5 Money-Saving Panini Tips

by on January 3, 2009

5 Money-Saving Panini Tips

Now that we’re all tapped out from our holiday shopping and the economy is still in the doldrums, I thought it would be worthwhile to offer up some money-saving tips when it comes to grilling panini.  Because, truth be told, the cost of making these things can start to add up!

1.  Get to know your deli counter

Save money - buy your meats and cheeses at the deli counter

You might expect that the price of having a deli counter employee slice your meat and cheese for you to order and the price of buying the same exact items in pre-sliced packages would be roughly the same, right? Nope!  At least not at my local grocery chain, Vons.  I checked a number of deli meat and cheese items and found that in most cases you save at least 20% buying at the deli counter vs. the pre-packs.

Pre-Pack vs. Deli Counter

For example, an 8-oz package of Primo Taglio Provolone cheese costs $4.99, or $0.62/oz.  The exact same brand of Provolone is sold in bulk at the deli counter for $7.49/lb, or $0.47/oz.  That’s a savings of 25% over the pre-pack!  Plus, you can specify exactly how much you want to buy so there’s less opportunity for waste.  True, it may cost you a little more time to grab a number and wait in line at the counter. But if you’re not in a hurry, wait at the counter – your wallet will thank you.

2. Leverage your leftovers

Turn last night's roast into great panini

You don’t have to go out and buy special fancy ingredients to make great panini – last night’s roast or this morning’s bacon are excellent sources for sandwich fillings.

I’ve parlayed leftover ham into Ham & Brie Panini, with grilled onions and a honey-Dijon dressing on herbed rye. Leftover chicken dishes have become Chicken-Grape Salad & Gruyère Panini and Chipotle Chicken (No-Flip!) Quesadillas.  And I’ve made Turkey, Cranberry & Havarti Panini, Prosciutto-Wrapped Turkey, Avocado & Swiss Panini and Pulled Turkey Cranberry BBQ Sliders all out of leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Giving your leftovers new life as panini is an excellent way to save on the cost of panini ingredients – plus your family will applaud your creativity!

3. Go “day old” –  you’re grilling it anyway!

Go on, day-old bread is just fine when you're grilling it

Just because we’re looking for ways to save money doesn’t mean we necessarily have to compromise on quality.  And, in general, if I were to suggest substituting day-old bread for fresh-baked that might sound a whole lot like a quality downgrade.  But here’s the thing – you’re grilling the bread anyway.  With panini we’re not going for that fluffy moistness we value in fresh-baked bread. Crispness is the name of our game. So when presented with the opportunity to save a few bucks and purchase day-old artisan bread you shouldn’t have any qualms about going for it.

The same goes for frozen bread. You didn’t use the whole baguette this time around?  Don’t toss the remainder.  Wrap it up tightly in aluminum foil or some Glad Press’n Seal (my new fave wrap), seal it in a plastic freezer bag and freeze it.  The next time you want to grill some panini, just thaw it out at room temperature (generally best not to thaw it in the microwave).

4. Better yet – bake your own bread

Bake your own bread - the aroma is your reward!

The thought of making panini with anything other than bread made this very morning is too much to handle? Well there’s still a cost-effective option for you: baking your own bread.  If you’re like me, visions of dough and kneading and rising and all that usually goes into baking bread lead you to give this tip a big “No way!”. But I urge you to give it a chance – it doesn’t have to be all that involved.

I’m about to give bread-baking a try myself, with the help of a new cookbook I just picked up from Amazon called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The authors, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (whom I follow on Twitter), show you how you can enjoy freshly baked bread every day with just five minutes of active preparation time. No kneading, no starter, no proofing yeast and no need for a bread machine – sounds perfect to me!

There are a few upfront costs involved, such as purchasing a baking stone and a few other tools that make it easier to yield good results. But if you think you might enjoy baking bread on a regular basis then you should definitely see savings over purchasing store-bought bread in the long run. And did I mention the aromas?!

5. Whip up your own condiments

Making your own condiments is cheap - and tasty!

Don’t you just love to ogle all of the jars of yummy dips and spreads and mustards and chutneys and tapenades in the condiment aisle? Usually it takes just a spoonful to pack a flavorful punch in your sandwich, but the cute little jars are hardly budget-friendly. The good news is that condiments like these are generally made up of basic ingredients so you can easily make them yourself and get your flavor punch without spending a lot of money.

Need some good condiment recipes?  Sean at Hedonia recently posted an enticing redux of the “holy trinity” of American condiments: Maple bourbon ketchup, tarragon Dijon mustard and sweet yellow squash relish.  Elise at Simply Recipes offers a host of tasty options that would be wonderful on panini, including Cilantro Lime Herb Butter and Eggplant Relish. I’ve come up with my fair share of simple condiments as well, based on flavors I thought would taste great with the sandwiches I was grilling, such as BBQ mayo, arugula mayo and BBQ remoulade (guess I was on a mayo and BBQ kick this year :-)).

In summary, despite their fancy name panini don’t have to be pricey.  With these money-saving tips you’ll be well on your way to making great panini for less. Do you have more money-saving tips? Please share them in the comments!

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy:

>Ready to buy a panini press? Check out my Panini Press Buying Guide for the features to look for.

>Want more panini recipes? See my Recipe Index for a list of all recipes on Panini Happy.

>Traveling to a new city soon? Browse Panini Happy’s Great American Sandwich Guide to find the best sandwiches across the country!

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

1 S. Lynne January 3, 2009 at 8:55 am

I want to second the recommendation of “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.” I have been baking from that book for over a year and the results are delicious! It is a fast way to have fresh artisan bread whenever you want it.
Thanks for the tips, and best wishes for the new year!


2 Laurel January 3, 2009 at 9:47 am

When possible, I grill outside or use a smaller appliance (like a panini grill!) instead of heating up the oven. Not only does the oven use more $ on the electric bill, it may also heat up the room causing your AC (I live in Florida) to run more.


3 Lys January 3, 2009 at 10:57 am

Love this post – some great tips. I have leftovers in the fridge that I’m going to use for a Chicken Balsamic BBQ Panini with Arugula for dinner.

As for the bread, I’m about to start learning to make my own. I got a lovely little bread machine over the holidays so we’ll see how that pans out.


4 Amanda January 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm

That’s a really good tip about the deli meat – I usually just get so lazy I grab the ones that are prepacked so I don’t have to stand in line and talk to someone.

But considering the amount I would be saving, it would be well worth it.

Another money saving thing I do for paninis is when I eat out, I always save a bit of the meat dish in a doggy bag and toss it in my sandwich the next day along with some fresh vege.


5 Arlene January 3, 2009 at 1:55 pm

Great suggestions! I’ve had the “Artisan…” book for a few months and have not tried anything yet. I’m looking to you for your experiences.


6 Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) January 3, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Great ideas here, especially about using the deli counter wisely. No waste, you can order exactly as much as you need. And I believe any leftover tastes better pressed between two slices of bread, with a bit of cheese!


7 grace January 4, 2009 at 1:27 pm

i’m all about leftovers and making my own bread. as far as other tips, i greatly recommend coupon-cutting–it takes time, but it’s a great money-saving habit! 🙂


8 Angela January 4, 2009 at 7:15 pm

I bought the artisan book today and made my first loaf. OMG!! This is fantastic bread! I am so excited 🙂 It was really easy. Next is to make a panino with it. I think I will try your Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil Panini. Thanks for the suggestion!


9 Pam January 5, 2009 at 12:24 am

What a great post. I always buy the pre-packaged meat because I thought deli meat was so much more expensive. I will be checking out our deli the next time I am at the store.


10 Dragon January 6, 2009 at 8:51 pm

This was a wonderful post! Thanks for the great tips.


11 kellypea January 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm

Great suggestions! I’m a Von’s shopper too, unless I want to save $$$. Using leftovers is my fave way w/paninis, but in a crunch, Trader Joe’s can really save some $$$ too. Good luck w/ Artesian Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It’s a fabulous book w/bread that will make great paninis!


12 lo! January 7, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Great tips!
Looking forward to following your blog… right into 2009! Happy New Year, Kathy!


13 Jude January 8, 2009 at 2:26 am

Very nice cost breakdown and tips.. I’m all about #4 for sure.


14 Colleen January 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm

We have that artisan bread cookbook, too. (Purchased before the moratorium on gluten, alas!) We got some great bread out of it.


15 Regina January 12, 2009 at 3:15 am

What a great post! I loe your site…so practical..and yummy!


16 RobinSue January 12, 2009 at 7:22 am

These are some great tips. I liked the one about making your own spreads. I often buy a spread for one meal and then find it months later in the back of the frige. What a waste. Making it myself I can control the amount I need. Thanks!


17 Marc @ NoRecipes January 14, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Nice tips! I always go to the deli counter since I like my things freshly sliced, but I had no idea it was cheaper!


18 Nicole January 14, 2009 at 8:47 pm

Great tips! Thanks. I will keep them in mind.


19 Lorena January 18, 2009 at 3:00 pm

This are great tips, especially making home-made condiments! The condiment I love making at home is Aioli, it is easier to make than people think.


20 Capri January 4, 2010 at 9:06 am

Thank you for having this wonderful site! I love to cook different recipes all the time. I’ve NEVER made a panini before nor have I ever even considered it until my lovely step daughter gave me a panini press for Christmas.
This site has covered all the basics and much more to paninis!! Keep up the great work!


21 CountryCook March 2, 2011 at 10:21 am

We save quite a bit of money by processing our own meat, canning garden veges, making own tomato sauce-chili sauce-spaghetti-pizza-etc…, making own jellies and jams and BAKING MY OWN BREAD…
It absolutely is not difficult!!!!

Here is a super easy very versatile french bread recipe for you to try:
(hint-eat first day fresh with pasta,soup, etc…..second day as Paninis)

*dissolve 2 1/2 tsp dry yeast in 1 C warm water sprinkled with 2T sugar- let set until yeast is activated and foamy (5-10 minutes)
*Add this to your stand mixer or a big bowl
*beat in 1 C flour and 2T olive oil & 1 tsp salt until nice and smooth
*if using a stand mixer, switch out to dough attachment-add 2 more Cups of flour and mix on speed 1 or 2 until a nice smooth ball forms-continue mixing for about 5 minutes or until nice elastic consistency
*take dough out and grease the bowl with a little olive oil, put dough back in and cover with a towel to rise until double
*punch down, allow to rise to double again
*take out and form into whatever shape you like depending on how you will use it
*Bake on baking stone in 375 oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown and sounds kinda “hollow” when thumped
**variations: add onion powder& garlic powder and form into breadsticks—top with a mix of 1 stick butter, 4T onion powder, 4T garlic powder, 4T romano/mozz blend grated dry cheese when they are fresh out of the oven–yum!
or just use your imagination-its a very versatile dough
It’s easier than you think!


22 Kathy March 2, 2011 at 10:38 am

I love to bake bread – I’ll have to give this one a try. Thanks!


23 Kari Morris December 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm

I am now starting to make my own breads now. It is a lot easier than I thought. I recently attended a a baking demo by the king Arthur flour company and learn so much and their website is very helpful and easy to follow. I made my own yeast rolls for thanksgiving this year and everybody liked them. Kingarthur flour .com also has professional bakers online to chat with if you have any problems.


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