The Great Search for Cheap Food

These days we find ourselves living on a budget. I’ve been trying out all the different grocery stores to figure out where I can find the best prices, without having to travel too far from my house.  So far, I’ve joined Sam’s and shopped there. I’ve also tried out Publix, Walmart Super-center, Winn Dixie, The Pig, and Aldi.

Wait. What’s “The Pig”???? Well, if you’re Southern you know. But for my beloved Yankee friends, it’s simply a medium-sized, low-cost grocery store, also known as Piggly Wiggly.

Disclaimer: All grocery store locations are different. These opinions are of stores that I shopped primarily in my state.

So let me tell you what I found in my search.

WHERE TO FIND CHEAP GROCERIES

The Help

First, allow me to introduce you to my ADORABLE grocery shopping assistant:

He’s a good assistant, though he is sometimes known to eat Teddy Grahams while we are shopping and make a crumb mess in the floor.

The Stores

These are in no particular order.

Sam’s Club

My favorite thing about Sam’s:

where to find cheap gas

Sometimes it’s even lower. (This was taken 2 weeks ago.) We love buying gas at Sam’s.

We did not buy the $100 premium Sam’s club membership. We like the idea of paying $40 much better.

At this point buying in bulk is a huge plus for us. You would not believe the amount of food it now takes to feed the 6 of us. It’s insane. So we would’ve gotten most of the extra fees back in reward certificates if we had gone premium.

We go often. It’s close to our house. If you don’t go often, then definitely go with the cheaper membership.

But I do wish we were premium because Premium shopping hours begin at 7am, while regular member shopping hours begin at 9am. My days of slacker-shopping are over. I shop at 8:15am, right after I drop my children off at school, so this has been a problem with the stores with limited hours. (Ahem, okay just Aldi. I wish Aldi would open earlier!!!)

Downside to Sam’s:

An impulse buy at your neighborhood grocery store may cost you $2.50-$4.50. An impulse purchase at Sam’s will run you $8-$15.00, due to the bulk sizes.

Also, sometimes it’s hard to use stuff up by the expiration date. I found out the hard way that we still do not require a Sam’s size tub of sour cream. I have never seen sour cream turn that color. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck! Only buy what you can actually eat in time!

Upside to Sam’s:

Free samples. Sometimes you can get a free lunch just by visiting all the sample counters. Also, their “grill” is insanely cheap. I can feed myself and two of my little boys for only $5.

The prices were awesome on pretty much everything, but only if you can handle buying that much stuff. When you’re truly down to the wire, and you need a $30 grocery week, this is not your place.

I did get 36 jumbo eggs there for only $1.78. I tend to judge grocery stores by their egg prices.

Walmart

Their prices are decent, but  their total lack of customer service the other day made me so mad I vowed to never shop there again. (Of course, I’ll never be able to stick to it.) I had a loaded down cart full of groceries, and I’d only chosen their store because Aldi and Sam’s were both still closed. Well, I get to the check-out, and oh wait. There were no cashiers. Not a single one. They were directing every customer to the “self-check-out” lines. They had six self-checkout lines set up, with two employees supervising. They were actually just standing there talking to each other.

I don’t mind self-check-out when I’m buying 5 or 6 things, but when I have a cart full of groceries and a toddler sitting in the buggy, I do not think having a cashier is too much to ask. I ran out of space, even in the larger of the self-checkouts, and had to put all my bags in the floor while I finished checking myself out, while still supervising John David. I was highly perturbed.

C’mon, Walmart. It’s not that the employees were rude because they weren’t. It was the lack of cashier lines that upset me. It’s still a valuable job. Please don’t phase them all out and replace them with machines.

As for prices, their prices were good, not amazing like Aldi.

 

Aldi

where to find cheap groceries

Exciting prices on organics

 

where to find cheap groceries

What!! Milk for $1.79?? Yes!!! (It isn’t always this cheap, but wow!!)

Did you know that Aldi is owned by the same company as Trader Joe’s? Aldi is the uncelebrated hero of America. Eggs were 69 cents a carton. Milk was $1.79/gallon. Even organic milk was $2.99/half gallon. That’s $2/half gallon LESS than Walmart’s prices on organic milk.

Their produce prices were also swell, especially on bananas. They also had a nice selection of gluten free and organic products, for a small store.

"I

Only downside: They don’t have everything. The one in my town is pretty tiny. If you are looking for a particular cereal or your favorite brand of cheddar cheese, you may be out of luck. Almost everything in the store is generic, but I didn’t mind that.

Okay, actually 2 downsides: You have to bring your own bags.  Did you know that recent research findings have found that the reusable bags actually are the most harmful to the environment? Out of all the kinds of bags, plastic bags actually were found to have the least environmental footprint. (Source: I heard it on the radio. Scientific, I know.) But that’s no biggie, I’ll just take my vast collection of plastic bags with me and reuse those. Whatever.

in search of cheap groceries

But whose complaining about bags when the prices are this good??

Oh, and I found putting a quarter in the buggies a little annoying, but you do get your quarter back when you return your buggy. One day, a nice lady in the parking lot just handed off her buggy to me, and I got to keep my quarter and get her quarter too when I returned it! So if you’re looking for a little way to brighten someone’s day, give them your buggy at Aldi, as your leaving.

Publix:

I love Publix for the beautiful shopping experience. However, if you want cheap food there, you do have to research their sales ad and bring coupons. Cheap isn’t their specialty, but having a giant, clean, friendly store is. They will even take your groceries to the car, unload them into your trunk, and they are not allowed to accept tips. They also serve full meals and bakery service.

Truth: I do not do my grocery ad research, and I never have coupons, so in order to save money I have to just opt for the discount stores.

Winn-Dixie

Same as Publix in many ways, but you have to have one of those pesky cards. They do run some awesome deals, so check the sales ad to know what they are.

Best part: The day I went there was a station of FREE cups of Community Coffee, which is my FAVORITE BRAND of coffee. Did you know that Community Coffee is made in Louisiana and served on all Southwest Airlines flights?

Winn Dixie has been one of the few stores where I can actually find my favorite coffee brand. Excellent selection. Shop generics and sales if you want to save money though.

 

Piggly Wiggly

in search of cheap groceries

I bought all of this for $89. Not too shabby.

I managed to buy a week’s worth of groceries for $88. My favorite thing about this store is that they have most everything, and my local store is open 24 hours.

in search of cheap groceries

Exciting find at The Pig for celiacs!

Hot Tip for Piggly Wiggly: Many of the stores post their weekly sales ads online!!  Go here to see if yours does!

in search of cheap groceries

Excellent prices on generic canned goods

I scored a bottle of laundry detergent for 25 cents because I spent at least $50! That was exciting.

My Conclusions

Aldi was the cheapest grocery store (near me) by a long shot. Just make sure you take your bags with you.

I’m still a huge fan of Sam’s as well. When you can afford to buy in bulk, and you can keep away from impulse purchases, you can still save money at Sam’s.

If you are a coupon-er, you can still come out way ahead at Publix, and the slackers like me can only hope to some day learn your ways.

Tips from people in the grocery biz:

  1. You usually save money shopping at independent grocery stores, rather than chains.
  2. Watch your receipt because some independent grocery stores do add a 10% charge at the end of your purchase. However, it may still be cheaper as compared to the chain stores.
  3. Shop around before you pick a favorite. Stores vary by location, no matter what company it is.
  4. Check the grocery store’s Facebook page. They may post their most current sales on there!
  5. Believe it or not, some stores buy produce from local farmers and some do not. Only way to find out is to ask the produce manager.

Happy shopping, y’all!!  Be sure to share with me in the comments or on Facebook your best tips for saving $$$$ on groceries!

 

featured image credit: depositphotos.com

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April Alan is a happy mom of four boys, and she also writes at https://storiesofourboys.com. When she isn't blogging, she's usually doing exotic things like cooking, picking up kids, and coloring Mickey Mouse with her toddler.

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