Eat cheap: Supermarket rotisserie chicken makes a fast meal, but convenience costs: about $7 for the average bird. You can roast your own three-pounder in an hour with inexpensive herbs from the pantry for $3.50.
Bone up: Swap boneless chicken breasts ($5.99 a pound) for bone-in thighs ($2.19 a pound), which is perfect for easy-prep-and-cook casseroles.
Talk turkey: Not just for Thanksgiving, a hefty gobbler can serve up three hearty meals, with enough meat left over for sandwiches. Choose a frozen turkey, at $1.29 a pound, over fresh breast fillets, at $4.89 a pound.
Avoid the tender trap: Buy value cuts like chuck pot roast, bone-in sirloin roast, and pork shoulder, at $3 to $5 a pound. While not as juicy or as quick-cooking as rib-eye or pork loin roasts, they have top-notch flavor, tenderize with slow cooking, and can feed a crowd.
Meet a new meat: For an economical version of premium, $20-a-pound filet mignon, try flat iron steak (also called top blade), a richly marbled butcher's bargain at $5 a pound. This newly created cut, from the steer's shoulder blade, used to go into the grinder for hamburger until a more precise cutting technique was developed.
Steer clear: Skip those pricey premade burger patties. Make your own with ground beef from a family pack of three or more pounds and save nearly 15 cents per patty; freeze any extra meat for another night.
Fish around: Switch out halibut and sea bass, which can cost $25 per pound, for wallet-friendly fish with similar tastes and textures. Tilapia and cod are as mild-flavored and firm as fancier fish, at one-third the price.
Fake it: If a dish calls for $11-per-pound lobster or $25-per-pound crab, opt for surimi ($4 to $6 a pound). Used in Japan for 900 years, this imitation shellfish (made with real white fish seasoned with crab or other seafood extracts) works well in salads, crab cakes, and casseroles.
Be happy as a clam: Fresh seafood doesn't get thriftier than blue mussels and chowder clams. Both are under $2 a dozen, and can be made into dollar-stretching soups.
Keep your sunny side up: While the cost of eggs is rising to more than $2 a dozen, they're still a nutritional steal: Eggs are one of the fastest ways to make over leftovers or to quickly create filling dinners. Cartons of 18 are often marked down, since they're not as popular as the classic dozen. And pick up whatever size eggs are on sale; unless you're baking, it doesn't matter if they're jumbo or large.
Say cheese: It seems counterintuitive, but spending $15 for a pound of ultra-flavorful cheese like Gruyère or feta can actually save you cash. Because the taste is strong, you'll use less for cooking.
Milk it: With a gallon of milk inching above $4, why not try the powdered stuff for baking and cooking? A four-pound box of dry, nonfat milk costs about $8 and yields five gallons when reconstituted.
Hit a whole in one: There's no better budget stretcher than cooking with whole grains. Pearl barley ($.90 a pound), brown rice ($1.15 a pound), and bulgur ($1.76 a pound) are low in fat, high in protein, and tummy-filling. Combine with meat or veggies to make a little go a long, healthy way.
Try dry: Dried beans, lentils, and split peas are less than $1 a pound and packed with nutrition. Cook up a pot and eat for three nights, turning them into a satisfying, Southern-style meal, Veggie Bean Burgers, or Pasta e Fagioli.
Do the math: A box of rice pilaf will set you back $2.29 and yield three cups, or one meal. Spend a dollar more on a five-pound bag of rice, and get the equivalent of 50 cooked cups. Mix with onions and chicken broth for DIY pilaf.
Heed nature's call: Seasonal, local fruits and veggies are always cheapest, so look for supermarket signs for produce from nearby farms. Bulk-purchasing lowers costs even more.
Chill out: Hit the grocery's frozen aisle for out-of-season produce that's affordable and full of flavor, as it's picked at its peak. Just bypass the pricey sweetened fruits or seasoned vegetables, and shop the store brand. Also a deal are canned veggies, especially tomatoes: A 28-ounce can delivers top taste for $1 less than the price of a pound of fresh.
Make the cut: Put in a little time slicing and dicing, and spend a lot less money on produce: Whole veggies and fruits can run a dollar less per pound than the precut versions.