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AARP Bulletin

13 Ways to Save Money on Food

Chefs Ming Tsai and Michael Symon have a grocery list that's high on flavor, low on price

Tips from Ming Tsai, restaurateur and host of the cooking show Simply Ming:

En español | 1. When making chicken stock, ask the butcher for chicken backs. They're really cheap and provide all the flavor you need. No need to waste money buying the more expensive parts.

2. Get a slow cooker for cooking beef. They're pretty foolproof. And since you are braising over an extended period of time, you can use cheaper cuts of meat and they'll always be delicious.

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3. Learn to stir fry. This can be done in a wok or large sauté pan. It's a great way to use what's left in your refrigerator. A little oil, some aromatics, and the rest is up to you. Cooked or uncooked meats? Vegetables? Leftover takeout? It all works.

Tips from Michael Symon, cohost of ABC's The Chew:

4. Watch for deals on fresh foods, especially beef, chicken and pork, and then freeze them. Remove packaging, rewrap food in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag with the date marked. Frozen fare can stay fresh for about two months.

5. Start from scratch and save. For example, make stock by simmering water, vegetables and chicken bones, which cost about 60 cents a pound. Three gallons of homemade chicken stock costs about the same as a 36-ounce box.

Michael Symon, 99 Ways to Save

Chef Michael Symon. — Craig Sjodin/ABC

6. Freeze your herbs. At the end of the gardening season when you have more basil, parsley and other herbs than you can use, blend them in a food processor with a little extra virgin olive oil, put in ice cube trays and freeze. Use the herbs later in sauces.

7. Limit meat portions. Dividing your plate into three equal portions of meat, vegetables and grains — 3 to 4 ounces each — will be better for you and cost much less.

8. Smile at the people who work behind the counters at grocers and farm stands. They can tell you about the best deals of the day.

9. Beware of prices too low to be true. For example, if most hamburger is selling for $4.99 a pound, be suspicious of the 89-cents-per-pound deal. It's likely not good, and a waste of money.

10. Go for grains such as quinoa, farro and brown rice, which make for a healthier and more interesting meal on top of saving you money. Just compare the cost of a 1-pound bag of rice with a 1-pound steak.

11. Shop for produce in season. We can get a tomato in December. But it's not that good and four times as expensive. Check out farmers markets with locally grown produce and bulk up on veggies during their peak. Blanch spring peas, for example, and freeze for later.

12. Break the habit of buying popular super-premium meats. Instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, buy chicken thighs that have more flavor for a quarter of the cost. Or choose a tasty skirt steak priced at a fraction of prime filet. High-cost meats tend to have little or no fat, but fat gives flavor.

13. Spend a lot on spices you don't use much? Buy small containers of spices in seed form, as opposed to powder, when possible. Toast seeds as you need them and grind them in a pepper mill. It's flavorful and cheaper.

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