January 5, 2008

Where to Find the Best Deals on FOOD!

I admit, grocery shopping on a budget can be a daunting task.  To save the most money, I have been known to go to about 5 stores in one day to get different items at the cheapest price.  If I don't have time, typically I'll just head to Trader Joe's and then a regular grocery store to pick up the extras.  But here are where I have found the best deals:

1)  The 99 Cent Store:  I know what you're thinking, "Ewww!  Aren't all their products old or expired?"  The answer is thankfully "No!"  More and more, the 99 cent store is stocking Organic produce and items that you would find at your local grocery store.  In fact, many times I go to both stores in one day and find the exact same items.  I always check the expiration date first, but have never gotten an expired item from there.   It is almost always cheapest to buy the following items here:  Napkins, Paper Towels, Soap, Soups and other canned food items, and items from their freezer section and refrigerated section. 

I am fortunate to have a brand new 99 cent store down the street, and it is the nicest one in the area.  But if you have an old smelly one by you, it might be worth the drive to find a better one! :)

2)  Costco:  I wrote a previous blog about the pros and cons of Costco, but they do have cheaper dairy, bread and meat.

3)  Target:  Have you checked out Target's food section lately?  WOW!  They have the same great products that are at Ralph's but for half the price, not even on sale!  This is the best place to buy cereal, canned food items, drinks, and household items (cleaners, detergents, etc.)  Their cereal is so much cheaper than a regular grocery store, as well as shredded cheese (only $2 a bag vs. $4 at Ralph's!)

4)  Trader Joe's:  Some people think Trader Joe's is more expensive, but I have found the opposite to be true in many cases.  Their cheese and meat is more expensive here, but canned food items are comparable, and they have great cheap snack items.

5)  Ralph's:  Ralph's is one of the more expensive grocery stores out there, BUT if you are a coupon clipper, this can be the best store for you!  I can't even count how many free items I have gotten by using double-coupons (esp. toothpaste).  However, if you don't use coupons, it is probably best to stick with Albertsons.

6)  Your Local Farmer's Market:  Almost every week I head to our Farmer's Market for fresh produce.  It tends to be cheaper and fresher than at the stores, and you don't pay extra typically for organic items.  I have a rule that for fruit, I won't pay more than $1.50 a pound.  If a fruit is more than that, I'll choose a cheaper item instead.  It also helps to go an hour before closing, because many vendors start cutting their prices to sell what is left.  Sometimes, if I know that Ralph's is selling apples for .99 cents a pound, I will buy them at Ralph's instead of the Farmer's Market (since it might be cheaper), but the FM often sells at very low prices.

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