Even while we’re all still trying to find ways to save money on groceries, I know that there are some supermarket splurges that make me really happy. I think it’s important to have some small — and delicious — indulgences that make all this eating at home a little more special. Especially when we’ve lost some of our cooking mojo after a whole year of 3-meals-a-day pandemic cooking for the family.
So I turned to our smart Recipe Rescue Facebook group to crowdsource parents’ favorite supermarket splurges that you think are worth every penny and wow, did you come through! (As you always do!)
My one innocent question received over 130 spirited comments — which will probably cause my grocery bill to bump up a bit because I want to try them all!
Want to know which products are worthy of the splurge, according to parents like you? Here are the top answers, ranked in reverse order from 10 to 1.
I’ve also included money-saving tips that our readers shared — provided they go beyond “buy on sale.” We all know that one, right?
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10 supermarket splurges that are worth the cost
10. Favorite supermarket splurge: High-end mustard
Though Elizabeth J bravely spoke up in favor of French’s Yellow Mustard, our own editor Liz explained, “it’s a Jewish New York thing. I think legally we’re not allowed to have yellow mustard here.” Ha! Whatever the reason, premium mustards like dijon, or horseradish and wasabi infused varieties, were touted by many of our commenters as a small indulgence that’s worth it.
Maille mustard is the one mentioned the most by name. Given that it’s been around since freaking 1747(!), they must be doing something right.
9. Favorite supermarket splurge: King Arthur Flour
An easy yeast bread recipe courtesy King Arthur Flour
With so much bread making going on during the pandemic, it’s not surprising that we bakers take our flour seriously, and King Arthur Flour gets high marks from lots of readers.
The King Arthur Facebook page happens to have one of the most responsive and helpful social media groups (outside of our own Recipe Rescue team, of course!), but the flour itself is excellent. Avid baker Robin E sums it up when she says, “It bakes more consistently even. The taste is smoother. When I’m making cakes I can tell a difference. Bread rises easier also.” Sold!
8. Favorite supermarket splurge: Good honey
Sorry squishy plastic honey bear; good honey, especially local honey if possible, is tops among our readers — like Portland’s Bee Local honey from the Willamette Valley, or Mike’s Hot Honey, infused with chilis! You can find them from gourmet shops or online purveyors like Mouth. But most larger supermarkets carry entire shelves filled with different types of honey from clover to orange blossom to wildflower.
Also rising in popularity is the Manuka Honey from New Zealand brand PRI. which is not only creamy and delicious, it has tons of health benefits.
Personally I love the variety from Trader Joe’s Rainbow of Honey gift pack, but will have to wait until the holidays for this to reappear in the stores. Another to keep your eye out for:
7. Favorite supermarket splurge: Balsamic vinegar
The enthusiasm with which Sheri G, Chrissy I, Katie L, Julie D, and Chrissy R spoke of great balsamic vinegar has me now curious to see if I can indeed learn to spot the difference when I start buying the good stuff. (I will be the first to admit that right now, I cannot tell a good balsamic vinegar from the cheapest swill In a bottle.) It makes sense though — if it’s all you use to dress a salad, along with a touch of good olive oil, better flavor will make the entire salad better.
Spruce Eats has a great list of their picks for best balsamic vinegars if you want to poke around, including an aged 18-year Mission Fig Balsamic you can grab right on Amazon.
Who wants to host a tasting party after this whole pandemic business is over?
Money saving tip: America’s Test Kitchen just shared a recipe that will make a cheap bottle of balsamic taste like one worth $300! Now, this may be something worth testing!
6. Favorite supermarket splurge: Real parmesan cheese
Modern cheese grater featured in our gift guide to 15 fabulous Mother’s Day gifts for the kitchen under $25
Death to the green can! That is a pretty consistent view around here, so don’t yell at me if that’s your kids’ fave.
Though we can all agree it’s pricey, grabbing a wedge of real parmesan cheese to grate over pasta or veggies or pizza is the only way to go for plenty of our commenters. In agreement: my 16-year-old son who now will only eat the $16/pound parm to smother over his plates of pasta. Sigh.
Money saving tip: Lauren M writes, “I will often buy a block of Locatelli (imported Italian) Romano cheese instead of parm because it’s less expensive, but nothing compares to real parm for shaving fresh on stuff, making crispy melted things.”
5. Favorite supermarket splurge: Premium olive oil
You knew we couldn’t share a good balsamic without a good olive oil, right?
For drizzling on fresh salads, dipping chunks of warm, homemade bread, splashing on veggies before they’re roasted, premium olive oil is liquid gold to several of the discerning palates on Recipe Rescue.
Roxanna S specifically cites the olive oils of Spain while Lauren M prefers California Olive Ranch. For more ideas, New York Magazine put together a handy guide to chefs’ own favorite olive oils, including Zoe organic olive oill, shown above, cold pressed from Spanish Cornicabra olives. Aren’t those tins pretty too?
4. Favorite supermarket splurge: High-quality spices, seasonings, & extracts of all kinds.
Love this salt cellar from Crate & Barrel!
From dried spices, to fancy salts, to real vanilla extracts, this category of supermarket staples was filled with reader suggestions for gourmet upgrades.
A few suggestions: Terre N loves truffle-infused salts. Cristy B cites Camargue Salt. Roxanna S digs Maldon Salt, and Sabrina G adores Nielsen-Massey vanilla.
Also know that Penzey’s is a universal favorite among chefs and home cooks alike, both for their outstanding herbs and spices, as well as their big hearts, altruistic business practices, and excellent customer service.
3. Favorite supermarket splurge: Premium ice cream/gelato
Several of you screamed (ha) for high-end supermarket ice cream like Haagen-Daaz (a nearly unrivaled vanilla!) or Ben & Jerry’s, whose vegan ice cream is tops!.
There was also the frequent mention of Talenti Gelato, which we first wrote about back when they launched in 2011! They now make so many decadent flavors, like Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Sea Salt Caramel, and Mediterranean Mint.
And Cristy B has introduced me to Graeter’s ice cream which looks incredible and is sold in my own local supermarkets. Yes!
2. (tie) Favorite supermarket splurge: Real maple syrup
One of my favorite stories from our editor Liz is how her dad used to bring his own little bottle of real maple syrup out to eat in restaurants. You can hear her tell the hilarious details in this Spawned episode — it’s like right out of Seinfeld! Clearly he was a man ahead of his time, because now, many of us agree that drowning our pancakes in corn syrup or artificial sugar water is ICK.
There were so plenty Recipe Rescue readers lining up to mention they would always spend the extra money for real maple syrup every time — Chrissy R, Melissa R, Laura C, Marissa P, Carolyn M, and so many more agreed on this point, emphatically.
No one particular brand was ever mentioned, though, living in New England, I try to buy syrups produced as close to home as possible. Sometimes it’s worth living where it gets really cold. And of course, if you live up north, check your local farmer’s markets to get the best stuff right from the source.
Money saving tip: While “tapping your own maple tree” could be cheaper — though much more time consuming — we recommend checking out both Aldi’s and Trader Joe’s for good prices on real maple syrup. Some picky readers also recommend Costco brand.
2. (tie) Favorite supermarket splurge: Rao’s Tomato Sauces
All hail Rao’s sauce which received a ton of “hell yes” votes among our Facebook group, proving that its place on Liz’s list of favorite NYC food gifts from 10 New York institutions was no fluke. (Not that it would be!)
I absolutely adore its beautifully pure tomato flavor with a hint of sweetness without a grain of added sugar. The ingredients:
Italian whole peeled tomatoes (peeled tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, basil leaf), olive oil, onions, salt, garlic, basil, black pepper, oregano.
However, I must add that no other product discussed in our group received as much pushback either, with Rachel G commenting, “I don’t get the Rao’s thing at all. I bought it once to check it out, but it’s $10 for what basically tastes like a fifty cent can of unseasoned tomato sauce instead of a pasta sauce.”
We will have to agree to disagree on this one. It seems that if you (not Rachel in particular) are used to the sweeter, sugar-added mass supermarket brands, this might not be the flavor you’re looking for. More for me, I guess?
Money saving tip: Other than stocking up whenever it’s on sale (I’ve seen it as low as $3.99 a jar!), other readers buy it by the case or grab it at Costco to try to cut down on the price.
1. Favorite supermarket splurge: Kerrygold butter!
By far, the most-mentioned item to my query about supermarket splurges that are worth the extra money, was Kerrygold Butter.
Holy smokes does our Facebook group love this spreadable goodness from Ireland, where we all know the cows get to eat the best grass — and evidently, the residents get to eat the best butter. The color is a darker yellow than other butters and it spreads like a dream — a dream where I’m eating nothing but bread and butter for hours on end. Plus it’s fantastic for cooking.
Lots of readers even buy both the salted and unsalted varieties to have both on hands for different needs.
Money saving tip: Liz G and Melinda C-S swear by buying their Kerrygold in bulk at Costco. Butter can even be frozen for a period of time if you actually don’t fly through it as fast as my family does — you can freeze salted butter for up to about a year, and unsalted for 6 months without losing flavor. Mmmm…butter flavor.
Want to really perk up your shopping list? Go read our entire suggested list of supermarket splurges to see what is loved by parents like you. And feel free to add your own! We can never have too many.