Groceries for Cheap
California is good for produce. We are very grateful to live in an area with abundant, good, food. So this post is geared with that in mind and will mention the local grocery "hacks" we have here.
Places we love to shop for food:
Local Mexican Grocery Stores - there are quite a few in the East Bay that have amazing service, produce, meat, and fish for really good prices.
Las Montañas Supermarkets are one our favorites.
Grocery Bargain Outlet - My husband is a bigger fan then I am. They have a little bit of everything. I can get a good deal on meat, cheese, avocados, mushrooms, spinach, etc. Worth mentioning, they have a crazy deal on imitation crab (random, but my husband is a fan).
Costco - Duh. We usually get laundry detergent, toilet paper, paper towels (so bad I know), bread, olive oil, pesto sauce, roasted chicken, diapers, oat meal, and sometimes cereal. I think they have the best paper goods section. We are big fans of their pizza and smoked salmon for special occasions. (sometimes they have really good sales on sparkling cider!) Our floor mats are also from here and are great quality for the price. They have an awesome return policy.
99 cent store - Probably the one we go to the most. They have great prices on canned food, tomatoes, bell peppers, berries, mushrooms, spinach pasta, gallons of water (camping) and random household goods we need. They have $1.99 bath mats that I throw in the washer/dryer when dirty. I have also bought some great baby blankets, baby beanies, and plain solid baby onesies from here. We also have found Kashi and Annie's cereals here that we like. I would warn with their food that it can go bad very fast, so if we buy perishables, we plan to use them right away.
The Dollar Tree - Great for cleaning products, glassware, and party supplies.
Trader Joe's - Probably my favorite store. I recommend this article which discusses what to buy and what not to buy at Trader Joe's. You can very easily go crazy there. I buy the Almond Milk, spinach, mushrooms, pasta sauce, chicken tikki masala sauce, red thai curry sauce, 96% lean ground meat, brie cheese (for special occasions) , trail mix, and bananas.
Farmers' Market - We have a local one that has great deals on produce. Some farmers' markets have good prices and some don't. Our local ones are listed here.
Win Co - We do not have one close by. However, we have trekked there for nuts and other goods.
Food Maxx - Good for their chicken, produce, etc. Not my favorite, but other people like them a lot.
I'm not a huge fan of Safeway or many other supermarkets. I went to school at UC Davis and am a huge fan of the Davis Co-Op. If you live near a Co-Op and they have reasonable prices or you can afford it, I highly recommend using one. We are currently more budget sensitive, and thus this affects our shopping decisions.
Grocery Budget: For two people (baby is breastfeeding mostly) we try to keep all grocery costs, including household items, we usually try to keep the budget under $300 a month. Now we are moving back to $150-$200 a month. Obviously, depending on your location, vegetable garden, cooking skills, meal prepping game, number of teenage boys, etc. your grocery bill will fluctuate greatly.
I recommend tracking your bill for a month and seeing how much you actually spend. Then look at how much food you waste. Sadly, a lot of food can go bad before being used. Lastly, look at what grocery stores are nearby you. Does it make sense to drive 45 mins. for a good deal? Maybe once a month, maybe not. Are there local small grocers that you've never been to? Maybe check them out and see if they have better prices.
When I lived in Paris, we bought our groceries daily or every 1-2 days. We only bought what we needed and we kept prices low this way. I've learned that sometimes stocking up saves money, and sometimes it wastes it.
When we were on vacation in Maui, it was so affordable to buy fresh poki fish and some local produce. However, canned goods or anything shipped in was very expensive. As an avid sushi and raw fish lover, I couldn't have been happier.
For me, buying my perishables and produce in small quantities, but often works best. I stock up on my pantry items and paper goods. We go to Costco once every couple months or less. We get paper goods maybe once or twice a year. (besides diapers)
What do you do to keep your groceries affordable? Do you have any tips/tricks?