Cooking with Alison

Grocery Budget Challenge – Where to Buy Food to Save Money

In Grocery Budget Challenge, Mind Your Cents on August 31, 2016 at am

This article is part of the Grocery Budget Challenge series. See the Introduction here.

One strategy to saving money on groceries is to be strategic with where you purchase them. Here is what has worked for me.

  1. Grocery Stores
    • Large chain grocery stores
      • Large grocery stores tend to have the best prices and weekly sales. Every now and then, they will even take a loss to offer an item at a ridiculously low price. These are always advertised in their flyers; sometimes they last only 1 to 3 days. Other times, the store will place limits on how many of the item you may purchase. The retailer’s intention is to convince customers to go into their store for the sale and purchase the rest of their groceries while there.
      • But if you’re able to go to multiple grocery stores each week, then you can take advantage of different sales and get the best prices for all of your groceries. Just take transportation costs into consideration.
    • Price matching grocery stores
      • If you’re not able to hit up more than one store each week, try to shop exclusively at a chain that offers price matching. That way, you can take advantage of the advertised sales from other grocery retailers.
      • If you’re price matching meat, take the product to the butcher, show them the flyer and ask them to reprice it for you. Be sure to learn your store’s policy, e.g. which competitors they will price match, how many items you are allowed to price match, etc.
      • My favourite flyer app is Flipp. See more information here.
    • Discount grocery stores
      • Discount grocery stores that are affiliated with premium grocery store chains are a great option. Often times, the discount chains sell the same high grade of fresh produce as their premium parent companies at a much lower price (as much as 40% less).
      • My favourite price matching, discount grocery store is Real Canadian Superstore. I also really like No Frills, but they are independently owned, so the quality of the produce isn’t consistent across all locations.
    • Independent grocery stores
      • The prices at small, independently-owned grocery stores are usually higher than chain grocery stores. However, some of them will offer free beef bones, chicken necks, or various offal (organ meats) to their customers (just ask the butcher if they have any such offers). Bones are great for making broth and soup. (See a Vietnamese beef noodle soup recipe here.) You can also eat the attached meat, soft bone, connective tissue, and marrow.
    • Asian grocery stores
      • Asian grocery stores tend to price their fresh meat and produce at lower prices than the large grocery store chains.
      • They are also a great place to get all sorts of ingredients that you don’t normally see in larger grocery stores, including inexpensive gizzards, organ meats and other animal parts. Here are some examples of what I look for:
        • chicken livers (for pate), chicken soft bone (recipe here), cows tongue (for sandwiches), calf liver (pan fried with onions), pork kidneys (stir fried or boiled in congee (recipe here)), chicken hearts (stir fry or boiled in soup), duck kidneys and gizzards (braised), pork stomach (for Chinese soup, recipe here), and duck tongues (stir fried recipe here).
      • If you aren’t ready to try cooking offal, look for soup bones instead.
        • See recipes for Korean pork bone soup here, Japanese chicken ramen here, pork ramen here, and fish soup broth here.
      • Some Asian grocery stores sell chicken carcasses for very little money. The carcasses have a surprising amount of meat on them. You could boil or oven roast them and then remove the meat using your fingers. Use the chicken to make salads, sandwiches, or wraps, and boil the bones to make soup and broth.
  2. Chinese BBQ shops and stands
    • Chinese barbeque shops roast a lot of whole pigs every day, so instead of letting the heads, legs and feet go to waste, they will sell them very cheaply. Here’s how I’ve used roasted pigs legs:
      • I recently bought a pigs lower leg and foot for $2. I reheated it in my toaster oven and enjoyed the crackling (crispy skin) with rice and vegetables. Then I deboned it. I got 2 or 3 servings of meat from the leg which I used for other meals. I then used the bone to make broth for a noodle soup bowl. The broth was very flavourful and smoky.
      • Other times, I put the pork leg in congee (see recipe here). Another great thing about roasted pigs legs is that they can be frozen and crisped back up in the oven after thawing.
  3. Farmer’s markets
    • Shopping at farmer’s markets allows you to support local farmers and businesses while reducing your carbon footprint. It’s also a great way to buy the freshest produce in season. The produce purchased from farmer’s markets tend to keep longer than produce purchased from grocery stores which means less food waste.
    • However, it’s not always where you can find the best deals, so shop around at all of the vendors before making a decision.
    • In the fall, I go to farmer’s markets to stock up on vegetables that will keep all through the winter when stored in a cool, dark place (e.g. squash and pumpkins). That way, I can pay in-season prices for them and enjoy them all winter long. Just be sure to ask the vendors for their recommendations as to which vegetables to purchase and how to best store them.
  4. Bulk stores
    • Buying in bulk can save you a lot of money, especially when you take advantage of sales. Just keep in mind that not all items sold in bulk are actually a great deal, so shop around and do your research.
    • Stores like Bulk Barn are a great place to get dried and ground goods. Larger, membership-only bulk stores like Costco sell all sorts of products, including furniture, appliances, toiletries, prescription glasses, gasoline, over the counter drugs, cleaning supplies, clothing, linens, tools, fresh and frozen food, etc. See here for tips on how to maximize your savings at Costco.
  5. Dollar stores
    • Not all items at the dollar store are a good deal, but some of the canned beans, canned vegetables, and pasta are very well priced compared to grocery stores. You can also find boxed mixes and condiments at the dollar store. Just be sure to check the expiration dates very carefully, because some dollar stores sell past-due food.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: