November 1, 2018 at 6:06 pm #2761
I would read grocery shopping recommendations on frugality blogs and I would scratch my head wondering what the writers were referring to. Finally I figured out that the grocery shopping rules that apply on Planet Earth don’t seem to apply on my planet (New York City).
1. In my neighborhood grocery stores (there are 4), I don’t see meat marked down as it approaches sell-by date. It just stays for sale at the same price until one day it just disappears from the shelf. I haven’t seen turkeys marked down after Thanksgiving. One day the turkeys just disappear.
2. I don’t see bruised fruit or wilted produce for sale. Fruit is sold at full price until it disappears from the produce section. Bagged greens and greens in plastic containers are sold at full price until they turns soggy or yellow or slimy, then they disappear from the shelves. Mushy gone-bad avocados and tomatoes are offered for sale at full price until they just disappear from the bin. I don’t see fruit and produce marked down for quick sale as it gets ready to spoil.
3. I also don’t see dairy products marked down for quick sale as they approach expiration date. It’s full price to the end, then the goods disappear from the refrigerated case.
4. I don’t see seasonal sales. Usually holiday-related items are marked up and sold at a higher price as the holiday approaches. After the holiday they go back to the usual pricing.
5. There are sales. They are completely random. For no perceptible reason, unconnected to any season, holiday or event, one day I will see 10 big cans of diced tomatoes for 10 dollars, or 5 cans of beans for $2.50. It is all very mysterious and exciting and keeps me coming back like a gambler to a Las Vegas casino. I imagine stockboys high on pot saying to each other, “Dude! Let’s mark down the canned pumpkin before we go home!” I have had arguments with store managers who insist the item is not for sale at that price and I have to take them back and show them.
6. Quite a few times, something has been marked on sale, but rings up at the register at full price. Vigilance is necessary.
7. The “outside price.” Produce will be placed in bins outside the store and marked with an attractive sales price. You take the produce inside to pay for it. You will find that the exact same produce is for sale inside the store at a higher price. Your produce will get rung up at the “inside price” unless you say firmly to the clerk “This is from outside.”
8. I do all my produce shopping now at neighborhood storefronts that resemble farm stands. They are operated by immigrants and sell all kinds of great produce at very low prices. Immigrant markets and neighborhoods can be great places to food-shop.
9. Farmers’ markets are where the most expensive food in town gets sold. Sometimes I go just to look at the pretty food and enjoy the ambiance. The patrons are obviously high income people with fancy clothes and shoes and purses and baby carriages that cost as much as cars. NYC farmers’ markets know perfectly well how elitist they are so they make a big show of taking food stamps, but if I were on food stamps this is the last place I’d go to food-shop. And Farmer Brown is seldom there selling his own goods. Farmer Brown has mostly outsourced the selling to immigrants who can scarcely speak English, so no, you are not going to be able to have a conversation with them about how the food is grown or raised. Also, the prices are not marked down as the day goes on. The food is sold at top dollar until closing time, when it is packed up and hauled away. Also, no one will make deals or bargains with you.
10. Watch out for the fake 99 cent stores. Note that the sign out front says “99 Cents and Up.”
11. One grocery store gives 10% off everything to veterans. They all give senior discounts. Who says this city is heartless?
November 1, 2018 at 9:06 pm #2775
Wow. That is so surprising to me but then I’ve never lived in a place as large and populated as New York. No sales, no mark downs, no rock bottom pricing? That is painful to the wallet. I know certainly we wouldn’t be eating as well as we do here. My hat off to you!
November 1, 2018 at 10:07 pm #2778
@jade, there are sales in my grocery stores, but they seem random to me. Random items put on sale randomly. I don’t see the kind of big, coordinated, themed sales that I see in suburban grocery stores when I visit relatives in other parts of the country.
I think these neighborhood stores are going to have to step up their game. Some big discount chains are moving in. Costco has opened 3 stores in NYC, but I have not joined since I am under the impression that they sell in really large quantities and I live alone and don’t have room to store too much. Trader Joe has opened a store, 11 subway stops away from me. When I visited I was super impressed with the quality and the prices. I will definitely do some shopping there. Probably bring it home on the bus instead of the subway. Whole Foods is here of course, but I never shop there, too expensive.
December 31, 2018 at 3:30 pm #7091
Interesting posts, Ms. Malone! Perhaps this might be as good a spot as any to suggest some foreign language study as a useful survival skill? I am unable to imagine the limitations on a monoglot only because I’ve never been one that I can remember; I started out with three languages and added from there as I grew up. You are quite right that being able to communicate with some of those immigrants could make some difference in the food bargains you get. A language is a ‘private club,’ not as tight as one of blood but still a bit exclusive in its way so being admitted to one has its privileges.
They’re not always new immigrants either.:) I made a bet with my family once, when I was very young, back in the 1970s, that I could live in New York City for months and speak only Greek, except for a minimum of official business, and I did that with no trouble. I can do that with Spanish in nearly every large city in the country – and in the Southwest, I don’t even need English for any official business. In fact, it’s getting increasingly difficult in this country to find work that deals directly with the public unless you are bilingual. As a conservative, I don’t really approve of that situation, but it would be foolish not to prepare for it anyway.
January 29, 2019 at 11:13 pm #8641
@bobkitty @namelus I am sure I could do better food shopping in this town if I spoke either Chinese or Russian or Arabic or Hindi… alas not likely to happen… But the merchants still do business with me even if perhaps i dont get the exact same bargain as someone from the neighborhood. Still cheap. Shopping in large Chinese supermarkets is really interesting and fun. I remember a story one immigrant told me of buying a can with a picture of a pie on the can. He opened it expecting to find pie or some other pastry. But it was a can of Crisco!
November 2, 2018 at 10:42 am #2819
I lived in NYC for a bit in my younger days (my misspent youth) and I always said that if you could manage to pay the rent, you could find nearly everything else you needed more inexpensively than anywhere else in the country. (That’s probably oversimplified these days.)
I used many of the tactics you recommended and they definitely work. The way things are sold in urban environments is so much different than in places that are more car dependent.
Thanks for a great post!
December 31, 2018 at 3:50 pm #7094
Note to self: Never move to New York…LMAO…I’ve never been interested in visiting there anyway. Funny, it touts itself as a liberal state, but the above comment suggests that waste is ridiculous there. I live off of $30 a week for food and hit up the dry dumpsters of distributors where they throw everything away at the sell-by date and is all double packaged and boxed. I haven’t bought bread or any related product, coffee, chips or snacks in years, since I get them for free in quantities I could never consume. Currently I have over a years worth of food stores and multiple year’s worth of coffee. Coffee in and of itself will be currency in SHTF.
December 31, 2018 at 5:42 pm #7103
If the coffee has been roasted and ground, it’s not worth trying to store for the long haul: it’s going to go rancid on you and become not only undrinkable but dangerous to your stomach. It doesn’t matter how well you seal it up: time is going to do it. Alas. It’s definitely the kind of thing one would miss out of all proportion once the habit is ingrained; it certainly is with me. If you can find them, you’d do better with unroasted coffee beans. Keep them cool and dark and only roast what you need for about a week.
I too, live on very little as a rule, for as a widow, I’m the only human I need to cook for, but as I don’t want various toxic molds living off of me, I’d draw the line with eating out of dumpsters – and so should you. Most bread products sit on their shelves encased in a plastic bag till their sell-by date expires, when they are tossed. You may not see any obviously moldy patches but that doesn’t mean that mold isn’t there: the breads are stored in exactly the right conditions for it to develop!
I’m coming to approve of you because I like the way you think on many topics so I don’t want you to come down ill. There are safer ways to do bread on the cheap and I know them all.
Buy a (non-electric) grain mill, a good set of grinding stones – the traditional Mexican metate is still one of the most practical kitchen tools you can own – whatever you can afford and start buying your grains whole for storage. Feed stores have sales too. Even those have a limit, of course. Hard winter wheat stores better than soft wheat, white rice stores better than brown, again because those oils turn rancid, blue corn stores better than yellow or white but you can still use all those in the short term, very cheaply.
You’ll get more for your money grinding your own grains and making your own breads – a task that can be done just about anywhere, so long as you have hands, water and a heat source. Do store some dried hops if you can; they’re cheap. A tea of that added to your batter will give you a starter in 24 hours to raise your batch of bread. For now, buy your dry yeast by the pound, it’ll last for years. Interestingly in most supermarkets, only the small expensive packets are in the ‘baking aisle’ but the pound bags are in the Mexican or ‘importeds’ section.:)
You can in turn dry out that homemade bread very thoroughly and store some of that. Never under-bake! That’s where most people screw up: you must kill all that yeast before trying to dry. Whenever I bake loaves of bread, I slice and dry one of them for zwieback. Kept completely dry, it’ll last a long time. You can eat zwieback even if you can’t stomach anything else, it’s very soothing to the belly. If you don’t have an oven you can still bake bread on a iron skillet with a lid, preheated at least 15 minutes to get even heat, then turned very low – till you can turn that bread to cook on the other side with just your fingers.
Once you get the hang of producing your own breads, from plain tortillas and flat breads to raised loaves, even with a few hilarious mistakes along the way, and runs of plain bad luck, I promise you that nothing else can be quite as satisfying to you. You can eat out at the best professional bakeries, but your teeth will still miss your own bread. It’s hard to explain.:)
December 31, 2018 at 6:22 pm #7107
Bobkitty, it’s always interesting when one likes to speak with authority, even when they also show little real world knowledge on it.
Talk yourself out of any advice you want, it will only affect you.
For those on a strict to non-existent budget or simply want to fight unnecessary waste, you have some good advice above under my username.
January 29, 2019 at 9:26 pm #8633
Well, troll, I can see why you’re “Anonymous.” What the hell is this: “Bobkitty, it’s always interesting when one likes to speak with authority, even when they also show little real world knowledge on it.” ?? LOL
What kind of ‘knowledge’ pray, am I supposed to have in order to post here that I don’t have already? I can speak, read and write 8 languages so far; how many do you know? I grew up in South America and finished school in Europe – with special attention to cooking when I was in Switzerland, training I had minimal interest in when young but was forced to take.:) It served me well in later years. I taught school on the reservation for over 20 years, and spent a chunk of that time on an old homestead with no mod-cons. There’s not much I do not know about the topic we’re on.
To the mods, owners, or whoever’s supposed to be moderating these trolls:
Maybe this forum would keep a little more of its traffic, and gain some more, if you’d get around to that? Members here shouldn’t have to take time out to defend themselves against this kind of crap when they’re merely trying to talk about things no more controversial than groceries. The first thing you all might do is to disallow ‘anonymous’ posters that contribute nothing useful.
I nearly didn’t bother to come back when I saw this ridiculous post earlier, and notice you all hadn’t dealt with it, but for the forum’s sake, I thought it worth a response – once.
- This reply was modified 1 year ago by Bobkitty.
December 31, 2018 at 6:33 pm #7110
To add to my earlier comments, frequenting wasteful distributors can also fully feed your stock or are simply good to know where they are in a SHTF scenerio or to look for if on the move in such a situation.
January 29, 2019 at 11:22 am #8607
The cost of canned and frozen vegetables has really gone up in the grocery stores around me. Used to be a standard 4 1-pound bags of store-brand frozen veg for $5. Now each bag is $2.25. They are pushing people to buy a 14 ounce bag for ~$1.30 under a new label but it’s still the store brand. I havent seen a decent sale on canned tomatoes in 2 months, or canned beans or canned brand-name veg. The brand-name canned beans and veg is ~$1.25 per can and the store-brand is $1. It’s odd. The so-called sales are nonsense, paying $2.50 for a 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes is not sale. Literally the new higher price is advertised as a sale!
I am glad I stocked up during real sales in 2018, but i sure hope to see some more real canned good sales soon. I was wondering if this is just a local phenomenon or if others here are noticing similar.
January 29, 2019 at 1:32 pm #8612
Molly I don’t know NYC but I used to live in Vancouver bc same isues, there where two ways to get around it, go to ethnic encalves, for us mainly east Indian and asian, in their stores stuff was cheaper but rarely in English packaging. Second is go to poor area(aka pickpocket city) you can find a green grocer there that sells the cast offs usually in a shipping warehouse area. It’s not advertised nor is it easy to find. Find out truck delivery times and come an hour after as they clean and put out new stock it will be about 5 days behind what’s seasonal In other grocery stores.
When I went back to vancover 6 months ago for family stuff, took my niece out shopping there, cut her veggie bill in half. Speaking farsi at irainIan store I got saffron (the good kind) for $10 a gram, walnut halves a 25 lb box for just over 50. Language is a magic handshake, being multilingual is a big door opener expecially if you know the manners to go with them. Plus the shock of a white guy speaking to them in thier own tongue is a great shock and awe thing, add to that knowin about thier homeland is a big plus.
It’s harder now to get new languages as I age, for me best tool since in wilds is rosette stone, good headset and mic. Do it in am before anything else highest retention rate. If you work hard 6 months till you can hold average conversation. If you consentrate on food.stuff 2 months, it’s worth it for the deals you can get if you could ask.
- This reply was modified 1 year ago by namelus.
January 29, 2019 at 4:01 pm #8616
@namelus yes I do buy fresh produce at immigrant storefronts at good prices. It’s just that I want canned ans frozen too, and i havent seen any bargains on that in immigrant storefronts. I have noticed that fairly often, food items in immigrant areas are sold for a higher price than in mainstream grocery stores; i suppose the proprietors are taking advantage of their customers who may be timid about going outside their comfort zone.
January 29, 2019 at 6:48 pm #8620
Molly do you know a damaged freight disposal company near you I know there is one for the navy base outside NYC, they dispose of all insurance claimed freight, if you talk to right person and ask you can get good deals on damaged boxes of stuff, some will be dented (eat now or recan or me pig food
) but some will be storeable with new labels as some are damaged from liquids.
January 29, 2019 at 10:58 pm #8640
January 29, 2019 at 7:38 pm #8624
I have read that food sales go on a 12 week cycle. Anybody test that?
January 29, 2019 at 8:17 pm #8630
We have several grocery stores here in VA where I live. Sales going all the time. Right now it is super bowl junk food and pizza sales. So nothing I am running out to store for. And yes Woodsrunne, Groceries are on a 12 week cycle here as well. I used to use coupons when I went shopping for what I needed. But that couponing lady tv show ruined that for us. They would go into the stores with a notebook full of coupons and buy up everything they could just using coupons and come out with the store owing them money. One newspaper here will no longer put the coupons in the paper as it was a free local paper and people would go and empty the paper box just for the coupons and then throw the paper back in the box. Now we are lucky to have a 25 cent or maybe 50 cent coupon for TP and toothpaste and such. Used to be we would get a dollar or more off.
February 10, 2019 at 1:10 pm #8974
Molly Malone – I think Namelus has the right idea. It sounds to me as though the local grocery stores in your area sell their inventory on to salvage or outlet grocers as it approaches its best buy or expiration date(s). I checked on extremebargains.net just now and didn’t see any such grocers listed there for NYC but that list is not complete, and I expect there are some in your general area – although maybe not right in NYC itself due to the high cost of real estate there and what that would do to the merchant’s overhead. Such stores rarely have to advertise because they generally get a lot of “word-of-mouth” customers. So, the best way to find some might be to a) check the local phone directory, b) ask other shoppers if they know of any “salvage” or “outlet’ or “discount” or “Dent and Bent” grocery stores, or c) contact the Chamber of Commerce and/or Better Business Bureau and ask them the same thing. Calling or visiting (if it’s safe for a lady to do so) the Harbor or Port Authority office would be a good idea too since, from what I have heard, many salvage/outlet/dent and bent grocery stores buy a lot of their inventory at auctions of damaged goods that are held at or near ports of entry. If you can find out who holds those auctions, you may be able to contact the auctioneer(s) to learn the names of the grocers who buy inventory there. I know it sounds like a lot of work but I think that the savings you’d get (particularly on canned good and pantry staples) would be worth the effort. I shop at salvage/outlet/dent and bent grocery stores every month and, literally, save 50-75% on the cost of what those same groceries would cost me at my typical local supermarket. It’s been a real blessing for me since I don’t have a pension to supplement my Social Security retirement benefits.
February 10, 2019 at 8:57 pm #8994
@Amy Dixon, thank you for providing these detailed ideas. I never thought of the grocery stores selling their stock to other outlets when the stock is approaching best by date. I will look into outlet stores. I think it’s great that you are saving at least 50% on groceries, that’s brilliant. I wouldnt feel comfortable going to the ports here for auctions, they are in new jersey and staten island and besides being in desolate and industrial areas, i’d need a car.
February 10, 2019 at 5:52 pm #8986
Molly- your story about the immigrant who expected a pie in a can of Crisco made me laugh. I think we all ought to laugh a little more.
February 10, 2019 at 9:05 pm #8995
February 11, 2019 at 8:00 am #9007
Big Lots is one of the “salvage” stores, selling stuff that will go out of date soon as well as overstock items.
February 13, 2019 at 1:53 am #9067
Molly Malone – You’re welcome! I know what you mean about not feeling comfortable going down to the ports – and it’s possible you wouldn’t be allowed to attend the auctions anyway. However, you might consider making a phone call to the Port Authority just to ask if they know the names of auction houses that deal in salvage groceries, and then making a phone call or two to the auction houses to see if they could tell you the names of the companies that buy such items at their auctions. They might not want to reveal the names but it’s possible they might be willing to at least give you some info that could help you locate some salvage/outlet grocers in your general area.
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