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Grocery Store Wars: Better Food on a Budget

Everyone has a budget. Thanks to having a larger family, I’m very mindful about our weekly grocery budget. It starts with the sale flyers, a paper version of grocery store wars. I aim to feed my family healthy, quality food, and meals that I’ve planned and prepared. It’s all about better food, on a budget.

Transitioning from two incomes to one really made me take a hard look at our grocery budget. Next came the idea of meal planning based upon what was on sale and in season.

I made weekly shopping lists, mapping out the best prices like a boss. However, I quickly learned that low grocery prices don’t always equate to the best value. 

For example: I vividly recall buying two packages of ground beef from my then-favorite low-cost grocer. That night while preparing homemade meatballs, I was shocked to see that the expiration date of both packages was the following day. I also noticed that each sported a neon sticker that said “previously frozen”. The sticker was clear as day, though I hadn’t noticed it in the store. The following night, I opened the second package to find the unmistakable odor of beef that is past its prime. Although it was labeled to expire that day, it was clearly well on its way to going bad. My low price didn’t seem like such a good value anymore. 

A similar scenario has happened with produce, mozzarella cheese, and boneless chicken breast. The idea of wanting better food on a budget was very much on my mind. 

I began shopping smaller stores, farmer’s markets, and fish from the pier. While I couldn’t buy all my groceries this way, I was onto something. Diversity is important too, and has a direct connection to overall value.

Ultimately I could buy better quality meats and fresher vegetables while still staying in my budget.

As the weeks passed, I found that more and more of my meal staples were actually very competitively priced at places I once considered more costly than mainstream grocery stores. 

Recently I bought the same five items at three different stores. Two larger grocery stores (Market Basket and Hannaford) and McKinnon’s. McKinnon’s is a smaller, more butcher-focused market with just four locations.

The items were:

  • A gallon of Hood milk
  • A container of Stonyfield organic yogurt
  • A jar of Prego spaghetti sauce
  • A dozen “large” eggs
  • Three bananas
the same five items

The same five items were purchased at each store.

Drum roll, please…The final cost of the items was within .43 cents of each other! Surprised? I’ll admit that I was surprised at first. Hence, it is possible to source better food on a budget. In some cases, not only is the meat or produce of higher quality at a smaller market, but it’s often less expensive, too! This is especially true of farmer’s markets.

Three receipts

Each store was really close in price.

The prices of packaged items like crackers and tuna at Market Basket is impressive.

I buy my meats and spices at McKinnon’s. Their own brand of dried herbs are the best value I’ve found.

Not to mention it’s hard to beat the convenience of Hannaford’s innovative online shopping feature, Hannaford to Go.

The grocery store wars continue. Just remember, if the result is better food on a budget, it’s your family that wins!

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