Shopping with Sandra Lee
Food Network star Sandra Lee shows our own Perrie Samotin some shopping tricks at Whole Foods.
New Yorkers are known for their discerning palates and love of haute cuisine so long as someone else prepares it. When it comes to shopping and cooking, many Big Apple dwellers are clueless.
We solicited Food Network star Sandra Lee, host of Sandras Money Saving
Meals, to teach staffer Perrie Samotin how stock her kitchen
Lee joined Samotin, who recently moved into a new apartment with her
boyfriend, and was hoping to get learn some culinary basics, in
scouring the aisles of upscale foodie paradise Whole Foods.
Sandra Lee's shopping basics
1) Prepare in advance
Grabbing food on the way home from work is a recipe for disaster (and
overspending). Instead, she suggested, make a shopping list every week.
2) Note unit prices
Look for the best price per pound or unit price. Lee said this is the way to
read value per dollar.
3)Look below and above eye level *
Most stores keep the most expensive, name brand items at eye level.
4)The fishmonger is your best friend
Ask the fishmonger what the best value is that day. But, in general,
tilapia is the most affordable fish, followed by cod and then halibut.
Some staples1) Buttermilk pancake mix
The mix can be used to make biscuits, waffles and scones, too. Keep it in an
airtight bag in the fridge. I keep everything in the fridge so it lasts
longer, Lee said.
In addition to its more traditional uses, it can be used in recipes that
call for vanilla or karo syrup.
Lee uses pumpkin pie spice for recipes that call for nutmeg, cinnamon and
allspice. She also uses grill seasoning and Italian seasoning often. When
you use dry herbs, rather than fresh herbs, you dont have to use as much,
A pantry staple, vanilla can replace almost any extract in a recipe, Lee
5)Chocolate chips and cocoa
She recommended having both on hand. She suggests buying regular cocoa
(Dutch cocoa has fewer antioxidants).
6)Small package of flour
Unless youre cooking for a lot of people itll take a long time to use up
a large bag, Lee said, so make sure it doesnt go bad, buy a small size.*
Since pasta lasts a while, stock up. You can never have too much, Lee said.
Lee suggested going for a basic tomato sauce (which is often the least
expensive). You can than doctor it up yourself with cream, vegetables, etc.
Plus, she said, you can use it on pizza and bruschetta.
Itll last better, taste better and is more economical than instant rice,
she said. For a simple (and inexpensive) meal, Lee suggested adding a
protein (like beans).
10)Apple cider and white vinegar
Lee said these can be used for most recipes calling for vinegar. And, she
said, white vinegar makes a great cleaner.
Lee suggested having vegetable, beef and chicken stocks on hand. Theyre an
easy way to add a ton of flavor without doing much work. In the bouillon
cubes vs. boxed stocks debate, Lee said you have to weigh your options and
decide whether or not youd rather spend the time cooking the bouillon cube.
Everything is about weighing time vs. cost, she said.
This is a must-have for sauces and dressings.
Lee likes eating granola as a snack, but shell also often sprinkle it on
14)Plain corn flakes
These can be used as crunchy coatings for chicken, and other savory dishes.
15)Fresh pizza dough
Store-made pizza dough is less expensive than the frozen variety, Lee said.
And you can use it to make pizzas, bread, even pigs-in-blankets.
16) Blocks of cheese
Lee suggested shredding your own brick of cheese, Youll save about 50
percent, she said.
If the stamped date is only a little while away, dont worry. Thats just
the sell-by date, not the expiration date.*
Whipped butter is more expensive, and youre just paying for air, Lee
said, so just get the brick instead. Also, Lee suggested buying unsalted
butter. You can always add salt if you need it for a recipe.
19) 80-90 percent lean hamburger meat
95 percent lean is almost double the price, she said. Theres a little
more shrinkage, but itll taste better, she added.
20) Whole chicken
Lee said buying a whole roaster is about 50 percent less expensive than
buying a chicken in pieces.
21) Seasonal fruits and vegetables
Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are much more expensive than those in
season. If you have to buy out-of-season items, go for frozen.
22) 5-lb. onion and potato bags
These offer the best value, and theyll stay fresh for a long time,
especially if theyre put in the fridge.
Pre-chopped mushrooms are a major time-saver, and theyre often the same
price as whole mushrooms.