Since moving to Richmond and being lean on a budget we've found some ways to save some dough. Enter big way #1. The discount grocery store. Yep you read correctly (twice if you read the post title). We have in our neighborhood a discount grocery store that is awesome sauce. I'm not going to quite claim that neighborhood since its kinda sketchy and what not but not too far away is a legit statement.
What is a discount grocery store? Our local Fresh to Frozen is a grocery salvage store. That sounds pretty bad but honestly it's not. In my mind there is little to no shame in saving bucks; especially on name brand groceries. Basically this grocery store is a place where food items get sent when they're not fit to sell on regular grocery store shelves.
Types of products: almost expired things, expired but frozen food, perfectly good non expired items that were in a pallet where a few items got dented, dented/scratched/marked/bruised items, off season things, stuff that just got sent back because the store didn't need that much inventory, products that just weren't selling in a certain market and more!
Seriously the most common reason (I think) that products are on the shelf at Fresh to Frozen is that a pallet of said product had to get sent back because a few got damaged. Thus none of the product can make it to the shelves. There is nothing wrong with the rest of them! Another popular reason is that the label got smudged or something. Either the product line glue all got unstuck, all the ink got smeared or something about the aesthetics are less than 100% perfect. All items at this salvage store were once for sale somewhere else but didn't make it. Instead of trashing the stuff they sell it to Fresh to Frozen then I buy it for more than half off.
They have a big section of large cans of suspicious looking stuff I'd probably never buy. The brands here are all mixed. You'll find name brand organics next to basement bargain generics you've never heard of as well as regular stuff too.
Like I said there is nothing wrong with most of the food here. Plus $1.50 for a bottle of fancy designer water is still a rip off no matter where you get it! The prices are always lower than regular stores but still I wouldn't pay however much for some things. They have very basic pricing systems that involve stickies and sometimes sharpie marker; no bar codes used at the register.
Often they get stuff from what appears to be from restaurants or fast food places. This enormous bag of baby spinach leaves is $2.99! Yep. There is nothing wrong with any of it. Granted you probably want to eat most of the produce very soon after buying it. The produce is like that: perfectly fine but don't keep it in your fridge for a week before eating it. They actually have a ton of produce which surprised me. They are always stocking! Anytime I've gone there are lots of employees constantly stocking the shelves.
They have great prices! Um Duh! I've seen better than 2 green peppers for $1. I've seen 4 for $1 once! We've gotten name brand peeled bagged carrots for 10 cents (that's 12 carrots for a dime people!), cantaloupes for 20 cents, cabbage for 10 cents/lb, lean cuisines for $1. They have bakery items decorated for a holiday after the holiday super cheap usually. Yep that is name brand regular bread over there for $1.50. Probably expires in less than a week or so, so go ahead and buy a loaf and make lots of french toast and sandwiches. That's what we've done.
Also good to mention is that this place is USDA certified and everything. They abide by all the regular codes and stuff so we don't worry about safety shopping there. If your local discount grocery store doesn't... be warned.
Often some things will be priced only so so. For example with a coupon and a sale I could get this extra large box of cheerios for less than the marked $3.92 in a regular store. What was wrong with this box of cereal? One corner of a box got slightly dented, that's it! Nothing wrong with the inside packaging. It tasted like it was worth way more than what we paid!
random other items.
Some things are just plain weird. An entire gallon of fake imitation vanilla flavor? Umm okay it's all totally sugar but for $5 you'll be set for life! Also not pictured is a large non food section. There is nothing wrong with tons of cleaning products, detergents, air freshners, paper towels, soaps, etc. It's all more than 50% off what you'd normally pay in a traditional store and there is nothing wrong with dented refills of hand soap. Right? I'm cool with it. You should have seen my face the first time we went and got a whole load of groceries for $30. That's right some people pay that for a single bottle of wine or a couple steaks; we bought a week's worth of food. Ha. Speaking of steak - they do have meats but 1. since we're going vegetarian, 2. not sure I'd trust their meat, we stay away.
Some of the produce could be bruised. You really gotta be careful and sort through to find the best stuff
In terms of organics - it's hit or miss. Sometimes you'll find brands like Kashi, Earthbound farms or store brands of organic foods; other times you won't find any. Thing is - when you do, the savings are amazing! It's a great feeling to know you're getting organic food for so cheap. Granted Yes I know that the carbon footprint gets higher the more this food is transported around from country to country then store to store to store (again) then home. Yes, but still we try to buy organic when we can afford it.
Other winning things you can get at our local discount grocery store: batteries, fresh flowers, beauty products like hair spray, soap, razors. They have medicines (I've yet to check those out), plastic baggies, tons of restaurant grade 'to go boxes', pet food and other regular food. Every time you go it's like a new adventure though since stuff comes in and gets tossed out so frequently. One day you'll find fresh organic lettuce, another a great deal on coke or (non expired) milk and yogurt. We just last week got name brand organic milk to make homemade ice cream but had to go to another store since Fresh to Frozen didn't have cream cheese that day. Sometimes things can be totally random!
In conclusion we've lucked out with finding such a winning combination of cheap food that's close buy and tons of savings on our groceries while still cooking great meals. I'd highly recommend searching around your neighborhood to see if you've got one near you. Back in Raleigh there was a small place that was 'scratch and dent' grocery but closed since it didn't get great business. Search around on google or check with your local mainstream store to see if they donate damaged/almost expired food or sell it to someplace like our Fresh to Frozen.