good sticky rice.
While it is possible to make rice on the stove, by far the best way to prepare it is using a rice cooker. The finished product has a better texture, you don’t have to watch it, and it won’t burn. Plus, you can steam vegetables in the rice cooker. Whether you cook rice in a rice cooker or on the stove, resist the temptation to remove the lid during cooking. The build-up of steam is essential to the cooking.
1 c. white rice
2 c. water (slightly more or less depending on how sticky you want the rice to be)
Place rice and water in rice cooker; turn on. Fluff when done. On the stove: Mix rice and water in 3 qt. saucepan and cover with lid. Bring water to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed, being careful not to burn the rice. Fluff rice. Yields about 3 ½ c. cooked rice (1 ¼ lb.). Total cost: $0.18 (That’s only about $0.14/lb. for cooked white rice!)
My favorite (and healthier than white) is brown rice.
1 c. brown rice
2 ¼ c. water (slightly more or less depending on preference)
1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon
Place all ingredients in rice cooker; turn on. Stir well when done. On the stove: Mix all ingredients in a 3 qt. saucepan and cover with lid. Bring water to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes, or until all water is absorbed, being careful not to burn the rice. Stir well when done. Yields about 3 ½ c. cooked rice (1 ¼ lb.). Total cost: $0.20 (That’s only about $0.16/lb. for cooked brown rice!)