Can “Real Foodies” Shop Discount Stores?

The following post is from Kate of Modern Alternative Mama:

source: Modern Alternative Mama

We all want to save money on groceries.  They’re a major expense for any family, especially growing ones.  But when you are committed to “real food” suddenly the game changes.  There are rarely coupons for real food, and they don’t sell grass-fed beef at scratch’n’dent-type places (or even ‘normal’ grocery stores).  So can real foodies actually benefit from discount stores  at all?  Or are they simply doomed to higher prices?

The Discount Run-Around

For a couple of years, I visited discount stores annually or semi-annually.  I was generally disappointed in what they offered and left without buying much.  It wasn’t worth my time to go very often because they just didn’t carry the types of products I was looking for.

That’s been changing — finally — in the last several months.

More and more people are conscious about what they eat.  More people are starting to demand organic and ‘clean’ options.  And even discount stores are now starting to respond to that demand!  If you haven’t been inside a discount store for a few years, you may want to check it out again.

My Discount Store Experience

A few months back, I decided to head to Aldi for my annual “Is there anything I can buy?” mission.  Only, this time, there was.  They were carrying items like no-junk veggie chips, cheap produce (that wasn’t on the ‘dirty dozen’ list), wild-caught salmon, Lifeway kefir, and even some Kerrygold items!  I was able to find a decent selection of items we enjoy.

I’ve found more and more organic and natural options in scratch’n’dent stores as well.  I’ve picked up organic corn chips, Larabars, organic crackers, organic cereal, organic peanut butter, and more.

After several weeks, Aldi began to carry a new organic line.  I found some “O” cereal that doesn’t contain corn (a grain we can’t eat at this time).  They also had organic, raw cheddar, pasta, fruit snacks, and more.  And they were priced so much cheaper than anywhere else.

If you’re not that concerned with organic, but are mostly looking for “whole foods,” then you will find even more options.  Aldi has begun to carry more and more produce and some of it is on sale super cheap every week.  I picked up lemons for $0.69/lb. and avocados just $0.49/each (which is half or less what I’d pay anywhere else).

Finally, because of consumer demand — yes, discount stores are a viable option!

What NOT to Buy at Discount Stores

While I now spend a significant portion of my grocery budget at discount stores, there are some items I simply will not buy there.  Quality in these areas is too important to me and I have other local sources I prefer.  These include:

  • Meat– I go through local farms or butchers to buy pastured options.
  • Eggs– I also prefer local farms for these.
  • Milk– I have a herdshare and we get raw milk.
  • Grains– I buy whole brown rice and wheat berries at bulk stores.
  • Oils/fats– I buy most of my oils at somewhat ‘better’ stores, including online bulk if I can.

These are priorities in my grocery budget.  Although we eat a lot of produce (I probably buy 50 – 60 lbs. every couple weeks), I prioritize the animal products more heavily because the pesticide load, I believe, could be even higher.

No Perfect Answers

In a perfect world, would I shop the discount stores?  Maybe not.  Maybe I’d buy 100% local and organic everything.  But I don’t have the money for that.  My goal is to feed my family the best I can within the budget that I have.  A few people have turned up their noses and said “I’d never compromise on….”  And that’s fine. Everyone has their own personal limits and boundaries.

But, if you’re looking for a way to save on groceries, check out some of these places.  You just might find options that work for you!

Do you shop the discount stores?  Why or why not?

Kate is a wife and mommy to 3 and is passionate about God, health and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and is planning to release more in 2012. When she’s not blogging, she’s in the kitchen, sewing, or home schooling her children. You can find her at Modern Alternative Mama or contributing to Keeper of the Home.
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