Finding cheap food near you is a great first step to reducing your monthly expenses. On average, American families spend 13% of their budget on food, which is the third-highest after housing and transportation.
While those two will probably take some time and effort to reduce, you can take control of your food costs and see a meaningful change today. No paperwork or negotiation required.
That said, it’s not always easy to find cheap food that meets all your other needs. When you have limited time, health concerns, or picky children to feed, finding the perfect groceries can be a challenge. But this guide will show you the best ways to find healthy groceries that satisfy your cravings without breaking the bank.
1. Time Your Shopping Intentionally
The timing of your grocery shopping has a noticeable impact on the price you pay. If you understand the patterns, you can use the fluctuations to your advantage.
While the time of day probably doesn’t matter very much, these two factors do make a significant difference:
- Daily and Weekly Deals: Many grocery stores have deals each day of the week for different products. Next time you visit your grocery store, ask an employee (or just take note of) what’s on sale for that day. Most often, it will revolve around what day the store gets restocked. If they receive new shipments on Mondays, Sunday will probably be a good time to visit and catch items before they expire.
- Seasonal Variances: As the seasons change, the supply of produce will shift too. Throughout the year, the nature of supply and demand will cause products that are out of season to be more expensive. Pay attention to the month and buy in-season fruits and vegetables to get the best deals possible. Take a look at the list below for a helpful breakdown of the best season for some popular grocery items.
2. When in Doubt, Shop Local
Of course, in-season products aren’t just determined by the time of year. Your local climate will also have a huge impact on what’s being grown or raised on the farms nearest to you.
And as you might expect, produce that was grown just down the road is usually cheaper than something that has to be shipped to you from across the country.
For example, avocados are generally much cheaper in California than in New York since they’re almost exclusively grown in Mexico and the Golden State. If you take a look at the Target website, you can see a noticeable price difference just by buying cheap food near you:
While a $0.30 difference might not sound like much on its own, it means that Target avocados are 55% more expensive in New York than in California. How much would you save if you could reduce your grocery bill by more than 50% each month?
One of the best ways to find cheap food that’s been grown locally is to shop at nearby farmer’s markets. Because they tend to source their products from their surroundings, they naturally filter out products that aren’t in season or don’t grow well in their area.
Meanwhile, high-end grocery stores and national chains usually have a wider selection, but they also have to inflate their prices on those goods to make a profit due to their increased shipping costs.
3. Plan Out the Cheapest Places for Each Product
It’s rare for a grocery store to be cheaper on every single one of their items than a given competitor. Usually, stores that offer cheaper meats will have more expensive fruits or something similar.
This is because grocery chains often adjust their prices based on how popular an item is at a given location. The variations in demand from local preferences and demographics will cause some natural discrepancies to appear.
If you’re willing to plan ahead and take the extra time, one great way to find cheap food near you is to shop at multiple stores and take advantage of what they sell more cheaply than everyone else.
Here’s an example:
- Grocery A consistently sells 1,000 cans of black beans each month and 300 bags of cashews. They would probably raise the price of their beans and offer promotional discounts on cashews.
- Grocery B sells just 400 cans of black beans each month and 900 bags of cashews, so they’d lower the price of their beans and inflate the cost of their cashews.
To get the best deal on both products, you’d get your cashews from Grocery A and your black beans from Grocery B.
The only danger here is that you might erode your cost savings by taking on additional transportation costs. Even if you’re considering a single grocery store, make sure you take the cost of getting there into account.
If you can walk to a grocery store down the street and save yourself a car or bus ride, it might be worth slightly higher prices.
4. Take Advantage of Unwanted Food
This strategy is for the extremely budget-conscious. If you really want to get your food costs as low as possible, you can search for places that sell food that’s generally unwanted.
At yard sales and local budget grocery stores, you can usually find great deals on expired, damaged, or resold food.
Just be extra careful with goods that become dangerous to your health once they expire. If you’re going to pursue this strategy, try to avoid meats and lean more toward canned goods, dried food, and packaged snacks.
Here’s a helpful breakdown of how accurate expiration dates are for different food groups.
How’d We Do?
We hope this has given you some new ideas about how to find cheap food near you.
Are you going to try out one of our strategies? Do you have any other techniques that work well for you?
Let us know in the comments below!