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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Grocery Shopping at the Restaurant Supply This Week

Last week I wrote about grocery shopping at Fred Meyer, primarily for milk and eggs (I also bought cheese, orange juice, bananas, and a box of marked down granola bars). That was the first time I'd shopped in a month, and I spent about $55.

I have a list of items I want to pick up before September, some of which is stocking up stuff for this coming winter and spring. In particular, I wanted a 50-lb sack of bread flour, 50-lb sack of sugar, a case of canned tomatoes (6 X #10 cans), a case of canned tomato paste (12 X 29-oz cans), 50-ln sack of whole onions,  and a gallon of lemon juice.I had been waiting to buy the onions until I could get new crop ones, so I wouldn't find myself with several spoiling onions within a few weeks. And this was that week! I've stored about half of the bag in our spare fridge and the other half I tiered in a cardboard box between layers of brown paper then stored in the coolest room in the house. I was out of bread flour and substituting regular all-purpose with less than stellar results, so it was time to buy another sack of the good stuff (expensive at 54 cents/lb, but less than the cost per pound in small bags). The tomato products are regular items that I buy every winter (good prices on both -- 3.8 cents/oz on canned whole tomatoes, 6.5 cents/oz on tomato paste). Canned tomatoes and tomato paste have jumped up in price in regular grocery stores in my area this summer. I've been completely out of lemon juice for several months. A gallon sounds like a lot, I know. It keeps in the fridge for many months and in the freezer for a few years. The gallon size was the most economical, and from my experience with cooking for my family, we easily go through a gallon of lemon juice in a year in lemonade, tea, desserts, Greek cooking, and as a milder acid in salad dressing. The sugar is to get us through jam and preserve-making season, the fall baking season, and all of those Christmas goodies. While at the restaurant supply store (we call it Cash & Carry because that was its name when we first began shopping there), I picked up a few more bananas too. My total came to about $136.

what I noticed

The prices on everything are increasing. I paid $5 more for this bag of sugar than I did the last time (a few months ago). Lemon juice is $2 more per gallon than a couple of years ago. While Cash & Carry's price on onions is better than what I'd pay at Fred Meyer, at 36 cents/lb, that's a lot more than what I paid in a 50-lb sack about 5-6 years ago (about 20 cents/lb back then). The other thing I noticed was the empty spaces on the flour shelves. I mentioned this at the check-out and the cashier said that shortly after a flour order comes in, it flies off the shelves. As this is a restaurant and bakery supply, I am guessing that small eateries and bake shops are making sure they have a good supply on hand.

I had thought I might also go to WinCo, but I changed my mind. The prospect of some peaches was tempting. I rethought that idea. We have so much fresh produce ripening every day right now that I just can't bring any more into the house. I also felt I'd spent enough for one day's shopping.

so where I stand with my stocking up

I was thinking about what else we might need. I keep a running list on my computer's notepad. I still need shortening (pie pastry), a turkey (for Thanksgiving), a 25-lb bag of carrots, and some nutmeg. Then I'd consider myself very well-stocked except for a few perishables that I will need to buy somewhat regularly, milk, eggs, cheese, a little meat (still have a lot of meat in the freezer, though), bananas, and a couple of seasonal items. If it turns out my garden potatoes did poorly (I won't know until October), then I will also add those to my need list. Otherwise, my fall stock-up is almost complete. 

Two years ago, I realized how nice it was to not need to go grocery shopping very often in winter. After that year, I decided I would try to minimize grocery shopping in future winters. This has worked very well for me. 

why I shop at a restaurant supply

There are a few main reasons why I like to shop at a restaurant supply for about half of my groceries. I pay roughly what I would at a warehouse store (factoring in the cost of membership to a store like Costco) without the temptation of lots of convenience or junk foods. (Restaurants don't buy jumbo boxes of Pop-Tarts or Oreos, but do buy jumbo bags of flour or cartons of cooking oil) I don't have to wait for sales to get a great unit price on pantry staples and some produce items by buying in institutional sizes. The convenience of buying a product in a super large package so I don't need to buy it again soon. Despite all of this, I still find better prices on some foods (like milk) by shopping in regular grocery stores. So I try to shop at both kinds of stores.

I think that's the end of grocery shopping for August. I'm glad to have it out of the way.


  1. We have a restaurant supply store here in Michigan and I used to always buy my flour there but I prefer unbleached flour which they do not have so now I don't buy flour or spices there anymore. The only thing I go for is some delicious bread that I find discounted when it gets close to the expiration date.

    I now go to an Amish store for all my flour and spices. There are two of them each are 1.5 hours away in opposite directions. My daughter likes the one south of us and my husband and I go on a date to the one north of us. We go once per summer to each (OK maybe twice to the one South).

    Since my family size is shrinking I noticed I didn't need quite as much this year. I have enough flour and spices for a good long time and I need to lower the contents of my freezer before buying anything else. I haven't shopped a big haul in a long time and I don't see that happening in the near future. I have fresh veggies from my dad and the only thing I need are dairy items. Can't wait to see the grocery tally for the next few months.


    1. Hi Alice,
      I'm glad you are well-stocked right now. I hope you do end up with a very low grocery tally!

  2. I don't know where any restaurant supplies stores are around me and I didn't find any when Googling. They must be around somewhere, but I don't know where. However, I do see a lot of people at Costco who definitely look like they are buying for a restaurant. I don't think we would use up the quantities you mention in a timely manor, but you seem to do a great job of managing them.

    1. Hi Live and Learn,
      I think in some areas the restaurant supply is done through deliveries, and not a brick and mortar store where the public could possibly shop. When we first found the Cash & Carry, it was rare that an ordinary person could shop there. Most restaurant supply stores required wholesale licenses. Cash & Carry would sell to regular folks on a cash-only basis. They would take checks from restaurants or businesses, but no credit/debit from either public or restaurants.
      Costco has their business stores, too. We have a Costco Business near us and they seem to cater to small restaurants and non-chain stores. I could see someone with either of those two businesses shopping at Costco.
      For my household, you also have to remember that its 4 adults eating all of our meals from home. It always surprises me how quickly we go through flour and sugar.
      We each have to do what works for ourselves.

  3. No restaurant supplies nearby. However, I am not a Costco or Sam's shopper either. Just the two of us so don't require large bulk quantities of most things. Although I do stick up when the sales are good.

    1. Hi Linda,
      I do wonder what shopping and cooking will be like when it is just 2 of us. I guess I'll see when I see.
      Ha ha! I hope you're not sticking up any stores!! I figured you meant stock up.

  4. Ok...I Stock up ...not stick up...geez!

  5. I ended up at Gordon Foods, which is a local restaurant supplier, last week, for cornstarch. I repeatedly have had difficulty finding it in Meijer and I use it frequently when cooking. I don't typically go there, though. If I baked all of my bread, I might, but I think, like Alice noted, the white flour is only available in bleached variety and I prefer unbleached.

    It's been a busy month and while I've noticed prices increasing, I haven't really kept track of the amount of increases.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Interesting that you've had a hard time finding cornstarch locally. I'm glad you found some at Gordon Foods. I haven't had trouble finding it, but it has gone up 50% in price since 2020.
      I prefer unbleached flour, when I have a choice. The bread flour I bought was unbleached, so I was glad for that.

  6. I just spent my morning running errands, and getting some groceries bought. I do most of my shopping once a month at Costco and winco, but it was time to fill in a few gaps. I needed ground beef and decided to go to the meat market for it-about fell over when the 10lb bag is now $50. I was there, so I bought it. It’s good meat, and Safeway charges more than that when it’s not on sale.Thought of you when I was at Safeway because they have peaches and nectarines on sale this week for $1.28 or $1.38. I bought 3 nectarines which came to a lb. Not as cheap as winco, but $1 a lb less than WM. Sometimes we just do the best we can with the hand we’re dealt I guess.


    1. Hi Diane,
      The price on the large bag of meat must have been a shocker. At least its good meat and you'll enjoy it. That size bag should last a while, too. So you won't have to buy it again so soon.
      Yes, we just have to do our best with what's available to each of us.

  7. Funny you mention tomato prices increasing--I read an article last week about that being due to drought this year. Our personal tomato crop was a bust and I pulled the plants in July, way early. Many years I can baby them through until October, but they looked awful and it didn't seem worth watering them at that point.

    I appreciate your shopping blog posts in particular. I find myself shopping more and more like this as well. Not at restaurant supply places, but using our sources. There is a restaurant supply place in OKC, but the prices have not seemed as good as elsewhere for the items we purchase. We do utilize Costco in OKC and try to combine that with trips for medical appointments up that way. With fall on it's way, I have a large amount of cheese and duck feed on an Azure order arriving next week. Hoping we can continue at least eating fresh from the garden through fall and early winter, though this summer's heat and drought have limited the preserving we've done. Still, most of our vegetables are coming out of the garden currently, and that's a satisfying feeling.

    1. Hi Cat,
      First off, I guessed it was you before reading your next comment. Whenever someone doesn't add their name, I try and guess who it could be. There were a lot of clues as to your identity in your comment.

      I hadn't read anything about tomatoes this year. So that at least partially explains the increase in canned tomato products. I'm sorry your garden tomatoes didn't work out. My personal plan with the garden every year is to plant a lot of variety with the understanding that there will be some items that just don't work out for us that year. Of course, that means that years like this year, we have to eat a lot of kale, will get tomatoes late and fewer, and likely won't get any peppers.

      I hope your garden perks up once cooler weather arrives and can provide for your family for several more months.

  8. Sorry, it's Cat. Still can't seem to sign in to comment and forget that it shows anonymous unless I sign my name.


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