The old adage is true that your food is only as good as the quality of your ingredients. I love to use great quality products, but my heart stops when I see some of the price tags on these items (think: one vanilla bean at Whole Foods=$7–yikes!), so I’ve spent a lot of time finding resources where you can get the good stuff for a decent price. Here are some of my findings:
For some things, these memberships really pay off. I’ve found them indispensable for the following
- nuts (walnuts, pinenuts, pecans, almonds) (2 lbs. for about $10)
- honey (app. $7)
- milk, eggs, heavy cream (a quart for $2-3)
- granulated, brown, and powdered sugar
- yeast (1 lb./$5)
- vanilla extract (you can get Madagascar Vanilla for a really reasonable price at Costco)
- frozen berries (right now at B.J.’s 3 lbs. of blueberries are $6, e.g.)
- Jasmine and Basmati Rice
- aluminum foil, baggies, cling wrap, etc.
San Francisco Herb Co.
This is an amazing place to stock up on herbs you use regularly or on products you can split with friends and family. There is a minimum order, so if you won’t make it on your own, invite a friend to go in with you. I like to buy the following from them:
- Vanilla Beans (a must!)
- Herbal Teas
- Curry Blends
Latin Markets/International Aisle at your local grocery store
I love Latin grocery stores. It’s amazing what you can find. If you’re in Rhode Island, C-Town in Pawtucket is a great Latin Market, but there are several small markets around Central Falls and Pawtucket that also contain great finds. Look for the following:
- Limes and lemons (usually unbelievable prices)
- Sweetened Condensed Milk (not Eagle brand, but equally respectable, and sometime more dulce-de-leche like
- Bagged, dried chiles
- Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (for quesadillas, taco meat, etc.)
- small quantities of spices: if you buy the small bags of spices, they are incredibly inexpensive, but the quality is good. Especially good prices are on saffron and whole nutmeg, which can cost a fortune at other places.
- Corn tortillas–usually handmade and fresh!
- tortilla husks (for tamales)
- Other specific produce: cactus fruit, papaya, star fruit, several varieties of fresh peppers, watercress, and yucca are usually much better at Latin Markets than other stores
This store definitely has its place in my shopping. Besides loving the floral section, they actually have great prices on some items:
- Bulk Foods: raw sunflower seeds, specialty grains like quinoa, brown rices, steel-cut oats, vegetarian (protein) yeast
- 7-grain cereal in the cereal aisle–they have lots of options for the Multigrain Bread. They also put it on sale somewhat regularly
- Frozen fruit and vegetable: the 365 brand of peas, raspberries, mango, pineapple, strawberries, mixed veggies, etc. are reasonable and very good.
- Specialty items: small amounts of goat cheese, 365 coconut milk, specialty mustard, ketchup, other Asian food ingredients
I’ve linked the page that shows the current prices and the products available at the LDS Cannery. The Cannery is excellent to really stock up on the staples. Their prices are incredible (they keep them low to encourage us all to have necessities on hand), and it’s very satisfying to know that I have enough beans and rice on hand to last our family probably forever . . .
- Rice, long-grain
- Beans: navy, black and pinto
- Powdered Milk
- Granulated Sugar
- All-purpose flour
- Whole Wheat Kernels (for grinding, if you have a grinder)
Ocean State Job Lot (specific to Rhode Island area)
This is a crazy store with a pretty impressive international/specialty food section. It’s a little inexplicable, but you can get great items here:
- Bob’s Red Mill products: all the specialty flours/grains at a discounted price
- Imported Olive Oils
- Bottled Red Peppers, olives, maraschino cherries
- Organic and specialty snacks, like Newman’s Own
- Imported Pasta and Sauces
- Organic and Natural Peanut Butter
- Agave Nectar
- Coconut Milk and Cream of Coconut
- parchment paper
- many items that are there because they are closeouts, so they have a short shelf life, but have come from good quality backgrounds, like European jams, honey, Asian specialty foods, etc.
J.A.R. Baker Supply (Rhode Island)
This supplier is for commercial bakeries, but luckily, they also sell to individuals. It’s an absolute gem for large quantities of products, but not so useful if you don’t have space or use for the quantities they sell. They are located in Lincoln, RI, and have a large catalog of products, but the prices change, so you have to call to get quotes. And they close early. Some sample products that I have purchased are:
- 50 lb. King Arthur and Gold Medal Supreme Bread Flour (app. $15–amazing, I know)
- Guittard Chocolate, 10 lb. block (app. $35)
- Dutch-Process European Chocolate Powder, 10 lbs. ($38)
- Chocolate Sprinkles/Jimmies, and white non-pareils, 6 lbs. ($9—it’s more than you’ll ever need, but for just a couple dollars more than 1/2 c. at the grocery store)
If you’re not in the Rhode Island Area, there are probably similar Baking Supply Companies and international food imports in your own. Please feel free to add other resources! I’m especially interested in learning about the online market, since I haven’t tapped into it with much success, so if there are sites I should know about . . .