If it seems like your grocery bill creeps up a little bit every week, you're not alone. Record inflation and soaring food prices have motivated us all to search for bargains wherever we can find them.
With dairy and egg prices particularly high at the moment, NBC News senior consumer investigative correspondent Vicky Nguyen enlisted the help of budget-friendly meal expert and “Budget Bytes” senior food editor Monti Carlo to find out how we can save money this holiday season. Here are a few of her tips:
1. Freeze your butter and milk
You've probably noticed that butter and milk prices are only heading in one direction lately. If you're concerned about wasting these dairy products if you can’t finish them before they expire, Carlo says you can freeze them before that happens.
"If you see a sale on butter, stock up,” she says.
According to Land O‘Lakes butter, "properly stored butter can be frozen for up to four months if frozen prior to the USE BY date on the package."
The brand's website notes that butter might start to lose its fresh taste and "pick up flavors and odors from the freezer if stored for longer than four months." When you're ready to defrost it, just make sure to use the butter in 30 days.
The same idea applies to milk that's about to expire.
To this end, Chef Dan Barber, who owns a Michelin-starred restaurant named Blue Hills in New York City, spoke about the benefits of freezing milk in 2015 while chatting with NPR.
"It’s easy to put your milk in the freezer when you go on vacation. Defrost it when you come back. Then you don’t need to go to the store to get milk for your coffee on the first day back!" he explained at the time.
2. Buy eggs in bulk and freeze them
Just like milk and butter, eggs can also be frozen.
“Crack the eggs that you’re not going to use. Scramble them. Freeze them in ice cube trays...and you’ve got your meal, basically, already made,” Carlo says, adding that powdered eggs cost less and are a great alternative.
3. Buy powdered milk
One other money-saving trick that Carlo swears by? Adding water to powdered milk. “You can get a gallon of milk for a third of the cost,” she says.
That’s a strategy that was also documented by North Dakota State University in 2019 in an article about the multiple uses for dry milk. The story suggested using dry milk to make mashed potatoes.
"Try adding dry milk to mashed potatoes: Mash cooked potatoes. Add ¼ cup dry milk for each cup of potatoes, then add the cooking water from the potatoes to reach the desired consistency," it read.
4. Make your own spreadable or whipped butter
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported a 30% increase in butter and margarine prices, so it's not a surprise that many people are looking for alternatives to the pricey dairy staples. Luckily, Carlo has one.
“If you’ve got a hand beater or stand mixer, soften the butter, put it in the bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of cream or milk or water...and just whip it,” she says.
5. Cook with sour milk (yes, really)
If you didn't get around to freezing your milk, you can cook with it once it's sour.
“You can freeze milk, and also, you can cook with sour milk. You can use it the same way you would sour cream, buttermilk, yogurt...in your sauces, your soups,” Carlo said, adding that you just shouldn’t drink the sour milk.
That's a suggestion that Barber also shared in his 2015 chat with NPR.
“Actually, cooking with sour milk is delicious. It’s a substitute for buttermilk. You can (use it) in pancake or biscuit batter. And you can’t taste the sour! I’ve pushed it, and let the milk get really old. The pancakes turned out fluffy, and really good,” he explained.
Just don't drink it!
How to save money on other grocery staples
Bread and rolls
Bread prices are also rising and Carlo has a few ways to save.
“You shop the sale. You freeze what you’re not going to use. It toasts up just the same,” she says.
You can also consider making your own bread, particularly soda bread, which can retail for $5 a loaf.
“You can make your own for 66-cents a loaf,” she says. “And with (a) bag of flour, you can make 10 loaves.
Meat — including your Thanksgiving turkey
Feeling the pinch when you go to purchase meat? Consider shopping for less popular cuts like chicken thighs, which Carlo was able to find for $2 a pound. The budget expert also likes to add dry beans to her beat to get more use out of it.
With Thanksgiving approaching, many of us have turkey on the brain, and Carlo shared a few tips for saving money on the expensive bird.
Don't buy more turkey than you actually need. Plan for a third of a pound per person.
Look over the label and make sure it says "no added water or juices" so you don't pay for extra weight
Planning on a small guest list? Look for turkey legs or breasts instead of the whole bird.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com