If you live on a budget like I do, you surely know the recent pinch when it comes to grocery shopping. Prices seem to be going up more every week that I shop. While this is unfortunate when trying to keep costs down, and can make you feel like things are out of control, there is hope. Learn where to buy cheap groceries.
Today I’m sharing tips for where to shop for affordable food. There are a lot of ways to shop for food outside of the supermarket. I’ll give you insight into places where I buy food along with some places you might not have thought of before. Thinking outside the box when buying food can help you save more money on groceries.
Where to Buy Cheap Groceries
Keeping Down Grocery Prices
It can feel like prices are out of your control while shopping. Many foods, especially meat and dairy, are more expensive than ever. Outside of shopping at specific locations it’s helpful to use coupons, buy items when they are on sale as posted in the ads; and seek out markdowns.
These are great practices to follow all of the time, not just when sticking to a budget. It also helps to have a feel for pricing. If you cannot memorize prices, you might try creating a pricing journal or grocery price book, which lists all the normal prices for groceries in your area.
I am pretty good at remembering prices, for example I recommend having a feel for the prices of a gallon of milk, one pound of ground beef, a loaf of bread and other staples. By knowing the normal price you can avoid buying the item in bulk at top dollar, unless absolutely necessary.
In addition, you can spot a deal when the price per pound, for example, of ground beef drops below average and buy in bulk. It helps to freeze items you buy in bulk or purchase a deep freezer for storage.
Grocery Buying Guide
I am not going to cover what you should buy in this post. I have already talked about that before in my post about the cheapest groceries. Reading that post can help you streamline your shopping. Instead, today I’m sharing outside of the box ideas on where you can shop for food besides going to a regular supermarket.
Keep in mind, going to the supermarket is still fine and shopping at a larger store can mean you can find good sales, markdowns and specials. But there are other options as to where to shop. Let’s get into the list now.
• Local Farmer’s Market: Shopping at a local farmer’s market during the summer helps cut out the middle man. Farmers bring their produce directly from their farms to you. Often vendors will accept cash and you don’t typically see “tax” on the prices at the market. In addition to fresh produce you can find cheese, homemade bread, jams, canned goods and more.
• Join a CSA: This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy local produce at an affordable price. For the last two years we have been a part of Murray Hill Farm CSA in Cleveland, Ohio. Not only do we get a large amount of produce each week as CSA members, all of the produce is also organic. I freeze and can items from our CSA to extend the harvest even more.
• Dollar Store / Big Lots: Until a few years ago when our local Big Lots went out of business, I used to shop there a lot for food! Now the location is a bit too far away from me but Big Lots carries a lot of food products. Often these items are discontinued items. This means they are perfectly fine to eat, the manufacturer simply decided not to continue producing the item. I’ve also purchased plenty of non-discontinued food items here as well including pantry staples such as rice and beans.
• Pick Your Own Farms: Each year I try to find more pick your own opportunities near us. This year we went strawberry picking in June. Then in July we went blueberry picking. Each fall we also go apple picking. You can save money on food when you go to a pick your own farm because instead of paying an added built in fee on the item for the labor involved with picking, you do it yourself!
• Grow Your Own Garden: While this isn’t a traditional place to “shop” for food, having your own garden can allow you to save quite a bit of money on produce, herbs and more. If you don’t grow your own garden, try to befriend a gardener! I grow a lot of garlic each year and have been happy to supply family and friends with some of my harvest. This helps them save on their own food purchases when learning where to buy cheap groceries.
• Butcher Shop / Bulk Meat Buying: Years ago we were customers of a chicken breast meat share. Unfortunately that company is no longer in operation but there are other meat companies, such as Chicago Steak Company, that operate in the same manner. You will want to know meat prices well before deciding if joining one of these shares will save you money. You may also need to buy meat in bulk. Other ideas are to shop at your local butcher store are look into purchasing a whole or half cow, either for your family or with another family.
• Ethnic Food Stores / Supermarkets: This is one of my new favorite grocery shopping secrets. Seek out local ethnic food stores for some super deals. I found a local bodega near me and they not only have great prices on Latin American food and ingredients, but they also sell some staples in HUGE bulk packages. If you’re looking for a 10 or 20 pound bag of beans or rice this is the place to go!
• Directly at Local Farm / Farmer Stand: Lastly, don’t forget about shopping at a local farm. There are a handful of local farms near us. For example the farm we pick strawberries at also sells produce. I’ve found staples like green onions for much less than the supermarket charges. Even better, your food is local and not being imported from across the country. Some farms also allow you to buy in bulk so you can buy a bushel of tomatoes, for example, and bring them home and can them.
Where to Buy Cheaper Groceries
I hope this list of where to buy cheap groceries helps you think outside the box before your next shopping trip. Depending on the season, some options are more readily available than others. For example, in Ohio, where I live, farmer’s markets are primarily a summer offering.
Knowing this can help you plan ahead and even preserve the harvest. For example you might buy tomatoes in bulk and do some home canning of sauce to get you through the winter.
Am I missing any frugal places to shop?