Easter and Lent – Leveraging the Sales

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This is a “re-post” but I wanted to get it out there in time for the Easter Holiday!

I’ve mentioned before in my 12 Strategies to Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market – Strategy Four. Normally, we thing 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 Easter Holiday and the sales that surround it.

Pysanky, borrowed from Wiki

Even if you don’t celebrate Easter, you can certainly take advantage of the Easter sales that emerge from the Holiday. There was a time when every store splashed “Easter Savings” across their ads; that’s happening less and less, but Easter is one of 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.) My grocery ad this year simply says “Holiday Favorites” in the corner. Of course, when I mention grocery stores, I’m really speaking specifically of basic grocery stores. Some butchers may have great sales, too.

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. Think of Easter as the last big sale on many items (especially pantry staples like baking items and dried beans, and Ham and Bacon if you have room to freeze) until Thanksgiving, and the last great sale on many other items until Memorial Day, followed by Fourth of July. Stock up even if you have to scrimp a bit to do so. It is so well worth the savings. Some of the things on sale might just surprise you!

Manufacturers and Producers understand these sales cycles well, and will often issue a glut of coupons prior to Holidays for items that one doesn’t see coupons for on a regular basis. Easter and Lent is a great time to get all kinds of items for a deep discount once you’re aware of the possibilities. 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.

Imagine yourself throwing a barbecue in Mid-may, serving your friends lamb chops as you hear one say, “Wow, I looked at lamb chops last week, and they were $12.99 a pound!” I see no reason to put them straight and tell them you picked up a package at Easter for $2.99 a pound and chucked them in your freezer. Or maybe you have a child graduating and you’re wondering how on earth you can do a party? For starters, you pull out that extra 89 cent a pound “Easter” ham. Slice it up if it’s a buffet, put out some biscuits, a couple of cheap sides like potato salad, and maybe some cup cakes. Maybe some Black Bottom Cream Cheese Cupcakes, using dirt cheap chocolate chips and cream cheese bought at Easter.

Or maybe you just want to eat better for the next few weeks – that’s great, too.

Meats and Poultry and Fish & Seafood:

Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are all 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. Many chains have great specials pre – Easter, but some stores will also mark down after the Holiday to clear out any items that didn’t sell. The big box stores often have specialty roasts, cuts and seafood at good prices.

Pork Items are BIG at Easter:

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.

  • Hams reach an all time low in our area at Easter (Christmas is a great time to pick up a ham, 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 spiral cuts – they tend to be very soft and wet and very expensive – 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. It’s hard to find any protein item for 69 cents a pound: When I do, I stock up and buy a couple and chuck them in my freezer. I consider the bone to be a great bonus – I’ll make at least two soups with each bone, and have two additional very inexpensive meals. I go for the shank end, whenever possible. 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 during the Easter week. If my freezer isn’t already stocked from the fall/winter sales, I’ll pick up several packages.

Beef:

A few roasts are often on sale prior to Easter – I don’t see them for as low here in my area as I do around Christmas or New Year’s but they are still lower than the usual sale prices. Still very expensive cuts even on sale, pick them up if your budget allows and you appreciate them.

  • Tenderloin: It often drops to $5.99 to 6.99 a pound prior to Easter
  • Rib Roast: In our area, it will drop to about $7.98 a pound.

Lamb:

Lamb is huge at Easter in many European countries and growing in popularity here in the states. Sometimes lamb isn’t available at all in the stores I shop in, but usually I can find it at Easter, and at a great price.

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. While there are often great sales around Christmas and New Years on some seafood, rarely can it touch the competitive pricing we see during Lent of fish and the week before/during Easter on Seafood.

  • 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!
  • Fish: Lent is a great time to pick up budget fish, whether fresh, canned or frozen. Stock up on canned Tuna and Salmon for the year. Check out your drug stores for tuna and salmon, too. You’ll be surprised at how low the prices are during specials. Fresh Salmon is often $4.99 to $6.99 a pound.

Poultry:

Generally cheapest prior to Thanksgiving, Easter usually has a few specials of its own.

  • Turkey: Often 98 cents a pound, compared to 69 cents a pound at Thanksgiving, I’ll still try to pick up 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.
  • Whole Chickens: You’ll find them on sale prior to Easter, but usually for about 99 cents or so a pound. I look for these to drop now and then my area to 68 cents a pound – and that’s usually late, late spring – my guess is a lot of chickens go after the glut of egg laying they do for Easter! Still, 99 cents a pound is a pretty good price, and if you buy a four pounder or so and use a lot of sides, you can usually have enough for a meal, some type of chicken for a leftover dish, and soup.
  • Cornish Game Hens: Fun for a fancy dinner, they’re often on sale at Easter. 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.

Baking Items:

Easter is the last great sale on baking items until the fall – you’ll see them going on sale in their quarterly rotations, but until pre Thanksgiving, you won’t see great prices en masse like this week. Producers and Manufacturers often put out coupons prior to the Easter Holiday.

  • 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: Every year I find great buys on McCormick items, especially vanilla. Stores in our areas often offer sales and Catalinas (money back on next purchase when you buy so many…these are often unadvertised and I find out about them through my coupon matching sites like “Pocket Your Dollars.” Now and then I’ll buy something at the store that will trigger a little coupon that tells me of upcoming Catalinas. Many spices and extracts are free at Easter with coupons and sales. I haven’t paid for Vanilla for years.
  • 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 at Easter – I just don’t generally buy them.

Pantry/Grocery Items:

  • Vinegar is the most notable: pick up vinegar now at Easter – often unadvertised, you’ll find coupons if you’re lucky, but generally not only the basic vinegar, but also the higher end flavored ones are on sale. You may find the higher end vinegar on sale through out the summer, but rarely do I ever see any of the basic ones discounted. Check for coupons in the paper or at the manufacturer’s websites.
  • Dried Beans and Peas: On sale, often unadvertised before, during or after any major Holiday when Ham is likely to be served.
  • Oil: Cooking Oil is on sale, and Olive Oil generally is, too.
  • Mayonnaise: Much cheaper in the summer, it often goes on sale at Easter. Next great sale price will probably be Memorial Day.
  • Mustard is usually on a deep sale at Easter, with coupons available.
  • Crackers: If you keep crackers on hand, buy enough now to last through Memorial Day. 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 Memorial Day.
  • 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 by Memorial day. 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 and the next big drop in price will be fall for the soup and Thanksgiving for the fruit.
  • Coffee: Buy at Easter – the prices are usually slightly higher than you’ll find around Christmas and New Years, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a lower price through the next few months. Coffee can be 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 is often on sale at Easter.
  • French’s Fried Onions – I don’t generally use, but if you do, get them now to last through Thanksgiving.
  • Pickles: Pickles are big sale items at Easter – generally the best pricing until Memorial day and summer sales.

Dairy/Eggs:

Sales are big prior to Easter for baking (and for dyeing Easter eggs.)

  • Butter: In my area, Easter is the best time to buy butter, and it’s generally about 50 cents cheaper than the normal “great” price at other Holidays. Pick up as much as you can and freeze. You probably won’t see a better price till Thanksgiving, and by then it may be very well be more!
  • Cream Cheese: Drops to about 98 cents a package – if you’re lucky, you’ll find a few coupons for the name brand. I’ll now and then see a special (usually a store coupon from the ad) for 68 cents a package, but in our area they’re limit 1 – 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.) By the way, 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 at Easter for these items – 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.

Produce:

  • You’ll usually find specials on whole mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons and potatoes. Pick up extra of the ones that will last longer like the cauliflower and broccoli. If you make stuffed mushrooms, try freezing some in small packages to reheat another time. Smell those strawberries – they’ll be out of season and maybe not so good. Pick up that asparagus – throw it around on your kitchen floor and roll in it – it’s probably going to be the best pricing and if you live in the right area, in season. It means spring is here. Seriously, this is one vegetable that is so significantly cheaper in season and tastes so much better, take advantage of it for its short life.
  • Pineapples, for some reason, are often on sale.l
  • 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.

Frozen:

  • 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.
  • 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 Hawaiian Bread on sale, too, as well as flat breads, Pita, etc.
  • Hot Cross buns are associated with Easter and are often available.

Grocery Items:

  • 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.

Holiday Left Over?

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.)

Properly Store Left overs - the most expensive food in your home! See 12 Days of Ham

Properly Store Left overs – the most expensive food in your home! See 12 Days of Ham

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