Grapeseed oilTrying out new recipes can carry a real price tag. Sometimes, I substitute other ingredients if I know I’m not likely to use them again (sorry lemongrass), but other times I really try to hunt down the complete list. That’s why there’s fish sauce, Gruyere cheese, and concentrated pesto paste hanging out in my fridge.

So if you’ve been looking for deals on some otherwise pricey ingredients, here’s where you might have some luck:

•Ingredient: Extra virgin olive oil

Where to find it: Costco

Scoop: It may not be imported from Italy, but for about the same price as a small flask anywhere else, I can buy a 2-quart jug at Costco. I save the pricier imported varieties to drizzle over meals that call for it (like on top of focaccia). But in most vinaigrettes, I’m using the less pricey brand.

•Ingredient: Cool cheeses

Where to find it: Trader Joe’s

Scoop: Fontina cheese can make a meal, with its smooth consistency and tangy flavor that’s slightly stronger than mozzarella (but note that it won’t make your sauces, like alfredo, stringy). At Trader Joe’s it’s around $2 a pound, cheaper than I’ve found it anywhere else. They carry a full array of cheeses at prices low enough that you can justify trying something new.

•Ingredient: Grapeseed oil

Where to find it: Marshall’s

Scoop: Prized for its high smoking threshold and its mild flavor, you might find grapeseed oil turning up in more recipes. But it’s a pricey ingredient–unless, that is, you find it a discount store. Check at Marshall’s for this specialty oil (and others!).

•Ingredient: Ghirardelli chocolate chips

Where to find it: Cost Plus World Market

Scoop: Okay, so this isn’t an exotic ingredient or anything, but if you’re looking for the 60% cacoa variety of the big chips, you won’t find it at the grocery store. I know, I’ve tried. The only place I’ve found it so far is at Cost Plus World Market (other than at Costco seasonally). Around the holidays the chips go on sale, pair that with frequent coupons they dole out with their Rewards Program–it’s free to join–and I can get my favorite chocolate, in a 30-ounce bag, for less than if I bought a grocery store brand.

•Ingredient: Tortillas, dried chilies, panko crumbs

Where to find it: Ethnic grocery stores

Sccop: Google  ‘ethnic grocers’ in your area. When I need to find fresh tortillas for enchiladas, I make a trek to a Mexican grocers. Ditto when I need specialty items for Japanese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, or Thai fare. Usually, the cost for ingredients is sometimes as much as half what I’d pay at the grocery store. And usually, I find other ingredients that inspire me to try more new recipes.

Now it’s your turn–where do you find deals on ingredients for recipes that you want to try–and you don’t want to spend too much?

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