18 October 2012

How to Break Up with the Grocery Store

When we first moved to Nova Scotia, Steve and I drove to the Valley to buy a truck.  The man selling the truck asked me how I liked Canada and the first thing to pop out of my mouth was, "You have very expensive dairy products here."  He looked at me like I was simple and went back to selling Steve a truck, but I was so shocked at the grocery prices our first months here, that it really was the thing that made the biggest impression.

Since then I've been working hard to break up with our grocery store.

In case you want to break up with your grocery store too, here's where we're doing most of our shopping these days:

Farm Markets - We have a farmers' market, which I'm very happy about, but it's expensive, so we generally only buy our eggs there.  However, we also have two farm markets just down the road from our house and I love them for the following reasons:
  1. They stock a wide variety of local produce, everything from grapes to jalapenos to cauliflower.
  2. The prices are often half what I pay in the grocery store. 
  3. They sell ageing produce at a discount instead of throwing it out.
  4. They help me out to the car with my purchases if I look like I'm struggling to carry my bags and my baby.
I currently buy 99% of our produce from the farm markets and I'm hoping to continue with that all year, which means we'll be eating fresh vegetables in season or our home canned goods (and bananas, my one big, glaring out-of-season, non-local, unrepentant purchase; but at least I buy them at the farm markets).
    We like local produce.

    Groceries from Non-Grocery Stores 
    We have a weird little store in town that sells fireworks and t-shirts and hot tubs and groceries. We buy our flour there.  The owners buy huge bulk quantities of a good brand and divide it into 15-lb, food grade buckets.  It costs half the price of grocery store flour.  Yesterday Steve found actual, Mexican-style corn tortillas there for $0.69.  This is a huge deal because (a) corn tortillas are hard to find in Nova Scotia and (b) flour tortillas cost $4.69.  We usually make our own tortillas, but for $0.69, I'd rather buy.

    Bulk Buying
    We also have a bulk food store.  We buy most of our dry goods there--baking powder, oatmeal, grits, chocolate chips, etc.--and I love them the best, because  
    1. They almost always have coupons.
    2. Being able to buy one nutmeg saves us money even if the price per gram is higher than the bag of 12 nutmegs I could buy at the grocery store. 
    3. They provide excellent customer service.
    4. I always buy myself a TINY portion of Clownin' Around snack mix as a special reward for reducing packaging waste. 

    Buying Club 
    Speaking of bulk buying, we just joined a buying club.  It's made up of some of our friends and we have an online group so we can share information about food deals and organize collective bulk buying.  I really, really want an 1/8 of a cow, so we're going to pitch the purchase of a cow to the group. 

    Any suggestions for cutting food bills or breaking up with the grocery store?


    Jen Powell said...

    Thanks for this - those are some great ideas.
    Plus I have one for you(maybe, if it's available). I signed up with a dairy, so eggs, milk and cream (cream is a necessity in our house, I don't know why) are delivered once a week. I get minimally processed and responsibly packaged products for just a little more than they'd cost at the grocery store. Plus I know it's local, and I'm never tempted by treats at the checkout, cuz there isn't one!

    Anonymous said...

    If global warming goes as some predict you may well be able to buy locally grown bananas in a few years. I wouldn't
    Hold my breath while waiting though.
    Well done on going grocery store free.


    MBC said...

    Jen--I really like the idea of working directly with dairies, but I don't know what the deal is here, especially since dairy prices are government regulated. Must investigate.

    KWB--In Scotland we saw a banana growing kit at the pound store. I was very confused about how that was supposed to work in the UK.

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