Straight from the middle man

Ever wish you could economize on beer by getting it straight from the brewery? You can’t. Due to antiquated liquor laws and an oversized Annheuser-Busch lobby in Washington, breweries can’t even sell their beer directly to retail stores. They have to sell to distributors, who then sell to your corner deli or supermarket. Of course, there’s a price markup every time the beer changes hands.

nbdBut there is a way to cut in early: most distributors have warehouses in the city where they sell beer directly to the thirsty consumer. Unlike NYC retailers, they sell in bulk–kegs, 30-packs, and cases, meaning you can stock up for a fraction of what you’d pay at a deli.

For the bottle sipper, pick up a case of Brooklyn Pennant Ale for $33.59 at American Beer Distributors (256 Court St., Brooklyn–map), or a case of Dos Equis Amber for $25.99 at Carousel Beverages (436 3rd Ave., Brooklyn–map). If you’re really looking to save dough, grab a 30-pack of Genessee Cream Ale (it’s better and cheaper than Bud Light) for $15.99 at New Beer Distributors (167 Chrystie St., Manhattan–map).

Warehouses can be a Mecca even for the consummate beer snob, sporting celebrated but hard-to-find American micros like Left Hand, Allagash, and North Coast, and imports like Orval and Sinebrychoff. At around $10 per six pack they’re not cheap, but they’re cheaper than you’ll find them anywhere else in the city.

An affordable Korean lesson

When I started working in Koreatown in midtown Manhattan, I was shocked to find that it was just as expensive as the rest of midtown. My hopes for cheap Korean eats were dashed, until I discovered Woorijip (12 W 32nd St., Manhattan–map).

woorijipThis a la carte, cash only joint has a huge variety of Korean favorites (most of which end in -bap) for very reasonable prices. You can load up at the hot bar for $6.50 per pound, or pick from a range of boxed options. A tupperware tub of kimchi bibimbap (a spicy vegetable fried rice) costs $3. A big order of spicy chicken and rice rings up at $4. A hefty roll of kimbap (similar to a sushi roll) goes for $3.50-$4.50–the spicy squid roll that I tried had fresh ingredients, the perfect balance of squid and vegetables, and a spicy kick.

My experience with Korean food is admittedly limited, and I salivate when I think about the education my proximity to Woorijip is going to afford me.

A cheap, healthy, and sustainable resolution

csaFor most of my life, I thought that organic food was for rich suckers. Today I’m writing about it on a cheap food site. What changed? I found out about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Here’s how they work.

CSA members pay an average of $400-$450 per year. In exchange, they pick up a weekly load of fresh produce large enough to feed a family of 2-3. Over a 22 week growing season, that works out to under $20 a week, no more than you’d be spending on factory farm produce from the grocery store. But these fruits and vegetables are fresh, local, and sustainably grown. Your money supports struggling family farms in the New York area. And if csa2the price tag is still too high, most CSA’s have installment pay plans, some charge on a sliding scale, and many accept food stamps.

There are CSA’s all over NYC’s five boroughs, including in typically underserved, low-income neighborhoods. And for most, January is the time for new members to apply. To get more info and find the nearest CSA to you, check out Just Food, a CSA advocacy organization.

Penny Presents: A frugal gift guide

This Christmas everyone’s stocking is going to be a bit lighter than usual. Why not give a gift that keeps on saving? Here are three simple kitchen tools that will allow your loved one to indulge in common salary-suckers on the cheap in the comfort of home.

  • wafflerBelgian Waffler ($33.99, Kohl’s). Those luxurious Sunday brunches can be very relaxing…until you get the brutal bill. With a stovetop waffle iron, you can make crisp, fluffy waffles without braving the cold, and for pennies on the dollar. My family’s been making this easy Gourmet recipe for a decade.
  • stonePizza Stone ($24.95, Amazon). In college I spent twice as much on pizza as on books. I keep getting older, but pizza’s still addictive. So I bought a stone and started making my own dough. It’s cheap, fun, and easy. Check out this recipe, also from Gourmet. If you’re feeling lazy, Trader Joe’s sells fresh dough for a buck.
  • shakerCocktail Shaker ($6.99, Amazon). In stressful times, it’s tempting to drain a few cocktails. But if you’re at a bar you might as well be flushing your wallet. With a cocktail shaker you can make all sorts of relaxing potions without leaving a tip. With any luck, your friends will start tipping you.

Mideast meets Mid-Brooklyn

sahadiFor Brooklynites and other New Yorkers willing to hop the river, the path to any number of Arabian nights starts at Atlantic (Avenue, that is). Sahadi Importing Co. (187 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn–map) is your one stop for hard-to-find Middle Eastern goodies at cheap prices: chickpea flour for $1.98/lb, a 32 oz. jar of tahini for $7. Sahadi’s will also save you money on staples you can get anywhere: packs of 6 pitas for 80 cents, a pound of couscous for $1.80.

nutsI walked in for the first time in search of tahini to make hummus, and my eyes bulged at the vats of grains, nuts, seeds, dried beans, and spices, all for cheaper than supermarket prices. I left with an armfull of groceries, but not an empty wallet.

Before you head out the door, stop at the counter in back for a lovingly prepared, yet inevitably messy, $3 falafel sandwich, or any of a host of other Mediterranean goodies.

In the Heights: Low-cost wine hits Broadway

picture-1Washington Heights, of recent Broadway fame, is known for Dominican joints with wonderful food and seriously hole-in-the-wall decor. But the brand new Columbia Wine Co. (4038 Broadway, Manhattan–map) brings spiffy hardwood floors, recessed lighting, and a noticeable lack of bullet-proof glass, without jacking up prices.

I visited for free wine tasting, which the new shop is hosting from 5-8 every night for the next two weeks. The friendly staff was pouring four bottles in the $10 range. The highlights when I stopped by were a dscn3205Faunus Copertino Rosso and a Gecko Pinot Grigio, both from Italy and both going for $9.99, though they tasted like something well out of my price range. The store’s selection dips as low as $4.99, and almost every bottle is under $20.

They balance their wine list with an impressive array of liquors, including Brugal rum–a Dominican staple for a Dominican neighborhood–for the same price as Bacardi. One sip of the Brugal and you’ll never go back.