Fabulously Frugal: How to get great value for your money

Photo by Jack Sparrow.

Greeting frugalists!

We’re finally, hopefully, seeing signs of the days getting longer as we head into spring, even though some local groundhogs are claiming it’s still six weeks away! I really wanted to add a recipe for ground hog stew to this column, given their prediction, but alas, I honestly don’t think the rodent is responsible, and there’s no value in blaming the little critter. 

This week’s column is all about value – value for money.  

Value for money in groceries means making smart choices so that you get the most out of your money. Finding the right balance between quality and price can be a challenge! 

One way to assess value is to look at the make-up of some of our groceries. For example, Sunny Delight, a popular breakfast drink (can you tell I’m thinking about spring?) is mainly sugar and water. A look at the ingredient list on the side of packages outlines what’s in a food product, and the ingredients are listed in order of volume used — most to least.

Image via WikiImages.

Water and sugars are the first ingredients in Sunny Delight! It’s not actually orange juice but it does have some juice in it. It’s also priced a bit cheaper than say, real orange juice, so it’s tempting to buy it to save a bit of money.  

But… what if we made our own real orange juice from a frozen concentrated option?  

No Name Frozen Orange Juice concentrate is $1.75 for a 283 mL container when you buy two.  

One container makes 1.13 L at a cost of $0.15/100 mL, making it cheaper than both the Sunny Delight sugary drink and the ready-to-drink OJ in the bottle. That’s good value for your hard-earned money with a 25 per cent savings, or a dollar per litre, not to mention actual orange juice is better for you than Sunny Delight! And those savings can add up with a family that wants their tasty bright orange fix every day.  

Let’s look at iced tea: We know this is just tea bags, water, sugar, and some lemon juice. The No Name ready-to-drink iced tea is $5.49 for 3.78 L. 

But, if you use No-Name tea bags, some sugar, and lemon juice — boom! — your home-made iced tea would cost about $0.60/L vs $1.50/L. It doesn’t sound like much, but for steamy summer days (and I promise you they ARE coming), the savings can add up over the summer, as the home-made iced tea is less than half the cost.  

You can use this method for lunches and save a bundle. Cooking up a whole chicken or roast you find on sale, and slicing or shredding it into individual serving sizes (your freezer is your friend) will make enough meat for many sandwiches, wraps, etc. Although there is real chicken in that sliced deli meat, it’s also full of water, salt, and sometimes sugar, and you’re paying richly for those additional ingredients.

You can get two weeks of meat from a whole chicken or roast (when you buy them on sale), for the same cost as one week’s worth of sliced deli meat. That’s a really big saving for better quality food, which is also excellent value for your money. 

For breakfast, flavoured instant oatmeal in individual packages is convenient and fast, however, sugar and flavourings are a large portion of the ingredients. They are more than three times the price of buying a bag of quick oats and adding your own brown sugar or a touch of maple syrup.   

Other potential money savings can be realized by applying the value for money idea to condiments like stir fry sauce, salad dressings, and bacon bits.  

Stir fry sauce is mostly sugar, soya sauce, salt, and some garlic and ginger. You’ve likely got these things in your pantry and can whip them together for less than 50 cents vs $5.99 a bottle for Kikkoman stir fry sauce. I’m confident you’ll make a better sauce with less sugar and salt, too. This recipe is a favorite of mine: https://kristineskitchenblog.com/stir-fry-sauce/.

Salad dressings are either oil and vinegar, or mayo-based with some herbs and spices. We can shake that up and make our own. I make salsa ranch with a bit of mayo and a couple tablespoons of salsa. It’s yummy and NOT $3.49 a bottle! You’ll find some easy recipes here: https://www.budgetbytes.com/category/recipes/dressing/.

Image by Innes Linder.

And speaking of salads, we can add a whole slice of real bacon to our Caesar salad for the same amount of money as a small package of bacon bits, and have bacon for BLT wraps for lunch the next day. Those packaged bits are as well preserved as Keith Richards is, with a tone of extra additives in them, too. And croutons are just stale bread, a bit of olive oil, and some dried herbs. You can use any stale bread from white sandwich bread to croissants or bagels, and make your own the next time you have the oven on. There are lots of recipes online to help you save anywhere from $2 to $3.49 for a bag from the store.  

Of course, you can’t make everything cheaper than you can buy it, and this week there are a lot of convenient options for meals. I’ve NOT included a sample meal plan, as I’m sure you’ll want to save some cooking time this week with the ready-made options as they’re excellent value.

I would suggest, though, that you indulge in some apple crisp as almost every ingredient is on sale! You can use any kind of apples, and feel free to substitute blueberries for some of the apples, too. And it contains fruit, fibre, and whole grains, so you can make a good case that it’s a breakfast food if you want to! I use this recipe here: https://belleofthekitchen.com/apple-crisp/.

Flyer deals of the week

No Frills

  • Blueberries: $1.67/6 oz
  • Strawberries: $3.99/lb 
  • Gala apples, Farmer’s Market brand: $2.99/4 lb bag 
  • Frozen lasagna, No Name brand: $5.99/1kg 
  • Chunky soup, Campbells brand: $1.88/515 mL can 
  • Bagels or English muffins, No Name brand: $1.65 package 
  • Muffins, Farmer’s Market brand: $6/six 
  • Cheese, Armstrong or Presidents Choice, bricks or shredded: $4.44/250-400 g 
  • Chopped salad kits, Taylor Farms or Eat Smart: $3.88 each 
  • Ground beef, in-store butcher: $3.49/lb 
  • Pizzas, Ristorante brand, frozen, assorted varieties: $3.49 each 

Giant Tiger

Great deals for Super Bowl Sunday and the dishes afterwards! 

  • Pork back ribs, frozen, Marche brand: $7.99/680 g 
  • Appetizers, frozen, Marche brand, assorted varieties: $8.47/box
  • Palmolive dish soap: $1.97/591 mL (this VIP member price is $1 off the regular price, and a great opportunity to stock up. Find out more about becoming a VIP member here.)

Food Basics: 

  • Turkey burgers or chicken fingers, Jane’s brand, pub style: $5.44/700 g 
  • Grapes, red or green, seedless, XL size: $1.88/lb 
  • Oranges: $1.88/lb 
  • Pineapples: $1.88/each 
  • Broccoli crowns: $1.98/each 
  • Popcorn, Orville Redenbacher’s brand: $3.99 for a box of six microwavable bags or an 850 g jar for self-popping
  • Oatmeal, Quaker brand quick oats: $2.99/1 kg 
  • Oatmeal, Quaker brand, instant, assorted varieties: $2.99/344 g 

Metro 

  • Frozen vegetables, Green Giant brand: $7/two 750 g bags

Happy Frugality! 


Kingston resident Sarah Cronk offers tips on money-saving strategies and the best deals to be found in local grocery stores in her bi-weekly Kingstonist column, Fabulously Frugal. Have any questions for Sarah or things you’d like her to investigate in terms of cost savings? Let us know! Email Kingstonist Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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