As prices for daily needs keep rising, and the allotted portion of our paychecks required for those needs are shrinking or remaining stagnant, more and more people are turning to bargain grocery stores for their weekly shopping needs. Granted, you may not find everything you are looking for at these “no frills” stores, but the savings you can achieve by shopping at them, for all the things you will find there, is certainly worth the effort you will make of still shopping at a regular grocery store, only for the items not carried by the budget stores. This article will focus on those stores available to shoppers in the immediate, Western New York area.
We’ll begin with Aldi. By my experience, the Aldi stores in Western New York are physically smaller than their competitors; but that does not mean that they do not pack a boatload of savings into those smaller stores. I also enjoy the concept of cart rental that this chain developed, as a means by which to keep their parking lots free of empty grocery carts. When you need to use one of their carts, you simply put a quarter into the device on the cart to unchain it from the rest of the row that it’s parked in. When you are done with your shopping, and have transported your purchases back to your car, you simply return the cart to the row from whence it came, insert the nifty “key” from another cart into the “rental” device coin slot on the handle of your cart, and you get your quarter back. If only good quarterbacks in the NFL were so simple to come by…! By having this cart rental procedure in place, Aldi parking lots are easier to navigate, not having to drive around or dodge carts left by inconsiderate shoppers. It also helps them to keep their prices low, by not having to employ people responsible for rounding up all the loose, empty carts that are so prevalent in all other grocery store parking lots. Aldi offers a limited, but still high quality, choice of fresh meats, produce and dairy items. They have quite a large assortment of frozen products as well. A few of what I find to be real bargains at Aldi are, packages of cream cheese for $.89, bacon wrapped individual sirloin steaks, (that look like fillet mignon), for $1.79, scoop-able cat litter for $3.69, and one pound frozen, boneless, skinless salmon fillets for $3.69. By purchasing those items at Aldi as opposed to one of the larger, “name” grocery stores, I am saving a pretty tidy amount of money. There are five Aldi stores in the area, and by visiting their website, aldifoods.com, you will be able to find the store closest to you, and discover weekly sale items.
Next, let’s take a look at Price Rite. I have only visited one of the three Price Rite stores in the Buffalo area, that being the newest store which opened in late May on Walden Avenue in Cheektowaga. I made a huge error by thinking that if I got to the store within minutes of it’s grand opening at 8 AM on a Sunday morning, that I would be able to comfortably stroll around the store to check out what bargains they were offering. By the time I cruised through their parking lot at 7:45 that Sunday morning, I saw that I would have had to just get in line with the hundreds of other people waiting for the store to open! I like to save money on groceries, but I am not a fan of waiting in line for that privilege. I returned home, and figured that I would just allow the grand opening frenzy to subside for a couple of hours, then return for my bargain searching. When I returned to the newly opened store in the middle of that afternoon, the line of shoppers waiting to get into the store had vanished, but the parking lot was filled to overflowing! I ended up parking in the lot of an adjacent department store, and hiked the two hundred yards or so to the Price Rite entrance doors. Upon entering the store, I was greeted by a cheery, if not “shell shocked” appearing young lady, who welcomed me to the store. She handed me a couple of free, plastic shopping bags with the Price Rite name emblazoned on them, and wished me well with my visit. I then passed through the sliding doors separating the entrance from the store itself, and was greeted by a scene reminiscent of the the ghastly, memorable scene from the movie, Gone With The Wind, when after a huge battle, Scarlet O’Hara views a panoramic vision of injured Confederate soldiers, thousands of them, awaiting treatment for their wounds. Don’t get me wrong, there were no people swaddled with bandages or lying on stretchers awaiting medical treatment, but there were lots – LOTS AND LOTS – of people trying to do the same thing that I wanted to do! Rather than engage in shopping cart combat with all those other bargain hunters, trying to make my way through the crowded aisles, I just turned around, and left with my two free Price Rite shopping bags.
I finally did make it into the store, this time waiting a couple of days before heading back, and was pleasantly pleased with many of the bargains that were available. Price Rite has a larger selection of items than Aldi, especially in their produce section, with pricing on everything else, on a par with Aldi. The real bargains my wife and I found were all located within the produce section. We purchased two mango’s at only $.39 each, red, seedless grapes at $.99 per pound, a three pound bag of cooking onions for the same price as a two pound bag at one of the “name” grocery stores, and an assortment of other fruits and veggies on which we saved nearly $7.00 over what we would have paid elsewhere. We also found boneless, skinless chicken breasts, in a bulk package, for just $1.69 per pound. My wife was extremely impressed with the wide assortment of seasonings and spices available at remarkably low prices. As previously mentioned, there are currently only three Price Rite stores in the immediate Buffalo area, so visit their website at priceritesupermarkets.com to locate the store you would like to visit, and to check out all the information available there, regarding sale items, hours of operation, and any other helpful information.
Lastly, we will visit Save-A-Lot grocery stores. A visit to their website, save-a-lot.com, will allow you to view where one of their ten stores are located in the area. As with Price Rite, the selection of produce, fresh meats and dairy items, are greater than that found at Aldi. And, their prices are pretty much in the same ballpark as the other two discount grocery stores. Some of the bargains we have found in the past, include top round steak, which my wife magically transforms into succulent beef stroganof, for nearly $2.00 per pound less than what we would have purchased in a “name” grocery store, bulk packages of ground beef and stew meat, as well as thick cut bacon for just $1.49 per pound. One nice thing we discovered at Save-A-Lot is, if you cannot find what you are looking for in the fresh meat section, all you need do, is tell one of the clerks servicing that area what you are looking for, and they go and have the butcher cut and wrap what you would like. On one of our shopping trips, my wife wanted a two pound piece of top round steak, but could find nothing in the counter to her liking. When we asked a clerk if there might be something available that was not already in the display counter, he told us he would go talk to the butcher about providing what we were looking for. It could not have been two minutes later, that the clerk returned, with a freshly cut, exactly two pound portion of top round. That was great service! We also enjoy being able to purchase smaller packages of assorted pasta, as many times, we do not need one pound of elbows or penne, to make a recipe. On those occasions, we are able to purchase 8 ounce bags of assorted pasta for only $.29 or $.39! We do not shop that much at Save-A-Lot, as both Aldi and Price Rite are located closer to our home, but if out and about on a shopping foray, and we find ourselves in close proximity to one of the Save-A-Lot stores, we are always ready to partake in the savings they can provide.
All three of the grocery stores I have mentioned here, offer what they refer to as “no frills service”. That means that after you have made your purchases, you get to bag your own groceries. I’ll tell you this, I’m more than ready to save not just nickles and dimes, but dollars – lots of them – by bagging my own groceries! I don’t find it demeaning, or troublesome, or a waste of my time. These stores also save on your grocery bill, by not being open 24 hours a day, but rather, with hours of operation more closely related to those during which you would go shopping anyway. If you need a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, or a package of tuna helper, all you need do is get to one of these money saving centers before they close, rather than putting off your visit to a “name” grocery store until 2 AM! Don’t you think it’s time to quit being a snob regarding name brands and inflated prices? If not, you can send me the extra money you are going to spend at the “name” grocery stores, over what you would spend at Aldi, Price Rite or Save-A-Lot. I could put it to good use on my grocery shopping!