Carrying on with the thrifty and nifty series this week’s topic is where to shop for the cheapest food, but remember cheap does not mean nasty! I however will not be telling you where you should shop but what the options are. There are so many factors for people, other then money of course, when it comes to where the most viable place to shop will be for them. The area you live in really influences it. Though cities have lots of options , in rural areas and small towns there is less choice but on the other hand you may have more access to fresh, local produce if you’re living in the countryside. What your diet is and what you want to buy can also steer you towards certain shops; if your veggie or vegan you’d probably rather shop where fresh produce is the focus, if I want risotto rice I know I can’t buy it from Aldi but can get it at ASDA. Lastly, there are your ethics and principles. Now I understand that for some people they couldn’t care less where their food comes from as long as it’s good quality and the right price but for me it actually is an extremely important part of my life and influences how I shop.
I’m going to do a quick run down of what the options are and a few good and bad points for each. Though some people might think this post silly, I think a lot of people genuinely don’t know you can shop somewhere other then supermarkets.
- Supermarkets – so let’s start with the obvious. Most people have access to at least one or two supermarkets in their local area. They’re convenient, normally have a good range of foods and are really cheap for certain things. But….they encourage you to buy more than you need, they don’t pay their producers decent wages, they have a monopoly across the country.
- Markets – Really cheap produce, support local community. But… There are normally only in city centre or large towns, limited food stuffs.
- Farmers’ Markets – good quality food, supports local farmers and producers. But… tend to be quite expensive, limited range of food, normally only in rural areas and occasionally pop up in city centres.
- Local independent shops– Butcher, Baker, Grocer. Very cheap, good quality food, support local community. But… limited food stuffs e.g. dried & canned staples, they are a disappearing breed
- Discount small supermarkets – places like Fulton Foods, Home Bargains, Poundland. Really cheap for certain things, stuff like baked beans and Fray Bentos Pies. But… only really sell convenience food, god knows what is in their meat products.
- Health Food stores – good quality food, big variety of unusual ingredients, cheap for bulk dried goods But… other then dried good products tend to be expensive, not very common.
- World food stores – Asian, Eastern European. Quite cheap, big mix of interesting foods But…Only in certain areas and you might not like that type of diet, I have seen pig uterus for sale in a Chinese supermarket before, definitely not my thing.
- Online Shopping – Though supermarkets have their own online shops, there are lots of independent ones as well, normally with a more ethical or eco slant. Wide range of products, delivered straight to your door But… normally no info on nutritional value, hassle of delivery- if not in, things getting broken, items get missed out.
- Veg boxes – Normally an online thing but you can call up places as well. Organic, fresh produce, supports farmers and producers But… Quite expensive, limited range of staple food
- Wholesalers – If you have a business/borrow a friend’s card. Really cheap way of buying your staples in bulk. But… You have to spend more up front, No fresh produce normally.
Personally, I probably use a mixture of all of the above depending on what I want and where I am. At the moment, me and H buy our veg from Abel & Cole in a weekly veg box – it is pricey but it makes me feel good buying organic and supporting farmers, plus when it’s delivered it feels like a present every week! We use the wholesalers that the pub uses to get big packs of tinned food like chopped tomatoes and oil. Our other food comes from Aldi, which I don’t like that much as it is a supermarket but it is very cheap, really good quality and you can find a few unusual and exciting things to buy. I also occasionally visit world food stores to stock up on mainly Asian ingredients which I love and the Sheffield Castle Market when I’m looking for fresh fish and meat.
I hope this helps people out there that don’t know there are many more places to shop than Tesco, ASDA, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s (The big 4). If you look in other places you can find some brilliant deals and often better quality food. As I have discussed, it may also be better to shop more with your conscience as you can find bargains and better goods often in the same place.