Idaho food prices and a grocery giveaway

I wanted to answer a few questions about the grocery prices the kids paid this week.  Milk, oil, and butter were split between several kids to keep the prices affordable.  But most things were bought individually by each child. They did pay a bit more for eggs by not buying the 5-dozen I usually do– $1.19/doz instead of $1/doz, but most prices were comparable to my normal finds. This project was helped hugely by the bulk department at our local WinCo.  Kids were able to buy one cup of sugar or chocolate chips, two cups of rice, and a pound or two of flour for the same price as I typically pay for larger quantities.

Incidentally, I provided the spices for this venture, but for most folks the bulk dept is a great place to get those items too.   There it is possible to buy 20 cents of one spice and 15 cents of another.  I know that not everyone has access to a good bulk department, but if you do, it tends to be worthwhile to check out those prices.

Here are some of the prices our kids paid for the food they bought this week:

  • 3 lb bagged apples- $1.99 (WalMart)
  • bone-in chicken thighs- $.98/lb (Paul’s, WinCo- normal price)
  • milk- $2.42/gal (Winco, WalMart- normal price)
  • eggs- $1.19/doz (Winco- normal price)
  • American cheese $1.19 for 16 slices (WalMart)
  • 8 pk frozen burritos $2.69 (WinCo)
  • 16 oz sour cream $.99 (Paul’s on a great sale– usually we pay $1.49)
  • Flour $.31/lb (WinCo bulk bins– normal price)
  • 5 lb potatoes $1.39 (Paul’s on sale)
  • 10 lb potatoes $1.99 (Winco on sale)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips $.58 (Winco bulk bins- normal price)
  • onions- $.49/lb (Winco, better than usual price)
  • regular ground beef $2.98/lb (Paul’s, normal)
  • 24-pack ramen for $4 (WinCo- normal)

These prices may be way better that prices people are paying elsewhere.  (Canadian folks, sounds like you face majorly high prices in general.)  But I have shopped several places around the US in my traveling and was able to find similar prices.  Austin, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma come to mind.

A few years back I had the fun of shopping at Whole Food in New York City, and found store-brand milk and pasta prices comparable to the best Idaho prices I could find at the time.  NOT what I’d expect in Manhattan. I also saw killer prices on spices in the Asian markets– better than I ever find in Idaho.

When you look at the Idaho prices above, keep in mind those are the best prices from four different stores in our area. Lots of these items can routinely be found right here for 50% higher than these prices, and Idaho folks that zoom through the store quickly might not even see the prices we found.  For example- Honeycrisp apples bought by the piece are double what we paid per pound for our 3 lb bag of Fujis.  Kraft American cheese is a dollar more than generic. Some brands of sour cream are routinely double what we paid.  I often pay $2.99 for 10 lb of potatoes.  And on and on.

My point?  In nearly every store, careful shopping can find you better prices than the ones you might first see front and center, chest high, in pretty packaging. When I shop, I routinely scan high and low and side to side in each section where I’m looking.  At Wal-Mart the Meadowgold brand milk is only one shelf higher but 50 cents more than the Wal-Mart store brand.

Often the assortment is so huge that it can take a few minutes to find, for example, the cheapest per-ounce price on bacon.  You may need to look in the dairy case and at the deli counter to find a winner.  (Hint:  I often buy ugly-looking bacon ‘ends’ to fry for bacon bits in potato soup, pasta carbonera, or as toppers for potatoes.)  To save the most you need an eagle-eye.   At first it can seem really hard, but with practice it gets routine.

Oh, and by all means– stock up when the getting’s good.  I bought 4 pounds of sour cream on that good sale.

I do realize that many people in big cities have their options severely limited by lack of transportation. Because of that, really good prices may not be as attainable.  But I do believe that most folks can save to a certain degree if they’re persistent and patient.  Choosing the simplest food and cooking it for yourself can save you even more.

Speaking of groceries, I have a two-part giveaway for you today.  The folks at Stop and Shop recently sent me a selection of their own store brand groceries, including apple juice, pasta, canned fruit and cookies.  They have offered to send one of my readers the same sampling of groceries, which they call their Snow Day Survival Pack.  In addition, I’m giving away a $25 gift card to their online grocery delivery service.  The Snow Day Survival pack can be shipped to anyone in the U.S.  The $25 gift card needs to go to someone who lives either in their grocery delivery area, or near one of their stores, most of which are in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, or Rhode Island.

To enter the drawing, comment below and tell me about one good grocery store deal you’ve found by being eagle-eyed and shopping carefully.  And if you happen to live near a Stop and Shop or in their delivery area, tell me which state you live in.  That way when I pick a winner, I’ll be sure to assign the $25 gift card to someone who can actually use it!

My most recent deal came on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago when I spotted 85% lean ground beef (yesterday’s grind) for $.98/lb.  I bought everything they had– about 15 pounds of hamburger.  I haven’t seen ground beef priced like that in more than a year.

I’ll pick a grocery winner on Monday.  In the meantime I look forward to hearing about your bargains.

{ 78 Comments }

  1. I’m in Ohio.

    My deal today was chocolate milk for 1.79 a gallon and white milk for 1.98. Kroger had gallon milk on sale 2.29 and when that happens the 1/2 gallons frequently get marked down. They were dated the 19th and 20th so plenty of time to use or freeze. I also picked up several cans of pumpkin for .75 a small can to put away in case it’s hard to find in the fall.

  2. My deal is buying herbs in the bulk department at Winco. Instead of buying a whole new little jar of the stuff for $3, I refill the empty ones from the bulk. A lot of herbs and spices are $0.50 or less per ounce. I looked on my prepackaged herb containers and the small ones only hold 3 oz. So that is a savings of 50%.
    And I am in Idaho.

  3. I scored gallons of skim milk for $1.69 at Sam’s club. It’s usually $1 more than that there but over $3 at my regular stores. I needed milk and was pretty sure the price was a mistake but I was committed to buying it anyway because it’s the best price in town. I was thrilled when it rang up at $1.69!

  4. Oops! I’m in Connecticut, Stop & Shop is a great place for sale items!

  5. Those are some good prices, and I live in south Texas, but our milk and eggs and potatoes are about $1 higher, each, than your prices are, and that’s at costco. Even more at the regular grocery store. I would love a sample pack! My high schooler that is sitting here reading your blog with me wants to take the $20 challenge, but I think I will wait for summer when her schedule is less hectic. Good idea!

  6. deal of the day…organic oatmeal in the bulk section of Winco for 86 cents a pound!!!

  7. My jaw is dropping at the prices you all are talking about. Here in Atlantic Canada, a gallon of milk (which we purchase in bags) at a “cheap” price is $6. Some places charge up to $8. Our 500 ml sour cream is equivalent to your 16 oz, and a GOOD price for that is below $3. Eggs are $2-3 per dozen. Flour at a good price is $9/10 kg (22lbs), but usually it’s more like $12-13. So I’m not feeling too bad about spending $1000/month with prices like ours (family of 8) when I realize just how much more our groceries cost. My goal is to refine our shopping even more to get us to an average of $800 without us feeling like we’re giving up all the extras.

  8. We live in Los Angeles and I regularly check the international isles for better deals. The same product in the international isle might be 50% cheaper than the exact same product in the “regular” isle. = – )

  9. Something I never buy are Tyson Anytizers – but one time a store had a Grand Re-Opening Sale. I also had coupons – so instead of paying 6.98 a bag at Wal-Mart I was able to comp price them and use the coupons and get them for 1.48 a bag! Of course now my kids are asking for those treats and we can’t even begin to afford them! I live in Illinois.

  10. Right after Christmas, my grocery store realized they had way overstocked on butter and were selling it $.50 lb. My freezer was filled!

  11. I’m in Wisconsin.

    My favorite find lately is 16 oz. of Kemps sour cream for .28. I will never, ever pay more than 1.00 for a 16 oz. carton of sour cream and will buy whatever’s cheapest at that price, but to score Kemps for .28 was an awesome deal!

    • Sarah, you make a great point. It’s a great idea to have price points that you will not go beyond, being willing to substitute other foods instead. Homemade yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream when sour cream goes too high. When a loaf of bread got higher than $1.30/loaf around here (even at the bread store) I decided we needed to start baking our own bread. I don’t buy apples for more than $1/lb. I’ve had to adjust my ground beef max up to $2.50 lately (I only buy regular, not lean). For chicken I try not to pay more than $1.80/lb, which means I often buy bone-in, not boneless. We have so many different food options in the Western world that we can afford to be flexible and use other food when some food costs get too high.

      • I was unaware of the yogurt substitute for sour cream (although it makes sense!) so thank you for that! It’s interesting to look at different prices around the country, I think…here, I could NEVER find ground beef of any quality for less than about $2.80/lb. But, I can generally find boneless skinless chicken breast for about $1.66/lb. (only when purchased in a 3 lb. bag…$5 per bag). Love seeing how prices vary (maybe I’m weird that way!).

  12. Here in Boston (yes, Stop & Shop delivery area)we have fruit and veggie stands set up around the city where you can usually get fairly decent prices even if the fruit is sometimes a little too ripe. And usually, the guy will throw in few pieces of free fruit if it is towards the end of the day and he doesn’t want to pack it back up again. Anyway, my greatest bargain was the time they had a 5 lbs bag of Baby Spinach for $3!!! It is usually $3 for a 1 lbs bag around here, so it was a $12 savings. The upshot was that it is only my husband and I at home, so we were eating Baby Spinach for a long time…

  13. I had a manufacturer’s coupon for organic canned tomatoes and then found a store coupon at the store. So I was able to get 28oz. cans for less than $0.75 each.

  14. Beth Gallagher says:

    Love finding great deals, as my little girls eat like starving lumberjacks! The day after “superbowl Sunday” I found an unadvertised sale on chicken legs at 0.40/lb. Delicious! 🙂 Also, love Stop & Shop.

  15. We live in Colorado, but have found spices are cheaper in the Hispanic foods section than in the regular spice isle.

  16. I just got back from my first trip to Aldi – I was floored at some of the prices! I had to bring everything back to my office, so I refrained from buying much. My favorite deal was 4.49 for 4 4oz of wild salmon. That’s almost half of the normal price I pay for individually wrapped salmon filets! I’m in NC.

  17. tia bennett says:

    I am in Indiana. My latest good deal was ground turkey marked down to $4.99 for a 4 pound package. I bought all they had. I browned a bunch with ground beef to freeze in one pound pkgs, and made some into meatballs, and meatloaf.
    Love good deals!

  18. I love to buy cases of canned beans for $2.00 at a local scratch and dent sale. That ends up being less than 10 cents per can. I am in Idaho.

  19. I’m happy you guys have such great food prices! Like you, we always shop around and often go to 2 or 3 different places that are within our walking distance. Our prices in NZ are much higher (about $9.50 for gallon of milk), but that’s the cost of living in a small country down in the corner of the globe! I think the point is to be a good steward with the money you do have and find the best prices where you can 🙂

  20. Jabber Jaws says:

    I’m in Dallas, TX. My best find is typically fruit. Since the kids eat everything, I buy the cheapest and A LOT. My 11 year old will eat 4 oranges, 4 or apples and 1.5 pounds of grape A DAY. We have to tell him every morning how much he can eat for that day.

  21. I live in New Jersey. My great deal was $1.49 for pork loin. I bought 20 pounds.

  22. Feeling a little jeolous of the great buys….
    I found Pillsbury cookie dough (the large almost 2 pound rolls) for 49 cents each – I had 3 coupons on me for $1.00 off 2 rolls – so they were free!!! home to the freezer they went- planning on using some to make V-day cookies this weekend
    The real lession is to pay attention to the dairy mark down bin at Krogers and to take my coupon book to the store ….(and I live in Ohio)

  23. In central Indiana, the best deal I’ve found recently was lean ground beef for $2.49 lb and a 2 pack of roasting hens for $5.50. They were marked down to about half of their regular price.

    I also compare prices between brands and have target prices. I’m not afraid to substitute ingredients if I find a better deal on something else like the ground beef above. We’re fortunate to have an Aldi in our town. I’ve found them to have the best prices on a lot of basic ingredients and produce. We like many of their items better than the national brands, and I’ve noticed that many items their with minimal ingredient lists.

    I buy my spices in bulk, refilling my smaller jars. We don’t have bulk bins on those, but I find great deals on those at the ethnic stores or I buy at Penzey’s. Ethnic grocers are a great source for low cost spices and staples if you have any available to you. Advertising, packaging, and processing are all things that you “pay” for when you purchase an item. If you can do some of that production yourself, you’ll save money.

  24. For several weeks in a row now, I’ve been able to price match milk at Walmart for $1.57. I can’t get over it.

  25. When I moved from Pennsylvania to Mississippi last year, my grocery shopping became a lot more expensive (moreso than the increase in expense in the move from Chicago to PA). I’m talking nearly double. Meat and fruit/veg are especially more expensive. Plus, I lost access to Aldi:(

    Here, WalMart brand skim milk is nearly $4. I always check around, but usually cannot find it less anywhere else. We recently switched off of cows milk, though…

    My best hint is making things yourself. I saw a spice jar of “cinnamon sugar” for $3. I just mix my own from the cinnamon and sugar I already have which costs pennies. I make homemade chicken nuggets instead of buying the frozen (processed) kind- using bread crumbs, it’s really only a bit more than the cost of the chicken, not $6 for a 14 oz bag! I rarely use “shortcut” items- for instance, instead of Shake-N-Bake I just buy (or make) bread crumbs and flavor as we like.

    But my biggest grocery find was boxes of cake mix for $0.25/each. I don’t think I could have made from scratch for less!

  26. Ahh so jealous of your prices! My small town Alaska store has a dozen eggs for $3.20. All of your prices appear to be about a third of ours =/ I was amazed when your challenge for $20 a week has worked, but seeing the prices, I understand 🙂

  27. Getting eggs from my parents’ chickens. Free is always the best deal. 🙂

  28. getting deals on chicken by buying the large family packs.

    and I am surrounded by Stop and Shops!

  29. My husband’s grandmother gave me her leftovers from Christmas baking because she only does it once a year. I got cocoa, 2 lbs. flour, and 2 lbs. brown sugar FREE.

    Yay!

  30. Chex mix, using double coupons with a sale.

  31. It’s different here in western Canada too! I bought 4 litres (1 gal.) of 2% milk today at No Frills (the cheap cousin of Superstore) for $4.67 + 25 cents deposit + 5 cents recycling fee. It’s about 40 cents cheaper at Costco but that’s in the city an hour away. I often buy dairy goods that are at the best before date for 50% off – $2.39 for 1 litre whipping cream and $1.30 for 3% natural yogurt today. Chicken breasts were $3.81 on a big sale today, a better deal than bone-in thighs even. It’s the produce that gets us at this time of year! Bananas – 77 cents/lb. Apples, Gala – $1.49/lb. Peppers – $2.97/lb.

    My deals this week – celery – $1.27/bunch, cauliflower – $1.29/head, spinach – $1.47/bunch(and so green and fresh looking, which is rare around these parts!), green and red grapes – 0.99/lb – a real steal in the middle of winter.

    I love the challenge your kids are doing! I love reading your blog too 🙂

  32. Wow, it’s been years since I’ve seen milk at $1.50-something. The two best milk deals here (Nebraska) are an occasional half-gallon for $1 or gallon for $2.79.

    Right now my freezer is full of prefab pie crust (leftover Christmas stock, I’m sure). At 88 cents for a double crust, that’s not especially fantastic as compared to the price of ingredients, but when you consider that it takes absolutely no time to make it, to me (three kids, a job, a house, a husband, a farm, and two hours of commuting every day) it’s worth the deal. That’s a really quick pie or pot pie solution.

    I also have a bunch of butter that was $1.50 a pound (more leftover Christmas stock) and some close-dated quarts of half-and-half that were $1.

  33. Wow, most of you get milk for pretty cheap. I’m in Maine, and there is a state minimum and you cannot get it on sale, or use coupons. Its about 3.45-4.00 a gallon.
    My best deal lately is not really a deal, but a man we know gets all the “day old food” from Shaws and there is TONS of outdated food that isnt really old. If I could get to his house everyday we could practically eat for free except basics like milk, eggs, meat. Its disgusting and very sad how much food the stores get rid of!

  34. Last week I had four Jiffy popcorn coupons that were about to expire. While shopping at Publix I noticed that the Jiffy 4-pack mini bags were on sale of 10 for $10. You still get the sale price if you buy less than 10. My coupons were for $.50 and our Publix doubles all coupons under $.50 or under. So…I got four packs (16 total mini bags) for FREE!!!

  35. ***2nd post…in Alabama our milk runs $3.79/gallon.

  36. We used peapod after I had my second daughter. They had great deals on produce! Like $1 per pound organic apples.
    soluckyducky atgmail dot com

  37. Wow! Our milk and eggs here in Tulsa are much more expensive. I shop at Aldi’s for these and easily save at least .40 on each of these items, but it’s still $3.19/gal for milk and $1.29/doz for eggs. Other prices seem comparable though. I do love living near an Aldi’s for getting a lot of our staples like cereal, milk, eggs, cheese, ground beef/turkey, baking supplies, and coffee/tea. I’m not super thrilled with their produce though. The prices are fine but I find that there is usually some waste in each item due to spoilage. I stick to carrots, celery, potatoes and onions there. The rest of my shopping gets split between Walmart and Akins (a natural foods store where I buy our gluten-free products like pasta, pizza crusts, and bread).

    Again, I just have to say that I think this was some really creative parenting on your part to have your teens learn how hard it is to feed a family on a budget and still provide healthy food. I wish I were as creative in my parenting, but I am not so I appreciate the blog world and wonderful moms like you!

  38. At Kroger last week, I found a box of Cinnamon Life for 0.99 because it’s cardboard package was damaged. A few weeks ago, Super Target had 8oz packages of Hillshire Farm Honey Ham on sale for $1 because the expiration date was nearing (still 3 days away). I was able to buy several containers and then freeze all but one as we go through deli meat in less than 3 days.
    BTW, I do not live in the Shop and Stop delivery area.

  39. This is not really to enter a contest, but I wanted to say that I think this is a good way to teach your younguns about a budget. And to have them do the cooking. Our middle son worked his way through his undergrad degree as a cook in a restaurant near campus. He was always the kid at my elbow in the kitchen, so he learned alot.
    One of my New Year resolutions is to “Buy American” as often as possible. The first week, I went grocery shopping, reading the tiny print on the labels of so many products.
    Cans of ‘cut green beans’ for a national brand, the actual product was from Malaysia, while the Kroger house name said “grown and Processed in the USA” and besides, it was 18¢ less per can than the national brand.

  40. I recently purchased Stop and Shop brand diapers for $3.99 a package. They were $5.99 and I used a $2.00 off coupon that I received at checkout. I have found that they work as well as the major brands. With three teenagers and a toddler in the house I need to save every penny. I live in Massachusetts and Stop and Shop is one of the stores I shop at weekly. Their weekly specials are good.

  41. Can I just whine? We are in a small town and have Walmart and HEB. I love HEB but Walmart matches their prices and has lower prices on most everything else. That said, we are 20 miles from a bigger town that has a Sams. 30 miles from Austin where everything is, but we have no discount food chain here. Surprising, right? I think the best deal we’ve had recently though is finding seasoned chicken leg quarters for .99/# at both Walmart and HEB.

    • Sorry Jeri, I can comiserate, we also live 30-40 miles from the deals. I only shop once or twice a month to save on gas and try to combine trips to the thrift shops and other things we don’t have in our small town.
      I shop at Aldis & Costco in the city and definitely save the gas money by avoiding our tiny expensive local store. (Gas at Costco is 10-20 cents cheaper a gallon too, so I try to go with a near empty tank!) My husband picks up milk or bananas or whatnot occasionally to bridge the ‘fresh’ gap in between shopping trips. The only thing I buy local is meat and randomly potatoes by watching the sales flyers carefully, the sales are seldom but I recently got boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.19/lb. It was pretty tough bird but I’ve been marinating and stewing it and that helps. My other recent deal was three pound bags of apples at Aldis for $1.30–I bought 20 bags. We dehydrated a bunch, made sauce, and we’re just now eating the last bag.

      • I’m in the same boat here in Upstate NY. My nearest Walmart is 30 minutes away and it is a less than desirable one. If I go 45 minutes there is a much nicer one and many other stores nearby. We have a small grocery about 10 miles from us in the town where the kids go to school, but the prices are insane. 4.25 for a gallon of milk. 80% ground beef for 4.99lb! I recently needed potatoes for dinner and paid 4.89 for a 5lb bag, and then half were unedible, apples run about 3.50 for a 3lb bag. It is a national chain but I guess because we are a small tourist area they can get top dollar. There are times the prices are better but not great. Even when we drive to the larger areas the prices are at least a third higher than what I paid in Colorado a year ago.

  42. I just moved to LA from a much smaller city — and am just trying to get my footing as far as prices go! I don’t know if I’m paying a good price or getting ripped off until I get to see all the stores…because all the prices seem too expensive to me! So lately, the best deals I’ve gotten were by going to a Mexican market on the other side of town; produce was really reasonably priced there!

  43. I’m in Indiana. The website says I’m within their region. 🙂

    I recently moved, and my mom has been showing me the grocery stores in this city and helping me find the best deals. Yesterday I did a 3-store shopping trip. I bought a jar of oregano at Aldi, figuring they would have the best price. I was chagrinned to get to Whole Foods and find that they carry bulk organic spices with prices that rival Aldi’s non-organic spice bottles. Does spotting a deal I *didn’t* save money on count? 😉 During the same shopping trip, I did buy bagged apples instead of the bigger, loose ones, which were much more expensive per pound. I’ll get the hang of this!

  44. In the “reduced for quick sale” shopping cart at the local grocery store I found gourmet exotic vegetable chips for less than a dollar. We rarely splurge on junk food, so I felt good getting a healthier alternative as a special treat.

    I’m in Iowa. 🙂

  45. I live in East Texas. I recently found boneless skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.49/lb. This is a sale that isn’t unheard of around here, rather ‘occassional’. I always wait until the price is about that (no more than $1.70/lb) when I stock up. I tend to buy 10-20 lbs. at a time and freeze them in smaller portions. My stock usually lasts until the next time the sale prices hit $1.49/lb!
    It’s fascinating to me how drastically different food prices are across the country! :-O

  46. Just wanted to say I love the idea of challenging older kids to do something like this. I’ll be brainstorming some version of this for when I feel my 15 year old (my special needs dude) can handle it (I wouldn’t be able to police usage of other foods in the house very well with him, so $20 on soda might work out too well for him! hmmm…). My 12 year-old might be able to handle some version of it already.
    Any way you slice it, figuring out how to spend on groceries can take a lot of energy. It’s amazing to see where you find surprisingly high or low prices– you definitely can’t count out or in a whole store. And then there’s the whole matter of quality vs. price and sometimes apparent value. For example…
    …every time I choose to buy a 3lb bag of apples, I can’t help but notice that they’re very small, and a higher percentage of the weight I’ve bought is core and gets thrown away. Also, there are always bruised ones in a bag which take away from the edible parts further. So was it a batter choice? No way to measure.
    …if we really want to eat processed ingredients (having been raised in a dairy state, I’ll probably always be a snob about real cheese vs. “cheese food” or “cheese product”, which is what most call “cheese”!) , hormones, oils made with chemical solvents, horrible agricultural practices… all the issues
    Choices, choices, choices. Anyway, thanks for keeping me thinking and paying attention.

  47. Best food deal I scooped up was a dozen garlic & pepper marinated chicken legs for $1.59 at Buehler’s in Orrville Ohio

  48. Hmm, like you, I am always on the lookout for good prices. I can’t think of any deals that stood out recently, aside from my usual bulk stock up at winco. 🙂

  49. I love the Aldi produce deals. Last week I got avocados there at 3 for $1.00!

  50. I have gotten good deal on diapers before when they change the picture on the package and markdown the leftover ones.
    I don’t live in Stop & Shop area, but my parents do, so I could give it to them if chosen.