Guide to enjoyable budget grocery shopping

Things I love about food: eating it, trying new foods, shared meals with friends and family. Things I don’t love about food: long, drawn out prep times; expensive niche ingredients.

Something that is very important to me about mealtime is efficiency. As much as I enjoy eating homemade food and even cooking it, I have no desire to spend hours in the kitchen. Luckily enough I’ve found that frugal cooking and time efficiency go hand-in-hand due to the prior planning required for both. Things like meal planning and batch prepping go a long way for minimizing hands-on time spent in the kitchen while maximizing your eating experience.

I’ve also found that it helps to comparison shop and to source my ingredients from places with reasonable prices. Often ethnic markets have a combination of the most authentic ingredients at the most affordable prices–a double win. The following is a list of ethnic markets and the ingredients I source from each. If you find that a certain store is out of your way, a strategy I take is to aim for purchasing freezable or shelf-stable goods to make the most out of each trip.


  • Soy chunks
  • Bottled garlic, ginger paste
  • Dried beans: lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Nuts
  • Dried dates


  • Tofu
  • Specialty produce: vegetables like bean sprouts and cabbage, fruits
  • Great place for added flavor on the cheap: gochujang, soy sauce, miso paste
    • These sauce and stir fry ingredients add shelf-stable flavor
  • Dried mushrooms

Latin American

  • Dried hot peppers, including
  • Masa harina – a special type of cornmeal used to make tamales or tamale pie
  • Fresh corn or flour tortillas

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