How to Save Money at Almost Any Store

Today my guest author is Mary Ostyn from Owlhaven.  Not only is Mary an adoptive mom of a large family, but she is also the author of a well-read blog and two published books, A Sane Woman’s Guide to Raising a Large Family and Family Feasts for $75 a Week.

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Today I had a grocery list of about a dozen items. My preference, always, is to go to Winco, the most affordable grocery store in my town.  But it is half an hour from home.  And I’d be going right by a couple of different stores on the way home from church this evening: Paul’s, a small grocery store with some awesome prices and some terrible ones, and Albertsons, big and generally expensive, but with 10# of potatoes on sale for 99 cents this week.

The potatoes were a real lure (do I have a strange mind or what?) but in the end I went to Paul’s.  They almost always have milk on sale (usually with ‘points’).  They often have excellent sales on meat and fruit.  And they have a habit I utterly adore:  they clearance random things to move them faster.

This week– sure enough — they had milk for $1.78 a gallon.  They had prices on dish soap that were comparable to other places.  I paid $1.50 more for bacon than I would have at Winco.  None of the meat prices knocked my socks off, so I passed.  (We just brought one of our cows to the butcher this week anyway– my freezers will soon bulge with beef.)

But the clearance items were lovely this week.   I got canned evaporated milk (2 days past expiration) for 25 cents a can.  Crispix cereal was a buck a box.  And Shasta root beer was $2.50 for a case of 24.  We don’t drink pop often– the kids probably have a can every month or so — but this price was so good that I got 3 cases.  It’ll be perfect for a youth group party we’re planning next month.

Always when you’re shopping there’s a tension between wanting to save money and needing to limit your time grocery shopping.  This evening I opted for the more ‘expensive’ store to save time.  I paid a dollar extra for a couple things I really needed, but I also saved 50% or more on several items, and overall still ended up saving money at that store.

I think you can make almost any store work for an occasional trip by remembering the following hints:

  1. Knowing your prices from store to store helps you make reasonable choices.  If you know you’re paying $3 extra for that can of cocoa powder, you just may decide to buy it someplace else.  But if the milk is only a dime more and it will save you half an hour to buy it at the higher price, go for it.
  2. The corollary to knowing your prices:  be willing to temporarily go without non-essential things if it means buying them at a more affordable store later.  You’d be surprised at how many things you can live without for a few days or a week.
  3. Check sales.  (Duh) There are stores I only set foot in when the sales are good.  I visit Albertson’s less than once a month, but a few weeks ago I bought 20 boxes of cereal there for $1 each.  And those on-sale potatoes.  I walked right by all the rest of it, thus escaping with most of my money.
  4. Shop at stores that offer clearance items, bulk food, and generics. Much money can be saved with bulk and generics.  Clearance too– I personally am not afraid of canned goods that are a few days past their date.  Obviously I’m going to avoid dented or bulging cans, and sniff food as I open and prepare it.   But nothing horrible magically happens to a can 72 hours past the date stamped on it. (Casual Kitchen has more on this topic.)

What about you?  How do you get the most out of a ‘high-priced’ store?


This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. amy
    January 4, 2011

    I used to work at Paul's (when I was in high school) and i would come home with the discounted milk, eggs, bread, and other dairy products. I don't know of any other stores that come close to the savings I would get back then. In those days (its been about 15 years) our store had a policy that if perishables (like dairy, eggs, and bread) we discounted them starting about 2 days before their sell by date. I love shopping like that, I only wish I could find more of it now.

  2. kristen
    January 4, 2011

    Great deals & tips, Mary! I loved going through the recipes in 'Family Feasts'-espeically the make ahead muffins!

  3. theschwarz1
    March 7, 2011

    Hey, Just came across this blog. Nice work! My wife and I are already working with a $50/week grocery budget. We are a family of 5, 3 of us are under 5yrs old, so that helps…for now.
    Anyway, we have been going through the Dave Ramsey course of Financial Peace University. We not only created a budget but also a monthly spending plan that goes by week. IT has actually been very freeing to know that our bills can be paid with our income…barely, but they can be paid.

    We are learning quickly how to make nutritious meals on the cheap. Because we know that when you start buying cheap, then usually the quality of nutrition is cheap too. So we make decisions and intentionally live so that we can still eat nutritiously and spend little.
    Some ways we do that are by having chickens. Chickens are some of the easiest things to raise with a great return. Some grain and water and a little shelter…not even that maybe, and you can have an abundance of eggs and meat. You can raise chickens in almost any setting, sometimes even within the city!
    We do live in a rural area in northcentral Pa., but we only have 1.3 acres. We decided to raise goats. We scored a few free meat goats (boer) that were runts of show quality goats. One was bred to a dairy goat, so soon we will get milk from the offspring. But the others we raise for meat. Let me tell you something about goat meat…IT IS SOOO GOOD! We Americans have really missed the boat on goat meat. 70-80% of the world eats it…and now I know why! They are small animals that are easy to take care of, have great meat/weight ratio, and are just fun to have around.
    I am working on a possible e-magazine that talks about how to raise things on the cheap. Most hobby farm magazines are geared to the wealthy who can afford all kinds of farmsteads and farm toys. I see great value in finding ways to do it cheaply and in a manner that provides a good environment for the livestock as well.
    Check out for a taste of what I mean.

    Thanks for your blog!


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