Cheap is not always better

  This is something I firmly believe in and had it enforced today when an acquaintance I had given an recipe to, complained that it did not turn out like mine. Of course, what she had done was buy the cheapest ingredients she could. 
  I am all for saving grocery money, heavens knows they are so expensive right now, but there is a time and a place to do that. If you are going to bake something, use the best ingredients you can afford. I feel that not only is what I bake going to be eaten, but my time is worth something also. Why spend all that time baking or cooking to throw it out because you tried to save a few pennies. 
  One of the ways we try to save, is to cut way, way back on buying junk food. Popcorn is one of our favorite treats and is so cheap to buy. Buying that large size package or bottle is no savings if you don’t use it up and end up pitching it. Oils and fats can go rancid fast, for instance, especially in warm weather. If it is something new you are trying, small is better; you might not like it. As you can see in the picture, I buy the larger sizes of the spices I use a lot, and the smallest I can of the spices I use infrequently. The USDA has a web site about  Food labeling dates, that is very useful.
  At one of our local grocery stores 2 five pound sacks of flour costs less than one ten pound. They will sell me one sack and I use it up before it gets old and full of bugs.
When I was a young wife and mother we lived in the country and so to save trips and time I bought once a month at a warehouse market sixty miles away, Even then, if I could buy it for less locally and in a smaller package that is what I did. 
  Watching one of the food shows, I was appalled at the amount of cupcake batter she left in the bowl, and threw the bowl in the sink. What a waste. 
Sue says:  I wholly agree with Myrna.  For instance, I often buy store brands, but our store's chocolate chips, for instance, just aren't as good as the brand name ones.  The store brand ones are waxy or something!  I try small amounts of store brands before investing.
I also invest (and that's the word!) in very good olive oil, good extracts like vanilla and lemon, and good quality meats, dairy and eggs.  I can use them sparingly, but the difference in quality is worth the price to us.  We think that minimizing waste and controlling portion size is a better way to economize than using poor quality.
  Good luck in your quest to shop better and save money.


  1. I have to agree 100%. Assuming you know what you're doing, the major factor in the quality of one's results is the quality of one's ingredients. This isn't only true of baking - a really crummy cut of meat can result in a flavorless, rubbery, near-inedible stir-fry - but baking probably is where it shows the most. That's why I spend a fair bit to get quality spices (including some that I buy in bulk and grind to preference myself), good flour and so forth.

    Sue's points about ingredients such as extracts, oils and chocolate chips are particularly true. For a lot of things, generic and store-brands work fine - I don't think there's any significant difference between Rice Krispies and the cheap store-brand rice cereals, for example - but the differences are quite obvious when it comes to chocolate chips, cocoa and so forth.

    Soy sauce is another ingredient with which you have to be careful. Store-brands, and some of the name-brands, such as LaChoy, are just plain dreadful. Spend the few extra cents for a quality brand like Kikkoman or San-J, or better yet experiment with the brands available in Asian groceries, and you will notice a huge flavor difference.

    One of the things I've found most useful about Cook's Illustrated and the various America's Test Kitchen publications is their taste testings. I've found that for common ingredients, the brands they most recommend tend to be the ones that I also like best, and which produce the best results.

  2. Of course, Myrna doesn't need purchased snack foods...she has pie!!

  3. I enjoyed Jeffrey and Juli's comment and can agree that my experience has been very smiliar with store-brand and name-brand products.

    One ingredient, specifically, which I will never substitute a cheap brand for a known one, is chocolate chips. I was disappointed by a store brand only once, and that was all it took.

    Loved your remark, Sue!


Hi...we'd love to hear from you.