Are Supermarkets the Best Place for Frugal Shopping?

The supermarkets have spent a lot of money convincing us that they offer the best choice, quality and price, but do they? You can beat the supermarkets but it’s not very easy.

Supermarket Best Price BuyingThere’s little doubt that for a product like a tin of beans or a bag of sugar you will find it hard to beat their price. One of the reasons those thousands of corner shops have died away is that they can’t buy cheaper from the wholesaler than the supermarket sells for at retail on many products.

Bankrupt, Surplus and End of Line Food Retailers

There are some independent retailers and bargain outlets who can compete though. Especially the ones that specialise in short date life stocks, end of line and bankrupt stocks. Sometimes it can be as stupid as a colour on a brand label being slightly off so the manufacturer dumps it outside of their normal chain. B&M Stores and Home Bargains often have good prices but you need to have a good grasp of prices.

Home Farm Sales

Don’t forget farm-gate egg sales from small suppliers. Especially in country areas you can often buy wonderfully tasting super-fresh free-range eggs at very reasonable prices direct from the producer.


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Markets are sadly in decline but they can offer fantastic value as well as superb quality. We’ve noticed free range eggs from a market stall at a third less than the best price in the supermarket. And a picture of the farm and hens that laid them, proudly displayed behind the counter!

Quality meat and fish can be found in markets as well. I’m talking about normal markets sometimes open just a couple of days a week, by the way. The special farmer’s markets in our experience tend to offer over-priced products, trading on the fact they’re ‘direct from the farm’.

One stall on a special farmers market was offering Bury black puddings at twice the price of exactly the same black puddings on a stall in the normal indoor market.
Not everything is a bad deal at farmers markets, but do be careful not to be carried away thinking you are buying something special when you’re not.

Local Butchers & Farm Shops

With meat a local butcher whether on a market or in a shop is hard pressed to compete with the buying power of our major chains. However, if you’re willing to bulk buy then you can often end up with better quality than the supermarkets.

Just ask, they want to sell to you and they’re not stupid. They know it’s a tough market and who their competition is. If you buy half a pig or lamb including the less popular cuts they’re happy and you can have a bargain for your freezer.

Regardless of the price, it’s much nicer to enjoy high quality meats preferably locally reared in humane conditions than eat low quality. If you can get it for the same price, then why not?

In recent years chicken has become a staple low cost product, Despite people protesting that they want quality of life for them, when it comes to actually spending money their moral scruples too often seem to be forgotten. If you can find a local supplier of free range poultry, you can certainly buy whole chickens for less than the supermarket sells similar products for, although you won’t beat the price for the supermarket densely crowded fast-growing chicken.

If a better life for your food isn’t important to you, be aware that studies have shown that free range chickens contain less of the harmful fats in comparison with cruelly raised chickens. In other words, they’re better for your health.

Farm shops can be a good source of value vegetables if you don’t grow your own. Things like potatoes by the sack can be a lot cheaper than those washed potatoes in little plastic bags.

Farm to Door Box Schemes

Box schemes can be remarkably good value as well. Because they put a selection together of vegetables etc. in season. The contents vary but this is a good thing. It forces you to think a bit about what you’re eating and variations in diet are good for us.

Asian and Ethnic Minority Stores

If you live in or near a city with an Asian population then it’s a great opportunity to buy rice and pulses such as lentils at a low price from Asian stores. Often they’ll sell rice in sacks and the price will be far lower than the small packets in the supermarket. Kept dry, rice will store well for a long time. My experience has been that they’re really helpful and friendly as well, so don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t see what you want or don’t know what you’re looking at

So don’t assume the supermarkets are unbeatable – they’re not. You may have to shop around a bit, but it can be well worth it.

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