Guest Guru: Excerpt from Dollars to Donuts by Dawn Welch

Excerpt from Dollars to Donuts by Dawn Welch with Raquel Pelzel. Dollars to Donuts has a blog with even more information at

Think First, Cook Second

The easiest way to spend less on food is to think before you cook. I approach the grocery store with one major goal: to feed my family while beating the supermarket at their money game. Here’s how:

1. Hit the pantry before you rev your engine.

It’s amazing how much I save just by taking a quick peek in my pantry and fridge before heading to the store. Building meals around what you already have and what should be cooked or eaten before its pull date makes sense and saves money. Don’t forget to check your freezer, too; frozen foods don’t last indefinitely and should be used and rotated regularly.

2. Shop in bulk.

When I see a good deal, or better yet, a sale, you can bet that I’m going to stock up! Warehouse stores offer great deals on bulkpacked items, as do regular grocery stores and even natural food and health food stores. The latter have fantastic prices on items such as grains and beans, so shop ’em all.

3. Cook big.

I often cook a pork shoulder or roast a turkey for dinner and then freeze the leftovers for another day. From big batches of sauces to a meatball mixture that becomes burgers, kebabs, and meatloaf, cooking in bulk saves money and time.

4. Have some switch-hitters in your lineup.

Knowing when you can use a substitute and having a mental list of alternatives makes good common sense. It allows you to take advantage of deals and sales, or to opt out of buying an item on your shopping list if it turns out to be overpriced. (See the opposite page for a list of common substitutes.) And keep in mind that it is often possible to simply omit an ingredient if you can’t find it or it is simply too costly.

5. Learn to love your leftovers.

I am constantly reinventing my leftovers and turning them into snacks, lunches, or completely new dishes altogether. Leftover roasted vegetables, rice, meat, beans, and even soup can be rehashed in countless ways to create new meals from what you already have in the fridge.

6. Don’t cut out, cut back.

There are few things I enjoy more than a thick, juicy steak. Instead of shelling out big bucks on a pricey porterhouse, I turn to cheaper cuts, such as flank steak, which is incredibly flavorful and satisfying. I also stretch a pound of steak to feed many people by serving it wrapped in lettuce leaves or tortillas, or as an open-faced sandwich. If nothing else will do except for a big, juicy steak (page 120), then I’ll budget it in, and plan less-luxe meals for the rest of the week.

7. Try new things.

Opening up your world to new recipes and flavors increases the options you have for dinner while making your kitchen a more exciting place to be. When you make cooking fun, it becomes an activity the whole family will enjoy from start to finish.

Check out the Dollars to Donuts blog at – learn about their philosophy, mission and more help in getting the most from your shopping experience! Enter to win your copy of the Dollars to Donuts book on Wednesday, January 6, 2010!