For this final part, I am focusing on thinking outside the box when it comes to buying your food. If I said to you “where do you go when you need to buy groceries for your family” what would you say? I bet you would answer “the grocery store of course!” That’s a great answer but there are a few other options that when they work out can end up saying you money.
First off, group buying and social programs. Most cities have food co-ops of some type that you can access. Our city offers a group buying program for fresh fruits and vegetables. There are 3 sizes of boxes available 10 times each year. We order a large box each time which gives us 40 to 45 pounds of fresh produce for $35. These boxes are ordered in large quantities which then allows the cost to be lower than a traditional grocery store. Below are 4 examples of what we receive in a box. We have taken part in similar programs in other cities in the past as well. Sometimes these boxes are subsidized or given away for free based on lower incomes. I am a big believer in checking out your local resource centre for programs you may be eligible for like this one. Another co-op we have bought from before offered fruits, baking supplies and honey at very competitive prices.
Another option is to look at smaller or speciality stores. We have one store in town that sells produce at very discounted prices. The quality can be hit and miss but it’s a good option at times. Another store we buy from is quite unconventional. They send out a list of items that are available once or twice a week and you can order from that and then go and pick the items up. It is quite random and a only what is on hand situation. We have purchased everything from eggs, beef and hot dogs to scones, bagels and pasta to tomato paste, crackers and molasses there before.
Did you see my post earlier this month showing my Shoppers Drugmart points redemption? Did you know that you can buy food items like fish, bread and milk at your local drug store? Tuna is one of my favourite items to pick up from a very small drug store in town. They have the best prices usually twice a year and large amounts in stock.
Another option are harvest groups. This is where you volunteer your time to help pick fruit from trees/bushes that the owner is unable or not wanting to collect themselves. The local chapter where we live then gives 1/3 of the harvest to a local social organization, 1/3 to the owner and 1/3 to be split among the volunteers. This requires some of your time but in return you get food without paying out of pocket for it. Gleaning local fields would be another option to get food for free. I’ve never done this personally but if I found a farmer who was willing to let me I definitely would!
Finally, another option is bartering or free groups. Do you have something you no longer need that you could barter with someone for food? If it’s a win-win situation for both why not go for it?! Also, there are a number of free groups around these days from Freecycle to more local groups online. I often see food items posted on these sites from people either heading out of town or who were given food their family don’t like or have allergies to. If food is being passed on it can really help to stretch your grocery budget.
What other ideas do you have for buying groceries while thinking outside the box?