If someone were ever to examine my credit card bill, she would assume I was either Carrie Bradshaw or Giada de Laurentiis. Shopping for shoes and food are two of my favorite things. Whether trying on ballet flats or exploring the cheese case at the market, I tend to get very excited and thus hand over my credit card having paid little attention to the price tags. It isn’t usually until the end of the month when I see my billing statement that I reconsider my spending.
Although my shoe habit cannot be contained, I have remedied my grocery store bills by making the simple switch to generic. While we all wish we could stock our pantries universally with high-quality ingredients, the unfortunate reality is that college budgets make it nearly impossible. Buying generic ingredients and getting creative with them in the kitchen is an easy way to save money. With the money you can save buying and utilizing the following ingredients, you can justify buying that new pair of shoes.
**Tips and Tricks**
1. Pasta. How many people ever actually eat pasta as is? The answer: very few, which is why there is no need to pay more for a box with a brand name. Stock up on the generic labels, and bring it to a completely new level by mixing them with your favorite sauce. Use pasta shells for this macaroni and cheese recipe, or toss your favorite shape with a traditional pesto sauce. Even a pasta dish sans sauce, such as this pasta salad, will have you wondering how you justified the extra charges for brand names.
2. Cereal. The first time I went grocery shopping for myself I was shocked by the expensive prices in the cereal aisle. Despite the promise of sugary marshmallows and smiling faces of box mascots, name brand cereals are very costly. Instead of always stealing your breakfast from the dining hall, store brands are relatively inexpensive options and often they contain many of the same ingredients as the well-known competitors.
3. Spices and Seasonings. Before I moved into my new apartment, complete with its own kitchen, one of the first things I did was visit my local dollar store to stock up on spices and seasonings. Unless you or your friends have ultra-sophisticated palates, it is doubtful that you will be able to taste much of a difference between dishes prepared with generic spices or more expensive brands. Regardless of the brand, red pepper flakes, for example, should always add heat, and even inexpensive vanilla can produce fantastic cookies (just make sure it’s real). In cinnamon’s case, however, generic might not always be the way to go.
4. Yogurt. While store-label yogurt may not taste as great on its own as compared to the brands with the fruit at the bottom or those with crazy dessert flavors, it is the perfect blank canvas for creativity. Layer fresh fruit and granola for homemade parfaits, or simply sweeten it yourself with honey and/or vanilla. You can even it use as a healthy base for homemade dips and spreads.
5. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables. Since a lot of companies are touting their new steam bags and promising their contents we’re packed at peak freshness, it is easy to reach for the well-known names in frozen produce. Oftentimes the difference in cost for these items is not based on the quality of ingredients, but rather on the packaging. Frozen veggies work great for whipping up stir frys and stews, and frozen fruit is ideal for pies and smoothies. Plus, they make great ice packs in case of emergencies…
Bethany Imondi, a junior studying Government and English at Georgetown University, procrastinates studying by making elaborate shopping lists for imaginary dinner parties Read more…