October 24, 2012

Rachel Brown: Shop smart

Every time you turn around, it seems, someone is talking about how bad the economy is or how little money they have to spend. We hear about tax increases, job losses and diminished wages.

Provided we have at least some income, however, we have a choice. We can whine about what we don’t have, or we can ... go shopping! … and do it a little bit smarter.

Below, you’ll get a look at where to find some of the least expensive — yet high quality — goods in the Dalton area and still feel like you’re having a fun, regular shopping trip and not so much a “thrifting” experience. These aren’t the only places to find a good deal around here, but as a bona fide shopaholic who prefers looking in every nook and cranny in town to driving up to Chattanooga, I can tell you these places have a lot to offer. Here are my picks for best places to shop for some common items on your list:

• Bread: Colonial Bakery Store on Cleveland Highway. It’s hard to beat bread for less than $2 a loaf there, and often you’ll find it closer to $1 a loaf. It tastes the same as if you paid $3 for it at Kroger or Bi-Lo. Downside: The selection is often limited.

• Cheese, milk and eggs: Mega stores like Walmart and Kroger usually have some cheaper versions of these goods in store brands, but one of my favorite places to shop is at Aldi where I can always depend on getting a buggy full of goods without feeling too much of a pinch. Milk is typically right around $3 a gallon, with Aldi often running a few cents cheaper than the bigger stores. The selection of typically-expensive block cheese is excellent at Aldi, and you won’t have to pay more than $3 per 8-ounce block. Eggs are usually at least comparable to what you’ll find in other stores. Downside: Go to Aldi, and you have to either pay for grocery bags there or bring your own.

• Fresh produce: No offense to Kroger and its bountifully stocked shelves, specialty items and health food section, but this is not the place to shop for run-of-the-mill produce if your piggy bank is running low. Try Aldi or Delray Farms instead. Delray typically offers limes at 10 for $10, and you can often find pricey berries at Aldi for nearly half what you’d pay at a larger grocery store. The same goes for tomatoes, peppers, onions and potatoes at both of these stores. Delray has authentic Mexican ingredients and some produce (cactus, anyone?) you won’t find in most other stores. One significant downside: The selection, especially at Aldi, is limited.

• Gasoline: This is where Kroger gets my unreserved vote. Not only are fuel prices typically some of the least expensive — if not the cheapest outright — in Dalton, you can get an additional discount on top of the stated price just by using your Kroger card. Shop at the store more often, and you can earn significant fuel perks. I’ve never had a time where my Kroger card didn’t get me at least a 3-cent discount per gallon. Downside: Everyone else loves Kroger gas, too. Try to go at an off time to avoid long lines at the pump.

• Meat: This is a difficult one because it’s so expensive. I love when the Green Spot runs specials on boneless, skinless chicken breast and other cuts that aren’t chock full of hormones to make them bigger, but in between those sales, Delray is one of my top picks. The folks at the meat counter will dish out the exact amount of whatever you want, and the selection is good. I routinely find boneless, skinless chicken breast there for $1.99 a pound. One downside: Sometimes the fat and skin isn’t trimmed as well as if you’d bought from somewhere else.

Rachel Brown is a staff writer for The Daily Citizen and an avid bargain hunter. She can be reached at rachelbrown@daltoncitizen.com.

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