Eat Well, Spend Less: Coping With Lackluster Holiday Grocery Sales

It’s time for the December issue of Eat Well, Spend Less, and well, I have to say that my Eat Well, Spend Less post in October apparently was slightly optimistic about the grocery sales I thought we’d be seeing for November and December.

We had some decent deals around Thanksgiving, but aside from a from good-but-not-great deals here and there on baking supplies, we haven’t seen much of any of the normal blockbuster grocery sales in Colorado.  Oh, rock-bottom prices on sugar, where are you ?!

So, this month for Eat Well, Spend Less, I’m brainstorming on some ways to save money on Christmas food supplies.  At two weeks until Christmas, most of us want to get started on the cooking and baking now rather than wait for yet another grocery sale cycle to see if those essentials happened to go on sale – but we also don’t want to pay full price for the items we need.  Here’s some ideas for buying what you need at a discount when grocery sales are lackluster.

Explore scratch-and-dent stores.

Some people call them salvage good stores, some people call them scratch-and-dent stores, but whatever they’re called, if you can find one in your area, it’s worth checking out!  These stores carry items that were overstocked, discontinued, expired, or damaged at traditional grocery stores, and usually at amazing prices.

Just this past weekend, I stopped at Bargain Mart in Colorado Springs and picked up three five-pound bags of Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour for $2.75 each.  It wasn’t anywhere close to expiring, so I’m guessing this might have come from a store that discontinued it.  I don’t really care where it came from, I just know that it was a great deal and is definitely going to help me with my holiday baking!

I also picked up some Ghirardelli chocolate baking bars for 99¢ each, as well as some cheap tubes of frosting for my kids to use for the treats they took to Sunday school yesterday.  (This would also have been great if we’d decided to take on a gingerbread house this year!)

Though you do have to be careful of watching expiration dates, these stores can be a great source of deals for things that you’ll need for holiday baking.

Skip the holiday aisle at the grocery store.

While I haven’t found that stores and manufacturer’s generally mark up the candy and goodies that are exclusively labeled for Christmas, you may be able to find better prices or more variety if you head to the non-holiday section of the grocery store.

And, always beware of those baking supply displays that most stores put up.  Again, they’re not necessarily going to jack up the prices, but it’s quite possible that there are cheaper options available if you venture down the main aisle.

Check out gourmet food markets.

My big score on chocolate chips this year?  Not at King Soopers, Albertsons, or Safeway: it was at World Market!  A few weeks ago, they had their Ghirardelli baking chips on sale for 50% off, which ended up being a great deal for chocolate chips and a super great deal for Ghirardelli brand!

World Market also had a great deal on coffee recently, with the final cost ending up as $4 or less per bag!  They’ve also had some good sales on extra virgin olive oil and coffee syrups.   I’ve never thought of World Market as a place for groceries, but they’ve had some great deals this winter, so don’t discount them and other similar gourmet markets as “always overpriced” – sometimes, they aren’t, especially as they try to attract shoppers with deeply discounted sales.

Remember that prices will keep going up.

While I’m not going crazy on sales that are not a great deal, I’m also having to adjust my mindset that prices are likely going to continue to rise.  C&H Brown Sugar for $2.00?  Higher than we used to see at this time of the year, but I’ll buy some at that price and maybe even stock up a bit because chances are that after Christmas, it’s going to go up even higher.

What are you doing to keep your holiday grocery budget from going out of control, with rising prices and shrinking budgets?  I’d love to hear – please join the comments with your tips!

I’ll be back later this week with a wrapup of more Eat Well, Spend Less Posts from everyone – covering everything from inexpensive food gifts to cheap party food!


  1. Ouch this sucks, but I think you are correct that it is just going to keep rising. I am new to Colorado so if anyone know a salvage type store towards Brighton would love to know. Thanks

  2. In the holiday isle that is over in the food dept of Wal-Mart they have bags of m&ms and hershey’s kisses for $1.00 less than in the regular candy isle. They are the same size bag but they are the christmas colors. I saved two dollars on my little reindeer noses I made :)

  3. I hear you on the lackluster sales! This year I actually found my baking sale deals in Nebraska of all places( where things regularly cost more than here) and stocked up though the prices were definitely not as great as last year.
    One thing I’ve been noticing more is that I’m not the only one checking out all the markdown sections in the grocery stores – everyone else is stopping for a look too! If that isn’t an indication of shrinking food budgets for everyone, I don’t know what is.
    One tip is that if you have a smaller chain grocery store nearby, chances are good you’ll find plenty of marked down produce, meat and dairy there vs the larger stores. This is because they have less traffic, so they are consistently marking down products soon to expire.

  4. Since this is a Denver blog – check out Golden Organics. FANTASTIC prices on organic flour, and they have a selection of other dry goods (grains, dried fruits, nuts, etc) for good prices. You just have to buy in bulk.