I’ll start with my tips for shopping for dairy and eggs (I may address cheese in a separate post, it’s that important!).
Butter- I usually buy this at Costco. Keep in mind that butter freezes BEAUTIFULLY, so it makes sense to buy in bulk. It feels extravagant to me to buy both unsalted (for baking) and salted, so I always buy the Kirkland salted (not organic). I haven’t tried Kerry Gold. It seems too expensive for me to buy on a regular basis and I don’t want to risk developing a taste for it.
I know what butter costs at Costco, so I only buy butter elsewhere when I see it for a better price. Remember it’s okay to buy in bulk, it freezes so well. You often see the best prices right before holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. But it might pay off to watch at Easter, the 4th of July, etc.
Ghee- buy butter and make your own. It’s not that difficult (though I strongly recommend that you don’t leave the kitchen while you make it). It’s too expensive for me otherwise. But it’s so wonderfully rich and yummy. Totally worth it. Similarly, it is easy to go a step further and make your own browned butter. It’s really good on vegetables (broccoli!) and in baked goods (those without chocolate, so the flavor shines through).
It is worth noting that the volume goes down when making ghee or browned butter from butter. You are cooking out some moisture and removing the milk solids (or not, I like leaving them in my browned butter). I think it’s worth it (at least sometimes) for the concentrated flavor. It’s worth noting that ghee and browned butter (with milk solids strained out) might be tolerated by those with milk sensitivity when butter isn’t.
Edit: FYI- Ghee and strained brown butter are also more shelf stable at room tempersture (even in tropical climates).
Eggs- I usually buy these at Costco. They used to have a very good deal on 7 dozen medium eggs. They didn’t have these the last time I shopped there, so I bought their package of 5 dozen large eggs. Still a great deal.
I have seen better deals occasionally at Ream’s, Davis Food & Drug (in West Valley City), Macey’s, Dan’s, or Lucky’s. So, it’s always good to check the ads, especially at Easter time when most stores have great deals.
Cream Cheese- i usually buy Philadelphia brand cream cheese. It is the only brand I’ve tried that works well in most recipes. The other brands don’t blend or cream well with other ingredients. I’ve wasted food because of poor results.
I regularly buy Philedephia cream cheese at Costco in the big tub (about the same size as their sour cream containers). Smith’s has a fantastic deal that is a better price ($2.99 for a 2 pack with additional $1 off digital coupon) about every 2 to 3 months. You might also find better deals at other stores before holidays like Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas.
In my experience, cream cheese does NOT freeze well. It changes the texture too much. It does, however, stay fresh much longer than the expiration date would indicate. I’ve used cream cheese up to a month or two after it’s expired with no detectable ill effects. Feel free to judge me, I won’t feel bad since I didn’t have to waste any of my precious cream cheese. Legal disclaimer: That’s my own experience. Ignore the expiration date at your own risk.
Sour cream- I often buy this at Costco. I use a lot and I have found it also stays edible long after the expiration date (see all the qualifying statements I made above regarding cream cheese and expiration dates, and proceed at your own risk). I think it also helps to regularly pour off the liquid that seeps out of the sour cream.
I regularly see great deals on ‘store brand’ sour cream at most grocery stores ($1 per 16 or 24 oz). So, that might be a better deal if you don’t use as much or if your budget won’t allow you to fork over more money all at once for the bigger container at Costco. Again, watch for the best sales at holidays.
Heavy whipping cream- I usually buy the 2 quart container of Darigold Heavy Whipping Cream with 40% butterfat at Costco’s (it’s a product that is hard to find elsewhere). It does have added carrageenan. But it’s hard to find any cream without it outside of Whole Foods or Sprouts (and those brands are way too expensive for me, and don’t have as much fat).
I occasionally find a better price (on sale) on the Darigold at Smart Foodservice Warhouse Store (formerly Cash & Carry). There is no membership required. They don’t accept food stamps. I’m not sure about credit cards. Their hours of operation are more limited than most grocery stores since they seem to cater more to businesses like restaurants.
I like that the Darigold container has a screwtop lid that helps preserve the contents better than the smaller containers that you have to peel open the top (like the milk cartons I used to get at school). The 2 quart container is also pretty big and if you don’t use it quickly (or even if you do), I recommend shaking the carton well before dispensing or you end up with a very thick sludge at the bottom. You don’t want to waste any of the yummy goodness.
I do see HWC on sale (as low as $1 for a 1/2 pint) at many grocery stores (store brands as well as other nationally available brands). Again, watch for the best sales around holidays.
Cream does freeze well, but the resulting product is best used in cooking, not coffee.
Yogurt- I don’t eat this very often. It’s hard to find low carb, high fat options. I’ve used Trader Joe’s Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt in a 16 oz container. It’s the lowest carb I’ve found at 7 grams per cup, although some sources suggest that many of these have been consumed by the bacteria used to make the yogurt, so it may well have fewer carbs in the end product. I hardly ever eat more than 1/2 cup at a time. I make my own “full-fat” version by adding HWC to up the fat and richness. Its very good. It also stays perfectly fine for long after the expiration date (see the legal disclaimer above regarding expiration dates).
I have yet to try making my own yogurt using HWC. I’ve heard it is pretty easy and would probably be more affordable if you eat it often.
Ice Cream- This category is problematic for a budget conscious person. There are no great prices.
Halo Top ice creams- They are available nearly everywhere. They often go on sale (though they are kind of expensive for me). The best everyday price is probably at Walmart. They may not carry as many of the flavors and may sell out of some flavors more often.
Halo Top ice creams also vary widely in how many net carbs are in a portion, so check the labels carefully. I find it hard to keep my carbs down because I want to eat more than one serving- which also makes them les budget friendly for me. They have lots of questionable (less clean) ingredients that some people won’t want to eat.
Breyer’s CarbSmart ice cream is available in Vanilla, Chocolate and Peanut Butter flavors. I’ve seen the vanilla at several stores (Target & Walmart, I think). I have yet to actually see chocolate or peanut butter in a local store, but I haven’t been looking. Those may just sell more quickly. It’s about 5-7 net carbs per serving (depending on the flavor). Carbsmart also makes some ice cream bars. I haven’t looked at them or for them in local stores. I assume they would go on sale when there is a sale on the other Breyer’s products.
Breyer’s ice creams also have questionable (less “clean”) ingredients that some people won’t feel good about. I’m not adverse to trying some as a treat. Especially the ice cream bars since they are naturally portion controlled.
Rebel Creamery- I really enjoy this ice cream. The flavors aren’t overly sweet or strong, but they are complex. Rebel is available locally at Harmon’s in Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint Chip & Peanut Butter Fudge. My favorite is either Mint Chip or Peanut Butter Fudge, depending on the day. It is expensive but goes on sale occasionally for $1 off (or so). Their ice creams have so few net carbs that I’ve been known to take a whole pint to the movies as a treat. So, definitely not budget friendly, I keep it as an occasional indulgence. Interestingly, I have noticed that my ketone levels actually go up the morning after I’ve eaten a whole pint as a dinner substitute.
Rebel has also put out some new flavors (Cookie Dough, Butter Pecan, Strawberry and Coffee Chip) which I haven’t tried. I haven’t seen them at any of the Harmon’s where I shop, but I haven’t really been checking recently.
Homemade ice cream is your best best, but is also problematic. It requires a fairly significant outlay in equipment, cookbooks (if baking is science, ice cream making is rocket science; I wouldn’t recommend winging it) and specialty ingredients. Once you’re up and running you’re gonna get the best product for the least investment on an ongoing basis.
I’ll edit to add more info if I see any glaring omissions in this post.