6 Alternatives to the Grocery Store

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What is one of the best ways to save money in the grocery store? Find alternative sources of food. Here’s a list of six ideas to get you started.

By Elsie, Contributing Writer

What is one of the best ways to save money in the grocery store? Find alternative sources of food.

Here’s a list of six ideas to get you started. And while all of these options take more effort than shopping the usual aisles, the payoff is money saved, quality gained, and the chance to add some variety to your menu.

1. Online stores

When you’re on the hunt for real food “specialty” ingredients, chances are you’ll find the best prices online, not in a grocery or health food store.

Consider coconut oil: in the grocery store, it’s about $8.00 for a little 14 ounce jar, but on Amazon you can buy it in bulk! Maple syrup, sea salt, specialty flours, rapadura, and tea are other items that can be much cheaper online. Vitacost and Amazon are good places to start, and frequently have extra deals attached, such as Amazon’s “subscribe and save” feature, or Vitacost’s $10.00 off referral program.

2. Gardening

If you have even a scrap of yard or patio, chances are you can grow something, even if it’s just potted herbs and aloe vera. My husband and I recently moved to an apartment with a small balcony, and we’re itching to get some pots out! Jami’s e-book Apartment Gardening is a great resource for gardening in small spaces.  For more ideas, there’s a post that Stephanie did a while back on growing potted fruit trees.

3. Local farmers

Produce at farmer’s markets or through CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) groups is sometimes cheaper than at the grocery store, but there are many more benefits to shopping this way as well. For some great posts on this topic, read Kate’s article on CSA groups and Stacy’s tips on finding local produce. CSA produce is available year round–check local listings for groups that offer winter shares.

4. Ethnic Food Stores

Do a web search to find these stores in your area. Ethnic stores carry “specialty” items for much cheaper than you’d find in the ethnic section of your usual grocery store. Asian markets are great places to find inexpensive curry, sauces, or vinegars. Middle Eastern stores often carry rice, lentils, and couscous in bulk; at a Hispanic store you might find dried chilies or fresh tamales.

5. Foraging

Don’t discount foraging as a viable food source! In the last year I’ve foraged black walnuts, apples, dandelions, wild onions, blackberries and black raspberries. My harvesting wasn’t limited to measly snacks, either—I had enough of these wild ingredients to make recipes like crockpot applesauce, pumpkin black raspberry muffins, and quiche with wild onions. Foraging success varies, but it isn’t as hard as you think. Know this, though: you can’t do it unless you get outdoors and keep your eyes open!

6. Community

See if there’s a Weston A. Price chapter in your area. If so, you’ll likely find someone willing to share kefir grains, sourdough starter, or a kombucha scoby. I’ve also found Craigslist to be a valuable community connection. It can be a great way to find home-raised chicken eggs, backyard fruit trees that need picking, or front yard produce stands.

What are your alternatives to the grocery store?

CALLENDER-15Elsie blogs at Richly Rooted about food and simple, natural living. She is a co-author of Real Food for the Real Homemaker, a cookbook full of simple, wholesome recipes and ideas for getting started with a real food diet. Join her newsletter to follow her adventures, or stop by on FacebookPinterest, or Twitter.

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      • Olga St. P says

        I am also moving towards Amish products: I mostly buy my ground meat, eggs, and chicken from them. I was trying to research how meat and poultry is raised by Amish and how Amish milk and milk products are compared with Organic, as I still get my Organic Whole milk at my grocery store. Any thoughts??

        • says

          As far as I know, there isn’t any blanket standard for Amish animal products, and you’d probably need to talk to the individual farmer. I’m sure most of their products would be more healthy than those in the grocery store, though, if only because the animals aren’t “factory-farmed” and likely have more access to the outdoors. They won’t be completely organic if they’re not eating strictly organic feed, but I believe grass-fed is better than organic anyway. (Organic animal products aren’t necessarily pasture-raised.) As far as milk products go, I think many Amish still drink raw, but they may pasteurize it before selling it to the general public, depending on state laws. Anyway, organic grocery store milk is still better than regular grocery store milk!
          Elsie recently posted..Pastry Mat: A Baker’s Best FriendMy Profile

  1. Mary Ann says

    Just be sure you have permission to forage where you are foraging. We recently bought some land and have been astounded at the audacity of a person who was “foraging” under the chestnut trees on our property.

  2. court says

    When you suggested Craigslisy, how did you search for it? I realize that due to the time of year fruit trees are dormant,but would like to know for next year!

  3. Kay DeFreese says

    In addition to doing all of the above I also order from Azure Standard that comes to my town once a month. If you are blessed to have an Azure drop in your town or nearby you should check them out. They are always looking for new places to go. Give them a call and let them know you are interested in a drop in your area.

  4. Shari says

    I buy fruits and veggies from bountiful baskets.org have for about two years and it is way cheaper than grocery stores.

  5. Jenny says

    We have a program called Fare For All in Minnesota that buys meat and produce in bulk so they can pass on incrediable savings to us. You don’t get to pick what you get but they don’t buy “strange” fruit, veggies or meat. It has saved us a ton plus you can buy as many “packs” as you want. They also provide Easter, Thanksgiving and Chrimas packs at incrediable savings. Huge blessing to our family. We also have a local church that distributes bread once a month in our town. We get on average 6 loaves of bread, 6 extra bread items (buns, bagels etc.) and 2-4 special bakery items all for $3.

  6. says

    FOOD NOT BOMBS For Free, Often Organic, Produce, Dairy, And Breads. FAMILY TABLE FOOD MINISTRIED For Low Cost New Boxes Of Food Once A Month. (Sorry About The Capitalized Words. My Phone Is Acting Up.)

  7. Christine Pasek says

    We are very lucky to have a farmers market across the Erie Barge Canal from our small city. This market is open EVERY Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday year round. In the winter it’s less busy but in the other seasons trying to find a parking spot sometimes seems impossible! We also have a farm market stand about 45 minutes away that has an Auction every Monday@ 6PM from sometime in late May to mid October. You never know what you’ll find but it’s always interesting & the items are good quality & usually inexpensive.


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