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Saving Money On Groceries In New England

Guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting Miracles

When I learned we would be moving from Indiana to Connecticut, one of my biggest fears was this: How will this impact my grocery budget?

Over and over I had read how expensive things were on the East Coast. So many times I had seen comments from New Englanders sighing over how they “couldn’t get those deals” or “match those prices.” Happily, it didn’t take me long to find my groove here and my budget hasn’t had to budge.

So… how can you save money on groceries when you live on the East Coast?

1. Face the facts.

The cost of living is higher here. Our base prices are almost universally higher too. That’s just how it is.

Do not waste time and energy bemoaning the fact that you can’t get milk for $1.49 a gallon like someone in Texas or purchase quality beef for the price you’d pay in Kansas. It’s discouraging but, more to the point, irrelevant. Throwing your hands in the air and declaring it hopeless won’t help. Acknowledge that regular prices are high here. Then move on…

2. Celebrate the advantages, no matter how small they may seem.

Here, in my neck of New England, I can get much fresher, and often more affordable, seafood than I ever would have found when I lived in Indiana. We also seem to get “new” products on our shelves faster than many regions.

And, while most prices here seem astronomical compared to when I lived in the Midwest, I have noted that dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and half and half frequently go on sale for better prices than I paid in “middle America.” Much more productive for me to focus on those things than the fact that I can expect to pay at least twice the price for meat here.

3. Embrace more generous policies.

Do you want to know what floored me when I moved out here? Most of the major supermarkets double coupons up to and including ninety-nine cents. That’s fantastic!

A seventy-five cent coupon, doubled, and paired with a sale makes cereal just as affordable here as it ever was in the Midwest. The fact that the small box of Cheerios regularly retails for $4.99 here doesn’t matter. What matters is that I can still get it for less than a dollar.

4. Look beyond the supermarket.

There are two major supermarkets in my town. I usually scan both ads to see if the deals are worth it. Most weeks, one is and one isn’t. But I don’t stop there.

Before even moving here, I searched for the closest Aldi; it’s forty-five minutes away. I can no longer “drop in” for a few things as needed like I did back in Indiana when Aldi was down the street. But I can plan a big monthly trip to pick up staples. (Aldi’s prices are very consistent on most items across the country.)
I also drop by a small neighborhood market on occasion. Their regular prices are ridiculously high, but they have good sales on a few items. In addition, I’ve gotten bunches of bananas, cartons of organic milk, and bouquets of flowers there for free; since they don’t have the turnover or brisk business of a larger store, they just wanted to get rid of it.

5. Seek out creative money savers.

There are more ways to save than just sales and coupons. One of our supermarkets gives you a nickel off for each reusable bag you use. That adds up!

Some stores offer their own coupons in their ads or online. I have discovered an amazing reduced produce rack in the corner of one of our markets. The other sells gourmet cheese as “cheese ends” for a song. I even save money on meat, dairy, and more by scanning and bagging my own groceries as I shop at a local store.

Will all these options be available to you? Probably not. But you may have other unique ways to shave some pennies off that grocery total! Look around, ask around, and don’t be afraid to try something.

Finding deals in New England looks different from finding deals in the Midwest. If I were to focus only on the shelf prices, I’d probably want to crawl into a hole. But, by using the above strategies, I find I can most definitely save money here. It just required learning a new kind of savvy shopping.

JessieLeigh is the mother of a former 24-week micropreemie and two full-term blessings as well. She is a determined advocate for the tiniest of babies, including the unborn, and a firm believer in faith and miracles. She shares about raising such a precious, tiny baby over at Parenting Miracles.

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  1. Andrea says

    I’ve lived in Maine, Massachusetts and currently reside in New Hampshire, plus my in-laws live in Connecticut, so I’ve tried a lot of different stores. Even within New England, prices vary drastically.

    While two chains in my area double coupons, there are other chain stores here that have consistently better prices (and aren’t present in other areas of New England). There are no Aldi stores in New Hampshire or Maine and only about a dozen total in all of New England.

    I shop the sales flyers, pick our own berries and apples, go to farm stands and farmer’s markets, grow some of our own food, participate in a food co-op and order from Amazon. We buy our grass-fed beef directly from a farmer at great prices.

    • Andrea says

      Re-checked the Aldi website. There are a lot of stores (19 IIRC) in Connecticut now. Hopefully they’ll spread north!

    • Nicole says

      Jessie I too live in ct and was wondering if you have info for where you get your beef. I have called a couple with no success.

      • says

        Nicole– We don’t eat a ton of beef but, what we do, I just buy at local markets. I don’t have a good source, I’m afraid. I know Andrea mentioned buying grass-fed beef, but she’s in a different state. Sorry!

  2. Denise says

    I’m one of those New Englanders – thanks for the encouragement. It really is hard to get great deals here on a lot of things, but it has caused me to grow a good sized garden, we’ve gotten dairy goats, chickens and ducks, rabbits, and we recently added sheep. So, if you need to feed a large family (we are 7), you can if you open your horizons:) Thanks for the great post!

  3. says

    Great article Jessie Leigh!

    We moved six months ago and I went through something similar. I could not believe how much higher prices were here, but I was able to find the good deals here after a few months and now we are back to our regular $100/week grocery budget for six.

    I would love to have your fresh seafood. :)

    • Stephanie says

      I just started reading your blog but had no idea you lived in New England….very impressive that you are feeding your family for $100/wk. I was already intrigued, now I’m REALLY intrigued!!!!

  4. says

    I’m kind of going through the reverse – I moved from California to Kansas, expecting that my grocery budget would go down, but so far, it hasn’t, especially given that we had no sales tax on food in California while Kansas does. I agree with you that it depends on what you’re buying – I am hoping to get hooked up with some of that great midwestern beef soon, but other things are not that much cheaper here, especially produce.

    • Kristine says

      Getting used to paying sales tax on food was hard for me, too, when we moved from North Dakota to Kansas a few years ago. It makes a big difference. I buy most of my groceries at Aldi. One way that we save money is by seldom eating meat.

  5. Lyn says

    As far as seafood, we do enjoy it but I rarely buy it, because I find it to be very expensive here where we live in New England. On a good sale, I can find something like tilapia for $3.99 or $4.99/lb. Other than that, most seafood items are out of my price range. Once in a while in the summer you can get better prices for things like lobster, shrimp, etc. But these are things that are special meal items for us – a few times a year maybe.

    Basically just like everywhere else, you make the best of things and use the strategies that will individually help your family. One size does not fit all. :)

    Thank you for the article, JessieLeigh.

  6. Jennifer says

    Thanks for posting this! As a life long Mainer I didn’t realize things were cheaper elsewhere until I started reading blogs and realized the great deals others were getting that weren’t available to me. We do many of the things others have mentioned above such as farmer’s market, pick apples and blueberries, have a garden etc. We occassionally will buy seafood directly off the boat from the lobstermen (at a much lower price). I am willing to pay more though when I can go to the farmer’s market or lobster pound and meet the farmer or fisherman that harvested my food. I will only shop every 2 weeks, so this cuts down on spending as well. I spend an average of $120 every 2 weeks for my family of 3.

  7. says

    I live in one of the South’s larger cities and recently visited some friends in various places in New England. I was really surprised to discover that grocery prices were about the same as in my town. I think we have some of the same food-supply issues: a climate that makes it hard to grow a lot of produce varieties (except our summers, not winters, are the problem), food trucked in from very far away, not a lot of animal/dairy farmers to reduce the cost of those budget-breakers, etc. So your tips are helpful. Thanks!

  8. Jennifer says

    Thanks for posting this! I am a life long Mainer and I never realized how expensive things were in the north east until I started reading blogs and realized the good deals people were getting in other parts of the nation. We do many of the same things mentioned above– pick your own berries, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, grow a garden. We live in a rural area, so our supermarket choices are limited and expensive, but we just deal with it. We live very close to the beach, so occassionally we will buy lobster right off the boat from a lobsterman. Seafood that way is so much tastier and cheaper! We limit shopping to twice a month, that saves on spending too. We average $120 every two weeks. We also shop once a month for meat and freeze it.

  9. says

    JessieLeigh, good for you for evaluating the best deals for your new area!

    I have seen several New England bloggers post some great shopping trips that absolutly amaze me (Frugality in the Hudson Valley is one).

    I have studied MSM and other sites for ideas in lowering our expenses as well. We don’t have double coupons, our prices are higher than the ones posted here (including at Target), and we don’t have an Aldi’s. However, that hasn’t stopped me from finding some great deals and being able to feed my family and stock my pantry for less. I just refused to give up and kept looking for ways to make what we have work for us.

  10. Herb says

    We lived for 5.5 years in Quincy, on Boston’s South Shore. The only way we made it was our weekly trips to Haymarket in Boston on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings. It was amazing how much we saved by getting our fruits and vegs there each week.
    If you are able to go at least once a month, the amount of produce you can get (for smaller money than the grocery store) and then store (freeze, can, dehydrate) is crazy.

  11. jennifer says

    I am in New Hampshire, and don’t know of ANY supermarkets in the area that double coupons! Where are you going? :-)

  12. says

    It really, truly depends on where in NE you live. I live in the middle of no where, Maine. I have one grocery store, Wal-mart, and a Shaw’s if I happen to have to drive the 45 minutes into the “big” city. Shaw’s is the only place that doubles coupons. I still manage to do okay on sales and coupons but not great

    • says

      Julie, we must live close to each other. I live in Maine and I have been doing pretty well in Oxford. We have Wal-mart, Hannaford and Save-A-Lot.

      I follow a few different blogs and I can grocery shop for about 200 a month for me and my 2 teenagers.

    • says

      I agree, Julie. I am in NH and there are only Walmart and Hannaford near us–neither of which doubles coupons. To get to a Shaw’s or Market Basket takes 45 minutes, so we don’t go there often. We do make a trip to Sam’s Club for some things every few months (an hour away), and we have Rite Aid near us, and also a CVS coming in!! So those help a lot with getting deals on toiletries, etc. I am still thankful for the deal sites; even with the prices of food being higher, we have been able to keep our grocery budget around $200-$250/month for our family of 5, and I know it has helped to learn how to do the drug store deals and get inspired to use coupons more. I could probably get it lower if my hubby didn’t love meat so much . . . :)

      • jen says

        I’m in haverhill,ma but grew up in manchester,nh not sure were you are but they are opening a big market basket in hooksett, which is great because I plan on moving back to nh and market basket has great deals!

  13. Jessica says

    I am originally from CT, moved to Indiana and my husband and I are looking to move back to CT so we can be close to my family. CT is more expensive, but you can save $. Price Chopper in parts of CT and MA always have B1G1 or B1G2 sales, which my local stores here in Indiana vary rarely do. Thanks for the advice, I can’t wait to move back!

  14. Caroline says

    In the 16 years that my parents have lived in MA, I think the only time my mom has gone into Big Y was for their B1G2 sales! They don’t have anything like that where I am in VA! She also gets her milk at a mini-mart down the street for 2/3 the price or better than the grocery store. There are good deals to be found, but you have to look for them!

  15. Erika says

    MARKET BASKET! Really I cannot say enough about my love for Market Basket. I read what people in other parts of the country have to do to save money on groceries and I feel so terrible for them that they do not have a Market Basket! I save about 30-40% on Shaw’s prices… about 10-20% over Hannaford. When you add coupons and specials into the mix, I’m getting groceries for about half price. I am very lucky to have a brand new one about a mile from my house, but I would drive miles and miles if I had to!

    I also LOVE BJs Wholesale Club. You save about 30% on just about everything (putting most of their prices in competition with my beloved Market Basket), but you can upgrade your membership and get 2% back. Also they have fabulous store coupons that you can stack with manufacturer’s coupons… and they let you use as many manufacturer’s coupons as apply to a multipack. So, (for example) if you buy a pack of six cans of soup you can use six coupons.

    And we have a CVS on every corner, so you can’t complain about that.

    Oh! And if you sign up for DD Perks with automatic withdrawals, you can get 10% back on your Dunkin Donuts habit… which is of course a huge problem up here… :)

    • Vicky says

      I have a Stop and Shop and a Market Basket. If I have printed internet coupons I go to Stop and Shop because Market Basket always treats me like I’m trying to rob the store for a .50 coupon, the light always goes on and a manager has to be called, it’s embarrassing! Never have this at S&S.

      • Andrea says

        I’ve never had that problem at Market Basket. I’m sorry it happens to you.

        There is one 3 miles from my house and it’s where I do most of my shopping. They have the best organic baby carrots, but I get most of our other produce from Hannaford or farm stands/markets.

    • Anitra says

      I love BJ’s, too. Their prices aren’t always quite as good as what I pay on sale at my local markets, but they’re not bad – and I love their coupon policy.

      Plus, our closest BJs is only 2 miles away, so I often go in for just milk. If you need whole or 2% milk for your kids, it is definitely the cheapest way to go! I’ve told our husband that the milk savings alone pays for our BJ’s membership. :)

    • jen says

      I agree love market basket and BJ’s. Sams club wont let you use coupons at all and bj’s lets you use theres plus a manufacturer’s so I can get some good deals on things in there!

      • jen says

        oh and they are building a new markest basket in my city which is great because it’s gonna be bigger and new. They are also starting to expand more into nh!

  16. Patti says

    This reminds me of my newlywed days when I moved to a tiny Southern town – there was no competition so the grocery stores were very expensive. To combat the high costs, I planned every meal, made a six week meal plan, and drove an hour and a half to stock up from a larger, cheaper grocery store. This was in the ’70s… Boy! I need to go back to those days of better planning. I remember if I only needed one apple, I bought one apple… Not the whole bag! Thanks for the fond memories.

  17. Joy says

    I live in Central NY, but I also lived in SC for 13 years. The biggest difference up here compared to down South is there are more grocery store chains down South (Publix, Food Lion, Bi-Lo, Kroger, Harris Teeter, Piggly Wiggly, Super Walmart, etc.). Here in NY where I am we only have three major chains to choose from (Wegman’s, Price Chopper and Tops). We do have Aldi’s and a Super Walmart, too. But because there is more competition down South, prices tend to be cheaper.

    • Anitra says

      I’m originally from Western NY (where there is only Wegmans and Tops, with a few Super Wal-Marts and Aldis sprinkled around) – when I moved to New England, I was really suprised by how many supermarket choices there were available to me! I may be able to get things cheaper, but sometimes I am paralyzed by indecision. With two kids in tow, I narrow down my choice of market based on availability/quality of bathrooms and snacks 😉

  18. says

    I enjoyed this article! Even though the cost of living is much higher in some places than others, I think it’s also important to keep in mind that salaries are typically also higher in those areas, so income to expense ratio may be similar. (Of course, I know that varies drastically from family to family, but I mean on average…)

    • Lyn says

      I think that is a misconception that many people think. It would be nice if many incomes coincided with the high prices of this economy, but it just isn’t so. My New England state consistently is in the top 5 list of worst economy, highest jobless rate, etc. In a nutshell, it’s a mess here. I have aging parents and cannot leave them. In the meantime, we do the best we can to manage financially, using as many frugal strategies as possible.

      • Ann says

        I agree. I am a lifelong New Englander and where I live now (Maine–sounds like you might too :)? the cost of living is high. I don’t find salaries high at all in many parts of New England. In southern New England, where salaries might be a little higher, the cost of living is astronomical and real estate is out of sight. In most of Maine though, I find people very frugal as they have to be. I’m sure MSM has lots of readers from Maine!

        • Lyn says

          Ann, I am in southern New England. :) Salaries in Boston, MA might be better than some areas, but still I cannot speak for that area and I’m sure costs are still quite high, especially housing. People used to think if they got a job in Boston and commuted it would be worthwhile, but I don’t know if those thoughts exist anymore.

          Maine is lovely and I hope you enjoy it there. I do enjoy all the many beautiful and historic places here in New England. Lots of things to love.

  19. Heather says

    Reading the comments…Market Basket, Aldi’s etc…its taken me back like a postcard in time. We moved from the NE area just about 10 years ago to the NW and what I wouldn’t give to walk into a grocery store or go to the shore to buy a “chick” lobster for a five spot right now! Yes, a splurge, but oh how divine! Love our crab here, but lobster…yum yum!

    • Lyn says

      You could probably get one on a very good/rare sale for about $7.99/lb. Sadly, I’m pretty sure the price of $5 would not apply today.

    • Andrea says

      We lived in the desert for a few years before returning to New England. My little ones had never seen a tank of lobsters until we moved. For the first two years, we had to visit them every time we went to the store!

  20. eunice b says

    We moved to southern ME as part of a church plant over a year ago, and I was shocked at the price of a gal of milk. Coming from Lanc Co, PA, where dairy farming is so common, it took a bit to get used to. We have found ways to make do, and I’ve noticed the reduced sections in our local grocery store, too, as well as the blessing of double coupons up to .99! We also partnered with my sister and brother in law to open a bulkfood store. Of course, with the high cost of trucking here to the north for most of our items, our prices may be higher than Lanc Co, but it’s still a blessing to serve the community with many prices lower than the typical grocery store. Thank you for the encouraging article, and helping us see our blessings! :-)

    ~eunice b
    Cornerstone Country Market

  21. says

    I really appreciate this post! I am in NYC for a year and a half now. I almost never use coupons anymore, because the items are always gone by the time I get to the store, or the stores don’t double coupons. I have two littles and parking is a nightmare, so going to multiple stores is very difficult. It gets discouraging to read the coupon and deal blogs sometimes because I can’t save that kind of money.

    I am learning to cut other areas and do my best on the grocery budget. We recently joined at Costco to save money on the staples that don’t have coupons. We also get fabulous prices on fresh fruits and vegetables.

  22. Isabel says

    I live in Hartford county in CT and I’ve lived in Rhode Island too, saddly none of the supermarkets near my area doble coupons ( that including Stop and Shop… :(… ) the only one that doubles coupons for 0.50 or less in Shop Rite. Thanks for all the ideas.

  23. Stephanie says

    I don’t know if they do this around the country or not, but in NH I shop at bread outlets to save loads of $$ on bread. Just picked up several packages of organic sprouted English Muffins for $1 each!

  24. Aimee says

    I am also a Connecticut resident and was wondering if you have discovered Ocean State Job Lot. They are a Rhode Island based chain, but have a few in CT. If you are willing to do some digging around you can find great deals there.

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