My “Saving Big At The Supermarket” Story

I’ve known for a long time that our grocery bill is insanely high even for a high cost of living area.  With our current reliance on convenience foods and Trader Joes, this bill is not likely to come down.  That’s why I was pretty ecstatic to discover a new way to reduce our grocery bill.

I’m sure most people already know about the clearance bin section in every grocery store. Oftentimes it’s just an industrial looking bin/shelf tucked away in a dark corner.  Despite my frugal tendencies, I had never taken a good look at those bins, assuming that anything placed on those shelves were past their “sell-by” date.

My recent experience at a Fresh & Easy supermarket changed my perspective, which goes to show you that even old dogs can learn new tricks.  I was at F&E to buy a few items during my lunch hour.  I had been at this F&E several times and while not a favorite like Trader Joes, I liked some of their store-brand products and their smaller store size made it a good option for a quick shopping trip. 

While perusing the perimeters of the store, I noticed the clearance bin, a rather non-descriptive shelf located in the farthest corner of the store.  Instead of bypassing it as usual, however, I took a look this time and I’m so glad I did.  Two of my favorite organic baby food brands were discounted by an amazing 75-90%!  Neither Amazon.com nor Walmart could match those prices.  I immediately checked the expiration dates.   With the exception of a few jars that would expire in a month or two, the majority of items were almost a year away from their expiration date.   Without hesitation, I piled most of the items into my basket, leaving a few jars behind because I didn’t want to stockpile too much.  In hindsight, I probably should have just bought everything!

The next week, I dropped by the same Fresh & Easy store and went straight for the clearance bin.  I was hoping to find more organic baby food deals but these were all gone by then.  However, I did find good snack items on clearance at 75% off.   I also took a look at another clearance section with vegetables, fruits and other fresh foods.  While there were a few sad-looking, bruised avocados, there were also bell peppers, egg plants, corn and other still-edible vegetables.  I would have bought some if I had inclination to make dinner that night.  

I guess I longer view the clearance bin as the land of misfit foods.  Instead it’s a great option for shoppers on a budget and you can find good foods (and household products) at amazingly low prices.  Just be sure to check expiration dates!

Do you shop the clearance bins? What’s the best deal you ever got?

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6 responses to “My “Saving Big At The Supermarket” Story

  1. We have a Fresh & Easy not too far away, and I am really happy with the value that I get every time I go (although I haven’t yet gone through the clearance bin–I’ll have to remember that for next time). But I don’t go that often for the same reason I don’t get to Trader Joe’s as often as I’d like: the parking lot is exceptionally challenging. While getting into the Fresh & Easy parking lot is simple, getting out is not–because where it’s situated on the intersection, I have to go 1/2 mile out of my way in one direction or another to get home. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to discourage me when the Ralphs supermarket is already 2.5 miles closer.

  2. We have a small produce mart– whenever we go we check the dollar bin for ripe must be eaten that night avocados. Because it is very easy to eat ripe must be eaten avocados, especially at 33 cents or less an avocado.

    And it’s sadly all too easy to forget to eat a $2 unripe avocado before it goes bad.

  3. I haven’t tried F&E yet, but I think I’m gonna have to give it a go. They opened a new one in my neighborhood. I pretty much just rely on Trader Joe’s and the farmers market, but neither are conveniently located, which is tough without a car. Anyhoo, I always like to grab fruit on the uber ripe/ugly tables at the farmers market. Easy to freeze to use for smoothies, deserts or to add to oatmeal and usually very cheap at $1 or less per pound.

  4. N&M, CF: Yes, I was really amazed by the low prices, which means it’s worth rethinking our menu planning a bit. Guacamole, frittata, smoothies are all great ways to make use of produce/fruits that must be eaten the same day.

  5. My supermarket generally has one in the freezer section – you can score great deals on yoghurt, dips, custard, hummus etc if lucky!

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