There are only two grocery stores within a thirty-mile radius of my house. One is VERY expensive, and I’ve gone there exactly twice in the two and a half years we’ve lived here. The other is a Wal-Mart superstore. Wal-Mart isn’t my favorite place to shop. Our Wal-Mart has poor quality produce and meat, but I tend to shop there once a month for staples, household goods, and toiletries.
I try to work the rest of my shopping into trips to ‘the city’. Since I work in a huge city located 80 miles from home, I have lots of options on my commute. Typically, I wait until after my last shift for the week, then stop at Winco or Aldi on my way out of the city. Shopping for several weeks’ groceries after a sleepless night isn’t ideal, but it certainly saves money and improves the quality of what I buy.
I keep an eye on the sales flyers for Aldi, Kroger, CVS, and Walgreens. If one of these stores has a loss leader that I need, I stop there on my commute. This week, for example, Aldi had plums on sale for $0.74/lb. I needed to go to the feed store, so I popped in Aldi on the way and bought 30 lbs. These plums will be eaten fresh, made into pies and cakes, and make enough plum preserves to get us through the year.
I’ve shopped the same stores long enough to know Aldi typically has the best produce deals. Winco often has great meat specials (although they don’t have a sales flyer). Kroger used to have wonderful seasonal produce deals, but in the last couple of years they have become hit or miss. However, they have occasional meat, produce, or milk specials that are worth picking up.
If I can’t work a shopping trip into a scheduled drive, I carefully weigh the savings against the time and gas involved. I would’ve made a special thirty-mile trip to get the great deal on plums, but if the price had been $0.99/lb I would’ve waited. Plums often go on sale for $0.99, so that deal wouldn’t be worth a thirty-minute drive.
Since I keep a full pantry, I can afford to wait for great sales. Because I preserve food for use later in the year, I can seriously take advantage of seasonal produce sales. Homemade plum preserves bring summer alive in January, but buying plums in winter would cost several dollars a pound and they would be much poorer quality!
I want to mention one of my favorite shopping tips. The town we moved from is large enough, that it has several ethnic communities. These communties have grocery stores that are designed to meed their needs. In our old area, there was a Middle Eastern shop, several Vietnamese shops (which also carries items for African cooking), and several shops run by the Mexican community.
I love going to these stores! These cultures tend to cook with more real ingredients and less prepared foods. I have found amazing deals on fruits and vegetables at all these stores. The meat sections are often more ‘nose to tail’ in nature. I have found wonderful deals on cuts of meat that aren’t as popular with mainstream America, but are delicious if cooked properly. Since Middle Eastern cuisine relies heavily on olive oil, they tend to have terrific deals on large containers. I buy olive oil in bulk for cooking and soap/salve making.
My favorite things to buy in these stores are herbs and spices! The Middle Eastern store in particular has an entire aisle dedicated to seasonings. I have bought eight ounce bags of cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, etc… for half the price of one of those little bottles or jars at WalMart. This shop is inconvienent for me, but the savings are dramatic! So, I wait until I’m in town to see family, then I run in and stock up for the year. Believe me, the savings are enough to buy the gas to visit my loved ones!
Shopping smart is all about finding balance. Yes, I could get cheaper prices on a few things if I made the rounds of every store weekly, but in the words of Sweet Georgia Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” So, I watch the ads, and try to do what’s best for my pantry, my bank account, and my (sometimes dubious) sanity.
Is there a place you shop that has amazing deals? How often do you shop? Have you ever gotten lost in an ethnic grocery store, because, you want to try all the foods you’ve never heard of? Please, leave me a comment if you have the time. I love to hear from y’all!
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