Grocery shopping…

…with some media people is my mission in New York this coming week.   Should be interesting!   I’d love to hear from people who live in major cities:  how do you save money on food?

{ 12 Comments }

  1. I think the key is planning. It is so much easier in bigger cities to eat out, or to grab something easy from the grocery store. I think we have to undo the culture in the larger cities, the mindset that quick and easy is better. It often is not. Not only is it not healthy, but it is more expensive.

    One trick has been ethnic stores that you have suggested from time to time. They have great prices on produce, and spices.

  2. Yes, planning is key. The weekly ads coupled with coupons can save a bundle. I saved 60% this week doing just that!

  3. Someone told me this tip…….

    At the grocery store salad bar, just buy lettuce…….I plan to try it today. She said it was cheaper than the bags and buying lettuce by the head.

  4. Menu plan around sales and what’s in season at this time. Steer clear of boxed and packaged foods as those cost more money and are less healthy! Know which grocery store has the best prices on which major items since you’ll often have a choice of where to shop.

  5. Hi Mary–

    I live in NYC. Food can be expensive, but grocery stores vary widely in terms of quality. Some tricks that I use are:

    1. Use the neighborhood grocery for any dry, packaged items. They are much cheaper here. Yet often the meats and produce are older and lesser quality– although acceptable if you are cooking them immediately.

    2. Whenever we go to visit family, we stock up on non perishables from WalMart. Can’t beat the price and selection.

    3. Buy in bulk at BJs or Costco and store it under the bed.

    4. For fruits and vegetables, find a green market. There are seasonal farmers markets, and there is a fruit/vegetable stand in Hell’s Kitchen that is tent-like, but they have high quality fruits and veges at great prices. Fairway’s outdoor produce is great quality at wonderful prices also.

    5. Part of the concern with buying produce and milk in NYC is that it spoils much quicker than other areas of the country, I think due to the trucking it takes to get it here. We’ve begun an experiment with Fresh Direct (a local grocery delivery company) to see if delivering food twice a week is more time and cost-effective than the regular stores. Jury is still out on that– it may save time, but cost a tad more.

    6. Online coupons. I can’t remember the last time I received valuable coupons I can use in the mail or newspaper.

    Good luck!

  6. I live in L.A., and I agree with the people who say menu planning. At the start of each month, I gather the grocery flyers, make a list of the meat/produce/cheese on sale, and then plan a menu around that. We try to buy everything for the month at once, except produce and a few odds and ends. That saves us from being totally unprepared for a meal and just ordering takeout. (I love having so many takeout options, but it gets very expensive very quickly!)

    We live within walking distance of a grocery store, so if there is stuff to buy, I try to make a point of walking. If I have to carry everything home, I make fewer impulse buys.

    We also go to CostPlus World Market for spices and some other things like olive oil. The quality is just as good as most of our grocery stores, but the prices are MUCH lower. And we look for ethnic markets; a bottle of peanut oil that cost $10 at Food4Less was just $2 at the Asian grocery!

  7. I live in DC. I agree with several of the above comments: menu plan around sales, match coupons with sales, stock up when things are cheap. Most of our grocery stores double coupons up to .99 all the time. Buy locally and seasonally. Shop at Costco, but be sure to compare prices by pound or unit – sometimes it seems like cheaper to buy bulk, but you can actually do better to buy a lot on a sale or with coupons at the regular grocery store. Things like coffee, milk (I buy a couple gallons and freeze excess), cheese, butter, spices, produce and sometimes meat are really good buys there.

    I’ll emphasize that being aware of my spending has helped the most. There are so many opportunities to spend money in the city, whether it’s through eating out or having food delivered, or getting specialty foods at specialty stores. We sometimes splurge on these things, but with planning and self-discipline, we’re able to save so much if we just use cash for groceries and don’t give in to convenience foods or eating out.

  8. In NYC specifically- buy produce in Chinatown and take advantage of the many, many ethnic markets in different neighborhoods. Also, for Brooklynites, the Park Slope Co-op is very cheap as long as you can commit to volunteering a few hours a month (a requirement for membership). For most New Yorkers food storage (space) and the difficulties associated with carrying home large quantities of groceries make it difficult to buy large quantities of food. We’re also out and about in the city more often, so grocery shopping becomes and everyday activity with a few staples picked over the week. The challenge becomes resisting inpulse items.

  9. I live in San Francisco and will forego just about anything else to get good food. That being said, we shop at Trader Joe’s for organic milk, eggs, and dry goods. We shop at local produce markets for produce, and we shop around for chicken and other meats (which we don’t eat much of). We tend to pay top dollar for fish however.

    And, we never buy food that is advertised unless it’s a special treat. For example, we don’t eat cereal for breakfast and we eat fruit as a snack instead of chips or cookies. Rarely we’ll get chips but those tend to be the ones from Trader Joe’s label. Just by being in California, we tend to get good quality fruit for less.

  10. I shop in bulk and make my food. I almost never use coupons, because they’re generally for expensive pre-made items.

  11. When we lived in Buffalo…There was a wonderful salvage store at the end of our block. They basically had a lic. to sell out of date items. I would get yogurt or whack rolls for about 10-25 cents. they had all kinds of wonderful deals. I also am a great couponer, I cut the exp dates off. Now to some this is grey area. Consider this: Companies spend Billions of dollars to get you to buy their product. I’m doing that right? Win-Win!

  12. I live in Southern California. Here are some of my strategies for saving on food. Combine coupons with items on sale (check the weekly flyers that show up in your mailbox). Take a look at the clearance rack in the back of the store. I frequently buy baked goods at more than half off, and freeze them for later use. Also look for “manager’s specials” on lunch meat, vegetables, etc. Anything that is on sale because it’s close to its “use by” date. I stock my freezer with these items. Try to grow at least a few of your own vegetables. I only have space for pots, but I grow carrots, lettuce, peas, beets, tomatoes and basil, as well as other veggies from time to time. Make friends with neighbors who have fruit trees. I have oranges, peaches, plums and avocadoes as a result! Try and do something nice for your neighbors in return!