I was single and kid-free when I first heard about discount food stores and I immediately thought “green meat and moldy food” so I never shopped at one. It wasn’t “cool”. After I became a single mom, I needed to make my grocery budget stretch a lot further and I re-discovered discount food stores. These are the places that grocery stores bring dented cans, surplus goods, and foods that are close to their sell by dates. I researched expiration dates and found that some foods are good long after their printed expiration date if they are stored properly.
Discount stores are a wonderful way to stretch the budget a little further. I always make sure to go before I make a trip to the grocery store. A well stocked pantry makes meal planning and preparation easier. I try to stock as much as possible from the discount food store. Some of the best items to look for and stock up on when discount food shopping are:
Macaroni and Cheese.
I can stock up on the good ole’ blue and yellow boxes for 65 cents at my discount food store (my kids are always excited when we get some). I have seen different brands on the shelf as well, some of which are there for a reason (I tried some of the Goldfish brand Mac n’ Cheese, the kids wouldn’t even eat it).
Cream of mushroom/cream of chicken soup.
I use Cream of Something soup all the time in casseroles. It is such a great base for dishes I make all the time so when I find it at the discount store I stock up several months worth at once.
The local discount food store I shop at often has the expensive brand of bread that I like for less than the cost of the generic brand store loaves. I buy five or six loaves at once and put it in the freezer until I need it. It’s so nice to be able to just step back to the freezer and grab another loaf when I need it.
I can pick up packages of pasta for 15 – 50 cents cheaper than at the grocery store. It doesn’t sound like much, but when I am buying 3 months worth of pasta at a time, it adds up quickly.
I buy the individual yogurt pouches for my daughters at less than half the price that the grocery store charges. My local discount store even carries the individual name brand cups for 35 cents rather than the 50 or 60 cents they cost at the grocery store. I stock up on several weeks worth at once so I can just grab one in the mornings to take to work with my lunch.
ground beef or turkey.
I keep my chest freezer stocked with ground beef, both raw and cooked (I like to have meatballs formed and seasoned for the slow cooker). The meat is already frozen and at a cheaper price than the grocery store.
I can often pick up all natural or organic pasta sauce for the same cost as the generic brand that is full of corn syrup at the grocery store.
Spices and dried herbs.
I like my food to be flavorful, (and if it’s bland my kids won’t eat it), so I keep many different spices on hand and go through a lot of the basics like Cinnamon and Garlic Salt (we like Italian food). Spices are always expensive at the big box store, so I make sure that I keep stocked up on what I use when I find it discounted.
Like bread, these are also a great product to buy and freeze until you need it. I love making breakfast burritos and bean and cheese burritos that I can freeze and re-heat when I need something to take to work for lunch.
I have often found 5 – 50lb bags of flour at my local discount food store. I like to make homemade bread once a week, so we go through a lot of flour. Often, I have found baking mixes, chocolate chips, and even blueberry muffin mixes for much less than they cost at the grocery store.
Just like in any store; there are things that are great deals and things that are really not-so-great. Once I found bright blue cake mixes on sale for 30 cents. DO NOT buy bright blue cake mixes, no matter the cost. You really don’t want your kid’s diapers to look like they swallowed a box of blue and green crayons.
DICOUNTED Fresh fruits and vegetables.
These tend to be older products and some of them might be starting to mold or wilt, so I check them carefully. I have picked up entire flats of strawberries before for 50 cents a clam, a few of them were moldy but the majority were perfect and stocked my pantry with homemade jam.
I pick up coffee creamers, half-and-half, and even heavy whipping cream at the discount store. While I always check the expiration date, most dairy products are good even after that if unopened. It makes it much cheaper for me to make my favorite frosting, which is really the whole reason I make cake at all.
I have a love-hate relationship with refrigerated biscuits. I love how they taste, how easy they are to make, how I can customize them… wait, I’m not really seeing any hate here. When I can pick them up for 75 cents a tube, I can’t see any reason why to not have fluffy rolls with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I can also pick up paper towels, toilet paper, and sometimes I have even found packs of diapers that have dented or damaged packaging. It all depends on what the truck brought in that day or week. If you have a local discount food store, it’s a good idea to talk with the employees to find out which days they usually get shipments in. I asked and found out that my favorite brands usually come in on Thursdays. The employees are used to seeing me and my kids on Thursday now and know us by name.
What are some of the best things you have found at discount stores? Or, on the flip side, what do you refuse to buy at a discount store?