I have my list, I have my coupons and I have 47 minutes to get out of the store before I have to pick up the kids. Sound familiar? What if there were other options?
There are simply some things we have no choice in the matter, it must be purchased at the local grocery or department store. However, most areas have resources that even local residents are not aware of.
GROCERY OUTLET: Sometimes referred to as the dented can store, it is a company that buys surplus items and offers them at a discount. Fresh items that were close to their expiration date are frozen. New items that were not a success, items that have the old label and yes, even dented cans are available for purchase. Most stores do not accept coupons but have a promise you can bring back any items that you don’t think is up to snuff.
BAKERY OUTLETS: Bakeries only keep products on the shelf for a specific number of days. If more was produced that can be sold, it has to go somewhere. The solution was a bread store. Companies like Hostess and Franz opened small stores that sold only their products and at a discount. Depending on the store, the items can be several days old. The discounted price (up to 50% off) allows the consumer to stock up and freeze item therefore saving on their monthly shopping budget. When freezing bread, I slip on a bag from a previous loaf so that it is double bagged enabling me to freeze it for about a month.
ZAYCON FOODS: This is a company that sells the product in bulk. Items are brought by truck to a drop off site and customers drive up and receive their order. If they are not currently in your area, let them know you want to see them. They have an email set up for such requests.
Products vary from month to month but include organic chicken breasts, turkey, ground beef, fish, bacon and fruit. You must register so you can receive emails of when a drop is occurring in your area. For example, right now in my area they have fresh chicken breasts at $1.79 a pound in 40 pound increments. If the amount is too large for your family, find a friend to split the cost with. What I like is that it comes fresh so the cook can freeze it in the portions that work for their family.
AZURE STANDARD: If you shop at health food stores you know how expensive they can be. Azure allows the customer to cut out the middle man. You buy directly from supplier, the same products they deliver to local health food stores. Often the store’s order is on the same truck as your delivery. Groups are formed in an area and 1 home is chosen as the drop off point. Members of the group place their orders directly with the company and go to the drop off site to pick up their items.
FARMER MARKETS: not all areas have them, but those who do are able to buy freshly picked produce grown locally. You can meet the farmer who grew the strawberries. You will know the cucumbers are fresh and perfect for pickling. Perhaps you can buy homemade bread from nearby Hutterites or quilts from the Amish. Handmade toys from expert wood carvers or CDs from local musicians. Take cash as generally checks are not accepted. If you plan a big haul, consider taking a wagon. Many stand will even accept food stamps and WIC coupons if you have them. Those who do will typically have a sign so customers know where to go. Go as early as you can so you have the best selection.
LOCAL FARMS: Sometimes local dairies and chicken farms will sell their product directly to the consumer. You can pick up fresh milk and eggs any day of the week.
GLEANING: Gleaning is a tradition that goes back to Biblical times. Farmers wanted to harvest as quick as they could and sometimes small sections would be missed, pieces would be dropped, or damaged items would be discarded. With permission from the owner, gleaners walk through the fields and take home the leftovers. It is still practiced in countries all around the world, often by the poor who could not afford to buy food. Sometimes the farmer will pay gleaners to clean their field so it was ready for the next planting.
Modern day gleaning groups exist in the United States, and the trend is growing. Groups of people work together to find local farmers who would appreciate gleaners. Some groups donate part of their harvest to local food banks or nursing homes. For example, a farmer who had part of his corn field flood was unable to get his equipment in to harvest the crop. Gleaners were able to go in and pick as much as they could to take home. Or, perhaps an elderly couple has several apricot trees in the backyard. They are unable to pick from the trees so it falls to the ground and rots. The gleaners would come in, pick the trees clean of all fruit (even that which was unripe) for the home owners. They should be offered some of the harvest as well, the rest goes home with the gleaners. Everybody wins as the homeowners have a clean yard and others go home with fresh produce. If you don’t have a group in your area, look into starting one.
BARTERING: Before there was money, there was bartering. IN essence, goods are exchanged instead of money. For example, a mechanic might trade work on a car for a side of beef from a local rancher. A hairdresser might trade her services for the senior photos for her child. A painter could do a room in exchange for an old truck. Get creative and write down anything you can do well. Let your friends know you are willing to trade services. In areas where there is high unemployment, bartering is an especially needed as no money changes hands.
FREECYCLE: Groups sprang up on yahoo for areas all around the country where people can list items they no longer need but want to get rid of. Do not assume it is junk, often people are moving or downsizing and just cannot take everything with them. Facebook is catching up, and groups are being created there as well. While freecycle requires that all items are given away, facebook groups can also offer used items for sale. The more members a group has, the bigger variety of items that can be offered. Also use these sites with safety in mind. Agree to meet in a pubic place.
EBAY: I am sure you are familiar with the site by now. Did you know you can narrow down sellers to those who are in your area? This cuts out the cost of shipping altogether.
CLOTHING EXCHANGE PARTIES: This is when friends get together for a night of fun and shopping. Guests each bring gently used items they no longer wear and trade with the other guests. This only works if everyone brings modern items that are in good shape. The internet has caught up with the idea and swap sites are popping up as well.
Do you know of some other great resources, please share!