First of all, this is a subjective topic. Everyone is different and everyone sees frugality and thriftiness differently. Some people take the time to make everything from scratch, from bread to laundry detergent, while others would rather pay a little extra to save that time. But if you’re looking to save money and don’t mind spending a little extra time, here are things I spend money on vs. the time I spend on things.
Never buy: “Cream of” Soups. When I first started cooking, cans of Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom were a lifesaver. They helped me make quick and easy meals that tasted good. However, the more I looked into them, the less I liked them because they were full of sodium and preservatives and just generally things I didn’t want to eat.
For the most part, I go without. I don’t use recipes anymore that call for these soups. There are alternatives, like making your own, that I’m looking into. That cuts into the time element, I don’t really want to spend extra time while making dinner to cook a soup from scratch. Pacific Foods also makes an organic version of these soups if you can find them, but I’m not sure if they can be substituted perfectly in terms of volume.
Usually buy: Jarred sauces. While it would be nice to have fresh marinara sauce, I don’t want to slowly simmer tomatoes for a long time. I choose instead to find jarred sauces with minimal ingredients. The same goes for Alfredo sauce. I can make it from scratch, but it generally calls for heavy cream, which is an extra ingredient I don’t want to buy. For how rarely we eat it, it is much more thrifty to purchase a jar of sauce with okay ingredients. I have bought jarred pesto but I definitely want to look into making it myself.
Always buy: Canned tomatoes. I know the problems with canned tomatoes, but for now I buy them. They’re convenient and I don’t have to deal with chopping juicy tomatoes and making a mess or having them go bad before I can use them. I hope to eventually grow tomatoes and use more fresh ones.
Never buy: Pre-sliced produce. For an extra $1+, you can get pretty much any produce at the store in a package, already prepared for you. To me, most people buying these are just lazy. Why would you pay a dollar more for asparagus just because the ends are already trimmed? You’re paying more and ultimately buying less. My one exception is butternut squash. From now on if I buy it again, I’m paying extra just to not deal with the hassle of spending an hour trying to prepare it.
Usually never buy: Boneless skinless chicken breasts. I believe these are the most expensive cuts of chicken, at least that I’ve noticed. Preferences are fine, but if thighs would work just as well, why not save some money? Also you can choose from bones vs. boneless chicken thighs. A few extra minutes can save you some money by deboning them yourself, plus you’ll have the bones if you make your own stock.
Usually never buy: Premade chicken stock. I will run out and get some if I’m out and don’t have 12 hours to simmer bones. This can be prevented by planning ahead and making sure I have some before I need it. If you don’t use a lot of it in cooking, premade stock can be a useful buy.