I’ve mentioned Strategy Number 4: Take Advantage of Cyclic Changes in the Market, many times, on every Holiday post. While we think of cycles in food as being seasonal, seasonality isn’t the only, and maybe not even the most important, cycle affecting grocery store prices.
Every Holiday gives the retailers an opportunity to lure you into their stores with great prices on specific items. But of the Big Six food holidays: Superbowl, Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, Easter is special because it is preceded by Lent.
Lent drives sales in a rather unique way, with its days of fasting. Days when the eating of meat is put aside and many families eat fish, instead. You’ll find, usually, great prices on fish and seafood, especially frozen and canned items that can be stored for the coming months.
If you cook, if you eat, you should be thinking about these Holiday Sales when you’re planning and budgeting. Retailers are not afraid to post low, low sales prices to get you in the door because they’re playing a game. A game that has three strategies:
- Get you in the door to buy the sales, then hope you’re so tired, busy or overwhelmed that you’ll buy all the things you need in that one shop, even items that aren’t on sale.
- Hope you’re spending so much money during the holiday that you’ll buy just what you need for upcoming feasts, parties and baking & you won’t take advantage of the lowest prices of the year to stock up for coming months.
- Know that you won’t take advantage of the biggest sale items, particularly large cuts of meat like ham, pork and lamb because most people aren’t going to have the ability to store them. (Get yourself a freezer.)
Sales like these can be leveraged to YOUR advantage instead of the retailer’s, once you recognize the “cycles” of sales. Your mission in this game is always to get the most for the least, so keep in mind as you shop not just the low sale price for the holiday, but when the NEXT great sale price will be and shop accordingly:
- Shop Around: Look through the flyers and check coupon matching sites for the best items and cherry pick those at the grocers. (Coupon sites list great sales that don’t involve coupons, too.)
- Budget & Buy Low: Prepare to spend a little extra money to stock up on items at their lowest prices and use in the next few weeks to months.
- Store as Needed: Make sure you have a place for extra items, and consider a freezer. Buy it during the Black Friday sales. (The cost of running a new freezer is less than one Big Mac a month.)
Even if you don’t practice Lent or celebrate Easter, you should be setting aside a good portion of your food budget to take advantage of sales items that may not be at their low again until either the next major holiday or in some cases, the Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years sales.
If you can think about buying food this way, and if you have an idea of when items might next be on a big sale, it’s so well worth the savings to budget a little extra. Some of the things on sale might just surprise you!
Meats, Poultry, Fish & Seafood:
Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are all great times to stock up on the larger, maybe fancier, but still budget-priced items. While many beef items will be on great sale throughout the summer, Lamb will be at a low during the spring, especially Easter. Seafood and fish will likely not be at a lower until Christmas, and Pork until fall.
Maximize your savings by buying enough quantity to last to the next Holiday, or throughout the year on some items.
Many chains have great specials pre – Easter, but some stores will also mark down after the Holiday to clear out any items that didn’t sell. The big box stores often have specialty roasts, cuts, and seafood at good prices.
Fish & Seafood:
The best pricing of the year is often during Lent, which starts in most areas on Ash Wednesday and extends until Easter. There are great prices around Christmas and New Years on some seafood, too.
- Look for fresh or frozen Crab and Shrimp. Generally, avoid “platters” of shrimp & buy frozen or fresh.
- Oysters are always on sale during the season.
- Look for great prices on many fish, especially Salmon and Smoked Salmon.
- Jarred herrings, anchovies, etc., are often at a low.
- Consider stocking up on frozen fish and fish items at their lowest price of the year, especially if you have a freezer. If you don’t have a freezer – get one!
- Canned Tuna and Salmon: If you use these items, stock up for the year. Check prices at your drug stores! with specials and coupons, these items can be picked up for pennies.
Lamb is huge at Easter in many European countries and growing in popularity here in the states. Sometimes lamb isn’t available at all in the stores I shop in, but usually, I can find it at Easter, and at a great price.
- Larger Cuts: Consider picking up and freezing for celebration dinners throughout the upcoming months.
- Smaller Cuts: Items like lamb chops can be picked up for grilling during the summer months.
There may be some sale prices around Easter, but Thanksgiving & Christmas are the best time of year to buy turkey!
- Turkey: Watch to see if there are some specials on turkey; it’s likely there won’t be another great price until Thanksgiving, and just like ham, it’s hard to find a cheaper protein. if you’ve planned wisely, many meals can come from a turkey. See links at the bottom of the page for leftover ideas.
- Whole Chickens: They’re often on deep sale for around 99 cents a pound, but during the Easter season (and right after) they’ll drop to an all-time low. All the extra chickens needed for egg production are no longer needed.
- Cornish Game Hens: Fun for a fancy dinner, they’re often on sale at Easter. They’re generally not one of my Frugal items, even on sale, but can simply “make” a fancy dinner for a price more reasonable than a lot of options, if you can pick them up and keep a few in your freezer.
Remember, even if you don’t have a freezer, Hams and bacon lasts for weeks in the refrigerator. Bacon takes up little room and pork loin can easily be cut up into chops, frozen and stacked neatly in the corner of a regular fridge/freezer combo.
- Hams: Hams reach an all-time low in our area at Easter, they will be at a great price around Christmas, too. Look for specials where you buy so many items, and get a discount on the ham, or coupons from the producers. As a general rule, spiral hams are more expensive, and you’ll want to look for a ham that isn’t injected with a lot of fluid.
- Pork Loin and Center Cut Pork Loins: These are often on sale, though generally, they’re cheaper in the fall/winter sales. The loin is usually less expensive than chops. Pick up the larger loins and cut chops to your specification, bag, and freeze.
- Standing Pork Roasts: Often on sale at Christmas, they are also usually at a great price at Easter. Even on sale, they are generally pricey and difficult to wrap well to freeze. If you buy, buy with the idea of using it fresh or at the very least within a few weeks.
- Bacon and Sausage: Grocers respond to the idea that Holidays are a prime time for company and overnight guests – bacon and sausage is often on sale, and you’ll see them in combined sales with eggs.
A few roasts are often on sale prior to Easter – I don’t see them for as low here in my area as I do around Christmas or New Year’s but they are still lower than the usual sale prices. Still, very expensive cuts even on sale, pick them up if your budget allows and you appreciate them.
- Tenderloin: It often drops quite low, but consider watching for it at your big box stores.
- Rib Roast: In our area, it will drop to a low as well.
Next to the sales at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, Easter is the best time of year to stock up on baking items with great sales and lots of coupons out. The coming summer holidays have minor sales. Make it a habit to freeze any items containing flour for three days to avoid pesky flour bugs. Check Aldi throughout the year for great prices on some of these items.
- Yeast: Generally 25 percent off, often there are coupons. Keep yeast in freezer or fridge.
- Flour: Pick up smaller packages for dirt cheap with sales with coupons.
- Sugars: Most sugars and sugar type products (corn syrup, molasses) are on sale with coupons.
- Chocolate and Baking Chips: They do go on sale periodically, but any Holiday is a good time to stock up.
- Oil: Cooking Oil is on sale, and Olive Oil generally is, too; shortening may or may not be.
- Pie Filling, Pie Crusts, Baking Mixes: All on sale, and usually with coupons.
- Spices and Extracts: Every year around Easter I find great buys on McCormick items, especially vanilla. Stores in our areas often offer sales and Catalinas (money back on next purchase when you buy so many) These are often unadvertised so check with your coupon matching site. So many spices and extracts are free at Easter with coupons and sales. I haven’t paid for Vanilla for years.
- Vinegar is the most notable: often unadvertised, you’ll find coupons if you’re lucky, but generally, not only the basic vinegar is on sale, but also the higher end flavored ones. You may find the higher end vinegar on sale throughout the summer but rarely do I ever see any of the basic ones discounted.
- Dried Beans and Peas: On sale, often unadvertised before, during or after any major Holiday when Ham is likely to be served.
- Canned and Boxed Chicken and Beef stocks are low – the next low sale will likely be Thanksgiving, so pick up a lot if you use it.
- Oil: Cooking Oil is on sale, and Olive Oil generally is, too.
- Mayonnaise: Much cheaper in the summer, it often goes on sale at Easter. Next great sale price will probably be Memorial Day.
- Mustard is usually on a deep sale at Easter, with coupons available, but like all condiments will be on sale throughout the summer.
- Crackers: If you keep crackers on hand, buy enough now to last through Memorial Day. Use your coupons. Usually, everything from store brands to gourmet will be on sale.
- Pop and Junk Food: If you’re buying, buy it on sale, and preferably with a coupon. These items are on sale at almost every major Holiday – the next great sale will be Memorial Day.
- Bottled Dressing: If you use and need some, pick up now, but keep in mind that you can generally pick it up for free or near free during the summer. Next big sale will probably by Memorial Day. Use your coupons.
- Canned Items: Canned Soup, Mandarin Oranges, and canned Pineapple are usually on sale during any major Holiday. Use your coupons. These will probably be at their lowest right now and the next big drop in price will be fall for the soup and Thanksgiving for the fruit so stock up.
- Coffee: Buy at Easter – the prices are usually slightly higher than you’ll find around Christmas and New Years, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a lower price through the next few months. Coffee can be highly competitive, and you’ll find sales prices that you can use with coupons, so if you aren’t stocked up for the year at Christmas, buy now. I’m speaking canned, here, of course, vacuum packed, not whole beans which don’t go on sale as often and don’t keep as well.
- Jello and Pudding are often on sale at Easter.
- French’s Fried Onions – I don’t generally use, but if you do, get them now to last through Thanksgiving.
- Pickles: Pickles are big sale items at Easter – generally the best pricing until Memorial day and summer sales.
Sales are big prior to Easter for baking (and for dyeing Easter eggs.)
- Eggs: It almost goes without saying that eggs will be cheap, often in big packs. Don’t be afraid to buy a large amount of eggs. They keep for weeks past the “sell” or “buy” dates on the package.
- Butter: Easter is the best time to buy butter, and it’s generally about 50 cents cheaper than the normal “great” price at other Holidays. Pick up as much as you can and freeze. You probably won’t see a better price until Thanksgiving, and by then prices may have risen.
- Cream Cheese: Drops to about 98 cents a package, sometimes less with sales and coupons (Aldi has good prices, too.) Cream cheese keeps for months, so stock up. It does freeze, but I don’t like to use if for Cheesecake after it’s been frozen – it’s still fine in dips and cooking. I find the premade dips and cooking cremes, whipped and flavored cream cheese too expensive.
- Cream, Sour Cream & Half and Half: You’ll find great sales – pick up several. They’ll generally last way beyond their “buy by” or “best if used by” date – remember, this is NOT an expiration date on dairy.
- “Fancy” Near – Deli Cheese: A lot of the cheeses that are kept packaged near the Deli will be on deep sales. Pick up hang tags (coupons near the cheese) whenever you see them and check the producer’s websites. Expiration dates for coupons are often months out so pick the coupons up and wait for a sale. Watch your coupon matching site for sales plus coupons.
- You’ll usually find specials on whole mushrooms, asparagus, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, lemons, and potatoes. Pick up extra of the ones that will last longer like the cauliflower and broccoli. If you make stuffed mushrooms, try cooking them & freezing some in small packages to reheat another time. Smell those strawberries – they’ll be out of season and maybe not so good. Pick up that asparagus at a low: especially if you live in the right area and it’s in season. You may find artichokes on sale.
- Pineapples, for some reason, are often on sale.
- Lettuce: I’ll often find Holiday sales on bagged lettuce and Spinach. Even on sale, they are generally significantly more than loose lettuce.
- The little cuties and specialty oranges will likely be on sale and sales will be waning as they go out of season.
- Breads: Rhodes frozen bread is often on sale, and combined with coupons, I pick up a package or two of brown and serve for free during almost every major Holiday.
- Cool Whip or Frozen Topping.
- Vegetables: I have an aversion to most of the frozen ones, but I do buy frozen peas, frozen spinach and frozen corn, most of which I’ll use in recipes. While Frozen Vegetable sales will continue sporadically, Easter is probably the last time to stock up on great prices until fall, when they’ll pick up again.
- Frozen Fruit: Check to see if there are sales, advertised or not.
- Frozen Pie Dough & Filo, & Puff Pastry: Easter and Thanksgiving are great times to pick up free or near free pie dough – use coupons combined with sales. The sales are often unadvertised on Filo & Puff Pastry.
- Frozen Pies and Frozen Desserts find their way to deep sales.
Bread and Bakery Items:
Any holiday would not be complete if the specialty breads, pies, and cakes were not on sale.
- Look for Hawaiian Bread on sale, as well as flatbreads, Pita, etc.
- Dinner Rolls will usually be on some kind of special.
- Hot Cross buns are associated with Easter and are often available.
- Batteries are a great price around Easter. Other great sales are at Christmas, and around the Time Changes, and Back to School Sales.
- Look for sale priced items and use coupons for things like garbage bags, storage containers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, cooking bags. I can usually pick these items up (with the exception of garbage bags) for free or near free. Stock up!
- Paper plates, cups, and napkins are generally on sale – I’ll usually find better sales during the summer. Look for coupons.
- Check prices for TP. It’s almost always on sale around holidays.
Yeah, it’s a great time of year to pick up all kinds of alcohol, but look for great prices on wine and beer.
Easter is a Holiday known for great candy – but it is even cheaper AFTER the Holiday.
After Easter Sales:
- While almost all “Easter Items” will be on sale for much less after the Holiday, cards, candy, decorations, there are two food items worth mentioning:
- About two weeks after Easter, look for sales on Chicken: Whole chickens are often less than any other time of the year, and you’re likely to see a good sales price on most chicken. Since “layers” are usually larger than birds raised for eating, you’re also likely to see larger chickens at the supermarket, and if you like to have a roast chicken now and then, this is a good time of year to pick one or two up if freezer space allows.
- When some grocery stores have too many hams, they are often heavily discounted after Easter. This just depends on the store and area.
Leftovers are the most expensive items in your home – You shop for them, buy them, transport them, store them, prepare them, serve them, then store them again. They’re a product of your time and money.
Taking advantage of leftovers can be a bit of a dance, with a few ad-lib moves interrupting the pattern. Learn to do that dance well and you’ll not only eliminate potential waste but make the most of your time, effort and money. Here’s plenty of links to help give you your best moves.