We've been talking about grocery shopping this week, and since I've been talking largely about what doesn't work, I wanted to take today to touch on some things that DO work.
1. Find a butcher. These may not be the easiest shops to locate, but ask around because the good ones usually have a devoted following - and with good reason! A reliable butcher typically has bulk meat for an excellent price, can provide bones and other scraps for homemade stock and almost always carries the highly prized items that can't be found anywhere else - like pepperoni without nitrates!
2. Find a natural foods store. Because of the expense, I don't do a lot of shopping at our local natural foods store, but I have found it to an excellent resource. In addition to having those one-off items close at hand when you need them, they tend to be a great place to ask about other things you're trying to find - a good butcher, a local farm selling raw milk, the best produce, etc. As a bonus, may of them do demo days or special presentations free to the community that give you a chance to sample products or services before you buy.
3. Find an online retailer (or two). For some ingredients, online retailers are the best way to go. Coconut oil, #10 cans of cream of wheat, supplements or spices - some things truly are found in the best quality or for the best price online. Pick one or two top notch companies and plan to place an a bulk order once or twice a year (to minimize shipping costs).
4. Find a bakery supplier. If you bake a lot or need alternative flours (GF), it is extremely worth while to find a bakery supply company. (The easiest way is ask your natural foods store where they get their wheat from; any good store will be happy to tell you.) Give them a call and ask if you can order directly; most will sell you wheat berries (or wheat alternatives) or flour in 25# bags for drastically less than you could find anywhere else. You may also find great deals from them on related dry goods like rice, quinoa, flax or yeast.
7. Watch the sales. Sometimes, your standard grocery stores or big box stores will have a great sale on real food. I try to make a habit of flipping through the circular when it comes every week; often there's nothing, but when I see a good deal I try to take advantage of it.
8. Get to know your neighbors. Honestly, this one was hardest for me but has been a huge boon. When our CSA was sending more cantaloupe and watermelon than we could eat, I asked around and was able to share our bounty with some neighbors who were delighted. In return, they shared with me the overflow of their gardens (or their friends gardens, even)! I swapped melon I couldn't use for fresh, juicy tomatoes that I canned up into soup to warm the coming cold winter days. We all joke about not being able to give away zucchini, but if you can be humble enough to gratefully accept or trade for what people are looking to share you can some into some wonderful windfalls!
What's your favorite shopping alternative?