Savings Expert: Explore the Ethnic Aisle to Save Money at the Supermarket

Explore the Ethnic Aisle to Save Money at the Supermarket

By Amy Suardi of

You’ve probably heard that you can save on groceries by shopping at ethnic markets, but who wants to make a special trip for a few items?

The good news is you don’t have to spend time and energy to save a few bucks, because most supermarkets have an ethnic section. While you won’t likely find deals on produce, fish or cheese like you would at an Asian market, for example, there are good reasons to step out of your comfort zone and take a trip down international lane.

Since many ethnic aisles in the U.S. have extensive Latino sections, let’s start there.

Cuban Coffee Rivals Chic Italian Brands

I love Italian espresso, but it’s very pricey. I had a hard time finding a domestic brand that compares with the chocolatey taste and aroma of Italian coffee, until I tried Bustelo, a Cuban-style espresso.

Bustelo is more than $10 cheaper than upscale Illy, and you know what? It tastes just as good. And — in case this matters — it’s hip now too. (The New York Times Style section reported last summer that Bustelo, long a bohemian staple, has now made it into the young and trendy party scene.)

Other finds in the Latino section? Goya has a whole line of products that compare favorably in price to mainstream brands, including extra virgin olive oil, rice, and green olives.

Best Bang for the Buck in the Ethnic Section?

Beans. Cheap yet full of nutrition, beans can be paired with a grain (like rice, pasta, couscous, barley, etc.) to create a complete protein. Red, white, pink or black, beans are great way of reducing our need for high-ticket meat.

At $1.50 per pound, a bag of lentils can provide our family of five with an ample main course for two dinners. (Whenever I make beans, I cook the whole bag and freeze half for another dinner.)

By the way, soaking beans overnight is not a necessary step: it just shortens the cooking time by about 1/2 hour. And canned beans are still economical, but dried beans can be had for 1/3 the cost.

For recipes and a guide to all kinds of beans, see Real Simple’s Cooking with Beans.

So next time you are about to sail through the ethnic section, slow down and smell the coffee.

What are your favorite steals in the international aisle?

Amy Suardi writes about saving money & making life better at Frugal Mama.