In every decent sized town I’ve lived in there has been at least one “discount” grocery store. The stores that sell almost-expired food, dented cans or torn bags, local farmer over-production, that sort of thing. (And FWIW, only one can in a flat has to be dented for “the powers that be” to deem the entire batch unfit.)
My most recent good buy has been repeated three years in a row here. It’s May, and the local store is selling one-pound bags of black-eyed peas at the discount price of 3 for $1. New Year’s Day was 5.7 months ago and the bags are marked 2012. It’s a seasonal product, like Thanksgiving cranberries or Christmas and Easter candy. The peas will be good for 4-10 years, at least, if treated properly. Given that every other grocery store in town still has black-eyes at anywhere from $1.29 to $2.29 a pound, three pounds for a buck is ridiculously cheap. The best price I usually see on any form of dried beans in pound bags is about a dollar. The best price I’ve EVER seen at a normal store is 50 cents a pound for pintos at Sam’s, but that’s gone up recently, and it’s a 25-50 pound bag.
Point being, smart shoppers should know what average prices are, know what the “buy” price is, and (best yet) know when to buy everything the store has, or all they can afford. I now have about 60 more pounds of viable food for a $20 expenditure. The buckets are free at another store’s cake-frosting department, and the mylar bags are a necessary, arguably negligible expense.
For those who don’t know: Red beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, field peas, pintos, etc. can all be put in a crock-pot or solar cooker with good results. One pound of dried beans and four cups of water (more or less, with no pre-soak usually necessary) and you have food. Add an onion, half a pound of smoked sausage and Tony Chachere’s to taste, and you’ve got a Southern classic, best served over fresh cornbread with sweet tea on the side. Just don’t add the sausage or spice mix until the beans are cooked, or the beans will get tough.
And up next (starting in about two weeks) we’ve got blueberry season, organically grown pick-your-own for $9 a gallon. – J.D.C. in Mississippi