If you are currently engaged in a never-ending quest for lower grocery bills, it is time to start considering how to spend less time in traditional grocery stores and more time in “alternative” ones. It generally means giving up the convenience of the “one stop shop” and going to several places on shopping day. However, it is worth the extra time when you see your dwindling food costs. Alternative food stores will vary greatly depending on where you live, but here are some ideas to think about when you begin your search:
Bent-N-Dent: Bent-n-dent stores and others like them offer discount canned and boxed groceries that have been damaged in transit. You can really stock up on some basic foods items here like pasta, rice, canned fruits and vegetables and boxed items such as cereals and other basic commodities. Many of these stores have also branched out and will sell items like seasonal produce grown by local farmers or farm-fresh eggs since these items are proving to be so popular with consumers across the country. Oftentimes in stores like this, there will also be a bulk foods section, where it is possible to stock up on whole food items which you can use to make dishes from scratch rather than buying expensively processed or pre-packaged foods. Typical bulk items include whole wheat and other flours, portions of pasta, dry beans and peas, and brown and white rice, all of which are great building blocks for a budget-friendly pantry. If you look in your local yellow pages, you will likely find some sort of store in your area which deals with slightly damaged goods and if you have never been in such a store, you will be amazed at how far your dollar goes there!
Outlet or Overstock Stores: Once you start exploring outlet or overstock grocery stores, they might quickly become your favorite way to shop! These types of stores are a little different from the “bent and dent” variety, as the items they sell have not been damaged in transit. Instead, stores like this specialize in selling overstocked items that include all sorts of canned and boxed goods and frozen foods. Some may even carry limited produce as well. What’s more, they often additionally carry household goods so items like garbage bags and household cleaners can be had here at great discounts. Again, check in your local yellow pages to see if you have any “overstock” stores in your area, as you can save a lot of money when you shop there.
The Farmer’s Market: The farmer’s market/local food movement is catching on in a big way all over the country and now most towns and cities of any size will boast one. Depending on the area, some of these markets will be year-round and some will not. There is also a lot of variation in what is on offer, but in most of the larger farmer’s markets, it is possible to purchase locally raised and butchered meat as well as local honey, vegetables, fruits and berries, and sometimes homemade cheeses or other dairy products. All the products are from local farms and dairies that gives you access to wonderful, farm-fresh food. If you have the freezer space, it is nice to buy a surplus of vegetables and fruits during the growing season which you can freeze to use over the fall and winter; it is also possible from some markets to buy large cuts of meat and freeze them to use over a period of time. This is a great and healthy way to save money on future grocery bills. If you are not aware of where farmer’s markets in your area are, a good place to start is the National Farmer’s Market Directory, www.nfmd.org. The information is organized by state and should be able to get you in touch with markets in your area.
Day-OldBakeries: Many towns will have day old bakeries which specialize in selling, as the name implies, day-old products (often from other bakeries) such as pieces of bread, muffins, and other baked goods. This can be great if you have children and make packed lunches for them, as it can be a great way to get very well-priced bread for sandwiches. You might also want to check in regular bakeries in your area, as they will sometimes have a “day old” shelf or section for any items that have not sold from the day before.
Aldi’s: This international chain of discount groceries stores began in Germany but now has stores all over the world, including many around the United States. They carry a full line of groceries, including everything you would find in a regular grocery store, though the choice of any individual item might be more limited. They have excellent fresh produce and meat sections, as well as canned and boxed goods, dairy and specialty items. You do have to get used to the Aldi’s experience, however: in order to get a cart, you must pay a quarter, which is refunded when you return it to the cart corral; you also must pay for grocery bags, though these are pretty sturdy and can be reused. The prices on everything are great and you can really stretch your grocery dollars pretty far. There is a store locator on the Aldi’s website to find one near you.
Hunt around your town or community, and once you start looking for alternative places to shop, you might be surprised at what you find, even in a smaller, more rural area. You will be even more surprised at the dent that it makes in your grocery bills!
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