Fall Grocery Shopping Guide

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Food prices are going up and up, but there are still hidden bargains to be had at the market. The truth is that many foods may appear on grocery store shelves year round, but they're still considered relatively seasonal. Think about those French fried onions (in a can) that are so tasty on a Thanksgiving green bean casserole. You don't see them around much the rest of the year. They're one big example of the seasonal nature of all foods.

Fall Produce at Your Market

Your favorite market is ruled by the laws of supply and demand. As a consumer, you can make that work to your advantage. Nowhere is this more evident than in the produce aisle of your grocery store. Fruits and vegetables are vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather and the seasons. It's true that in a world market, produce can be shipped around the globe, but it's usually easier to sell foods quickly when their prices are fair and competitive. You can score big ounce-for-ounce bargains if you understand what produce is in season during fall (winter, spring or summer), and shop foods that are fresh and plentiful at the moment. In the fall, these fruits and vegetables are in season and are typically a good buy:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Cranberries
  • Dates
  • Grapes
  • Guava
  • Huckleberries
  • Kumquats
  • Mushrooms
  • Pears
  • Persimmons
  • Pineapples
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkin
  • Radishes
  • Rutabagas
  • Squash (winter varieties like acorn and butternut)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Turnips
  • Yams

Canned & Packaged Products

Watch the end caps (aisle displays) in your market for fall products like holiday stuffing and canned soups that are likely to be popular. In advance of the holidays, they may well be available at an attractive discount to bring people into the store. After Thanksgiving or Christmas, they may also be on sale, this time to reduce stock on "excess" quantities.

Take a look at the weekly coupons for your area, too. Lots of new products are introduced in the fall to take advantage of increased interest in home cooking during the holidays. Food manufacturers often roll out their latest offerings with a coupon discount. Use the coupon now, and if you like the product but not the regular price, you may see a markdown later if you're watching for it. At $5, that jar of Alfredo sauce might have been too pricey for you, but at a $3.50 closeout price, you may think it's worth stocking up on.

Explore The Frozen Section

Frozen food can last for months in the freezer, but your market won't want to hold onto it that long. Grocery stores rotate their frozen stock by freshness code and alter their quantities based on seasonal demand. After the holidays, you'll almost always find frozen, canned, packaged and fresh items that didn't meet the expected demand marked down for quick sale. Even better, the selection of bargains will vary from store to store. At one location, you may find a good deal on frozen baby carrots, where at another, breakfast entrees are the big bargain.

You might also have noticed that there are more frozen pot pies and other comfort food options available in the market in fall. All that extra refrigerated storage comes at the expense of summer favorites like corn dogs and popsicles. It's the march of the seasons at the grocery store. If you love corn dogs (or other summer-related items), stock up before September. The same goes for other seasons, too. Plan to watch for price reductions on seasonal products about a month before the official start of winter, spring, autumn and summer.

Markets use lots of savvy techniques to stock just the right quantities of everything, but they make mistakes, especially as the seasons change. Sometimes wholesale suppliers take items back, but often a market's miscalculations can work to your benefit. Usually small overages are sold via unadvertised sales. To take advantage of them, you'll have to get into the habit of checking the shelves often. The time you shop can be important too: Prefer shopping early in the day and late in the evening.

Fall Meat & Seafood

During the fall, people who've been entertaining around the outdoor grill are moving back indoors. That means more baking, roasting and frying. Beef and pork roasts, turkey, goose, duck, rabbit and whole chickens are in greater demand. Fall is also the best time to shop for seafood items like halibut, pacific cod, grouper, mussels, oysters, scallops, stone crab and lobster.

It's a common practice for fishmongers and butchers to offer enticing bargains on a limited number of items to draw in new business. This happens all year, but during the fall, new business can translate to a big payday in holiday sales, so it's more prevalent. That's why you'll often see impressive advertised bargains for chicken breasts, hamburger, turkey and other fresh meat staples. Take some time to do a little comparison shopping before you open your wallet, though. Stray from the bargain aisle and you could be paying premium price or higher for other goods.

In recent years, there's also been an increased focus on giving away meat items like turkeys to shoppers who buy other holiday dinner goods at a particular market. This can work to your advantage or not, depending on the market and the deal. Be sure to comparison shop for the best price. If the offer does have merit, consider buying extra and freezing what you don't plan on using. Sometimes these bundled bargains turn out to be the best deals of the season.

Last Updated: September 20, 2012
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About Sara Elliot Sara Elliott is a freelance copywriter and dedicated blogger. Her popular gardening, cooking and crafting blog, The Herb Gardener, was cited by The Wall Street Journal for its fun and frugal tips. Sara has a degree in English, and you can find her health, crafting, and lifestyle pieces on sites like DiscoveryHealth.com, HowStuffWorks.com, Savvi.com and TLC.com.

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