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Groceries in the US

(70 Posts)
ExhaustTed Sun 10-Sep-17 02:12:46

Whilst being aware of the fact the US is an expensive place to buy food, having now been here for two weeks, the real shock of just how eye wateringly expensive groceries are is beginning to really hit home. I am wondering if anyone has any shopping tips about how to minimise cost. I have started all the usual food planning and budgeting type stuff, but as I am still navigating my way around the stores and brands - is there a happy place between not too expensive and not to grim? (Giant and Safeway are my two nearest shops with others not to far away). We are considering a Costco card? Is that a good investment?

HerRoyalNotness Sun 10-Sep-17 02:18:25

Check if they do a loyalty card or coupons. For eg one of ours has a card and if you have it you get the savings, the other we have to go through the coupons. Ask the locals where they shop and for any pointers. I don't find Costco a saving unless you have a large family. We always spend loads there and end up with huge boxes of stuff we get sick of, I haven't renewed my card.

I've just accepted that it is expensive tbh.

BritInUS1 Sun 10-Sep-17 02:29:02

I don't know where you are based in the US, but whilst the prices are eye watering I have found that the wages increase does somewhat account for this and you sort of get used to it.

We use Safeway for basics and then Trader Joes for fresh items x

Firefries Sun 10-Sep-17 02:42:07

I don't know really what your answer is but all I'd suggest is maybe cook most of your own food m, if you arent already.
Go back to basics and cook more vege based meals. Meat is so hard to get there especially the quality cuts. I'd try and get a Costco card for the meat and veges and fruit. It's a lot cheaper but yes if you have a big family this works best. I think just for the meat it's worth it though
Buy your meat there and split it and put in the freezer. You can get bulk chicken breasts, beef patties etc etc and just stick to that on the BBQ in summer with salads and just the oven for winter with home made fries etc, and then more vegetable meals, and maybe kidney and black beans meals with rice etc. The good thing is you can get lots of herbs and spices to add to your meals. And if you need some herbs you can just get what you need, like say a teaspoon of herbs. Don't buy the big containers unless you use lots of the stuff. Again buy the rice in bulk from Costco. You do get an enormous amount of it but it's worth it. I'd also get a bread maker and make your own bread. The bread in the US has lots of sugar in it and food generally has high fruticose corn syrup - avoid that where you can. I'd be cooking your own stews as maybe even get a slow cooker if you work full time to save you some time. I hope that helps. By the way, Id stick to the basics at Safeway. It's one of the more expensive shops. Is there not a cheaper supermarket? They have the same things but are just cheaper and maybe they are not as nice a supermarket but that doesn't matter if the food is cheaper and packaged differently. Just so you know I've not been in the US for a while now so this might not be helpful to you.

VimFuego101 Sun 10-Sep-17 03:16:19

It's definitely not cheap! Costco is good for bulk buying. Or if you have a Sams club near you they are good too - look on Groupon for membership offers.

Aldi is good for fruit and veg. I use Amazon subscribe and save for cleaning stuff and non perishable food items. What stores do you have nearby? I find that Kroger (called King Sooper in some areas) is cheapest - they also give fuel points which can be used at Kroger gas stations and get you a dollar a gallon off fuel.

ExhaustTed Sun 10-Sep-17 03:16:54

Funnily enough, the first two electrical kitchen appliances I have replaced are my bread maker (seldom used I the uk but now running every day) and my slow cooker. :-)

I've got three kids, so buying in bulk does seem appealing, if there are savings to be had.

Can anyone help please by explaining the price order of US supermarkets in kind of UK supermarket terms? So what are your Waitroses, what are your asdas and are there any Aldi types? (Is that even possible?)

VimFuego101 Sun 10-Sep-17 03:21:05

I would say the Waitrose equivalents are Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. TJ's have lots of really nice freezer/ deli stuff and they do the most amazing frozen croissants that you leave out to prove overnight. That said, I always find their fruit and veg and eggs to be reasonably priced. If I didn't spend so much money on other things every time I went in there I would go there every week to get fruit and veg.

Whereabouts are you?

Out2pasture Sun 10-Sep-17 03:33:21

a Costco card is certainly worthwhile. check out Walmart some of the newer stores have excellent prices on produce and meat products.

Kursk Sun 10-Sep-17 04:00:10

We find it cheaper in the US compaired to the UK. We shop in Market Basket or Walmart, we spend about 160 a month on food. We do a monthly shop and batch cook a lot.

octoberfarm Sun 10-Sep-17 04:07:20

I'd pitch Whole Foods up at the waitrose level,Trader Joe's, Wegmans and Target nearer the Sainsburys level, and then probably Walmart and Kmart at the bottom as often their selection can be a bit limited.

That being said, TJs is nearer waitrose quality at Sainsburys prices, and I pretty much only shop there. The only let down with them is the bread/bakery stuff, and as a PP mentioned, some of the more expensive frozen treats, but otherwise it's pretty reasonable and you get awesome food! I find that it's helpful as well in that, like M&S back home, they mostly only sell own brand stuff and so you're not buying branded things out of habit, because you know you like them.

Do you have an Aldi near you? That might be worth a look if you do, they've just started getting popular where we are. Otherwise, TJs is definitely worth checking out if you have one nearby smile

Cavender Sun 10-Sep-17 04:27:26

Kursk $160 a month for food? For how many people? I'd love to know how you manage that.

Exhaust I suspect every state is a little bit different so if you can say roughly where you are that might help.

I buy canned, packet and dried goods at Walmart, vegetables and fruit at H-E-B (Texas chain) and the odd "nice" thing at Trader Joes.

The price of fruit and vegetables really shocked me at first. I naively thought they would be cheaper given the climate.

I was also appalled at the cost of spices, someone in here gave me the tip to use the "serve yourself" spice section in the supermarket (near healthfood in our store) and that is indeed considerably cheaper.

Trader Joes $1.99 wine is awesome.

Want2bSupermum Sun 10-Sep-17 04:32:55

Get the Costco membership. They have fab bread and meat. I figured the wasted fruit and veg we don't get to means the food is same price as regular supermarket.

Where in the Us are you? Just know that going into a poorer area normally means groceries are more expensive. The snap program covers the cost of the food so supermarkets charge more.

Want2bSupermum Sun 10-Sep-17 04:35:13

Go down the Hispanic aisle for cheaper food including herbs and spices.

SofiaAmes Sun 10-Sep-17 04:48:01

Where are you? I lived in London for 7 years, but am American and find shopping so much cheaper/easier here in Los Angeles.
You should get ALL non-perishables delivered by Walmart. Their prices are the cheapest by far. They are also the best place to get things like rice and chocolate chips and basically anything that can sit in your cabinet for awhile (because you've bought bulk amounts). I find Walmart to be cheaper than Costco.
I get my preprepared foods (very little of this) from Trader Joe's because you don't have to label read to avoid the junk.
I get my meat and fish from Vons/Safeway. I generally buy whatever is in the 50% off section which is stuff that has its sell by date for that day. You can get AMAZING deals this way. And it's always plenty fresh as long as you cook it within a day or two. Or sometimes if it's something that's freezable like ground beef or bacon...I stock up.
I am in Los Angeles, so get my fruits and vegetables mostly at the hispanic markets (in London, I did this at the Greek and Lebanese markets) and some at the Korean markets.
Target is good for toiletries and school supplies. Staples is good for school supplies.
Unless you are wealthy, I recommend avoiding Whole Foods. And if you prefer not to be subjected to rude staff, I would avoid Sprouts (except for certain things like unroasted peanuts - which you can't find elsewhere).
Smart and Final for spices and baking chocolate. And sometimes they have bulk deals on some random items (like the super expensive yogurts that my dd likes) and sometimes they have deals on veg and fruit.
Amazon for books and most small appliances. And weird random things like Sumac and Tahini which otherwise you can only find in the Jewish supermarkets where the little old ladies elbow you into oblivion if you get in their way. Or Anchovy paste when there appears to be a Los Angeles-wide shortage of the stuff.
Home Depot for dirt, fertilizer and tools.
Bed Bath and Beyond and Macy's in the sale department for sheets and towels. And sometimes Target is good too for this.
Anything I've missed?

Kursk Sun 10-Sep-17 12:18:58

Cavender That's for 3 of us. We are in ME. We shop at Market Basket monthly, followed by a Walmart shop to get things like chicken which is cheaper there.

We batch cook both meat and veggie chilli, lasagna, meatballs and soups.

We have porridge for breakfast, Soup and chowder for lunch.

We supplement with fishing, hunting and growing our own food. So our food bill will hopefully decrease going forward as we move to being 100% self sufficient.

BradleyPooper Sun 10-Sep-17 14:11:49

Agree with Sofia Ames for Walmart and Target. We go to the Chinese or Mexican supermarket for fruit and veg (much better variety as well as lowest prices). We eat meat rarely so I do go to Wholefoods, Trader Joe's or the organic aisle in the regular supermarket for that. Local fish market is best for fish.

Cavender Sun 10-Sep-17 14:13:32

Thanks for the update Kursk that's very interesting.

BradleyPooper Sun 10-Sep-17 14:13:49

Used to go to Costco for organic meat too as someone who works in the meat industry here told me their organic chicken and ground meat is the best quality and best value but didn't find the prices for the other stuff that good so my membership lapsed. Unless you buy everything in Costco and can absorb the price of membership into your budget (and still come out on top), I don't know if its worth it.

Want2bSupermum Sun 10-Sep-17 14:27:09

It was probably me who told you about Costco. Their meat is excellent quality. DH is a supplier. They really hold suppliers accountable and don't tolerate low standards.

We have a Costco membership for the meat, baby wipes and winter coats/gloves for the DC. It's also good for birthday gifts for younger children. Their bed linen is excellent but Target have a great range now with threshold. If you wear glasses Costco is a good option to have although Walmart is cheapest.

Personally I like to limit what I buy in Walmart. Costco are a responsible employer and good business people. DH sells into both Walmart and Costco so both companies help keep our roof over our heads. Walmart buyers are ruthless but will work with you if it benefits them. Costco buyers work with you because they are solely focused on making the membership worthwhile. The return policy at Costco is amazing too.

allfurcoatnoknickers Sun 10-Sep-17 14:32:11

Want2B reading your posts makes me wish I lived near a Costco! They sound amazing.

Suppose I'll just have to make do with my local Trader Joe's and the world's most useless Whole Foods angry

Leavingonajet Sun 10-Sep-17 14:41:58

exhaustTed I could have written this post having been in the US for two weeks as well. It really is eye wateringly expensive and the big drop in the pound since Brexit isn't helping us. I have joined Costco as we have one close to us and the other supermarkets are smaller, nice and very pricey. I went further afield yesterday and visited an ALDI, it had more European food but a cauliflower was 3 dollars plus taxes. My DS was delighted as he doesn't like them. I am happy to eat a lot of veg and am thinking that batch cooking after bulk Costco buying will be needed.

I paid three dollars for a wholemeal loaf, I am already looking into a bread machine as suggested as electronics are not expensive.

We do get a cost of living adjustment so I guess it will work out. It must be almost impossible for people on low incomes in urban environments to eat healthy if veg and protein are this expensive.

Want2bSupermum Sun 10-Sep-17 15:51:38

Before you buy a bread machine know that flour is expensive. My friend owns a bakery and makes amazing bread. I buy flour from her at cost and it's double the price of the Uk. Costco has some good bread. The artisanal bread is ok. Expect to pay $4 a loaf for something edible. I buy the bread mix from ikea which is $6 by the time you include taxes. It's great for Danish open faced sandwiches which is a perfectly acceptable lunch!!!

There is a nut bread in Costco which is insanely good but yes it costs a lot.

ExhaustTed Sun 10-Sep-17 17:42:05

Thanks so much everyone. I have just been to Costco - a mix of interesting and terrifying on a Sunday as it was jam packed, but I did get a fair few bargains and I will be going back (but on a weekday without the kids :-) ). Bearing in mind what you all said I did notice lots of things of great value, but also lots of very tempting things that I really didn't need. At the check out we noticed everyone had packs and packs of bottled water- it's seems to really be the thing.

We are in southern Maryland, not too far out of DC so I think it's quite an expensive area anyway.

expatinscotland Sun 10-Sep-17 17:45:04

Sam's/Costco, use coupon apps, shop around, some states have Aldi, and sometime Dollar Tree is good for basics.

realhousewife33 Sun 10-Sep-17 17:58:05

It really is eye wateringly expensive and the big drop in the pound since Brexit isn't helping us

I don't get the exchange rate point, what's that got to do with the price of groceries? If you live in the US and are being paid in $, exchange rates don't come into it, unless you've brought your savings over from the UK and are using that to pay for your grocery shopping.

You can compare the price of a loaf in bread in Tesco to the price of a loaf of bread in Walmart and be horrified at the price [in Walmart] but it's got nothing to do with exchange rates.

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