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Are pre-cut veggies really worth it? Maximize your dollars at the supermarket

by Rebekah Lowin /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart Magazine, joined Kathie Lee and Hoda this morning on TODAY to clue us in on the best, smartest ways to save. Find out how savvy your own supermarket skills are with the choices below.

Diced onions ($4.65) vs. whole onions (99 cents)

The markup: 370 percent

And the winner is: Whole onions! They simply taste better and fresher when you cut them yourself. And sure, you’ll save some time using pre-cut onions, but you'll pay a premium. This is not a minimal markup.

Peeled or cubed butternut squash ($2.80) vs. whole squash ($1.45)

The markup: 93 percent

And the winner is: Whole squash. There are tricks that can make cutting a butternut squash simpler and faster. Brush up your cooking skills and hop to your cutting board!

Mixed sliced veggies ($4.40) vs. individual veggies ($2.26)

The markup: 49 percent

And the winner is: The mixed veggies. The markup is substantial, but mixed veggies save you a lot of time chopping, especially when it comes to stir fry. If the package size fits your needs, it can save you from buying more fresh produce than you can use. It’ll also help you to keep the amount of waste in check.

TODAY
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Washed and trimmed kale ($11.67) vs. unprepped kale ($2.80)

The markup: 317 percent

And the winner is: The washed and trimmed kale. If you need a lot of kale for a recipe, then buying it already washed and trimmed may be worth the extra cost. Time is money, after all, and prepping kale does take a bit of time. On the other hand, if time isn't a factor for you, a salad spinner might be a good investment.

Beef burger patties ($5.03) vs. ground beef ($4.33)

The markup: 16 percent

And the winner is: Beef burger patties. The premium is minimal here, so save yourself some time and go for the patties.

Deli-sliced cheese vs. already-packaged cheese (prices vary)

And the winner is: Ready to have your mind blown? Ham, turkey and American and Swiss cheeses don't usually cost more if you buy them fresh-sliced at the deli counter. That means the deli is often the better deal, sometimes even saving you money.

When should you buy big?

Buying small sizes never pays, but that doesn’t mean you have to go to the largest size to get the bargain deal. Sometimes, the medium deal is as good a deal as the big one. Checking the unit price is probably the best place to start. The Unit Price App (available free for Apple and Android phones) is a handy tool to whip out while shopping.

Here are a few examples of the benefits of “buying big”:

  • Ketchup, 38 oz ($3.27) vs. Ketchup, 14 oz ($2.12). That’s a savings of 43 percent.
  • Cheerios, 18 oz ($3.25) vs. 8.9 oz, ($2.57). That’s a savings of 37 percent.
  • Mayonnaise, 48 oz ($7.62) vs. 15 oz ($3.78). That’s a savings of 37 percent.
  • Ziploc double freezer zipper bag, gallon size, 30 count ($5.08) vs. Ziploc double freezer zipper bag, gallon size, 15 count ($3.55). That’s a savings of 28%.

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