Best Places to Shop for Groceries

Since we gave up our Costco membership, I've been exploring different places to buy groceries. (If you want to read more about why we ditched Costco, check out the blog I wrote about our decision-making process. If you have a large family, entertain often, or need to feed a lot of dogs, Costco might make more sense for you.) Lately, I've been exploring two new (to me!) places to buy food: Aldi and Walmart. In addition, we have continued to shop at Trader Joe's.

Because I live in western Howard County, Maryland, my choices are limited by what is fairly close by. I'm not going to drive 20 miles to go grocery shopping! All the stores we frequent are in Howard County, or southern Carroll County, Maryland. If you want to save money, keep the cost of gas and wear and tear on your vehicle in mind. It might make sense for you to drive a longer distance once a month to stock up on cheaper staples somewhere further away.

If I could only shop at one store for the rest of my life, this would not be a difficult choice. It would have to be Trader Joe's. Although Trader Joe's is small, size doesn't matter. (In this case.) What Trader Joe's lacks in size, it more than makes up for in quality. If you want to avoid preservatives, additives, trans-fats, hormones, etc. then this store is a great choice. While Whole Foods and other organic groceries eliminate these same offenders, they also charge you a lot more for that convenience.

Trader Joe's carries tons of prepared foods like pre-made salads, dips, spreads, marinades, and dressings. Great for working moms, dads, older folks, and young couples who like convenience. You can buy half a chicken already marinated and ready to roast. You can find a wide variety of frozen dinners for 1-2 people that are easy to whip up, delicious, and nutritious. Their pre-made desserts come both fresh and frozen. The quality is very high.

Aldi, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. Aldi has some of the lowest prices I have seen anywhere. Even lower than Walmart, and that is quite a feat. Aldi does carry some organic products, but these are not nearly as cheap as their conventional produce and products. For example, I recently bought fresh raspberries (6 oz) for $1.09. A whole pineapple is $1.29 this week. Organic peanut butter is $3.39 for a 17 ounce jar. Sprouted wheat bread (not organic) is $2.89 for a 16 ounce loaf. Guacamole minis (6 ct pack) is $2.99. Organic milk is $2.95 for a half gallon. Some things are VERY cheap at Aldi, but the quality of those products might not match the quality at Trader Joe's or Costco. I recommend reading ingredient lists carefully before deciding whether or not you have found a true bargain here.

As far as Walmart goes, the prices in general are extremely competitive. When Aldi is cheaper, it is only by a few cents. Walmart has almost everything you could possibly want, although I have not been able to find sprouted wheat bread! The organic stuff at Walmart is not super cheap, so you might not save money here if you want only organic food stuffs. I have found grassfed beef on sale for under $5 per pound (which is an excellent price!) and Kerrygold butter is about $2.89 per half pound--the same as at Aldi. This is the cheapest price I have found anywhere on grassfed butter. Organic milk is about $3.12 per half gallon.

We used to buy our grain-free dry dogfood at Costco, where the prices are excellent and the food is high quality. Walmart has its own brand (Pure Balance) of dogfood which is also highly rated for quality and not outrageously priced. There are quite a few different flavors, from venison to chicken to trout to lamb, and our dogs enjoy all the varieties we've tried so far. Aldi also carries a grain-free dogfood in both salmon and chicken flavors, but they only offer a small sized (5 lb.) bag for $5.89. If you have a small dog, this might work, but our two akitas go through quite a bit of food per week!

I hear we are getting a Sprouts in Ellicott City on Route 40, so this is another place which might have better prices on fresh produce and organics. When they open, I'll check it out and write a report for you. Have more ideas about great places to find bargains on excellent quality food stuffs? Leave a comment below!