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MSP - Groceries on the Cheap

I moved to Minneapolis a year ago, and while I love love love it, one area I am really having a hard time adjusting to is the high price of groceries here (compared to Chicago). Paying .99 for a small bunch of cilantro is KILLING me when I'm used to buying 3 big bunches for the same price.

Granted, I was really spoiled in Chicago, living less than a mile from Caputos, a wonderful Italian produce market and deli. My husband regularly purchased imported proscuitto for 6.99/lb. and portabello mushrooms were a mere 2.99/lb., limes 15/$1, but I can't help but thinking there must be some hidden gems here in the cities I haven't discovered yet, beyond Kowalskis/Lunds/Rainbow/Cub. I would love if you would share your secret sources for inexpensive (yet good quality) groceries. Any produce markets I should explore? really good inexpensive ethnic markets? I am in SW Mpls, but willing to travel! any leads are appreciated!!

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  1. welcome to msp cheetobrain!

    before i attempt to help you find cheaper groceries i'm afraid i'm gonna have to ask you to do a reality check-- chi-town is right smack in the middle of the country, and in the middle of all the major train and diesel shipping routes-- of course food is gonna be cheap there, no matter where it is from. one of the tradeoffs of our beautiful rivers and lakes, gorgeous parks, great culture (esp theater) and high quality of life in general here in msp is that a lot of food's gonna be more spendy because we're that much further off the main food highway. you're gonna have to forget about cheap imported prosciutto and 15/$1 limes, we definitely just pay more for these items when we want them. :)

    okay-- on to saving bucks-- try exploring some of the local farmer's markets-- you will still be paying $1 for cilantro but the bunch will be much bigger-- the downtown mpls market is huge and hectic but popular with many. i'd go to st paul's market, for good produce at good prices, all locally grown by small farmers/market gardeners. don't overlook your local co-ops! some organic produce might be high-priced but the bulk spices, grains, pastas, and trail mixes are among the best deals in town-- here's a current discussion

    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/419909

    once you are a co-op member, you're given a number you use while checking out of the store. at the end of the year you get a dividend check based on your total purchases, if the co-op profits. you also get member discounts and can order favorite foods by the case at a discount. a great deal!

    i have some other ideas but i gotta go work now-- i'll let the other msp hounds pick it up and check you back later.

    1. I am always enraged when I go out of town (Chicago in particular) and see how cheap groceries are elsewhere.

      I hesitate mentioning this place, but I have a love/hate relationship with it: Aldi. It's a European chain that caught on huge in Minnesota compared to other states, and I think it's because we have much more expensive groceries. The quality of their produce isn't always the best, but when they have deals, they have deals. Very limited selection at Aldi. Various locations in town. Richfield on 61st and Penn is likely the closest for you.

      I also buy a lot of produce at the various farmer's markets. You can get deals, sometimes.

      You should try United Noodles - Asian grocery supreme. You can find good prices there. Beware - it's hard to find!

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      United Noodles Asian Supermarket
      2015 E 24th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404

      Farmer's Market Annex
      East Lyndale Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55411

      1. The Produce Exchange at the Midtown Global Market is a great source for cheap produce. The Farmer's Markets are usually very reasonable.

        1. Another Option would be to explore some of the ethnic markets around town. It takes more time, but I will often plan to hit up some of my favorite markets when I am in different parts of the city. Cossetta's is a decent Italian market in St. Paul, and thought it isn't super cheap , it has nice stuff. For cheap Asian produce, I like United Noodles. Also Holy Land and some of the Indian Groceries up on Central are pretty good, with good prices. There's also the Mercato Centrale on Lake, I have only bought fresh masa there but I bet they have good prices on some things.

          Good Luck.

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          Cossetta Italian Market
          211 7th St W, Saint Paul, MN 55102

          United Noodles Asian Supermarket
          2015 E 24th St, Minneapolis, MN 55404

          Holy Land Bakery & Grocery
          2513 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

          Patel Groceries
          1835 Central Ave NE, Minneapolis, MN 55418

          13 Replies
          1. re: kolgrim

            thanks for the suggestions so far. I know I was spoiled even by Chicago standards with my dearly loved market, but my husband called me last night from Salt Lake City just to tell me groceries are cheaper there too. We aren't obsessed or anything :)

            I have been meaning to get to United Noodle, so maybe a field trip is in order tomorrow. I do occasionally hit Aldis as well.

            I should also say that I truly appreciate the commitment here to local food and co-ops, something that was sorely lacking in Chicago. It was one reason I was excited to move here...just didn't realize the "price" I would pay for it.

            Kolgrim - how was the masa you bought? I have been craving my favorite torillas and thought I might try my hand at making some fresh ones...

            When visiting Chicago, I highly recommend a trip to either Caputo's, or Valli's produce. The prices on produce and imported good will blow your mind. Every time we go home for a visit we stock up on imported pasta, canned tomatoes, fresh tortillas, chocolates, etc.

            1. re: cheetobrain

              united noodle and dragonstar are good recs. also the shuang hur groceries on south nicollet ave and in st paul on university. good, cheap produce. super cheap meat but i wouldn't buy beef there unless i was making a loooong-stewed type dish.

              1. re: soupkitten

                Soupkitten: Have you had other meat or poultry from Shuang hur? I've never been brave enough. They also have a good fish counter that looks pretty good. I've only bought produce and processed food (canned, boxed, frozen, etc.) there. Most of the time Shuang Hur has what I'm looking for in Asian food and it's closer to me than United Noodle.

                1. re: bob s

                  sorry bob s-- i have only tried the beef, as i get chicken & pork from local farms mostly. i would probably not hesitate to buy a soup chicken from shuang hur though-- they looked good to me when i looked at them; but i'd get a roaster or fryer somewhere else maybe? if you try any of the shuang hur butchers' wares, be sure to post, as i'd be interested!

                  one of my favorite brands of processed canned foods-- coconut milk, red curry paste, etc. is called "hmong family" & it used to be ubiquitous at shuang hur, but the last few times i've had a hard time finding it. i liked the generally high quality of the stuff-- no fillers, all natural ingredients, no msg. have you seen this brand around town?

                  1. re: bob s

                    Hey Bob,
                    I go there about once a week. Most everything is very good. Excellent deal on Tofu and fresh noodles. The barbecues are great. My husband loves the chicken feet - I am not a fan of Chinese 5 Spice, but they are decent. The fish counter is very good. The talapia tastes like a dirty fish tank though - but I don't like talapia anyway. The fish always smells fresh and is well cleaned. The butcher counter has very polite helpful people.

                    1. re: PlymouthGirl

                      Thanks! I'll have to check them out. Is it only the tilapia that has a bad taste? Others are OK?

                      1. re: bob s

                        Others are ok. The tilapia tastes like a dirty fish tank smells. (ish)
                        I did buy baby octopus there and they were great one time and overly rancid the next time - both frozen so I was unable to detect a smell when purchasing.

                2. re: cheetobrain

                  The masa was excellent. I only made tamales, not tortillas, and I had never purchased fresh masa before, but I was really pleased with the results.

                3. re: kolgrim

                  I just got a tip about Patel's. The USDA recently lifted the import restrictions on produce from India. In India, they have over 70 varieties of mangoes - here we have 2. Patel's expected to get in some of these varieties, apparently. The trick when eating them that makes them fun is to pick a really ripe one, roll it back and forth on a hard surface so the flesh gets squishy and the juices get released, tear the top off and suck the insides out. A friend just got back from India, and he said it's a heavenly treat.

                  1. re: pgokey

                    ooo. i've been to india. i've eaten mangoes there. not all 70 kinds, but at least 40 because mangoes are my absolute obsession and favorite. the thought of patels having more than 2 kinds of mangoes is making me lightheaded.

                    1. re: pgokey

                      oh yum. I get an unfortunate allergic reaction to the skin of mangoes (but thankfully not the flesh!), so I won't be letting the skin touch my lips anytime soon...but I am excited to try some different varieties. Wonder what other produce will find its way here...

                    2. re: kolgrim

                      Mercado Central is awesome. Try the beef tacos at Taqueria La Hacienda - unbelievable.

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                      Mercado Central
                      1515 E Lake St, Minneapolis, MN 55407

                      1. re: kolgrim

                        Looking back at this thread, I noticed the mention of Cossetta's. I love going there, and even shop for some groceries there from time to time (depending on what I am going to cook) but I've never walked away and though "Wow, that was on the cheap." You pay either average prices, or a premium price for things there. I shop there because I like the specialty items, but not to save money.

                      2. Try a large Mexican market for cheap limes (though not as cheap as 15/$1) and other Mexican fruit in season. Bonus: the mangos are always much better at a Mexican store than from the mainstream grocery stores and co-ops.

                        El Burrito Mercado has good selection and quality of fruit and veggies. It's on the other side of downtown St. Paul, but one can usually find an excuse to head down that way (such as after a trip to the Science Museum).

                        Anne

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                        El Burrito Mercado
                        175 Cesar Chavez St, St Paul, MN 55107