Guide to Finding Low-Cost, Quality Food in Western New York

A recent article on CBS News caught my attention: “U.S. Working Poor On The Rise, Says Report”. The article is dry census information, but the bits that apply to me-and many other local families-are fascinating. They’re all in the last paragraph of the whole article:

“52 percent of low-income families are headed by married couples… and only one-quarter of low-income families receive food stamp assistance (1).”

That’s us! And it’s several other families we know. Faced with increased grocery bills (2), many families like mine are looking for ways to reduce our expenditure. But most of us do not apply for or receive food stamps. Even those who do use food stamps have the same issue we do:

Where do you find low-cost, quality food sources in WNY?

1. At Home- Home-cooked meals are often cheaper and healthier than their flash-frozen or restaurant-made counterparts. Buying raw ingredients in bulk also adds to the savings, but only if you use it. Plan ahead. And resist the temptation to buy fillet mignon or lobster, too.

2. At Work- There are two ways to make your workplace work for you:

A) Take your day’s food with you: this increases your “visible” grocery bill, but greatly decreases your actual grocery bill. Those chips, at 50 cents a bag, are less than 25 cents at the grocery store. That’s 2.25 cents a workweek if you only have one. (And we know you’re not having just one). That $6 lunch you could have made with $3 at home? That’s $15 a week. Often, you’ll eat less and eat healthier, too.

B) Ask people where they get their groceries, or ask them for low-cost recipes. Many people in this area are in the same position.

3) At Community Centers/ Churches- Food pantries exist all over Western NY. In Buffalo alone there are the following:

A) N Tonawanda Inter-Church Food �· (716) 692-8552 �· 100 Ridge Rd, North Tonawanda

B) Food Bank of Western New York – 91 Holt Street, Buffalo, NewYork14206 – Telephone: (716) 852-1305 Fax: (716) 852-7858

C) Catholic Charities of Buffalo: 525 washington street Buffalo, NY 14203 ph: 716.856.4494

4) From the Hippies: Cooperative markets are not just for Hippies anymore! Co-ops allow members to pay small dues or trade volunteer time to receive discounts on groceries. Often these groceries are local, organic, and healthy. Most notably, Lexington CoOp on Elmwood avenue has terrific foods, especially produce, at reasonable prices.

5) In many locations- Be prepared to shop at mutliple stores in order to take advantage of short-term sales and offers. But make sure your savings in groceries is not totally being eaten up by your car.

6) At Discount Grocery Stores– Aldi’s, Save A Lot, Budwey’s, and Quality all have good food at lower prices (along the perimeter, just like other grocery stores). There are some smaller grocery stores, too. Shop around! Compare prices!

7) NOT at Bulk Stores– When I compared meat prices at BJ’s with meat prices at Aldi’s, Aldi’s won out. Even buying in bulk is cheaper at Aldi’s. Also, at Bulk stores like Costco and BJ’s, you’re getting such a deal on name-brand that you often feel like indulging yourself in things you don’t need. Try it for a month and see for yourself!

There are places right here in WNY that can help your family get nutritious food at low prices. The internet is your friend, as is a bicycle or car (used responsibly and conservatively).

Although we swear over and over that our grocery budget cannot be reduced, it is often the first thing to get cut (we cut ours before we cut off our internet, that’s for sure). The good news is that there is some flexibility in the grocery cost. It just takes a little work!

(1) CBS News “U.S. Working Poor On The Rise, Says Report,10/14/2008)

(2) Marketwatch, “Filling the Grocer Cart Costing 10.5% More”, Last update: Oct. 3, 2008

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