Different grocery items are cheapest at different types of stores. So a popular money saving strategy is to go shopping at a couple of markets, shopping for items where they are cheapest.
If you need extra help with grocery bills, at the bottom of this list is information on how to apply for Food Stamps and WIC in Minnesota.
Not included in the survey was Aldi, the German supermarket chain with several stores in the Twin Cities. Aldi's prices are often lower than Walmart but their unusual store policies, like needing a 25c deposit for a cart, charging for bags, and not taking credit cards or checks, puts some shoppers off. But it's not that scary - here's a guide to shopping at Aldi.
Saving Money Shopping at Specialty MarketsSupermarket chains are usually the cheapest for basic and staple items. But what if you have food allergies, want ethnic ingredients, or like to buy in bulk?
Specialty grocery store Trader Joe's, locations in St. Louis Park, Woodbury and (coming soon) Highland Park, has good prices on dairy free and gluten free food, and on various other specialty grocery items.
There is a food co-op in just about every community in Minneapolis and several more across the Twin Cities have the best prices for bulk ingredients like pulses, cereals, dried herbs and spices. They are also very competitive on local fresh produce, and organic products. If you want to buy Minnesota or Wisconsin eggs or dairy products, the co-op is probably the cheapest place.
Buying in BulkThe leader for buying in bulk in the Twin Cities is Costco, in Maplewood, St. Louis Park, and Eden Prarie. Prices at the membership-based store prices can - but are not always - lower than the major grocery stores.
International MarketsAlmost all ethnic groceries are cheaper at an international store. A packet of rice noodles is a couple of dollars at Target, but a packet five times the size is the same price at a Vietnamese market. There are a large number of international grocery stores in the Twin Cities, representing Asia, Africa, Central and South American, the Middle East and Europe.
Marketplaces are great places to shop. Mercado Central in Minneapolis has a large number of Mexican and Latin American vendors. The Hmong International Marketplace in St. Paul is huge with hundreds of vendors, fresh produce, and has a great food court too. The Midtown Global Market has food vendors from every corner of the world, and fresh produce.
Some deals to look out for at farmer's markets: Culinary herb plants in pots are much better value than buying cut herbs at the market. Fresh raspberries and blueberries when they are in season are the best tasting you'll find anywhere, short of picking them yourself.
Help Buying Food: Food Stamps, WIC, and Food ShelvesThe Food Support program, popularly known as Food Stamps, provides assistance to low-income families. Here's more information on Food Stamps, how to find out if you are eligible, and how to apply.
WIC helps pregnant women and families with infants or children under five buy nutritious food. Here's more about WIC and how to apply for assistance.
Food Shelves, food banks, and food pantries are essential to many families. Here's how to find your nearest food shelf or food pantry.