If you’re looking for ways to cut costs even further, but still make creative and exotic meals, Carrie from Springs Bargains has some great tips for you about shopping at ethnic markets.
1. Stick to ethnic ingredients.
Most larger ethnic markets stock at least a small amount of “American” foods, but these are often quite overpriced. So, it’s best to make a trip to the specialty market to get specialty food, and stick to your regular grocery store for pantry staples.
2. Don’t expect Whole Foods-quality produce.
Most large chain grocery stores have pretty zealous quality control standards, and smaller ethnic markets just don’t. So, don’t always expect to have impeccable produce available at all times. My rule of thumb is to stick to the “ethnic” types of produce. Our local Mexican market usually has great quality in their peppers, but not so much in the green beans and lettuce.
A few weeks ago I was at an Asian market and iceberg lettuce was 4 for $1. It was looking a little sorry, though, and if it had been on my list I probably would have paid more for it elsewhere. Their bok choy and mung bean sprouts were great, though!
3. Make sure you like it before you buy in bulk.
Haven’t ever tried sesame oil before? You might want to buy a smaller bottle before you buy a gallon. This is the case with any product at any store, but bears keeping in mind for ethnic ingredients. The largest size may be the cheapest cost-per-ounce, but if you buy it and only use 1/4 of it because you discovered you didn’t like it, it’s definitely not the cheapest. Try it first, and then buy in bulk.
4. Find out if your favorite market runs weekly specials.
Most ethnic markets don’t run weekly specials, but the ones that do usually have some smokin’ deals! Find out if your markets offer weekly deals and if you can view their ad online. Our Mexican market has a weekly ad and Wednesday and Thursday produce and meat specials that have prices that are often out of this world! They don’t have a wide circulation area, but you can look at their ad online, making it easier to plan your trip.
5. Make a list of recipes you want to make before you go to the market.
For most people, an ethnic market isn’t going to be the place they do their weekly grocery shopping, and it may also not be on your main driving route. So, to save on time and gas, start collecting a list of the Asian recipes you want to make, for instance. Then, when you’re ready to make a trip to the Asian market, you can buy the ingredients (both fresh and non-perishable) for all of those meals at once.
Carrie Isaac is a mom to three kids four and under, who love going to the Asian market and watching the live fish! She blogs about deals in Colorado Springs, and also does internet marketing for her husband, a Colorado Springs Realtor.