You see your weekly or monthly spending on food and, odds are, you’re not too happy. You may have even said to your spouse: “Do we really spend this much on food?” The answer may be yes, but it doesn’t have to be. You can learn how to shop more wisely without compromising your food quality, time, and energy by simply changing where you shop for food.
Now, before you read this entire post, we want you to remember that this is not an all-or-nothing system. You can implement a few of these tips gradually, at your own pace. Also if some of the listed options are not available in your area don’t despair! Just implementing some of these principles will help you make some progress on improving your food spending.
Aldis: This is a great store for all of your staples. Milk, eggs, bread, yogurts, and even some produce, are significantly cheaper here than in other stores. A gallon of milk at our local Aldis, for example, will run you just $1.69. Their produce section sometimes offers incredible sales on avocados, mangoes, eggplants, peppers, and other items. We often create meals for the week based on the items on sale in the produce section. The frozen fish and fruits prices aren’t too bad, either. Aldis even carries knock-off Girl Scout cookies! Unfortunately, they do not carry kosher cheeses, poultry, or meat. Their online site does not provide prices on food items, but does offer information about weekly sales. Bring a quarter when you go so you can use a cart, and don’t forget a few bags so you don’t need to pay extra at the checkout line.
H-Mart: This store, or any local Asian market, will be your best option for produce, tofu, fresh fish, rice, and Asian condiments and staples. The produce is not only very cheap, but there is a greater variety of exotic fruits and vegetables that you miss out on at other mainstream, American grocery stores. You’ll be able to find ten different types of mushrooms, four different types of eggplants, horn melons, and a plethora of other produce you didn’t even know existed. You’ll see more tofu there than you have ever seen in your life, and many of the brands carry that lovely OU symbol we so desperately crave. If you can brave the smell, the seafood corner offers a delightfully diverse set of options and because getting kosher fish is as easy as seeing it in the flesh it’s a much simpler protein source for kosher (or halal) than meat or poultry to begin with.
Local ethnic markets: For lack of a better term “ethnic markets” are an awesome place to get great prices on produce and staples, and some more interesting options for spices and packaged goods. It’s not always easy to find that many kosher options at stores like these but I’ve been pleasantly surprised many times in the past. Another thing that I particularly like about this genre of grocer is that if you’re interested in a particular cuisine you can generally find the staples for that cuisine at an ethnic market for drastically cheaper than you’d see at a more mainstream food store.
Costco/BJs/Food Warehouse stores: These membership based bulk buy stores are nice, especially for us FieryFamily types with a few kids, but don’t get sucked into the trap of overbuying! We used to live close to a Costco that even had some good kosher options for meat, poultry, and cheese and while it is really nice to have those items at somewhat more affordable prices I always have to be careful not to get carried away and put myself in a position where I can’t store effectively or finish everything that I’m getting.
An even better alternative is a place like Restaurant Depot which has wholesale prices, but to qualify for their free membership you need to have a document showing that you’re a non-profit or a business. Not to worry though, there are many ways to qualify that you might not expect. You can try to sign up for an organization you’re associated with, like a synagogue, mosque, or church, and because the membership comes with multiple cards you could retain one to use (if your organization is okay with it).
Giant/Shoppers/Food Lion/Shop Rite/etc: These are the national chain local groceries which I would only visit at a last resort or if I’m stuck without supplies or ingredients for a time sensitive project. I generally don’t like going to these places because the prices are high and they’re optimized to get you to overspend, but when I do find myself there I’ll check if there’s anything we might want to use in the clearance shelf.
We hope this post was interesting or helpful in some way. We want to clarify that we’re not financial planners or experts so take everything you read here with a grain of kosher salt (that is to say a large one).
Also, just in case you’re not already tracking your expenses and net worth like you and I both know you probably should be, don’t worry- Here is a link to sign up for Personal Capital, that’s what we use and trust for our family. I love the clean displays, great calculators, planning tools, and the ability to easily categorize your transactions. You can even make your own categories- take that Mint! Plus, if you sign up with the link above, we’ll both get $20 in Amazon credit, so it’s a win-win-win!