Here are some helpful hints, in response to an article in yesterday's New York Times about gourmet cooking with dollar store foods. There are plenty of ways to save money on food without buying lots of processed garbage.
1. Buy bulk foods whenever possible. They're much cheaper than the packaged stuff.
2. Eat less meat and dairy. Learn to use these foods as components, rather than as the bulk of a meal. That's how most people have eaten for most of history.
3. Eat fruits and vegetables in season. In the spring you can get artichokes for less than a dollar. In the winter they're more like three dollars.
4. Pay attention to the price of each item you put in your shopping cart. If pecans are $9.50 a pound, pay attention and buy just what you need, instead of filling the bag because you're not paying attention.
5. Buy ethnic foods at ethnic stores. Taro root at Viet Wah, in the International District, costs less than a dollar a pound, but it's $3.99 a pound at Whole Foods. A lot of the other stuff at Whole Foods is competitive price-wise, but the ethnic specialty stuff is off the charts.
6. Learn what things should cost. If you're aware that conventional parsley is usually around $1/bunch, and organic parsley usually costs about $1.50, you'll know not to buy it when someone's charging $2.50.
Note that the first three suggestions are not only ways to save money, but also ways to eat more sustainably. And yet we tend to think of sustainable food as a more expensive option. Now there's some food for thought.