I’ve mentioned, before, my 12 Strategies to Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market – Strategy Four. Normally, we think of cycles in nature: Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall when thinking about food, but there are other cycles as well, and Holidays are one of them. Here are some specifics regarding the “trifecta” of sales that starts pre Thanksgiving & continue through the New Years Holiday.
Even if you don’t celebrate these holidays, you can certainly take advantage of the sales that emerge from the them – and this time of year is the best time to take advantage of sales from what I think of as the “Big Six” of the Food Holidays: Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Superbowl. (Of course there are others, too, but the sales are usually not as great, overall.)
Sales like these can be leveraged to your advantage if you recognize the “cycles” of sales: Stock up on items at their lowest prices and use in the next few weeks to months. Even if this time of year seems rife with the opportunity to overwhelm your budget in extravagant spending, if you have a freezer (and you should if you wish to spend less money on food) this “trifecta” of holidays is when you should be purchasing a lot of your food at great budget prices.
While there will always be sales, for many of these items, the next big ones will be the Superbowl & Valentine’s Day, with only very specific items on sale, and then the Easter holiday. It is so well worth the savings to buy many items now. Some of the things on sale might just surprise you!
Manufacturers and Producers understand these sales cycles well, and will issue a glut of coupons beginning in September for items that one doesn’t see coupons for on a regular basis. The food industry isn’t afraid to put out great prices on items to attract you to their store. They know most people are concerned about spending too much money for Holidays, so they really don’t expect people to buy extra things at great prices and stock up.
Meats and Poultry and Fish & Seafood:
The trifecta is a great times to stock up on the larger, maybe fancier, but still budget priced items. You can really maximize your savings if you have a freezer, and think about buying enough in quantity to last to the next Holiday, or perhaps even throughout the year.
Generally, Thanksgiving is the time to buy Turkey, with some great prices on Ham, and as we morph into Christmas, the Ham prices may be lower. That’s the time to look for better prices on the fancier items such as roasts, seafood, fish, etc. New Years week, too, promises many sales on kinds of gourmet cuts. A big surprise: how low basic cuts of beef & pork may drop in price to keep them moving – after all, an animal only has so many “specialty” cuts!
The big box stores often have specialty roasts, cuts and seafood at good prices, but rarely do they match the grocery stores on Turkey and Hams.
There may be some sale prices around Easter, but Thanksgiving & Christmas are the best time of year to buy Turkey!
- Turkey: Often 68 to 99 cents a pound, I’ll pick up several if I’m not stocked up. Just like Ham, it’s hard to find a cheaper protein and I can get a LOT of meals out of a turkey. See “12 days of Turkey” for leftover ideas.
- Cornish Game Hens & fancier poultry: Fun for a fancy dinner, they’re often on sale. They’re generally not one of my Frugal items, even on sale, but can simply “make” a fancy dinner for a price more reasonable than a lot of options, if you can pick them up and keep a few in your freezer.
Roasts, from the fancy to the basic simply abound at great sales prices! Pick them up if your budget allows and you appreciate them.
- Tenderloin: It often drops to $5.99 to 6.99 a pound.
- Rib Roast: In our area, it will drop to about $7.98 a pound.
- Basic cuts of roast and steak (and hamburger) are often on sale, especially in the weeks prior to Christmas.
- Keep an eye open for smaller, specialty cuts to be on sale right before New Years. Think *steak.*
Fancier Fish and Seafood:
The best pricing of the year is often during lent, which starts in most areas on Ash Wednesday and extends until Easter. There are great prices around Christmas and New Years on some seafood, too.
- Seafood: look for fresh or frozen Crab and Shrimp. I tend to avoid the platters of Shrimp that are already made up – to me, shrimp is expensive even on sale and these are often more expensive than the frozen and are often bagged and mushy. If I buy frozen shrimp, I look for raw in the shell. Thawed overnight in the fridge on several layers of paper towel, I find them less offensive. Of course, if you can afford fresh, or it’s local to your area, go for it!
- Oysters are always on sale during the season.
- Fish – look for great prices on many fish, especially Salmon and smoked Salmon. Jarred herrings, anchovies, etc., are often at a low.
Pork Items are BIG:
Remember, even if you don’t have a freezer, Hams (and bacon) lasts for weeks in the refrigerator. Pork loin can easily be cut up into chops, frozen and stacked neatly in the corner of a regular fridge/freezer combo, and bacon takes up little room.
- While hams reach an all time low in our area at Easter, Christmas is a great time to pick them up, too.) Prices can drop to 69 cents a pound, and it’s easy to find one for 99 cents a pound. Look for specials, too, where you may buy so many items, and get a discount on the ham, or coupons from the producers. I generally avoid the cheaper spiral cuts – they tend to be very soft and wet and more expensive than a basic ham – all of which are turn offs to me. I look for the budget priced Hams, preferably one that isn’t injected with a lot of salt and water and I stock up and buy a couple and chuck them in my freezer. I consider the bone to be a great bonus. See my “12 Days of Ham” for some budget recipes for leftovers.
- Pork Loin and Center Cut Pork Loins are often on sale, though generally I don’t find them as inexpensive as I do during the fall/winter sales. Generally, the loin is sold for less than the chops, so if there’s a great price, pick up a couple of them and slice for pork chops, in varying thicknesses, bag and freeze.
- Standing Pork Roasts: Often at sale at Christmas, they are also usually at a great price at Easter. Even on sale, they are generally pricey and difficult to wrap well to freeze. If you buy, buy with the idea of using it fresh or at the very least within a few weeks.
- Bacon and Sausage : I think grocers respond to the idea that Holidays are a prime time for company and overnight guests – bacon and sausage is often on sale. If my freezer isn’t already stocked from the fall/winter sales, I’ll pick up several packages.
This is simply the best time of year to stock up on baking items. Just a note: make it a habit to freeze any items containing flour for three days when you get them home.
Best seasonal buy for the year? Dried fruits and nuts, both of which I use year round! You may find coupons to combine with sales, but even if you don’t, make sure to stock up at prices that will be the lowest of the year. I keep the nuts in my freezer. You may wish to check multiple aisles for these items (and multiple stores) – they may be in baking, produce, bulk, snacks & organic or “health food” aisles.
- Yeast: Generally 25 percent off, often there are coupons. (I like to pick up a jar if I’m low and keep it in the fridge.)
- Flour: I can pick up five pounds for dirt cheap with sales with coupons.
- Sugar: Just like flour, I look for sugar on sale with coupons.
- Chocolate and Chocolate Chips: They do go on sale periodically, but any Holiday is a good time to stack up.
- Spices and Extracts & herbs: Look for coupons and great sales.
- Pie Filling, Pie Crusts: All on sale, and usually with coupons.
- Chocolate Chips: One of the lowest prices you’ll see until fall.
- Baking mixes are generally on sale – I just don’t generally buy them.
- Almost any baking item you can think of will be on sale from the weeks prior to Thanksgiving through Christmas.
- Rices, including Wild Rice will be on sale as will other seasonal items like boxes stuffings, boxed potatoes, etc.
- Dried Beans and Peas: On sale, often unadvertised before, during or after any major Holiday when Ham is likely to be served.
- Canned and Boxed Chicken and Beef stocks are low – the next low sale will likely be Easter, so pick up a lot if you use it.
- Oil: Cooking Oil is on sale, and Olive Oil generally is, too.
- Mayonnaise: Much cheaper in the summer, it often goes on sale. The next great sale price will probably be around the Superbowl.
- Mustard and specialty mustards are usually on a deep saler, with coupons available.
- Crackers: If you keep crackers on hand, buy enough now to last through Easter. Use your coupons. Usually everything from store brands to gourmet will be on sale.
- Pop and Junk Food: Rarely bought in my Frugal House, if you’re buying, buy it on sale, and preferably with a coupon. These items are on sale at almost every major Holiday – the next great sale will be Superbowl.
- Bottled Dressing: If you use and need some, pick up now, but keep in mind that you can generally pick it up for free or near free during the summer. Next big sale will probably be the Superbowl. Use your coupons.
- Canned Soup, Mandarin Oranges and canned Pineapple are usually on sale during any major Holiday. Use your coupons. These will probably be at their lowest right now. Consider buying for the year.
- Canned specialty items: You’ll find great prices at some point during the season on almost anything that could be considered a specialty item: olives, artichokes, canned crab & seafood, deviled ham, canned cranberry sauce and so on.
- Canned vegetables and many other canned fruits are often at their low.
- Coffee: Highly competitive, and you’ll find sales prices that you can use with coupons, so if you aren’t stocked up for the year at Christmas, buy now. I’m speaking canned, here, of course, vacuum packed, not whole beans.
- Jello and Pudding, premade pie crusts area on sale, and the next great sale will be at Easter.
- French’s Fried Onions – I don’t generally use, but if you do, get them now and enough to last the year.
Sales are big for most eggs & dairy items from a few weeks before Thanksgiving all the way through New Years.
- Butter: Often nearly half off, and sometimes you’ll see coupons. Pick up as much as you can and freeze. You probably won’t see a better price till Easter, and by then it may be very well be more!
- Cream Cheese: Drops to about 98 cents a package , sometimes less with sales and coupons (Aldi has $1.00 a package all the time.) Cream cheese keeps for months, so stock up. It does freeze, but I don’t like to use if for Cheesecake after it’s been frozen – it’s still fine in dips and cooking.) I find the premade dips and cooking cremes, whipped and flavored cream cheese too expensive.
- Cream, Sour Cream & Half and Half: You’ll find great sales – pick up several. They’ll generally last way beyond their “buy by” or “best if used by” date – remember, this is NOT an expiration date on dairy. This year I’ve found coupons for half and half and sour cream. Cream and half and half, especially, have dates that are weeks out.
- “Fancy” Near – Deli Cheese: a lot of the cheeses that are kept packaged near the Deli will be on deep sales.
- You’ll usually find specials on whole mushrooms, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, celery & carrots. It’s possible you’ll see sales prices on some squashes and fall vegetables, especially potatoes. Pick up extra of the ones that will last longer. Watch for green onions, too, at about 1/2 off, and extend them by tossing the bulbs in water.
- Pineapples, for some reason, are often on sale – and so are Pomegranates!
- Chestnuts and Cranberries – always at their lowest and sometimes the only time of year to buy them fresh! Stock up for the year.
- Lettuce: I’ll often find Holiday sales on bagged lettuce and Spinach – Scroll down to Lettuce under Saving on Basic Ingredients, Vegetables and Fruits for detailed discussion on how much more expensive some of the bagged lettuces can be. Even on sale, they are generally significantly more than loose lettuce.
- Fruits: Watch for great prices on in season fruits – as well as berries, which may or may not be good.
- Breads: Rhodes frozen Bread is often on sale, and combined with coupons, I pick up a package or two of brown and serve for free during almost every major Holiday.
- Cool Whip or Frozen Topping.
- Vegetables: I have an aversion to most of the frozen ones, but I do buy frozen peas, frozen spinach and frozen corn, most of which I’ll use in recipes. You may have read my “Rant” on the Green Giant Baby Brussels in Butter Sauce (hope I wasn’t too hard on the Jolly Green) or my “Rant” on Frozen Broccoli. This is the best time of year to buy frozen vegetables.
- Frozen Fruit: Check to see if there are sales, advertised or not.
- Frozen Pie dough: Easter and Thanksgiving are great times to pick up free or near free pie dough – use coupons combined with sales.
- Frozen Pies and Frozen Desserts find their way to deep sales.
Bread and Bakery Items:
Any holiday would not be complete if the specialty breads, pies and cakes were not on sale. Look for great prices on loaves of bread or premade packages of dried bread cubes for stuffing.
- Batteries are a great price as are light bulbs!
- Look for sale priced items and use coupons for things like garbage bags, storage containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cooking bags. I can usually pick these items up (with the exception of garbage bags) for free or near free. Stock up!
- Paper plates, cups and napkins are generally on sale – I’ll usually find better sales during the summer. Look for coupons.
Halloween is a great time to buy candy, but there will be sales at Christmas (best price is AFTER Christmas!) too.
Holiday Left Overs?
Remember, too, that Left Overs are often the most expensive items in your home – one spends money and time preparing the foods that sometimes languish in our fridges after any Holiday. See Leftovers in the top menu for ideas on how to transform leftovers into additional meals and treats. Smidges and Titches covers all the little bits of this and that you might have hanging around your fridge, while 12 Days of Turkey and 12 Days of Ham has recipes for more substantial amounts of Left Overs.)
Cyclic Changes in the Market – What I call Man Made – Holidays
So many Holidays have great sales – while it “seems” to make sense sometimes to budget a set amount of money per week for food, food doesn’t cost the same every week! The amount of savings can be much greater if you can identify when to expect great sales on items, and what those items are and budget a bit extra for those weeks.
Then beat the grocer at their own game! Instead of passively being drawn into a store to pick up one or two specials and then buy whatever else you need for the week, buy as much as possible of the specials for the Holiday week and use for weeks or months beyond. Make up the rest of your meal from low priced staples and such you have “banked” at home. Of course, only buy what you can store and use in a reasonable time period.
- Happy Valentine’s Day Sales
- Saving on St. Patrick’s Day
- Easter and Lent, Leveraging the Sales
- Cinco de Mayo – It makes Cents to Save
- Mother’s Day Sales
- Saving on Memorial Day, Father’s Day, the Fourth & Labor Day
- Back to School Sales – Not just for school anymore
- Fall Savings & Hallowe’en
- Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Year’s Savings
- Super Bowl Savings
Links for The Twelve Strategies:
- Strategy One: Bank Your Foods
- Strategy Two: Pay Attention to the Bottom Line
- Strategy Three: Control Costs – Maximize “Profits” and Minimize Losses
- Strategy Four: Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market
- Strategy Five: Be an Investor, not a Gambler
- Strategy Six: Give Back to the Community
- Strategy Seven: Have a Business Plan
- Strategy Eight: Invest in Training
- Strategy Nine: Know the Products you Buy
- Strategy Ten: Know your Suppliers
- Strategy Eleven: Take Advantage of Special Offers & Incentives
- Strategy Twelve: Use Sound Investment Principles
If you made it this far, what am I missing, guys? What bargains do you look for in this extended Holiday season?