Ethnic Markets: Fascinating Food, Fantastic Bargains

Laura from I’m Losing It Here often features frugal recipes that include ingredients she has found at ethnic markets. Today she is sharing some tips for shopping at ethnic markets so we can also enjoy the benefits.

A trip to an ethnic supermarket is always an adventure.  I know every time I enter one that not only will I find some great food bargains, but I’ll also get a chance to explore foods and ingredients from another part of the world.

If you haven’t checked out ethnic markets, whether they’re Asian, Hispanic or Latin, Caribbean, Indian, Eastern European, Middle Eastern or African, you could be missing out on some of the best deals in town. These markets often have outstanding prices for meats, fish and produce, and you can also find low prices on spices, canned goods, condiments, sweets and bakery items. Many market also sell prepared foods that you can purchase and try. Finally, ethnic markets are a great place to pick up inexpensive or unusual cooking utensils or other items you won’t see any place else.

Everyday prices in ethnic markets are often like sale prices at other markets. I’ve found the meat to be fresh and high quality, and often locally raised. Interesting or hard-to-find cuts of meat can also be found at ethnic markets. I discovered Franken-style or Korean-style ribs in Asian markets long before they were available at regular supermarkets.

Photo Credit: Guilty Carnivore
Photo Credit: Guilty Carnivore

The variety and types of produce often found in ethnic markets can be mind-boggling, but prices are usually low and if you don’t know what something is, ASK! I have always found other customers willing to help answer my questions if I didn’t known what something was or how to use it. Also, in ethnic markets much of the produce, especially items used more frequently in other cuisines, is again locally grown which is one way these markets can keep prices low.

Examples of other great bargains you can find at ethnic markets are condiments (soy sauce, vinegars, chili and other sauces and so forth) and spices. For example, I can buy a 28 oz. bottle of sriracha chili sauce (which two of my daughters go through like water) for $2.68 at an Asian market; the same bottle costs nearly $5.00 at our local supermarket. Our local Asian supermarket sells an incredible variety of Asian sauce mixes for dishes from China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, Korea and other cuisines. The supermarket has almost more different kinds of noodles than one can imagine, made from wheat, rice and other flours, and if I want to have a dim sum brunch at home, I can find an unbelievable array of items in the frozen section, all reasonably priced. Their cookie and snack aisle contains an amazing variety of tasty treats representing countries and cultures throughout Asia.

One more thing I love checking out at ethnic markets are the specialty items that are available for holiday celebrations. At Hispanic markets you can usually find colorful and unusual skeleton-themed treats available for Day of the Dead celebrations and a huge assortment of piñatas for parties; at Asian markets there’s always a wide variety of mooncakes to choose from for the Lunar Festival in the fall.

One more secret: For all its great prices, the larger markets don’t always have the lowest prices! Smaller doesn’t always mean less (other than price) when it comes to ethnic markets.

Shopping in any ethnic market is always an interesting experience, both culturally and economically. It really is worth your time to check out what’s in your area and stop by!

Here are links to three of our family’s favorite dishes that I make using ingredients purchased at our local Asian markets:

Vietnamese-Style Salad Rolls
Asian Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Patty’s Killer Noodle Salad

Laura, author of I’m Losing It Here, is on a journey toward permanent weight loss and financial freedom from debt, while learning to embrace a more simple and frugal lifestyle along the way. She’s an older mom as she and her husband decided for some reason in their mid-40s that they needed more children (they already had a teenage son) and ended up adopting three beautiful girls from China.  Although everyone told them they were crazy, they cannot imagine their lives without their girls and all the joy they have brought and continue to bring them. Laura has a hectic, busy life these days, but wouldn’t trade it for anything!

This post is linked to Works For me Wednesday and Frugal Friday.



  1. Shana says

    You know, we have a latin store here, well a lot of them actually, but one in particular that I want to go to but have no idea what a lot of things would be so I don't go. I know people who do and they say their meats are the best priced and the best tasting around. I think I need to just suck it up and go.

  2. Anonymous says

    I have heard this before, but never really tried shopping at one, except for a long time ago. I have a great Oriental grocery store not too far from my home, and I feel like heading over there now! But, I will have to wait until the beginning of the month. I will have to check out what else is in the area. We have many different ethnic populations in our area, so I just need to do my homework! Thanks for the encouragement!


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