We've talked a lot about Making the Best of Things, how to save money at the grocery store, and money saving tips in the kitchen. But what we haven't talked about are items are worth the splurge. These will be different things to different people, but I can show you what we splurge on in our house.
Herbs and Spices. You know those plastic jars of herbs and spices for 99 cents? Not really worth it. They are inferior quality and don't have the flavor more expensive spices do. To save money, I do buy store brand, and I also buy a lot of herbs and spices from bulk bins. One of the things I like about buying from bulk bins is if it's not a spice I use often, I can buy exactly what I need for one or two recipes. I also grow some of my own herbs (typically oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary) and dry them myself.
Butter. When my husband and I were growing up, both of our mothers only bought margarine, and my mother-in-law still does. My husband asked me to please buy only butter. I begrudgingly bought the first pound or two, cringing at the cost, but 20 years later, I have never purchased margarine. Butter generally has more fat, but it's a more natural fat, and it has less preservatives and chemicals. My husband has digestive issues, that we believe are due to allergies to food preservatives. Every time we come home from a weekend of his mother's (otherwise very good) cooking, he has a flare up.
Coconut oil and olive oil. Coconut oil is a new splurge for us and I've only bought it once so far. We do use olive oil, but until recently only for more "special" meals and for dipping our bread in place of butter. However, the more I read about processed oils like vegetable and canola, the more I believe we should move away from them. Plus there is nothing better for popping popcorn than coconut oil! (And we make a lot of popcorn.)
Low-fat ground beef. For most things I purchase ground beef that's 80/20 and simply drain off the extra fat. However for meatloaf and hamburgers, I think a lower fat ground beef like 90/10 or even 95/5 does much better. Your burger or meatloaf doesn't shrink as much, leaving you with a more fulfilling meal.
Brand name items. For the most part, I buy store brand everything. However, there are a few things I'm still brand loyal to because I just don't like the store brand. I hate store brand dishwasher detergent and dish soap. I don't think either do a good job getting things clean. Store brand canned beans seem to be more water than beans. Not only do I think this is costly, it also throws off a recipe.
Eggs. When I can get them, I'd much rather have local, free range eggs. While they are generally twice as much as conventional eggs, I think the flavor is so much better and I don't have to worry as much about things like antibiotics and salmonella in my food.
Local produce. Some local produce is more expensive, although sometimes it's not. Unless it's cost prohibitive, though, I'd much prefer locally grown, mostly organic, in season produce to what I can find in the grocery store.