Buy The Biggest Onion

by Katy on February 2, 2015 · 28 comments

Big onion

There are countless frugal tips to save money on your food budget, but there’s one trick that will consistently save you money, and here it is:

Buy the biggest onion.

Not when it’s priced by the pound, but when it’s priced per item. Of course, this tip is not specific to onions. I also buy the biggest head of lettuce, the biggest lemon and I’ll actually grab a couple bags of potatoes and weigh each of them to get the most value for my money. The weight often varies by an entire pound, which makes it worth my effort.

See that onion above? It was in a box of normal sized onions, and was easily twice as big as the smallest one.

These seemingly little frugalities can make a huge difference in your food budget. And when you watch your small expenditures, then the larger amounts are available for the important things in life.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Lynette February 2, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Didn’t even think about weight my potatoes great tip!


Emma February 2, 2015 at 1:06 pm

Yes, buy the biggest bananas too when paying per piece ( that is how they charge at Trader Joe’s and Target around here)


Julia February 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

I always count the oranges or grapefruit in a bag. They may be a little smaller but the count is higher. There might be 6,7,8, or 9 in the bag. I always go with the higher count, since it’s per bag.


autumn thompson February 2, 2015 at 1:16 pm

I also look at the size of the potatoes to see if I can get a few baking potatoes out of them. Sometimes I can find a bag with 2 meals for half the price of a baking potato.


Lucy February 3, 2015 at 6:12 am

I do that too. It’s amazing how much a “real” baking potato costs!


Cheyanne February 2, 2015 at 1:24 pm

A market by my house often has onions on sale 5 lbs for $2. It’s a small market and you kind of have to use the produce ASAP, so I always get 5-10 lbs, chop them up in my food processor and throw in the freezer. It’s perfect!


Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom February 2, 2015 at 2:15 pm

That’s a big onion! We went over our grocery budget in January, so things are pretty tight this month. I wouldn’t think to weigh a bag of potatoes. This is an awesome tip!


rosarugosa February 2, 2015 at 3:37 pm

I don’t necessarily agree. I buy bananas at Trader Joe’s, and I buy the size that is how much I’ll want for breakfast. I leave the bigger bananas for someone with a bigger appetite.


WilliamB February 2, 2015 at 3:51 pm

My grandmother, who lived in tight-but-not-poor circumstances for much of her life, considered it a trade-off. You get more for your money if you buy the biggest; but because most people do this, you get better quality if you look amongst the smaller ones. So what I do depends on the item in question.


Beth February 2, 2015 at 4:24 pm

I often find smaller fruits and veggies taste better. Especially zucchini. Bigger isn’t always better.

I try to buy a size I can eat because it goes bad. There’s no advantage to buying big if I don’t eat it.


Isabelle February 2, 2015 at 4:55 pm

I do the same, but visually only (ex: biggest cauliflower). I am too shy to go mesure prepackaged stuff like potatoes. (And i never thought the weight could vary so much).
I miss the farmers market (summer time only, here, so june to september) where I can get so much more for my money at the end of the season, like a giant cabbage for a buck


Nathalie February 2, 2015 at 5:42 pm

I always do this with the cucumbers at Aldi… trying to buy the largest one since they’re sold by the piece. I often wonder what people think when they see me “fondling” the cucumbers, trying to find the firmest and largest one from the bin 😉


Katy February 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm



kris February 3, 2015 at 4:52 am

LOL, I always think that too! Reminds me of the line in Don’t Tell Mom The Babysitter’s Dead — “Sue Ellen, every girl over 25 should have a cucumber in the house.” ha-ha-ha


Kelly in MA February 4, 2015 at 7:57 am

I’m one of those people that attracts stares in the produce department. I used to work on a produce farm and learned a ton from my boss. I still knock on watermellon (should sound like a hollow door underwater) , smell tomatoes (they should smell like earth and plant- what I have always though of as how green smells), I shake my bag of grapes (no spiders please) and all sorts of other things. I figure that I’m willing to get looked at funny so I can take home produce that lasts the week.


Hannah February 2, 2015 at 5:48 pm

I always look for the small to medium sized onions myself. The large ones are too big for most recipes that I make, and once you cut into them the clock is ticking to use the rest up. I also buy onions by the pound as a rule. I find there is always a bad one hiding in the prepackaged bags. If I ended up throwing some out, it would invalidate any savings.


marieann February 2, 2015 at 6:31 pm

Oh! Katy you just gave away one of the secrets of how to get rich……now everyone will be doing it 🙂


Chris February 2, 2015 at 6:40 pm

And when you get that giant onion, chop the whole thing and freeze what you don’t need, flat, in a ziplock. No tears the next time you need a little bit of onion for something, and no waste!


Katy February 2, 2015 at 9:36 pm

I’ll freeze the extra on a baking sheet and then put in either a Ziplock or a plastic lidded container.


Marcia January 13, 2023 at 10:25 am

I’m going to have to try this out but in my case because I dislike onions but still like a little bit in sauces and such to round out the flavor.


Wendy February 2, 2015 at 11:32 pm

I always buy the biggest onions and potatoes, even if they are priced per pound, because the bigger the onion or potato, the less waste. More usable onion for my money (+ in case of peeling potatoes, peeling 1 big one is faster than peeling 3 small ones 😉 )


Bellen February 3, 2015 at 3:01 am

Not much produce is sold by the ‘eaches’ here but when cucumbers were down to 72 cents I just picked out the best one. Now, 3 weeks later, they are 88 cents each and I, too, fondle them to get the biggest and best one.

One interesting thing I noticed is that sometimes organic heads of cauliflower are bigger than regular ones and on sale are the same price. However, since organic must be separated from regular produce you must ‘travel’ the aisle for comparison and many people won’t do that. That few cents savings is worth the extra steps to me.

FYI organic produce must be in a separate location or at least at the top of the particular produce section to prevent contamination when the misting is done.


Jess February 3, 2015 at 3:56 am

same with meat – often for a $10 package of meat, there’ll be maybe 500-700g variation in weight. I pick through to find the biggest.


K D February 3, 2015 at 4:55 am

I do this with avocados all the time, as well as cauliflower. I don’t believe I have ever seen onions priced by anything other than price per pound.

Sometimes garlic is cheaper by the pound than in a multi-pack, at our local Asian market. I weigh both types of garlic and then decide.


cathy February 3, 2015 at 6:23 am

Has anyone ever tried weighing produce from Trader Joe’s to see how much it really works out to by the pound? (If it’s not in a bag, then everything is sold by the individual piece–not a scale to be seen in the store.) I’ve often wondered just how competitive the prices really are.


JD February 3, 2015 at 9:31 am

I’ve weighed my pre-bagged produce for a long time, and sometimes count the individual items inside the bag as well. For fruit eaten out of hand, I tend to look for the smaller fruits in heavier bags in order to get the most servings per purchase, but for potatoes, which I usually cut up to cook, it’s just the heaviest bag most of the time. There are some real differences in bag weights.
We just got a Trader Joe’s, and when I saw how the produce was sold, by the piece, with no scales, I just gave up and left. I can’t comparison shop that way. I had already walked the aisles looking for other deals, but didn’t see much to impress me price wise compared to my regular stores. Maybe I need to look more closely, but so far I’ve been in there twice and bought nothing. I haven’t been back in months.


K D February 3, 2015 at 1:36 pm

The other thing is to buy sale produce and if it keeps well buy enough for a few weeks worth of eating/use. When apples or oranges are cheap I buy enough to last a while. Avocados will keep if refrigerated, as will carrots, kiwis, and pears.


Nicola January 13, 2023 at 5:21 pm

Alternatively, if you eat breakfast at home, you could buy the big ones, eat what you want and freeze the rest. You would soon have enough “free” banana bits to make something with. Banana bread, ‘icecream”, banana pudding :-).


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