Lots of Big, Lots That Is

Big Lots is pretty pervasive across the United States meaning, you can find a location fairly easily no matter where you live. The one where I live is conveniently located right down the road, a mere five minute drive from my residence.

Like all stores in this category, I am mindful of what I purchase when I venture into these stores. Your first line of frugal defense is knowing your pricing. For example, a case of fizzy water drinks, tangerine in flavor, is $3.99 at my local grocery outlet but costs $5 at Big Lots so that’s a hard pass. However, many other foods are cheaper, or as cheap, at Big Lots. I found Hamburger Helper, something my partner loves, for just $1.25 a box at Big Lots. It was $1.99 at my local grocery discount store so I usually will snap up a few boxes. An added bonus is that many items at my local grocery discount store have a very short ‘use by’ shelf life. Big Lots, for whatever reason, has a much longer shelf ‘use by’ date on a number of items. For the Hamburger Helper the ‘use by’ date was November, 2020 but at Big Lots, same item was June, 2021 so clearly all the way around, a better deal at BL.

Condiments I find, can also be a bargain at BL. This is because there is often a much wider variety at BL than the discount grocery store. I can find the basics, ketchup, mayo and even the occasional spicy mustard at my grocery discount store but often little else. BL, it turns out, has a much wider selection and that means I can splurge on the occasional rarer condiment when my culinary leanings take me in an odd hand direction.

This is all why I keep a running list of items that I may want but unlike eggs, milk, and the usual suspect basics, these are items I don’t really need immediately. When I do end up at BL then I will take a look at that list and see what I can find. What I DO avoid at BL is all the cutesy décor and seasonal items. I don’t need to spend my hard earned money on ‘Life is a Beach’ signs or more holiday wreaths.

Occasionally, there is some themed food item that actually saves me money in the long run. I found a ‘tackle box’ with all sorts of themed Halloween sprinkles and toppings. Since we are doing a ‘decorate your own pumpkin cake’ activity with the kids this year, I knew I was going to need a ton of different sprinkles and Halloween toppings. Normally, a small shaker container for sprinkles can run $4.99 each but I got plenty of holiday themed toppings for just $4.99 in a cute little ‘tackle box’. Bonus, I can use the box for organizing little bits and bobs later.

This frugal strategy works well for other stores that you may visit infrequently. I employ the same mindset for Target, Walmart, etc. I also keep my eye out for things that are not on the list but that I know I can use. When there was a huge toilet paper shortage, at the onset of the pandemic, I managed to score a couple of mega-packs of discount toilet paper while at Walmart buying other items. They just happen to be hauling a giant pallet out when I was there. We were not in dire need at the time but the price was right and the panic-driven shortage had me vaguely uneasy about such a basic staple. An extra pack or two was not panic buying, just prudent given that I would have bought the same item, shortage or not.

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