Splurge or Scrimp: Grocery-Store Edition

Splurge or Scrimp: Grocery-Store Edition
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Splurge or Scrimp: Grocery-Store Edition

Read on to learn when to spend or save money at the grocery store.

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Scrimp: Milk

You don’t need to pay $5 for half a gallon of organic moo juice, particularly since most supermarkets have pledged to avoid the rBST (or rBGH) growth hormone in their store-brand products. In other words, anything off the shelf is probably fine. If you want to be super-careful, check out CenterForFoodSafety.org for a list of hormone-free dairy brands.

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Splurge: Butter

Those generic sticks of butter are fine for scrambling eggs, but if you really want to elevate a waffle or piecrust, splurge on brands like Kerrygold or Plugrá. You’ll immediately notice a difference in consistency (creamier) and richness (very). Opt for the grass-fed variety--happy cows make tastier butter.

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Scrimp: Chicken

Contrary to what your high school boyfriend might have told you, big breasts are not always best. If you want to save a few dollars, go for thigh meat, which has more flavor and packs more iron and zinc per serving.

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Splurge: Fish

Don’t be stingy when it comes to getting your omega-3s. Inexpensive fish like tilapia and catfish (which are raised in China) may be subject to sanitation issues, which means they’re lower in good-for-you fatty acids. On the other hand, pricier cold-water fish like salmon and tuna provide your suggested weekly allotment of omega-3s, DHA and EPA in one single serving. Plus, they taste better.

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Scrimp: Oats

Oatmeal is already a pretty wallet-friendly breakfast item, but forgoing the flavored packets in favor of a plain, old-fashioned canister can save you even more (like 50 percent more). You'll also get a healthier morning meal that's higher in fiber and lower in sugar than the “peaches ’n’ cream” or “maple and apple” varieties.

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Scrimp: Canned Tomatoes

Fresh tomatoes are a glorious thing. But you don’t need them for sauces, soups and stews--particularly when the canned variety is so much less expensive. In fact, when they’re cooked, canned tomatoes taste just about the same as fresh ones, and the canning process actually promotes the enhancement of lycopene, which can help lower your risk for heart disease. (Disclaimer: Heirloom tomatoes are always worth the splurge, so do get them whenever they're in season.)

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Splurge and Scrimp: Produce

Sure, locally grown organic produce is great, but is it worth the extra cost? Sometimes. See, some nonorganic fruits and veggies have a high incidence of pesticide residue (meaning you’re better off going organic) and some do not (meaning nonorganic is just fine). Confused? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s guide to see when paying more is worthwhile (peaches) and when you can guiltlessly grab conventional produce (asparagus).

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Scrimp: Water

News flash: $4-a-bottle water from Fiji is no healthier than free tap water. Enough said.

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You already know you shouldn't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. But even if you're not mindlessly grabbing bags of cheese balls, a trip to the supermarket can easily cost as much as a pair of designer jeans.

The toughest part? Knowing when a high price is worth it--and when the cheapo generic brand will do just fine.

We checked in with Teri Gault, CEO of TheGroceryGame.com, and dietitian Sarah Waybright, founder of WhyFoodWorks, for tips on scrimping and splurging while filling up your cart. Head to the slideshow to see their advice. (Hint: The good butter is worth every penny.)

Check out the slideshow above to learn when to scrimp or splurge in the grocery store.

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