How to Save Money on Your Groceries.

You wanna know why skinny and rich go hand in hand?  ‘Cause the rich can afford to eat foods that don’t make them fat.

There’s a reason poor people eat crap and are overweight.  Have you ever tried to buy a red pepper in the middle of winter?  It’s expensive.

The experience goes something like this:

1.  Enter grocery store.

2.  Have cashier ring up red pepper and ask for total.

3.  Open your purse, remove knife and then plunge it  in between your collarbones and rip it down to your nether regions.  Split yourself open and offer up your lesser used organs to the highest bidder.

Barring that, I’m sure you could work out some sort of layaway plan.

So when I discovered the wonderful world of wholesale produce last year I wept.  With joy of course.  I’m prone to melodrama.

Many cities have them.  They are true, blue wholesalers (as opposed to Costco or Sam’s Club) where you can buy fruits and vegetables.

The produce wholesaler in my area happens to sell both fruit and vegetables, local and imported, spring, summer, fall and winter.   They make most of their money from supplying local restaurants, but they allow the public to shop there as well.  It’s kind of a secret.  There’s only ever one or two other people in the place when I go.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

It’s completely charming.  Just exactly like walking into a Whole Foods.

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

ANY CHARA CTER HERE
ANY CHARA CTER HERE

Notice the loft-style, stained cement floors and the waxy cardboard boxes set amongst quaint, teetering metal shelving.  That’s down home goodness, right there.

O.K. it’s not what you’d call charming.  It’s what you’d call a bit of a mess.  It’s not dirty or anything, it just ain’t Whole Foods with their pretty wood floors and quaint wicker baskets.  Nope.  But sometimes if the fruit is about to go bad they give it to you for free!  It’s one of my favourite places ever.

So today in honour of everyone who has ever gasped at the price of a papaya, peach or potato, I conducted an experiment. I bought all of this at the wholesalers:

ANY CHARA CTER HERE

6 Baking Potatoes, 1 head Iceberg Lettuce, 2 handfuls of Green Beans,  1 bunch Green Onions, 3 Red Peppers, 1 bunch Leeks, 1 tomato, 1 head broccoli, 3 lemons, 2 limes, 3 bananas, 2 cobs of corn.

It cost me a total of $9.

After I paid I went straight to my regular grocery store and priced the exact same items.

To calculate the costs, I wrote down the prices per pound and then weighed all my items once I got home.

The grocery store total came to $20.56.

More than twice as much as at the wholesaler for those of you who aren’t as proficient at math as I am.

Of course this is summer in North America so vegetable prices aren’t too bad, but in winter dollars that would convert to about 1 kidney and half a spleen.

To look for a similar spot in your area, just ask around.  I find Italians, Greeks or people from Eastern European descent usually have a higher regard for vegetables AND saving money than North Americans do so try asking them first.  And don’t ask anyone who is wearing high heels.  People who wear high heels, as a general rule, do not look for bargains.  I can’t explain how this is true … it just is … it’s scientific.

Or Google “Wholesale Produce (insert your city here)”

Ontarians may benefit from this website:

Really Made In Canada

Americans can try this one:

Careers in Grocery

Good luck.  And happy vegetabling.


22 Comments

  1. Shannon says:

    I have this wonderful thing where I seem immune to caring too much about grocery prices. It really doesn’t bother me how much they cost even though I don’t make a bunch of money.

    I bring the receipt home & my boyfriend just about cries every week while I think about more items I might like to purchase in future.

    What does bother me is I can’t get those cute bags of baby carrots you guys get in the grocery stores at home…we just don’t have any kind of baby carrot market. I ate like 3 bags of those in 2 weeks when I was on vacation in the states..I carried them in zip loc bags in my pockets & handbag. it’s a crime I tell ya.

    • Pam'a says:

      The dirty little secret about those “baby carrots?” At least those that are all peeled and sold in bags, anyway? They’re really just big old adult carrots, cut in chunks and tumbled, which peels them and sands off the cut edges. Which makes them look like baby carrots they can charge you more for. If you doubt, take a good hard look at their SHAPE sometime. Not delicate and tapered– More like a little log.

      So take heart! You can do the same thing at home!

    • Ree says:

      Shannon… those aren’t really ‘baby’ carrots. They are just big carrots pared down by a big machine so they look like teeny tiny widdle baby carrots.

      It is a sham.

      I know this to be true because the Produce Manager at our local Safeway said so. I didn’t trust him ’cause he is a kidder, so I asked at Whole Foods, and they agreed with him.

      Fake Baby Carrots. Pitiful.

  2. Zina says:

    I am about to move to a small town in Cambridgeshire. I’ve no idea if they’ve any wholesale vegetable sellers there but I’m definitely going to start going to the veggie stalls in the market at the end of the market day to see if the price has gone down. 🙂

  3. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    Wow! That’s a huge savings! Since I now live in a rather small and touristy area, my way of saving involves going to the store, buying things on sale and in season and freezing them. I’m particularly good at freezing fruits, but I would think you could do it with veggies too. Every little bit of savings counts I say. I will definitely look into a wholesaler near me. Thank you!

  4. Langela says:

    I checked it out and the closest one to me is about 2.5 hours away. So once again a new adventure is ruined by gas! Well, the price of gasoline anyway.

    Thanks for the tip, though, Karen. If I make it to the big city sometime in the future, I will have to check out the wholesale veggie market.

  5. liz a. says:

    what a great post! and you r totally right, anyone in high heels shopping is not concerned about prices! must be nice…i am wearing flip flops so there you r! we live in the central valley of california and fruits and veggies are very, very cheap here in summer, corn 10 ears for $1.00; cucumbers 3 for $1.00; cantaloupes 77 cents each…etc! and fruit stands are on almost every corner! but you did good and i am going to look for a wholesaler for winter, thank you for the great advice!

  6. Dee says:

    Whoaw, that was a nice deal. Well, it’s going back to school time soon and it means more groceries to buy every weekend and buying in bulk, I think, is more practical. But it’s all okay because i discovered the beauty of using coupons..

  7. Patti says:

    Okay, so, there’s totally one down the street from my house. But here’s my question because I HATE feeling like I’m somewhere I’m not supposed to be or doing something wrong – do you just walk in there all normal and just buy what you want? What if the mafia is involved? I don’t want to sign up with some weird veggie cult.. please help…

    And then, for you coupon clippers – go to http://www.save.ca – you can pick the coupons you like, type in your address and they mail them to you! It’s super awesome, and totally legit. I do it all the time.

    • Karen says:

      Hey Patti! You just head yourself right down there and ask them if it’s open to the public. The place I go to is, and there’s just a man door you walk through to the warehouse in the back. You pick out your stuff and then go back to the front where they look at what you have and randomly price it. If you’re nervous of it being mafia run (totally understandable) just ask. Say .. “Are you mafia run, or are you open to the public”. – karen Oh! And by the way, I use save.ca alllll the time. I love it.

  8. Veronica says:

    I shop at the local ethnic markets. The pricing is about the same as the wholesalers too! (Although I do live in California, so produce is cheaper in general.)

  9. Erin says:

    I read this post yesterday and remembered that there’s a wholesaler produce place right by my house! It’s called H&W Produce (in Edmonton for any other E-Town readers).

    Anyway, I went after work with the hubs and we ended up with 2 lbs of carrots, a big crown of broccoli, 6 limes, 4 handfuls of yellow beans, 1 bunch of asparagus, 2 yellow peppers, 2 white onions, a bunch of green onions, and 1 green pepper for 7.21$!

    They had a 2lb container of organic red grapes for 3.49$! And corn on the cob was 3 for 1$! I felt like I was at Dollarama! (Which, there’s one of by my house as well and like you, I LOVE to go there; I don’t know how anyone could not like Dollarama!)

    We (and by that I mean Edmonton) have recently (within the last year or so I guess) gotten a couple of Bulk Barns. Have you ever been to Bulk Barn? I think you would like it!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Erin! I’m so glad you went to your wholesaler! Isn’t it fun?? And yes … I have been known to frequent the Bulk Barn. 🙂

      • Erin says:

        YES! I will be a frequenter of H&W Produce from now on! They even have nutritional information printed on the veggie bags, which is doubly awesome.

        Bulk Barn is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. (Sometimes not so much my waistline.) My reaction to the chocolate covered banana chips went something like this:

        Him: “They have chocolate covered banana chips!”
        Me: “Wh-wh-wh-WHAT? #*^@ YEAH!”

        Mine had bulk MSG in the spice section. I found this alarming, yet fascinating. 🙂

  10. Schmidty - Man Vs. Style says:

    In Sydney we have a market similar to this one near China town, that has great fresh stuff for excellent prices. All I need to do is take my pocket full of change and I get my weeks fruit and veg.

    Cheers,

    Schmidty

  11. Shelley says:

    I live in Airdrie, AB and I am wondering if anyone knows of any wholesaler’s in Calgary that are open to the public?

  12. lori says:

    I heart Fiddes also!!!
    and the farmers market, always great prices down there, and local,,,

  13. Lori says:

    Love this and I’m so googling it. By now my organs are at an all-time low. You’ve just saved me. 🙂

  14. Christina says:

    In Seattle it’s all about the Chinese grocers. They’re the ones with the screaming deals on produce. And sometimes you find the weirdest, most delicious stuff there: http://www.puredtx.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Dragon-Fruit.jpg

  15. Nathalie says:

    Woot I live in Aldershot so that is not too far from my place thanks 🙂

  16. jane says:

    Thank you. Timely and useful advice. My daughter and I started doing Paleo; so I will head to the nearest wholesaler. In my heels. *grin*

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