Stretching Your Budget

Budget consciousness is so hard-wired into my brain that I’m pretty sure I could have an infinite amount of cash at my disposal and still be scrounging around for sales. Blame it on having grandparents from the depression era, but the fact is that I am grateful for my practical nature. In a society that can be so wasteful and prone to excess, I believe getting the most bang for your buck is akin to the little black dress…It never really goes out of style.

So, when it comes to grocery shopping, which store has the best value? Must there be a compromise in quality when your aim is to save some dough? Here’s some tips from a self-proclaimed grocery guru:

First off, shop for your household. A grocery budget for 1 is going to look a lot different than a budget for 5. For example, when I was living on my own, I used to buy the family packs of chicken breasts, take them home and wrap and freeze individual servings. If you have a large family, investing in a freezer chest may be your best bet because no matter where you shop, you wanna watch those sales and buy up the pricier items (like meat, for instance) when they are marked down. My favorite finds are the vacuum-packed grass-fed steaks. They are already perfect for the freezer if I am not ready to cook them right away.

Food safety tip: When items at the grocery store get marked down it is most likely for 1 of 2 reasons: they either have too much of a product or it is nearing its expiration date. ALWAYS check use by dates, especially on items like meat, eggs, and dairy. I have even started doing this when I am buying greens and cut fruits.

When it comes to produce here’s my best advice… buy what you eat. If you’re hoping to save, going on a “I am going to eat super healthy kick,” and then proceeding to buy every veggie you see without a plan on how you are going to prep it will likely result in a ton of waste. When it comes to saving a couple bucks, brushing up on your knife skills is an asset considering the cost of whole veggies certainly rivals the pre-cut variety.

Now, lets get down to brass tacks. Where’s the best place to shop? That depends on how much time you have, what’s near you, and what you’re looking for.

Aldi’s is hands down the best savings on organic produce and a kind of hap hazard smattering of other items like antibiotic free chicken sausage, lunchmeat, and almond milk. They also have good deals on specialty items but aren’t always the best if you’re married to a specific brand.

Kuhn’s is my go to for locally raised hormone and antibiotic free chicken plus they have my favorite cage free eggs, both for a great price. Which came first, right??

Then you’ve got your large-scale chain stores and here in Pittsburgh I’d say the two biggies are Giant Eagle and Shop n Save. Fact is, if you’re watching sales, Giant Eagle can have some pretty good deals but they are more expensive than Shop n Save overall. Again, though, for me it comes down to, “What am I buying and what’s near me?” The Shop n Save closest to my house doesn’t carry everything I like so driving the extra distance to go to the bigger one isn’t always worth it if I am driving right past a Giant Eagle. What I really like about Shop n Save though, is that they have made a huge effort to start carrying more organic foods often at prices that rival any of their competitors. Additionally I notice some of them carrying my favorite local chicken as well so if this trend continues I may be re-writing this article and naming them my top pick for best value with highest quality and variety…But for now I’ll just keep store hopping I guess.